The HS Hoops Experience: Philly vs Baltimore

There is a huge demand for high quality basketball… Hoopheads want to watch talented players in tightly contested games… On one hand, elite high school programs throughout the mid-Atlantic region are delivering… On the other hand, College programs? Not so much…

In recent weeks, Black Cager Sports has covered some of the finest scholastic basketball America has to offer. We were courtside for Camden vs Roman Catholic, Neumann-Goretti vs Roman Catholic, Reading vs Wilson West Lawn, Archbishop Wood vs Roman Catholic, Neumann-Goretti vs Archbishop Wood, Camden vs Roselle Catholic and Poly (MD) vs St. Frances (MD).

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Rahsool Diggins defended by Hysier Miller. Photo Credit: Mark Jordan, Raw Sports

These were wonderful games featuring highly ranked players. Nearly every contest featured a few HIGH major Division 1 prospects and, in some cases, as many as 10 or 11 low to mid-major D1 prospects were on the floor at the same time.

The strong thirst for high level basketball is evidenced by the insatiable demand for tickets to these games. There was, literally speaking, not any empty seat available for any of these contests. The Camden/Roman game, Reading/Wilson game and Philadelphia Catholic League games were sold out within hours of the tickets being made available.

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Hakim Bryd defended by Jaylen Stinson. Photo Credit: Mark Jordan, Raw Sports

The fact that tickets were NOT available only served as a slight deterrent to dedicated and determined Philadelphia area hoopheads. It merely added an element of creativity to the mission… They showed up anyway looking for a side door, a window, a heating duct… Any possible means of ingress. When all else fails, some deploy a high powered ‘blitz’ that hasn’t been seen round these parts since the departure of legendary Eagles coach Buddy Ryan.

Shit is that serious… Tickets to elite HS school basketball tickets move like Popeye’s chicken sandwiches when they first return to the menu.

I absolutely love packed gyms, highly ranked teams, intense rivalries and good players. This is basketball as it was meant to be played. The high schools have it in abundance.

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Anthony Hoggard seated courtside for Camden vs Roselle Catholic at Neumann University

Philadelphia area colleges, for the most part, are not delivering a product of similar quality. The Big 5 has become almost an afterthought to all but the most dedicated alums. There is one exception of course, Villanova exists on a separate planet. The Wildcats have watched their blood change from red to blue over the last ten years or so. Thier ascent has been accompanied by an ever expanding cadre of front runners joinging the Main Line movement.

The rest are struggling mightily… After a solid start, Temple is 10-9 (2-5) and sit in 10th place in American Athletic Conference. La Salle also had a decent non-conference run and came back to earth once league play began. The Explorers are also 10-9 (1-6) and currently in 13th place in the A10. Last year’s Big 5 champion Penn Quakers are floundering at 8-7 (0-2 in the Ivy League). After seven league games, St. Joseph’s finds itself 7 games out of first place in the A10. The Hawks are 4-16 (0-7) on the season.

Outside of Villanova, the college basketball landscape in Philly barren…

Predictably, fans have been avoiding the Liacouris, Gola and Hagan arenas in droves. Even the fabled Palestra is more than half empty most nights. Meanwhile, true hoopheads have been climbing on top of one another for an opportunity to watch the finest high school teams in the area. As I noted earlier, people really want to see good competitive basketball game between strong and familiar teams featuring good players.

While high school basketball is very popular throughout the mid-Atlantic region, there are some significant and noticeable regional differences worth mentioning. It’s all good, but there are some decidedly different flavors…

Here, I’ll touch on a few variations that exist between elite high school basketball in Baltimore, Maryland and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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Rodney Veney, Philly Pride Co-Director at Wood vs Neumann-Goretti

First up, the venues… In Philadelphia, games featuring 10-12 D1 prospects are often played in HS gyms with a maximum capacity of 600-800 spectators. To their credit, school administrators usually turn a blind eyes to those maximum capacity certificates hanging on the walls. As much as humanly possible, they try to accommodate the hungry and thirsty fanbase. They sell tickets til it just not possible to fit more human beings into the gyms. As a result, in most games, there is not a single free square foot of space in the gym that is NOT dedicated to the actual game.

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Neumann-Goretti fans along the baseline during the Roman Catholic game

Referees are constantly tasked with gently reminding overzealous and passionate throngs to give the kids just a lil’ space so they can inbounds the ball along the baseline. Fully engaged fans can be found breathing down the necks of the players who can literally discern what fans had for lunch or whether they smoked ‘loud’ or ‘Reggie’ in the parking lot.

