It's hard to say what kind of college prospects most of them are, but there were a lot of sophomores who made impacts around the area this basketball season.
I noticed it various times during the season, and then again when looking at the list of leading scorers in the WPIAL. I don't remember a season with so many sophomores doing so many good things. A number of the top teams in the WPIAL have at least one sophomore playing a big role.
I don't pretend to know the year of every player in the WPIAL, so I might miss a top sophomore or two. But first off, Neshannock sophomore guard Ernie Burkes was the 10th-leading scorer in the entire WPIAL, averaging 21.3 points a game. Summit Academy sophomore Elijah Minnie averaged 16.7 points and had a handful of 3-pointers in a recent game, which is impressive for a 6-8 kid.
Hampton is one of the top Class AAA teams and has sophomore twins who have made major impacts. Ryan Luther (pictured) averaged 15.3 points in the regular season and his twin brother, Collin, also is a standout player. They are 6-5 and 6-6.
Lincoln Park's Ryan Skovranko, Mars' Owen Nearhoff and Keystone Oak's Ricky Rogers are three more sophomores who averaged between 13 and 15 points a game.
Now for some other sophomores on top teams: Beaver Falls guard Elijah Cottrill seems to be playing his best basketball lately, scoring in double figures in a number of games. He is now one of the Tigers' top players. Undefeated New Castle has two sophomores playing big roles - guard Anthony Richards is averaging nine points and forward Malik Hooker 11.
Guard Jerrad Tuite has had some big games for Chartiers Valley. D.J. Porter, a sophomore at Obama and the son of former Pitt player and Duquesne University coach Darelle Porter, is averaging in double figures and could help the team reach the City League championship.
Some other sophomores who have been major contributors to their teams or who had some big games at least once or twice this year are: Connellsville's Jade Maher (he's also the starting QB on the football team), North Allegheny's David Haus, Moon's Cam Johnson, West Mifflin's Ryan Maha, Franklin Regional's Charan Singh, Seton-LaSalle's Levi Masua and Dale Clancy, Upper St. Clair's J.J. Conn, Mt. Lebanon's Troy Apke, Mount Pleasant's Ryan Gumbita, McKeesport's Jaquan Davidson, Gateway's Tom Kromka, North Hills' Danny White (sorry to get personal) and Fox Chapel's Matt D'Amico and Brian Papich.
I'm sure I didn't name every sophomore who has made a nice contribution to a varsity team this year. I don't know every one. But a few of these sophomores seem like they have Division I college potential. Put them all together and maybe there is some pretty good talent coming up in the area the next few years.
Here are my predictions for WPIAL and City League playoff games tonight and tomorrow. I was 27-3 in games Friday and Saturday.
Through some Twitter exchanges with John "Rocky" Geiger, former Sto-Rox player and now manager for Darrelle Revis, I guess Revis and Geiger will be attending the Sto-Rox-Aliquippa game tomorrow night at North Hills. Nice.
Two easy picks here: Allderdice over Westinghouse, and Obama over Brashear. Allderdice and Obama are by far the top two teams in the City League. The championship game is Saturday at noon at Peabody.
WPIAL CLASS AAA
West Mifflin vs. Mars - Hard one to pick. Mars, in case you haven't noticed, is 16-6. The Planets are young and don't have much size, but have some guards who can shoot. But I think West Mifflin is better than people think. Winner: West Mifflin.
New Castle vs. Highlands - Micah Mason's career ends for Highlands. I don't look for New Castle to change how they play defense. In other words, I don't see them going to box-and-one or some kind of junk defense on Mason. New Castle by a dozen or more. Winner: New Castle.
Beaver vs. South Fayette - This is one of Beaver's best seasons in a long time. Nice job by coach Andy Podbielski. But there will be no playoff run. Winner: South Fayette.
Other Class AAA games - Keystone Oaks over Trinity; Montour over Indiana; Blackhawk over Uniontown; Hampton over Elizabeth Forward; Greensburg Salem over Central Valley.
WPIAL CLASS AAAA
North Allegheny vs. Bethel Park - An extremely tough game to pick. Section 3 already displayed its might with Seneca Valley knocking off Mt. Lebanon and Central Catholic crushing Section 1 co-champ Hempfield. North Allegheny also is a Section 3 team, but I think Bethel Park is better than people think. Winner: Bethel Park.
And while on the subject of Section 3, the WPIAL will today release new basketball section alignments for the next two seasons. Hampton and New Castle are both moving up to Class AAAA next year, and look for both to be placed in Section 3, and Central Catholic to be moved from Section 3 to Section 2. Putting Hampton and New Castle in Section 3 creates a sort of "super section" because those two teams will most likely be ranked in the top three in Class AAAA heading into next season. Plus, you still have some other top teams in Section 3.
I know some coaches in Section 3 thought it would be a good idea to maybe put Hampton in Section 2 along with eastern suburban teams, like Penn Hills, Plum, Woodland Hills and Gateway. That would strengthen that section because Gateway figures to drop some in talent next year as well as Plum and Woodland Hills. And after all, Hampton could jump right on the turnpike to get to some of those schools. New Castle "has" to be in Section 3 because that makes the most sense geographically. Hampton is a Northern team, and and putting Hampton in Section 2 might have made some sense on the competitive side. Section 3 and Section 4 (South Hills teams) appear to be much stronger than Section 1 and 2 next year. So far this postseason, Section 1 has not looked good at all.
But back to the picks
Plum vs. Kiski Area - As I said, Section 1 has struggled in the playoffs already. Kiski Area is 16-6, but also a Section 1 team. Will the trend continue? Winner: Plum.
Butler vs. Chartiers Valley - If Chartiers Valley lets Nate Snodgrass control the game, then Butler has a chance. But that won't happen. Winner: Chartiers Valley.
Shaler vs. McKeesport - I see a future semifinal matchup between Shaler and Central Catholic. Winner: Shaler.
Sto-Rox vs. Aliquippa - Six or seven years ago, this would be tremendous matchup. Aliquippa isn't what it used to be these days. Winner: Sto-Rox.
Wilkinsburg vs. Jeannette - This is a pick 'em game. Winner: Wilkinsburg.
Other Class AA games - Monessen over riverside; Frazier over Shady Side Academy; Summit Academy over Northgate; Greensburg Central Catholic over Shenango; Beaver Falls over Brentwood; Quaker Valley over Seton-LaSalle.