To some, choosing two players as co-Players of the Year might seem like a cop-out — and in most cases, those of us at the Pittsburgh Union Progress sports staff are inclined to agree.

But after everything they’ve done in leading Lincoln Park to back-to-back WPIAL and PIAA Class 4A championships, how could anyone possibly pick between Brandin “Beebah” Cummings and Meleek Thomas for this year’s most prestigious award in high school basketball?

Their highlights are astonishing, their numbers are astronomical, and their signature moments are seemingly endless. Their styles are unique, yet both play with a dramatic flair, infectious energy and undeniable swagger that few can match. Together, they joined forces to comprise one of the greatest tandems in WPIAL basketball history — and with all of those qualities in mind, Cummings and Thomas are your 2023-24 PUP co-Players of the Year. All WPIAL and City League players were considered for the award that was picked by the PUP sports staff.

“They just went back and forth,” said Leopards coach Mike Bariski. “When Beebah was scoring, Meleek would have 14 rebounds and eight assists. It was kind of like tit-for-tat. They just fed off each other. They just kept taking their turn. … You put them next to each other — they’re both extremely long, they’re both extremely talented. They’re going to be wrecking balls in college.

“They are great players who just mesh together.”

Brandin Cummings and Meleek Thomas embrace after Lincoln Park’s 62-58 victory against Neumann-Goretti in the PIAA Class 4A championship Thursday, March 23, 2023, at Giant Center in Hershey, Pa. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Cummings is a senior and Pitt recruit who finished his sensational high school career with three WPIAL titles, two state titles and 2,222 career points. The 6-4 guard averaged a team-leading 23.9 points per game, but he saved his best for last, cooking up three incredible performances in his final four state playoff games — including a 37-point masterpiece in Lincoln Park’s 80-50 win over Archbishop Carroll of the Philadelphia Catholic League in the PIAA Class 4A final.

Thomas is a 6-4 junior guard who already has 1,750 career points and scholarship offers from just about every Power Five program you can think of — including Pitt, Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, Indiana, Connecticut and more. A consensus five-star recruit, Thomas is universally regarded as a top-10 prospect in the 2025 class, and many believe he will one day play in the NBA.

They are the only set of teammates in WPIAL history to each average 22-plus ppg in back-to-back seasons, and both were selected as PUP first-team all-stars in both the 2022-23 and 2023-24 campaigns, becoming the only boys players to make the first team twice.

“They will us to win. They just do,” Bariski said. “When we were down by 15 against Uniontown [in the state playoffs], there was no panic in my voice and no panic in me, because there was no panic in them. … These guys, the fight in them is unlike any kids I’ve coached.”

Lincoln Park’s Brandin Cummings attempts to dunk against Hampton’s Peter Kramer in the PIAA Class 4A semifinals on Monday, March 18, 2024, at North Allegheny High School. Cummings scored a game-high 30 points as Lincoln Park won, 74-53. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Ever since he poured in a game-high 22 points as a freshman in a 66-57 win against North Catholic in the 2021 WPIAL Class 4A championship game, Cummings has developed a well-earned reputation as the ultimate big-game performer who always rises to the occasion when the lights are brightest.

In a PIAA second-round playoff game against Uniontown on March 12, the Leopards fell behind by 15 points in the first quarter and found themselves trailing by a score of 23-9 going into the second. After being held scoreless in the opening quarter, Cummings erupted for 12 points in the second to ignite Lincoln Park’s comeback, then added another 12 in the third quarter and eight more in the fourth, burying a dazzling array of acrobatic buckets that you simply had to see to believe.

By the time the clock ran out on the Leopards’ epic 66-62 victory, it was clear Cummings had just authored the finest performance of his legendary career.

“Our backs were against the wall, on the ropes,” Cummings said. “It just shows that you can never count a player like me out. I had to go and find something deep down to actually push through and find something within me that I have. I had to go down to the mud and find that dog to overcome that deficit. That was definitely my favorite [performance].”

To follow that up, Cummings added another 30-point outburst in a 74-53 win over Hampton in the PIAA semifinals, scoring 24 points in the first half to put the game out of reach and send Lincoln Park back to Hershey for the state finals. There, of course, he delivered one last game for the ages, draining seven 3-pointers and finishing 14 of 18 from the field on his way to a career-high 37 points in a mercy-rule victory against Archbishop Carroll.

Lincoln Park’s Brandin Cummings scored a career-high 37 points in an 80-50 win against Archbishop Carroll in the PIAA Class 4A championship game, his third 30-point game of the state playoffs. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

But on top of all his championships and accolades, Cummings said the feat he’ll cherish the most came in a first-round WPIAL playoff win against Freeport earlier this year.