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Lynn Greer, III along baseline during warmups at Archbishop Wood

It’s an intense atmosphere for sure… For a lil’ over two hours on game days, Roman, Wood and Neumann-Goretti gyms are packed tighter than slave ships traversing the Atlantic in the early 1800’s. The sheer number of excited, energetic and highly emotional humans easily overwhelms the climate control systems in these decades old facilities.

They get HOT as shit. By the 4th quarter, they feel like an oven set on ”HELL!”

Loyal fans happily endure the momentary discomfort… What are they gonna do? Where are the alternatives? Are they gonna go watch college games featuring losing teams with players from countries, counties and towns they can’t pronounce?

Naaaaah… Philly hoopheads wanna see Philly Ballers!

In Baltimore, big HS games are played in Division 1 facilities. Last year, big games were played in Towson’s SECU Arena which seats 5,200. Yesterday, I attended the St. Frances v Poly game at the 4,000 seat Talmadge L. Hill Field House on the campus of Morgan State University

 

 

 

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St. Frances Academy supporters

They have it figured out…

In Philadelphia, one constantly hears that you cannot play high school games in Division 1 facilities. In Baltimore, One can constantly attend high school games played in Division 1 facilities.

What gives? We’ll try to clear up the discrepancy and report back to you…

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St Frances Coach, Nick Myles, paces the sideline in front of overflowing capacity crowd

Every single seat was filled well before tip-off at the Hill Field House yesterday. Indeed, there were still hundreds in a line to purchase tickets that wrapped around the arena 15 minutes before tip-off. Just like in Philadelphia, the authorities didn’t pay close attention to that pesky maximum capacity certificate hanging in plain view.

Get this… The price of admission was $20 for a boys and girls doubleheader. Using “old” math skills I learned in the early 1970s, 4,000 times $20 equals a gate of about $80,000. In contrast, Camden High School home games cost $3. If Camden attract 1,000 fans to Woodrow Wilson HS the game will generate $3,000.

Maybe that why high schools in Maryland are able to afford shot clocks…

That’s another major difference between the brand of basketball played in Baltimore and that played in Philadelphia.

The presence of the 30 second shot clock changes the game.

Coaches are forced to really coach down the stretch.

Good defense is immediately rewarded.

Perhaps, most importantly, players learn to play under conditions they will face for the rest of their playing careers.

Indeed, I haven’t seen a persuasive argument AGAINST shot clocks in basketball… Ever…

There’s one more difference between HS hoops in the Philly and Baltimore that’s worthy of discussion. The cultural feel varies considerably…

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Neumann-Goretti Senior Star PG Hakim Byrd. Photo Credit: Mark Jordan, Raw Sports

The very best Philadelphia High School games have an old-school Big 5 feel to them. The hard-core hoophead alums of Roman, Wood and Neumann-Goretti for the most part are middle-aged white males. These guys are fervent supporters of the young men  currently playing for their alma maters. It’s a wonderful thing to see diverse crowds coming together to share a scholastic basketball experience.

High quality Catholic League basketball games are, arguably, the most diverse regularly scheduled gatherings in Philadelphia.

It’s a beautiful thing and it portends well for the role that sports can have in building and maintaining a semblance of unity in a city of racially stratified neighborhoods. Catholic League basketball in Philadelphia is truly a multicultural and multiracial phenomena.

The very best high school basketball in Baltimore is much different…

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A section of fans at the Poly vs St, Frances game on Saturday

Games featuring the top teams and players have a decidedly HBCU homecoming feel to them. The alums, are Black, the fans are Black, the cheerleaders are Black, the ticket takers are Black, the security guards are Black, the athletic Directors are Black, the coaches are Black, the vendors are Black… Yesterday, there were well over 4,000 people in the Hill Field House and I might have seen a total of 10-12 white people.

 

It’s a wonderful thing to see Black people coming together to share a scholastic basketball experience. The manner in which people greet one another… The chants… The cheers… The food at concession stands… Everything is different when it’s done by Blacks for Blacks.

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Angel Reese, St Frances Academy (MD), 2020 McDonald’s All-American

Every so often, I would sneak glance at the door… I was waiting for Avon, Slim Charles, Bodie Broadus and Wee Bey... How would they get past the metal detectors? Then I remembered Wee Bey is still upstate with Chris Partlow’s homicidal ass and Bodie is dead. So, I just watched a helluva high school basketball game.

