Taj Thweatt, a 6-foot-7 junior at Wildwood Catholic, is the South Jersey boys’ basketball player of the year.
Thweatt averaged 20.6 points and 10.2 rebounds for the Crusaders, who went 27-2 and finished in the No. 1 spot in the South Jersey Top 25 rankings.
Wildwood Catholic coach Dave DeWeese said Thweatt made a “quantum leap forward” from his sophomore to his junior season.
“He put in an unbelievable amount of work,” DeWeese said of Thweatt, who lives in Middle Township.
Thweatt has scholarship offers from Seton Hall, Monmouth, Bowling Green and Temple. He has drawn strong interest from top-tier programs such as Marquette and Cincinnati, according to DeWeese.
Thweatt knows he will need to play on the perimeter in college, so he has worked to expand his game. His improved ability to handle the basketball and shoot from distance were the biggest keys to his development into a dominant player.
In the Cape-Atlantic League title game Feb. 23 against St. Augustine, Thweatt made a pair of three-point jumpers in the fourth quarter of a 64-53 victory at Stockton University.
“I was comfortable taking those shots,” Thweatt said. “I was ready for those moments.”
For the season, Thweatt made 27 three-pointers.
“He made big shots in big games,” DeWeese said. “He has confidence taking those shots no matter the situation. He’s unfazed by the moment.”
Here is the rest of the first team:
Ajike, a 6-6 swingman, finished his career as the all-time leading rebounder in Irish program history.
That’s no small feat given Camden Catholic’s tradition of outstanding players. Ajike averaged 16.6 points and 8.5 rebounds and also was second on the team in assists with 88.
Beyond the statistics, Ajike’s versatility, energy and ability to rise up in big moments was key to Camden Catholic’s success over the last two seasons. He led the Irish to back-to-back Non-Public South A titles, the first time the Irish repeated as sectional champions since 1993 and 1994.
Ross, a 6-3 guard, was strictly a shooter and scorer during the early part of his career at St. Joseph.
He developed into a complete player as a senior, helping the Wildcats to a 21-6 record and pushing the program into South Jersey prominence. He finished his career with 2,161 points, tops on the school’s all-time list.
Ross, who has signed to attend Caldwell University on scholarship, averaged 23.3 points as a senior. He played one of the best games of his career Jan. 16, scoring 34 points despite face-guard defense and grabbing 10 rebounds in a 78-73 overtime loss to the eventual No. 1 team, Wildwood Catholic.
The 5-foot-11 DePersia is a repeat first-team selection.
A slick ballhandler and deadly outside shooter who played with an indefatigable store of energy, DePersia led Haddonfield to back-to-back Group 2 state championships.
This season, DePersia missed eight games with a wrist injury and was limited at times by the ailment for the remainder of the season. He still averaged 13 points and specialized in controlling the tempo of games and making smart decisions in pressure situations.
DePersia was at his best in the final quarter of the Group 2 state final against Newark West Side. He made a clutch three-pointer to push Haddonfield back in front, converted a traditional three-point play and sank two free throws as the Bulldawgs pulled away for their second straight state crown.
The 6-foot-7 Fleming likely will live forever in Haddonfield basketball lore for his performance in the South Jersey Group 2 finals.
With his team trailing by 11 with less than two minutes to play, Fleming scored 12 points with three three-pointers as well as three free throws, forcing overtime with a three with 0:08 on the clock.
Fleming scored four more points in overtime and finished with 28 points as Haddonfield scored an unforgettable, 69-67 victory that propelled the team to its second straight Group 2 state title.
A versatile player who could score inside or outside, Fleming showed no hesitance in taking big shots in big moments. None were bigger than those frantic final seconds that March 4 night at Cherry Hill East.
The 6-foot Cartwright-Atkins set the tone for the Group 3 state champions with his play and his approach.
The defining moment of the most memorable season in the last 60 years of Moorestown basketball was Cartwright-Atkins dancing in the center circle, waiting for the opening tip against Ramapo’s 6-foot-11 Neal Quinn in the state championship game.
Cartwright-Atkins finished that game with 12 points and 13 rebounds as Moorestown won its first state title since 1959. For the season, Cartwright-Atkins averaged 14.7 points and eight rebounds while also distributing 90 assists.
A Wagner University football recruit as a wide receiver, Cartwright-Atkins was the hub of the Quakers’ balanced attack. His play in the paint created openings for the team’s bevy of outside shooters and paved the way to a championship season.
All South Jersey Basketball
Name, Ht., Grade, School, Scoring average
Baba Ajike 6-6 Senior Camden Catholic 16.6
Nick Cartwright-Atkins 6-0 Senior Moorestown 14.7
Mike DePersia 5-11 Senior Haddonfield 13.0
Dan Fleming 6-7 Senior Haddonfield 16.3
Marcellus Ross 6-3 Senior St. Joseph 23.4
Taj Thweatt 6-7 Junior Wildwood Catholic 20.2
D.J. Campbell 6-2 Senior Vineland 29.3
Hartnel Haye 6-7 Senior Paul VI 18.2
Rynell Lawrence 6-1 Senior Millville 17.9
Lance Ware 6-9 Junior Camden 11.6
Jahlil White 6-6 Junior Wildwood Catholic 18.6
Deonte Woodbury 6-1 Junior Burlington City 18.1
Carl Gibson 6-1 Senior Cherry Hill East 20.7
Javon Gordon 5-9 Senior Delsea 16.8
Tyshon Judge 6-2 Senior Paul VI 15.5
Mattia Morini 6-6 Senior Bishop Eustace 14.1
Uche Okafor 6-6 Senior Camden Catholic 13.4
Charles Solomon 6-7 Senior St. Augustine 18.4