Team Final had a rare down season in 2018, finishing with a frustrating 2-14 record behind a relatively young rotation. While the offense was noticeably inefficient during the season, it was Final’s defense that did them in. They couldn’t stop anyone and therefore found themselves stuck in early holes. Philadelphia’s Elite Youth Basketball Affiliate will look to rebound this spring and summer behind an all-junior lineup that is equipped with more than enough talent to win in the EYBL. They don’t have a blue-chip recruit on their roster, but every player in their lineup is projected to go to a Division 1 school. If they can pool together their talents and find the proper chemistry, there’s a good chance they find their way back to North Augusta, South Carolina for July’s Peach Jam.
Juniors Noah Collier and DJ Gordon figure to do the majority of the heavy-lifting for Team Final. Collier (247 Composite No. 91) has experience from last season, and at 6-foot-7 he gives them good size and length to utilize on both ends of the floor. The Westtown (PA) high school product will be returning for his second season on the 17U circuit with Team Final. In 2018, Collier averaged 4.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game while playing half the season. Collier is a USA Basketball alumni, an All-Friends League First Team Selection and currently holds numerous offers from high-major schools. He will take on a much bigger role in 2019, and Team Final’s success will likely be dictated by how well he and Gordon perform.
Collier has been with Team Final for a long time, and he's excited about his final year of grassroots basketball.
"I’ve been with Team Final since sixth grade, so when it comes to stepping up and being a leader I’m not really worried," Collier said in his interview with D1. "I’ve been around this program long enough to feel confident in being vocal and pushing us to be our best selves whenever we get in the gym together."
Gordon is coming off a terrific junior season for First Love Christian (PA), parlaying his on-court success to a number of high-major scholarship offers. Gordon (247 No. 164) is an athletic wing that likes attacking the bucket, and his production will be heavily relied upon. Gordon has the ability to take over a game offensively, and he should benefit from the fast-paced battles that are likely to occur with the implementation of the 24-second shot clock. Gordon can score at all three levels, and colleges have taken notice. The 4-star recruit holds offers from Arizona State, Dayton, and TCU among others, and his recruitment is expected to continue its upward trajectory as he takes on the spring and summer.
Noah Collier surveys the floor (Photo credit: @Daves_Joint/twitter)
Gordon will be a major cog in the backcourt, as will his teammate at First Love Christian, Isaiah Wilson. A floor general in every sense of the word, Wilson will be tasked with making plays for his teammates while running an efficient offense. Wilson is a terrific facilitator, and his quickness allows him to get past defenders with ease. Listed at 5-foot-11, Wilson may be a tad undersized, but you won’t find many players who compete with more purpose. Wilson led First Love Christian to their best mark in program history in 2018-19, and he’ll be looking to build on his 10+ college offers.
6-foot-7 Jamir Watkins gives Team Final some solid size in the backcourt, and the high-flying junior will start alongside Gordon, Collier, and Wilson. Watkins has a developing skillset but primarily relies upon his athleticism and physicality to impact the game. Watkins was named All-Area First Team alongside teammate and Butler commit Khalif Battle, and the Team Final coaching staff is excited about his potential within their lineup. 6-foot-5 combo guard Niels Lane has good size and will see big minutes in a playmaking role. Lane (247 3-star) passes every ‘eye’ test possible but has yet to fully turn his potential into production. Lane is a confident scoring guard that loves to attack, but he’ll be a more promising high-major option if he improves his perimeter jump shot.
6-foot-2 lead guard Kieves ‘Duece’ Turner will see big minutes off the bench for Team Final, and the Malvern Prep junior is a high-level scorer. Turner is a major threat from deep but will need to work on his effectiveness at finishing around the rim against EYBL length and athleticism. Turner is currently a mid-major recruit but could lift his stock with a string of solid performances. Junior guard Hakim Byrd is the final member of Team Final’s rotation, and he offers a rock-solid point guard off the bench. Byrd had an impactful season for Neumann-Goretti in 2018-19, averaging 12.5 points, 3.2 assists, 1.6 rebounds, and 1.5 steals in 28 games.
Jamir Watkins attacks the basket (h/t @daves_joint/twitter)
Team Final has plenty of athleticism, but their frontcourt lacks ideal size and depth. Collier is going to be a mainstay in the Team Final frontcourt and Watkins will start at the small forward position. Elijah Taylor will start at center while 2018 veteran Peter Sorber returns to the fold, and the pair of 6-foot-8 big men will need to increase their productivity. Taylor (247 No. 137) plays with an energy and a motor that should catch the eyes of college coaches, and he’ll need to play efficient defense without fouling against the nation’s best big men. Taylor nearly averaged a double-double during the 2018-19 high school season and put up 16 points and seven rebounds in Imhotep Charter’s state championship win. He will have solid momentum as he gears up for an even stronger spring and summer. Sorber was hurt most of the season and will likely be reclassifying. The 6-foot-8 Sorber didn’t have a major role last season, but that minimal EYBL experience should come in handy when he’s looking to establish his role on his year’s squad.
Team Final will trot out a 9-man rotation equipped with four recruits that hold a 247-sports ‘star’ rating. Gordon and Collier will be the go-to-guys, while Wilson will be the primary facilitator. If they can get one of the members of their supporting cast to step up, Team Final will have a strong chance of making noise in Division B and ultimately earning a trip to Peach Jam. They will need to figure out a solution to their size discrepancy in the frontcourt, and more importantly, they will need to find a group that can consistently defend. They played next to zero defense last spring and summer, and we expect a 180-degree turnaround in 2019.