St. Frances, led by their outstanding senior point guard, Ace Baldwin (VCU commit) 13 points, 8 assists and 5 steals, defeated No. 1 and nationally ranked Poly, 57-53.  Senior forward Jamal West (South Alabama commit) contributed 15 points and 11 rebounds in the victory over Poly, which was led by Marquette commit Justin Lewis (18 points) and Brandon Murray (15 points).

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St. Frances Coach Nick Myles and Team Melo Director Julian Brown in Hill Field House

As usual, the hospitality shown to Black Cager Sports was beyond reproach. Team Melo Directors Bay Frazier, Julian Brown (pictured, above right) and St. Frances Academy Head Coach, Nick Myles always make sure Black Cager Sports feels right at home in the Charm City. The Baltimore HS basketball experience is not necessarily better than that of Philadelphia, but it certainly is different, very different.

Man… If we can get these colleges back on track…

 

Hysier Miller Leads Neumann-Goretti to Win Over Wood!

“I’m gonna bust his ass ALL night!”

“Bum ass nigga!”

That was the chatter on the court in the first quarter of the matchup between the two BEST teams in the BEST scholastic high school league in America.

Lots of disrespectful shit was said… Especially among the guards… I LOVE it!

Philly ain’t for everybody… I had to park damn near at the navy Yard… the gym was on broil… seats were unavailable… the ONLY way to get tickets was to see my man and ’em outside in the parking lot and pay well above face value…

I keep saying it… I don’t know if people are truly appreciating what we have here… This is the Golden Age… In ten years, we will be talking about the games being played this year.

Tonight’s game between the visiting Archbishop Wood Vikings and Neumann-Goretti Saints featured 10 starting players that will ALL receive Division 1 basketball scholarships. It was, in effect, a D1 game in that overcrowded HOT ass lil’ gym on 10th street. The quality of play was exceedingly high. Especially among the Philly guards…

It’s no secret, the Philadelphia Catholic League features some of the finest backcourt players in America. The coaches face a unique challenge every game. Last week, for example, Neumann-Goretti faced Roman Catholic and Head Coach Carl Arrigale had to devise a plan for dealing with one such HIGH major prospect, namely, Lynn Greer, III.

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Lynn Greer, III, Roman Catholic PG

Some coaches spend countless hours reviewing film, scheming, planning, plotting and designing special contingencies for containing high major players like Greer.  Arrigale takes a decidedly different approach. Greer came into the game with a heavy rep… He has played exclusively on the EYBL… He participated in USA Basketball… He has been offered scholarships by Nebraska (Big 10), Georgia (SEC), Wake Forest (ACC), Miami (ACC), Iowa (Big 10), Marquette (Big East), UNLV (Mountain West), Florida (SEC) St. Joseph’s (A10), Penn State (Big 10) and Temple (AAC) among others.

A very capable offensive player, Greer is capable of dropping 30 or even 40 on a given night. He is able to score from all three levels. He gets to the rim, he pulls up for mid-range jumpers and he knocks down threes… So what was Arrigale’s strategy? How would Neumann-Goretti deal with Greer?

“Fabe… you got him.”

That’s good fucking coaching right there! No double teams… No traps… No zones…

“Fabe… you got him.”

It worked as Miller (16 points) more than held his own against Greer (17 points) and Neumann-Goretti escaped with a 77-69 win in double overtime.

Tonight Neumann-Goretti faced yet another high major guard… Rahsool Diggins is the MAN right now. In a city known for producing high quality point guards, Diggins has assumed the throne. In a game against Roman Catholic last weekend, Matt Griffin exhibited a tremendous amount of respect for Diggins. Whenever, he crossed half court with his dribble still alive, Roman ran a second defender at him. Indeed, they double teamed Diggins throughout much of the game.

Deploying this strategy, Roman ‘held’ Diggins to 28 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists in a one point, 94-93 loss to Wood.

Diggins is a bona fide HIGH MAJOR prospect. An EYBL stalwart, he holds offers from Seton Hall (Big East), Miami (ACC), UConn (Big East), Wake Forest (ACC), St. Louis (A10), Florida (SEC), UMass (A10), Xavier (A10), Virginia Tech (ACC) and La Salle (A10) are just some of his suitors. Earlier this season, he lit up Duke’s 5 star PG commit Jeremy Roach for 26 in a 7 OT loss.

Lil’ Sool is a fuckin’ problem… He gives opponents fits… He’s exceptional in clear out situations where he creates space with wicked crossovers and in and out moves… He’s perhaps the best in the city at running pick and rolls… He often finds Daeshon Shepard and/or Muneer Newton for easy alley oop scoring opportunities… He’s deadly from three, especially in crunch time… So what was Arrigale’s strategy? How would Neumann-Goretti deal with Lil’ Sool?

