By James Nelson Stewart
Philadelphia, PA: Today we will look at one of the longest running Elite AAU programs in the Philadelphia region Team Final, who have had at least numerous NBA players bless the program throughout the years starting with Tyreke Evans. Team Final has long been one of the standard programs in the Philadelphia area due to having pro players and having a plethora of Division 1 College basketball players that have made an impact at that level as well as dominating the Philadelphia High School Basketball Scene. Team Final, led by the Director Rob Brown, is the standard of excellence and this year is no different!!!
The name Team Final in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware inspires many emotions like other flagship teams such as the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Lakers do across the country. Rarely will you find a person who has a son that plays basketball in the Tri-State area who doesn’t have an opinion on Team Final. Love them or Hate them, you can almost guarantee that Team Final will produce a great product and have players that will become household names.
Team Final participates in the Nike EYBL basketball Circuit, which is arguably the most competitive and most prestigious High School Basketball Circuit in the country. A lot of the players that are seen today on your TV screens playing in the NBA are alums of this Circuit. Yearly the top players of this circuit are seen at the very beginning of the NBA Draft walking across the stage accepting their hats from Commissioner Adam Silver.
The EYBL fields teams from North America as far west as California, as far south as Florida and Texas and as far north as Canada. Teams jockey their position to try to get to the “Crown Jewel” of Nike Basketball in an event called the “Peach Jam”. The “Peach Jam” is an event held every year in the town of North Augusta, SC where this little town gets flooded by every major college coach in America, scouts and now media outlets as games are televised by such entities as ESPN. The 17U “Peach Jam” is the among the most sought-after trophies in Boys High School Basketball PERIOD!!!
This leads to my title is called the “Final Frontier”. One of the few things that has eluded the grasp of Team Final is hoisting the “Peach Jam” trophy. This year and this group might be the one to lead Rob Brown, Aaron Burt and the other superb coaches of the Illustrious Team Final Program to the goal of lifting that 17U trophy. The 17U Team Final Team is led by Generational Big Man Talent 6-10 Jalen Duren (formerly of Roman Catholic and now with National Champion Monteverde Academy in Florida), the #2 player overall in the current 2022 ESPN rankings (behind only 6-8 G-F Emoni Bates). Duren, the only player in the Philadelphia Catholic League History to be named 1st team All-Catholic as a Freshman and Sophomore, is often mentioned alongside names of the Late Great Roman and NBA Star 6-10 Eddie Griffin and former Legendary Gratz, North Carolina Star and NBA Champion 6-11 Rasheed Wallace as being the best big man from Philly over the last 30 years. No matter where you rank Duren among those comparisons, just being mentioned with those legends tells you all you need to know about this future pro.
Duren alone would pose an imposing figure for teams, so having a second athletic big is downright scary and this Team Final has just the player in Westtown’s 7-1 C Dereck Lively. Lively is another player who has a chance to make some real noise at the next level with his ability to move fluidly at his imposing height and ability to protect the rim. Team Final will have their version of the Twin Towers made famous by Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson first, then David Robinson and Tim Duncan next. If having 1 rim protector is a luxury, then having 2 must be considered an extravagance that Team Final is excited to have. But flanking those Twin Towers, the 17u Team Final team has a backcourt of HM prospect guards in 6-3 G Justice Williams (formerly of Roman Catholic and now with National Champion Monteverde Academy in Florida) and 6-3 G Jameel “Milzy” Brown (The Haverford School), who initially committed to Purdue but now has opened up his recruitment. Both of those guards are smooth scoring guards that also can distribute the rock as well.
Another impressive wing player is 6-5 U Conn Commit Corey Floyd Jr. (Roselle Catholic), who is built like a linebacker but moves like a smaller guard. He and 6-3 Otega Oweh (Blair Academy) will be looked to give this team some balance on the floor. Ibrahima Bayu (Perkiomen School) is an intriguing 6-8 prospect that will add size and athletic ability to this already deep roster of prospects. Guards Jaheim Bethea (MCS) and Jaden Arline (Paul VI) provide great ballhandling and depth to the backcourt while 6-5 F Jack Seidler (Marlboro High NJ) will give this group another creative shot maker with size. The 17U Team Final team is an intriguing mix of size, speed, strength that has the area excited to see if they can bring home the gold.
Team Final has also built intriguing groups for their 2023’s and 2024’s groups. The 16U (2023) Team has such intriguing prospects like 6-7 Combo Justin Edwards and 5-10 speedy G Rahmir Burno from the undefeated Imhotep Team and 6-2 G Ruben Rodriguez Jr from PA 6A Champions and National ranked Reading High. But also extended their reach across the state with prospects 6-2 G Brandon Davis (Laurel Highlands) and 6-5 Wing Daemar Kelly (Penn Hills). 6-6 Combo James Johns Jr., son of 17U coach James Johns, and 6-2 2024 G Elijah Duval, brother of former Duke PG Tre Duval, brings some intriguing prospects to this 16U team. 6-8 Wing Christian Kirkland (formerly of Roman, now at Friends Select) is another player who coaches with be looking at with a keen eye.
The 15s will be led by their strong backcourt of 6-0 Deuce Jones (Trenton Catholic), 6-1 Nick Coval (Parkland, who already was Co-MVP of his conference), 5-10 Robert Wright III (Neumann-Goretti, hit a GW shot in his first varsity game) and 6-2 sharpshooter Moses Hipps (Archbishop Carroll, who already owns an offer from Lasalle). 6-4 Elijah Brown (St. Augustine Prep) will add some high flying athleticism to this group and his High School Teammate 6-9 Luke Bevilacqua will add size to this team.
Robert Wright 5-10- Neumann
Deuce Jones 6-0-Trenton Catholic
Nick Coval 6-1-Parkland
Moses Hipps 6-2-Carroll
Elijah Brown 6-4-St. Augustine
Amir Williams 6-5-Neumann
Jadon Murray 6-6-Ryan
Thomas Sorber 6-9- Trenton Catholic
Luke Bevilacqua-6-9- St. Augustine
Nate Hodge -Head Coach
Justin Edwards-6-7- Imhotep
Brandon Davis-6-2-Laurel Highlands
Ruben Rodriguez Jr-6-2-Reading
Daemar Kelly-6-5-Penn Hills
Christian Kirkland-6-8-Friends Select
Tahar Sutton-Head Coach
Jaheim Bethea 5-10-MCS
Jaden Arline-6-0-Paul VI
Jameel Brown-6-3-Haverford School
Corey Floyd-6-5-Roselle Catholic
Ibrahima Bayu-6-8-Perkiomen School
Derick Lively 7-1-Westtown
Jalen Duren 6-10-Montverde
Jack Seidler 6-5-Marlboro
James Johns-Head Coach
Dwayne “Roc” Jones