Rahsool Diggins knows he’s come a long way in just four years.
The Archbishop Wood point guard got tossed right into the thick of it as a freshman, had his ups and downs but also never stopped working. Diggins just kept improving, the Vikings kept winning games, college coaches came calling and eventually, everyone had to take notice.
Diggins was named the Player of the Year to lead six local selections on the PA Sportwriters Class 6A all-state team released Saturday evening.
“It’s a big honor and something that means a lot to me,” Diggins said Saturday. “It’s the biggest class in the state and the most important one to me, so it’s a great accomplishment.”
A first team all-state selection last year in Class 5A, Diggins and Wood didn’t get a chance to play a full schedule this winter but still had plenty of success. The UConn recruit was named the Philadelphia Catholic League MVP for the second straight season and he helped the Vikings lift their first PCL trophy since 2017.
Diggins is Wood’s first state player of the year since Collin Gillespie was honored after his senior year in 2017 and Diggins is just the second Vikings player to earn the accolade. The selection also gives Wood two state players of the year as senior Kaitlyn Orihel was named the top player in the state on the Class 4A girls team.
While the individual awards are nice, Diggins never played for them and each one that came his way was a result of his team’s success.
“To be a great player, you have to be consistent,” Diggins said. “You always have to be the same, every game, no matter the outcome.”
Diggins has strong numbers across the board, averaging 16.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 6.8 assists per game for Wood. He finishes his career as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1.513 points and scored a game-high 26 points in the PIAA 6A title game, although the Vikings fell a possession short of winning the PIAA championship.
The point guard is joined by three of his teammates on the all-state teams. Senior Marcus Randolph, who led Wood with a 16.9 ppg average, joins Diggins on the first team after the Richmond recruit was selected third team in Class 5A last year.
Wood seniors Jaylen Stinson and Daeshon Shepherd were both selected second team all-state. Stinson, a James Madison recruit, averaged 13.7 ppg and had a team-high 21 in the Vikings’ PCL title game win while Shepherd, a La Salle recruit, averaged 14.8 ppg. Both were also all-state selections in Class 5A as juniors.
All four Wood selections scored 1,000 points in high school and all four will play Division I basketball. Their bond extends well beyond the basketball court as all four played for the same AAU team under Wood assistant coach Chris Roantree.
“They’re like brothers, we’re with each other almost every day, even outside of school and basketball,” Diggins said. “It’s a tight-knit bond. Those are the guys you’re going to stay close with the rest of your life.”
Diggins thanked Wood head coach John Mosco, Roantree, his parents and teammates for always pushing him. Despite not winning the state title, Diggins had nothing but good memories of this past season.
“I’m happy we got the PCL championship before we left, because that’s what I craved the most,” Diggins said. “I wanted to win a state championship but that PCL championship was way more important to me. I promised Coach Mosco that and I was happy we finally got it for him, I felt like that was our biggest accomplishment.”
There has been little doubt North Penn senior Josh Jones was one of the best soccer players in the state over the last two years but he opened a lot of eyes on the basketball court this season. With Knights senior Rob Carangi opting not to play in 2021 due to health reasons, Jones took on a larger load on both ends and turned in a stellar season that landed him on the all-state second team.
Jones, who has committed to play soccer at national power Louisville, averaged 21.3 ppg for a Knights team that was a buzzer-beater away from reaching the District 1 semifinals as a No. 18 seed. The 6-foot-5 senior only played two years of varsity basketball, but left quite a mark with 734 career points.
“It’s kind of crazy to hear, I was not expecting that and I’m sure not many people in general would have expected that,” Jones said. “I always knew I could go out, compete and play basketball with all those guys even though I didn’t play until my junior year. I think I proved that the past two seasons.
“It’s nice to get the recognition but it’s not what I was out there going for.”
Jones picks up an impressive double, adding all-state basketball honors to all-state and regional All-American soccer selections this fall.