“Fabe… you got him.”

That’s good fucking coaching right there! No double teams… No traps… No zones…

“Fabe… you got him.”

So… Who is Fabe? Standing a chiseled 6’2” Hysier “Fabe” Miller is a defensive specialist with a strong and varied offensive repertoire. He transferred from Martin L. King, Jr. Neumann-Goretti this past summer. He has spent the first month and half of the current season firmly establishing himself as one of the premier guards in the Catholic League and the Greater Philadelphia region.

It should, however, be noted that Fabe’s not new to this… for the past few years, Miller has honed his skills playing for Harold Mackey Boswell and WER1 in the summer and Sean Colson and Martin L. King, Jr. HS in the Public League. He put in work far away from glaring spotlight. While Greer and Diggins were entrenching themselves as HIGH MAJOR prospects on the EYBL and in Catholic League, Miller toiled away on the UAA and in the PUB.

Every night, he trudged back home to Wilson Park.

A highly productive guard for Colson, Miller was not on the radar screen of Division 1 coaches until very recently. Since the onset of the new year, Rider University (MAAC) and Wagner College (NEC) have offered him scholarships. These are his first two Division 1 offers. It’s safe to assume that he will garner much more attention going forward. After his performance tonight, one of the Big 5 programs made it clear that they would love to have him.

Rather than spoil the moment for Miller, we won’t reveal the school until they are able to tell him in person.

The coach said he needs to get ‘tougher guards’ and Miller fits the bill.

That’s good fucking coaching… Fabe from Wilson Park is ‘tough’ and highly skilled!

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Hysier Miller speaks with Michael Starling, Raw Sports after win over Wood

Tonight, he played the very best point guard in the city head up and held him to 15 while scoring 24. As the clock ran out and the final buzzer sounded, Miller forcefully pounded to the ball into the ground sending it bouncing high into the rafters, signaling satisfaction with both his performance and the important Catholic League win.

That was his understated way of talkin’ shit! I heard it loud and clear… I LOVE it!

The HIGH major boys haven’t discovered the kid from Wilson Park yet… But, Big 5 programs have started to take notice.

Miller has squarely situated himself in any discussion of the best guards in the area. To their credit, Mackey Boswell and Sean Colson have been saying for more than a year now.

The ULTIMATE Snub! Diamond Johnson Excluded from the McDonald’s AA Game

Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining…

The McDonald’s All-American game is the premier HS all-star game. The game itself has been around since 1977. In the inaugural game, a group of All-Americans played in a game against a group of high school stars from the Washington, D.C. area. The following year, an East vs. West format was adopted. The McDonald’s All-American designation is 43 years old this year. In 2002, a girls game was added and the current girl-game/boy-game doubleheader format began.

It is well established that the McDonald’s All-American Team is the best-known of the American high-school basketball All-American teams. It’s really not even a close call…Designation as a McDonald’s All-American instantly brands a player as one of the top high-school players in the United States or Canada

It was forgone conclusion the Philadelphia would have a representative in the 2020 McDonald’s All-American game. The whole city was just waiting on the announcement.

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Diamond Johnson, Neumann-Goretti, Senior Point Guard. Photo Credit: South Philly Review

Shit was a lock! Neumann-Goretti’s Diamond Johnson had a better chance of being a McDonald’s All-American than Derek Jeter had of being inducted in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

I had her at 99.999999% in…

The resume is impeccable… Johnson is the reigning 2018-19 Gatorade Pennsylvania Girls Basketball Player of the Year. The Gatorade award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguished Johnson as Pennsylvania’s best high school girls basketball player. The 5-foot-6 junior guard led the Saints to an 18-8 record and a berth in the Class 3A state tournament. She averaged 28.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 4.0 steals through 26 games.

Plainly stated, Johnson is a bad, bad muthafucka on a basketball court… I watched her drop 54 points in an 88-79 win over Imhotep Charter in the 3A city championship game. She would start for 90-95 percent of the boys basketball teams in the Greater Philadelphia region. I first saw her about 4 years ago giving bigger boys the business on a scorching hot ‘Norf’ Philly asphalt court in Little Vaughn’s summer league. Johnson was also named MVP of the Woman’s Slam HS Summer Finale.

Basically… She is relentless and super talented… She is a problem… A real FUCKIN problem!

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The MVP of the Philadelphia Catholic League as a Junior, she is currently ranked as the nation’s No. 6 HS prospect recruit in the Class of 2020 by ESPN. The ESPN rankings are widely considered the most respected… She’s number 6… Number 6 in the whole country!

