Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Juniors Rate among Area Top Scorers

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Juniors Rate among Area Top Scorers

Article excerpt

When it comes to the top scorers in WPIAL boys basketball, schools from the Post-Gazette's East Xtra coverage area are fairly well represented, as five of the top 23 players in points-per-game come from the area.

But even among those five players, there's another point of distinction -- a surprisingly high number of them come from the junior class.

Four of the five top scorers in the East Xtra coverage area are in their junior season, a group that includes Hempfield Area's Kason Harrell (22.9 points per game), Jeannette's Julian Batts (22.2), Kiski Area's Mike Simmons (20.9) and Wilkinsburg's Isaiah Pete (20.3). All scoring averages are through Jan. 28. Obama Academy senior D.J. Porter -- the leading scorer of that group of five at 25.1 points per game -- is the exception.

While the talent in the class is noticeable from a statistical standpoint, it is also apparent to the coaches who watch these players on a regular basis.

"Absolutely," Hempfield coach Mark Marino said when asked if this is an exceptionally talented class. "It's guards who stick out in my mind. At this point, the junior class is guard-heavy at the top in terms of some very, very talented players."

As Marino pointed out, much of that scoring talent comes from the guard position as none of those four juniors is taller than Harrell at 6 feet 3. Harrell and Batts are ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the 2015 class by Pittsburgh Basketball Report, while Simmons is ranked 18th.

For Harrell, his ascent was somewhat anticipated. Last season, he averaged a team-best 16.4 points per game for a Spartans squad that finished 17-6. Nonetheless, his game has progressed as a junior. In Hempfield's previous six games before Tuesday, he averaged 28.5 points per game. After Tuesday's section-title-clinching victory against Kiski Area, the Spartans are 18-2 overall and 11-0 in Section 1-AAAA.

Like others in his class in the area, his future looks bright.

"He's an extremely hard worker and he's driven to get better," Marino said. "Those are two outstanding qualities that you ask for in your players. He possesses them both in extremely high quantity. …

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