“There are a lot of great multi-sport athletes but it’s still hard to excel at an all-state level for both, so I think this just shows how much work I put in,” Jones said. “It meant everything to me and I’m sure it did to all the other guys too. We wish we could have had Rob with us, we thought we could really do some damage if we’d had him and had a normal year but we still had a great season and surprised a lot of people.”
Jones joked that he has something in his back pocket to show Louisville basketball coach Chris Mack if the Cardinals need some help this coming season but for now, he’s eager to get on campus in July and start training with the men’s soccer team. The senior also extended thanks to his teammates and the Knights’ coaching staff, especially for the way they allowed him to miss some games as a junior for soccer obligations.
“I just want to thank my teammates and coaches for believing in me and giving that chance to play multiple sports,” Jones said. “I think it was important to show other kids they can go out and do that too.”
Few local players had to carry more of a load for their teams than Upper Dublin center Drew Stover. By the time the Cardinals lost in the second round of the District 1-6A tournament, Stover was the only senior left playing for UD and had defenses throwing everything but the kitchen sink at him to try and slow him down.
Stover’s monster season saw him post averages of 24.9 ppg and 11.6 rebounds per game as he willed Upper Dublin to the No. 20 and final playoff spot in District 1. The Millersville recruit was a late bloomer in hoops, but finishes his career by being selected third team all-state.
“It’s an honor, there are some crazy freak athletes out there, so I think it says a lot about how I’ve grown and changed, so I’m just honored,” Stover said. “I think I proved a lot to myself, especially with my conditioning wearing the masks. Usually, my problem was being in shape because I’m a big guy so getting up and down the floor could be a struggle but I proved with hard offseason and preseason work, I could get to that point.”
Stover authored a 43-point game late in the regular season, a result that went a long way toward getting Upper Dublin into the postseason. It was something the senior talked about all season and his drive down the stretch was a key component in UD not only making districts, but putting together a first-round upset win.
It was a remarkable rise for Stover, who didn’t play varsity until he was a sophomore and didn’t have his heart in it before that. His parents pushed him to give basketball a try and when it hit him that he could be contributing player, Stover went all-in.
Stover will continue his career at Millersville, the same college where his father Bret – now Upper Dublin’s football coach – was a standout quarterback.
“I never would have thought that I would come this far and be playing in college next year,” Stover said. “I think it’s crazy how much I fell in love with the game, started working really hard and got to where I am now.”
Last weekend, Gemantown Academy’s Jordan Longino was named the non-PIAA all-state player of the year. Longino (Villanova), Diggins (UConn) and Class 6A first team selection Stevie Mitchell of Wilson (Marquette) will be seeing a lot of each other the next four years playing in the Big East and Diggins said it was another credit to the overall talent in the state of Pennsylvania.
“That speaks so much to Pennsylvania, because great guards play in the Big East and this shows we have great guards,” Diggins said. “You don’t have average guards in the Big East, so seeing Jordan going to Villanova and Stevie to Marquette, that’s a pretty big thing and I’m looking forward to competing against them.”
Rahsool Diggins, Archbishop Wood, 6-3 Sr (POY)
Devin Carney, Butler, 6-0 Jr
Stevie Mitchell, Wilson, 6-2 Sr
Moro Osumanu, Reading High, 6-6 Sr
Marcus Randolph, Archbishop Wood, 6-5 Sr
Ruben Rodriguez, Reading High, 6-1 So
Khalil Farmer, Roman Catholic, 6-3 Jr
Christian Fermin, Pocono Mountain West, 6-8 Jr
Josh Jones, North Penn, 6-5 Sr
Demetrius Lilley, Lower Merion, 6-9 Jr
Daeshon Shepherd, Archbishop Wood, 6-5 Sr
Jaylen Stinson, Archbishop Wood, 6-0 Sr
Daniel Alcantara, Reading High, 6-6 Jr
Xzayvier Brown, Roman Catholic, 6-1 So
Kai Cipalla, Warwick, 6-3 Sr
Daniel Skillings, Roman Catholic, 6-5 Jr
Drew Stover, Upper Dublin, 6-7 Sr
Eli Yofan, Fox Chapel, 6-2 Jr
Coach: Rick Perez, Reading