A model citizen, Johnson has donated her time as a mentor for young children and has volunteered locally on behalf of the Christopher’s Footprints Child Care Center. An outstanding student, Johnson has maintained a 3.57 GPA in the classroom.

This young woman is truly an elite scholar-athlete. Johnson is the VERY best basketball player Philadelphia has to offer to the world in 2020.

Yet, somehow the McDonald’s All-American selection committee concluded that the 6th ranked prospect in the United States of America, with a 3.5+ GPA was NOT worthy of inclusion among the 24 McDonalds All-Americans.

There it is… That’s the yellow, filthy, smelly piss running down my leg…

The voting process for the McDonald’s All American Games Teams involves the McDonald’s All American Games Selection Committee. The Selection Committee is comprised of some of the nation’s (supposedly) most knowledgeable high school analysts, prep scouts, high school newspaper reporters and prestigious basketball coaches. There are 34 Boys Selection Committee members and 23 Girls Selection Committee members.

Putatively, selection takes place through a series of balloting system votes that are submitted by the Selection Committee.

‣  Votes are confidential.
‣ Committee members are instructed not to discuss any of the balloting results or nominees outside of the internal committee.
‣ At no time should any Committee member solicit information or opinions pertaining to any nominee’s athletic talent or basketball career.
‣ Each member submits his or her individual votes via a confidential and closed balloting system.

The results are tabulated from all voters and the top 24 vote getters compromise the McDonald’s All-American Teams.

That right there is where they tell me it’s raining…

There’s absolutely no way a young lady that was named MVP on the most prestigious summer circuit (Nike EYBL) while being ranked number 6 in the nation was left of the roster without the committee members discussing nominees outside of the internal committee. Her exclusion was deliberate and intentional. Somebody was butt hurt and sought vengeance against a 17 year old girl.

This was done to send a signal. But why? What could possible be the reasons?

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Diamond Johnson, MVP of Slam Summer Finale

Well… Johnson played AAU/Grassroots ball for Boo Williams out of Virginia. She did not play for the dominant Philadelphia area club.

And… She ultimately decided to commit to the team that the late racist/white supremacist, Don Imus, derogatorily referred to as the “nappy headed hoes.” Johnson chose Rutgers University. She turned down Notre Dame… She turned her back on Tennessee.

In short, she made the most significant decisions related to her career on her own. She did what she felt was best for Diamond Johnson. She refused to accept or follow the guidance of those controlling the power structure of girls basketball in Philadelphia.

For being independent… for choosing to play for Boo Williams and Vivian Stringer… Diamond Johnson was denied the ultimate recognition bestowed on High School players.

Fuck ‘em!

She is the best… They know she’s the best… You know she’s the best… I am proud of her independent streak. There’s always been a heavy cost associated with defying the ‘mainstream’ powers that be.

Can’t wait to see her crush some of preferred girls next year!

Press Release: Drexel Men’s Basketball Announced as Sponsor of Wilson & Woods Sports Talk Show!

Philadelphia, PA, January 21, 2020 – The Wilson & Woods Show on 610 ESPN Philadelphia is pleased to announce Drexel University Men’s Basketball as a sponsor of the innovative weekly sports talk show airing Wednesdays from 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm.

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Zach Spiker, Drexel Head Coach and Delgreco K. Wilson, Co-Host Wilson & Woods

 

Drexel Men’s Basketball Head Coach, Zach Spiker states, “We are pleased and excited to help Wilson & Woods continue covering college and high school sports in the Greater Philadelphia Region. The show is informative and entertaining! We look forward to working with Wilson & Woods to promote the Dragons and the special brand of college basketball played in Philadelphia.”

Wilson & Woods provides a unique brand of insightful coverage of collegiate and scholastic athletics. The hosts, Delgreco Wilson and Erick Woods, delve into NCAA-related issues such as compensating student-athletes, academic eligibility and the lack of minority coaching hires. However, the core of the dialogue is always the actual games themselves. Who’s getting it done? Who’s winning? Who’s coming up short? This show highlights the chemistry between two friends, one from Philadelphia and the other from St. Louis as they break down the latest action in college, high school, youth and grassroots basketball and other sports.

