Archbishop Wood’s Jalil Bethea had one of the best offensive games in recent memory at the end of his sophomore season in 2021-22,. Against North Hills in the PIAA-6A state quarterfinals, he scored 37 points in 23 minutes. He went 11-for-12 from three-point range and 12-for-15 overall from the field. The 37 points are the most scored by a Philadelphia Catholic League player in a PIAA state playoff game.
That game cemented Bethea as one of the top returning underclassmen in the area and he blew away even the highest expectations as a junior.
The 6-foot-4, 175-pound guard led the PCL in scoring with 23.2 points per game and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Bethea is The Reporter/Times Herald/Montgomery Media 2022-2023 Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
“(The North Hills game) made me be more confident in my play style,” Bethea, who was Wood’s sixth man and a third team All-Catholic selection as a sophomore, said. “It helped me get comfortable when I was on the court, because usually I’d be having a lot of nerves. I would say after that game I was more comfortable when I touched the floor. Everything just felt comfortable.”
“(I improved) my all-around game. My sophomore year everybody thought, ‘Oh that kid can just shoot.’ But now, I think I proved to most people that I can do other things than just shoot, like pass, dribble and be a leader and have a big impact on the game itself.”
The Uptown Philadelphia native scored 649 points this season (first in PCL) and topped 1,000 in his career despite not scoring as a freshman. He hit 85 three-pointers (first in PCL) at a 45.7% clip (second in PCL) and a good amount of those came from well-beyond the three-point line. In his first game at the historic Palestra in the PCL semifinals, he started the scoring with a deep trey that would have been from the half-court logo on an NBA floor.
“I practice a lot of tough shots,” Bethea, who started shooting threes with his brother in the park when he was 4-years-old, said. “If you practice them, you’ll make them more in the game. That’s what I do before a game, practice shooting tough shots so in the real game it’ll be a high-percentage of me making it.”
The first team All-PCL selection added 7.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. He shot 53.6% from the field and 89.2% from the free-throw line.
“Each year, he’s put so much more into his game,” Wood coach John Mosco said. “Different pieces. He’s such a tremendous passer, one of the best passers that we’ve had. He’s a good ball-handler.”
Bethea had two of his best games this season against St. Joe’s Prep. He set a career-high with 40 points against the Hawks on Feb. 6, shooting 14-for-20 from the field, 6-for-7 from three and 6-for-8 from the free-throw line. He added 10 rebounds for a double-double in the Vikings 77-63 overtime win. In a rematch in the PCL quarterfinals, he scored 30 to send Wood to the semifinals at the Palestra.
“I let the game come to me,” Bethea said of his 40-point outburst. “I didn’t really force a lot of shots, I just let the game come to me then everything just happened after that. I didn’t even know – I was just playing. I heard people on the sideline, ‘Yo make this free throw and you got 40!’ I was just playing. I knew I had a lot of points, but I didn’t know how much or what I was doing.”
“Whenever he’s deep in that corner,” Mosco said, remembering the 40-point game, “and he shoots I’m like, ‘Oh no’ when it looks like it has no shot and then it goes in. Then in the playoff game he took over against the Prep to get us to the Palestra.”
The sharpshooter scored 28 or more points five additional times this season. He scored 31 against Neumann-Goretti, West Catholic and Coatesville. In the intense state quarterfinal against Coatesville, Bethea shot 10-for-15 from the field and 3-of-6 from three with 10 rebounds for another double-double. He totaled 29 points against Father Judge and 28 against La Salle.
Wood has reached at least the state Final Four in all three of Bethea’s seasons, but hasn’t been able to capture a championship. The Vikings lost the title game to Reading in 2021 and Roman Catholic in 2022. This year they lost to Roman in the semifinals.
Expectations will be high again next year in Warminster. Bethea returns alongside classmate Josh Reed (9.2 PPG this season) and sophomores Milan Dean (9.3 PPG) and Carey Maxey (6.4 PPG). After going 19-9 this season, the Vikings will be among the favorites for PCL and state championships.
Bethea continues a long stretch of elite guard play at Archbishop Wood. Tommy Funk (Class of 2016), Collin Gillespie (2017) and Andrew Funk (2018) led the backcourt before Bethea’s arrival. He got to play with Rahsool Diggins (2021) as a freshman and Justin Moore (2022) as a sophomore and is still close with both of them.
“They’re all different,” Mosco said. “I believe (Bethea) can be one of the top to come through this school.
“Collin was under the radar, Tommy Funk was a pure point guard, got everybody involved and was a tremendous leader. That’s where Jalil has to take the next step – being that leader and being that confident player on the court like Collin and Tommy Funk. He’s definitely a scorer like Rahsool and Andrew Funk. He can put it all together if he gets that leadership quality and is able to get us to win a Catholic League championship.”
While Bethea has another year at the corner of Street Road and York Road, colleges have been interested for a while. He received his first offer from Robert Morris University in the summer of 2021 – before his sophomore season – and now has 22 offers. He has local offers from Penn State, Saint Joseph’s, Temple and Villanova. Nationally, his offers include Miami, Mississippi State and UCLA, to name a few.
“As a child I really didn’t think this was going to happen,” Bethea said. “I put it in God’s hands and God just help me follow through, took me on the right path.
“I just want to play and have an impact on the team I commit to. Also, whatever college I pick, I want to be comfortable where I’m at. I don’t want to go there and then be stuck for a year because I didn’t fully plan it out and didn’t think of the choice that I made before committing there.”
Bethea will be playing AAU with Team Final this summer.