By Phil Anastasia
Inquirer Staff Writer
Some takeaways from the Camden at St. Augustine Prep basketball scrimmage on Tuesday in Richland:
-- These look like two of the top teams in South Jersey this season. They might be 1-3 in the preseason Top 25, with SA at the top, Atlantic City No. 2 and Camden third.
-- St. Augustine might have the best player in SJ this season in senior guard Sa'eed Nelson, an American University recruit.
Nelson is as creative off the dribble and in the lane as any player around. He can score and he can dish. He showed good range and touch on his jumper.
And he's grown -- he looks every bit of 6-foot and he's not a skinny little point guard anymore. He looks like a senior.
-- Nelson and junior forward Justyn Mutts form perhaps South Jersey's top outside-inside combo (Read more about them in The Inquirer's preseason preview in Saturday's paper). Mutts was a force on the boards and as a defender and threw down a couple serious slams. He can run the floor too.
-- St. Augustine junior guard Austin Kennedy is a key guy for the Hermits -- a good ball-handler, passer, defender and shooter. He knows how to play.
-- "We've got a chance to be pretty good," St. Augustine coach Paul Rodio said before the scrimmage. The Hermits were 27-2 last season. They're gunning for something similar this season, although they have a difficult out-of-conference schedule, including Newark Tech at the Ocean City PBA tipoff tourney as well as CBA, Winslow Twp., Camden Catholic, Trenton, and Brighton (Mass.), a team that Rodio says of "state-championship level."
-- Camden played without its top two returning players, football stars Brad Hawkins and Jamal Holloway. They sat on the bench in street clothes as they need six practices before they can participate in a scrimmage.
-- Camden junior guard John Evans was the day's best outside shooter. The left-handed Evans must have made five or six three-pointers. If he can keep that up, he'll give the Panthers an element they've lacked in recent years: consistent outside shooting.
-- Camden sophomore center Miles Thompson played well. Thompson was especially strong in the fourth of five quarters that the first-stringers played against each other, helping Camden to a 20-19 edge in that one. He's a force in the paint and has good hands for a big man.
-- Camden sophomore guard Corey Greer, a highly-touted transfer from Middle Twp., looked good as he continues to adjust to his new team and his new role as a point guard.
Greer is strong with the ball and a clever passer. He's more of a scorer than a shooter at this point in his career -- and he really seems to be focusing on distributing the ball -- but his outside game should continue to develop.
"I'm still adjusting," Greer said after the scrimmage. "I'm learning a lot. I'm learning more every day."
-- Camden has some depth. Even without Hawkins and Holloway, the Panthers were able to bring productive players off the bench.
-- The scrimmage was close and highly competitive. Scores in the five quarters of varsity-only action: 13-12 (Prep), 16-14 (Camden), 12-10 (Camden), 20-19 (Camden), 16-11 (Prep).
Add them up and it's Prep 72, Camden 71.
-- There were some legendary players watching the action in St. Augustine's gym -- Camden assistant coach Vic Carstarphen; Camden graduate DaJuan Wagner; Middle Township graduate LaMarr Greer, Corey's dad; and St. Augustine graduate Anthony Farmer, now an assistant at his alma mater.
Between just those four guys, there was around 10,000 career points in the building.
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