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Co-Hosts, Delgreco Wilson and Erick Woods, Wilson & Woods

Since the show began airing in November 2019, Wilson & Woods has built a dedicated audience of over 50,000 radio listeners and 5,000+ livestream viewers. Leading figures, both local and national, from the world of amateur athletics have appeared on the show. Among the prominent guests have been Kamal Yard, Director and Howard Hudson, Coach from Philly Pride Basketball (Under Armour), Rob Brown, Director (Team Final) and City Councilman, Isaiah Thomas (Sankofa HS Coach). Don Jackson, The Sports Group and John Lange, Ballard Spahr, two of top sports attorneys in the nation have appeared as guests. Top notch basketball writers, Mike Jensen, Philadelphia Inquirer and Don Hunt, Philadelphia have shared their thoughts with viewers and listeners.

Wilson & Woods takes pride in providing its audience with the information they need as well as the analysis they want.

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Drexel Guard, Camren Wynter  Photo Credit: Drexel Athletics

About Drexel Men’s Basketball
In his fourth year at the helm, Zach Spiker’s Dragons currently sit tied for 3rd place in the competitive Colonial Athletic Conference. Drexel sports a league record of 5-2 and stand at 12-8 overall. They are 7-2 over their last nine games. The Dragons are is tough to beat the newly renovated Daskalakis Athletic Center where they are 9-2. They are led by two All-League level performers, Last year’s Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Year, Point Guard Camren Wynter leads the team in scoring (15.6 ppg) and assists (5.3). Power Forward James Butler is one of the nations top rebounders (11.9 rpg) and second on the team in scoring (12.5).

About Wilson & Woods
Wilson & Woods is a, Black-owned and operated, Philadelphia-based sports talk show on 610 ESPN radio. Episodes air live weekly every Wednesday from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm with the live episode simulcast on the Wilson & Woods Facebook page. The show broadcasts from 610 ESPN Radio’s studio in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. It also has “roadshow” broadcasts under development for events such as the weeks of the NCAA Playoffs and the Philadelphia Catholic League Playoffs.

The entire show is available as a free podcast following the broadcast of the recorded show. Episodes are also uploaded to the Black Cager Youtube page for viewing.

Wilson & Woods

About 610 ESPN Philadelphia
610 ESPN is a Philadelphia radio station with an all-sports format. Owned and operated by the Beasley Broadcast Group, the 610 ESPN studios are located at 555 City Avenue in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania and its transmitters are located in the Crescent Park section of Bellmawr, New Jersey.

Stinson, Diggins & Mosco: My Homies!

Upon arriving at the Archbishop Wood gym for the highly anticipated Vikings matchup with Roman Catholic, I warmly greeted Marvin Stinson and Rahsool Diggins, Sr. seated, as usual, front row center court. You know… The usual dap, half hug that brothers do… These guys are my homies… Most people know that I rock with these guys and ride hard for their sons. I haven’t written much about them because of these relationships. When I write about their boys, I want it to be on the heels of something major! I don’t want it to feel forced. I didn’t want anyone to comment that he only wrote that because they are his guys… I told Marv and Big Sool I wanted to write about their boys… I asked them to “give me a storyline.”

Maaaaan listen…

There are times when journalistic objectivity is important. Sports ‘journalists’ strive to avoid overt partiality. It matters… Objectivity in sports journalism allows the audience make up their own mind about a story. True journalists provide the facts alone and then let readers interpret those on their own. To maintain objectivity, sports writers should present the facts whether or not they like or agree with those facts. Objective sports reporting portrays issues and events in a neutral and unbiased manner, regardless of the writers opinion or personal beliefs.

This is NOT one of those times… That’s NOT what this piece is… FUCK that!

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John Huggins, Wood Assistant Coach

I can’t pretend to be objective… I’m not neutral… I damn sure ain’t unbiased!

I like Archbishop Wood’s Basketball Program… A LOT!

Full disclosure… I like Tommy Funk… I like Matt Cerruti… I like Collin Gillespie… I like Tyree Pickron… I like Seth Pinkney… I like Karrington Wallace… I like Andrew Funk… I like Daeshon Shepard… I like Muneer Newton… I like Rob Jackson… I like Marcus Randolph… I like Chris Roantree… I like John Huggins

But, the reason I cannot even make an attempt to be objective here is because I LOVE Jaylen Stinson, Rahsool Diggins and John Mosco… These are my guys…

I was watching high school basketball games with Jaylen Stinson waaaaay back in 2009-2010. His first cousin, Carrington ‘Murc’ Ward is one of my all-time favorite Philly guards. Jaylen’s mother, Melissa Ward and Carrington’s Dad, Vince Ward are brother and sister. These are my people… I watched Carrington grow to be one of the best guards of his era. He finished his high school career, playing for James ‘Flame’ Lewis, at Philadelphia Electrical & Technology Charter High School in 2011 after spending his first two high school seasons at Communications Tech. Lewis, Ward, Devonte Chance and Hakeem Baxter led PET to 26 wins his senior year, to the District 12 AAA final and to the second round of the AAA state playoffs. They were damn good.