That’s when Cummings eclipsed the 2,000-point mark for his career, scoring 23 points in a 93-63 rout while joining his older brother, Nelly, as the WPIAL’s second set of brothers to each score 2,000 points in their career. Together, they eclipsed Chartiers Valley greats T.J. and Matty McConnell as the highest-scoring duo of brothers in WPIAL history.

“Between me and him, that’s going to mark our legacy forever,” Cummings said. “I think that’s what really matters. The championships are cool, but once you have something that cements your name in history, it’s a completely different feeling.

“My brother had 37 as well for his final game [in the 2017 PIAA Class 3A final against Neumann-Goretti] … That’s beautiful. We had the same amount of points in our last game on the same court. That’s just crazy for our family.”

Lincoln Park’s Meleek Thomas (5) reacts after scoring against Archbishop Carroll in the PIAA 4A championship on Thursday, March 21, 2024, at Giant Center in Hershey. Lincoln Park won, 80-50, for its second consecutive state title. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Arguably the most sought-after recruit to come out of Western Pennsylvania this century, Thomas possesses an elite skill set coupled with natural athletic gifts that you simply can’t teach. But the qualities that opposing coaches seem to appreciate most are his knack for crashing the boards on offense, his refusal to back down from any opponent and his insatiable desire to win at all costs.

A do-it-all extraordinaire who averaged 22.7 points, 10.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 3.2 steals per game, Thomas shot 57% from the field, 38% from 3-point range and 78% from the free-throw line on the year. He registered double-doubles in both the WPIAL and PIAA championship games, and much like Cummings, he has a penchant for always coming up big in clutch moments.

“We have not experienced those guys ever taking a play off,” said North Catholic coach Jim Rocco. “I think a lot of really, really good players that are obviously better than the kids they’re playing against, at times, they sort of rely on their individual talent, and they’ll take time off on plays. … I know we haven’t done well against them. We haven’t been able to beat them. But they’re just so good.

“I think [Blackhawk grad] Dante [Calabria] was, in my opinion, the best that I’ve ever seen play in my career. But those two are right there. Historically, that’s how they’re going to be remembered.”

The most iconic moment of Thomas’ career to date came in a thrilling 62-58 win over Philly powerhouse Neumann-Goretti in last year’s PIAA Class 4A final, when Thomas drained a go-ahead floater with 10 seconds remaining to spoil Neumann-Goretti’s bid for a state championship three-peat. He finished that game with 22 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals to help the Leopards become the first team to defeat Neumann-Goretti in 10 PIAA championship apperances.

“I feel like I solidified my first one with the second one,” Thomas said about claiming back-to-back state titles. “It always feels great when you do it again.”

Lincoln Park’s Meleek Thomas is a consensus five-star recruit who has already scored 1,750 career points in his first three seasons while helping the Leopards capture back-to-back WPIAL and state titles. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Thomas put his defensive prowess and elite offensive rebounding ability on full display in a 66-51 win over Hampton in this year’s WPIAL Class 4A championship game, limiting fellow PUP first-team all-star Peter Kramer to only six points on 3-of-17 shooting while tallying 21 points, 10 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists. And as he so often does, Thomas threw down a highlight-reel dunk for good measure to put the finishing touches on Lincoln Park’s second consecutive WPIAL title.

“They both have their own various skill sets, but they complement each other on the court, and it was evident in the success they had throughout their career,” said longtime Hampton coach Joe Lafko. “I thought that both young men played outstanding defense in the playoff games that we faced them in. … They’re really hard to guard. They’re elite talents, and I give them all the credit.

“I congratulate those two young men on the accomplishments they had this year. What a performance they had in the playoffs, but particularly in the state championship game. What a dominating performance.”

His vicious slam dunk against Hampton at Pitt’s Petersen Events Center may have felt like a familiar sight to the fans in attendance — at least those who witnessed Thomas take off from just inside the free-throw line for an emphatic jam to cap off his 25-point performance in last year’s 78-68 victory over North Catholic in the WPIAL championship game.

No matter what, in every championship contest he plays in, Thomas always seems to deliver at least one unforgettable highlight for the Leopards — and for the many adoring fans who come out to watch him play.

“It’s wild. It doesn’t even feel real sometimes, how crazy it is,” Thomas said about the swarms of young fans who seek him out for pictures and autographs after games. “All I do is put in work, and the kids love me so much. It’s just something I prayed for.”

For years, many have speculated about Thomas potentially leaving Lincoln Park to enroll at one of the nation’s premier basketball academies, something he hasn’t quite ruled out yet going into his senior year. Time will tell where Thomas decides to play in his final season of high school ball, but one thing is set in stone — his and Cummings’ place as two of the greatest players to ever come out of Western Pennsylvania.

“It was just two brothers going out there and just playing basketball at our highest level,” Cummings said. “We talked about this before. We knew how good that we could be, but to go out there and actually show it and prove it, it kind of has a different feeling to it.

“We said we were going to do it, and we did it.”

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Steve Rotstein

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at