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Jaylen Stinson & Melissa Ward (mother) circa 2009

I went to most games. Each and every time I entered the gym, I would see a 7 or 8 year old boy intently focused on the action. Jaylen was serious… Very serious about his hoops… I would always ask ” you working on your game”? He would always respond in the affirmative. I would ALWAYS make sure to tell him, “I can’t wait to see you play Varsity High School basketball.”

His father, my homie Marvin, is a highly respected Philadelphia basketball guy. A very, very good player at Dobbins Tech and subsequently Norfolk State, he is best known these days at the founder/director of the Bottom Ballers Basketball Club and Head Coach of the Boy’s Basketball team at Audenreid HS.

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Marvin Stinson, Audenried Head Coach

The Bottom Ballers is renowned for producing Philly guards that are fearless, aggressive, unselfish and extremely competitive. Yazid Powell, Sam Sessoms, Booty Butler, Hakim Byrd and Jaylen Stinson are just a few of the prominent Philly guards that have come through this cauldron while in middle school. They work out of the James L. Wright Recreation Center at 3320 Haverford… They work out of the “Bottom.”

Pick any weekend in the summer… Make sure the temperature is at least 90 degrees and you can be sure to find Marvin and the Bottom Ballers in the Wright Center on a hardwood floor in need of refinishing, playing HARD as shit… I would always visit and see 11, 12 and 13 year old Jaylen playing against much bigger guards and leading with his chin and his chest! For the longest time, he was undersized… Jaylen was just a little guy… But his character and his heart allowed him to play up and compete… Like every guard that comes through the Bottom Ballers, Jay plays the point guard position the right way… Push the ball… Make the extra pass… Don’t turn it over… Most importantly, play some FUCKIN’ defense!

I love the Bottom Ballers… I have referred family members to the program. It was evident early on that some of the Bottom Ballers would be Division 1 basketball players. Indeed, as far as I was concerned, some were ‘can’t miss’. Before Sam Sessoms was ‘Sam Sessoms’ and while Jaylen was just finishing the 6th grade, I took them on their first unofficial visit in the Spring of 2014 to see Phil Martelli and Geoff Arnold at St. Joseph’s University.

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Bottom Ballers alum Sam Sessoms, Binghamton University

Both of these Bottom Ballers are highly intelligent scholar-athletes. Sam went on to become ‘Sam Sessoms’ and dominate scholastic basketball in the region while attending highly regarded Shipley High School. Since then, he’s become the best player in the America East Conference at Binghamton University. Jaylen likewise enrolled at a prestigious academic high school (Haverford School) and played for Bernie Rogers before transferring to Archbishop Wood to play for John Mosco in the vaunted Philadelphia Catholic League.

Upon learning that he was transferring to Wood, I called John Mosco bursting with excitement. I knew things were about to get crazy. I knew what Jaylen could do and I watched Collin Gillespie become the consensus best point guard in Philadelphia under Mosco’s tutelage. Teaming Stinson with Rahsool Diggins, Jr. in a high school backcourt is borderline unfair. While Stinson is a potent offensive player with a tight handle and strong mid-range game, he may be the best on ball defender we’ve seen in the area since Josh Sharkey terrorized opposing point guards at Carroll. Partnering him with Rahsool Diggins made perfect sense.

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Rahsool Diggins, the best HS point guard in Philadelphia

Diggins is an offensive virtuoso. His vision is unparalleled… Like Gillespie before him, he sees everything. His mind is always a couple steps ahead of everyone else on the court. Like Stinson, Diggins was slight when he left middle school and entered high school. Those days are long gone… Lil’  Sool is a 6’3” inch athletic point guard with a feathery soft jump shot. He is able to get absolutely anywhere he wants to go on the court. He simply leads the defender where wants and viciously changes direction. At all times, his eyes are focused on the pieces moving around on the chess board. Some shit is just obvious…

Rahsool Diggins, Jr. is the BEST HS point guard in Philadelphia… He sits on the throne!

More than any player currently playing in Philadelphia, Lil’ Sool has his finger on the pulse of his team. When they need a play… When he feels it slipping away… When it’s absolutely go time… He delivers. In one crucial moment tonight (pictured below), Diggins went right at the imposing Jalen Duren, absorbed the contact and finished with a soft left handed kiss off the glass… Sweet and a HUGE fuckin’ bucket for the team.

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Diggins attacking the basket and Jalen Duren. Photo Credit: Kathy Leister Photography

Just like Stinson’s Dad… Rahsool’s Dad is MY homie… Over the past year, I have had the pleasure of calling Big ‘Sool at least 15 times to tell him a college basketball coach wanted to offer his son a scholarship. Big East, A10, ACC, Big 10, SEC… they all want to know what’s going on with Lil’ Sool… So, I tell them…

“Get with his Pop! Good dude..”

That’s the way things should take place…

The fact that these TWO Division 1 point guards are playing EXTREMELY WELL for John Mosco and Archbishop Wood should be enough for college recruiters. That fact alone should make them highly desired by A10, Big East, CAA, even ACC programs. Mosco knows how to prepare guards for the next level.

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Tommy Funk, Army, All-Patriot League

Have we forgotten that Mosco gave college basketball Tommy Funk and Collin Gillespie? With half a season remaining in his college career, Funk has 1,267 points and 626 assists. He will go down as one of the finest point guards in Army history. Gillespie has racked up 770 points and 207 assists while assuming the reigns of one of the top 4 college basketball programs in the nation.

It’s safe to say the John Mosco has a strong track record of producing college ready point guards. Mosco’s guards are super-aggressive while also playing the right way. He relies heavily on his guards to make the correct decisions. His temperament is perfect for high school basketball. He’s demanding, yet not overbearing. He gives his guys tremendous levels of responsibility, but only after fully preparing them for their assignments.

It’s a joy to watch… Wood is a Boys Basketball power… Let that sink in… They are Ballin’ in Warminster! John Mosco is getting it done. Didn’t see that coming a decade ago…

In today’s victory, Stinson and Diggins made big play after big play to defeat visiting Roman in an instant classic matchup. Wood was in control throughout most of the game, then the uber-talented Roman youngins imposed themselves on Wood in the fourth quarter to close the gap and take the lead. Specifically, Jalen Duren (34 points) made some wonderful plays in transition. On consecutive possessions, he dribbled the ball up court, drew the defenders and make perfect passes to teammate in position to finish at the basket.

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Roman Catholic Super Sophomore Power Forward Jalen Duren

It’s truly hard to wrap your mind around the fact that he is a high school sophomore. He will dunk on 99.9999999% of grown men walking the face of the earth and then need a ride home before it gets too late… Make no mistake… This youngin’s ability to attack and defend the rim is GROWN as shit! One could envision him watching SpongeBob Sqarepants and then putting on his Nikes and dunking over the top of Al Horford or Javale McGee.

I’m 55 years old, I have him as the most powerful dunker I have seen play in Philadelphia since the late great Darryl Dawkins and Sir Charles Barkley. The scary part is that he is showing a little more versatility every time he laces ’em up. Tonight he showed that he can dribble and pass under extreme duress… Yup!

Justice Williams (32 points) is also growing by leaps and bounds. He was OUTSTANDING in pressure situations. He made exceptional decisions. He finished at the rim. He took care of the ball. He made EVERY big free throw with the game on the line. High, high major prospect for sure!

Duren and Williams are among the finest high school players in America. If Roman Catholic is going to contend for another Catholic League and State title, the youngins will have to lead the way. Those guys are better than good. Much better… They are very much deserving of their National Rankings. Their time to take the reigns is now.

But tonight… Stinson, Diggins, Daeshon Shepard and Wood got that ass! Just when many thought Wood was letting it slip away in the first overtime, Stinson received the inbounds pass, bounced it once, stepped slightly to the side and let it fly from deep in the corner… SPLASH!

Shit ain’t over!

I told him in 2010, that I would be there to watch him play varsity basketball. Tonight, I stood about 20 feet away from him as the ball left his hand. Like I said, I can’t pretend to be objective. I was there when he received his first Division 1 scholarship offer. I’ll be there whenever he announces his destination. That’s my people…

Recently, Howard Hudson and I rode 6 hours each way with Big Sool and Lil’ Sool as they visited Virginia Tech. During the trip, I conceded that Lil’ Sool is finally taller than I am. I also told him I looked forward to big things from him this year. My expectations have been exceeded and we only about halfway through this thing.

I remember being astonished to learn that Collin Gillespie only had an offer from Albany while he was literally mopping the floor with some of the best guards in the state and the nation. After a little public relations campaign, his recruitment finally reached a tipping point… Rider, Drexel, Delaware, St. Joseph’s and host of others jumped in within days of each other. Eventually, Big Daddy Jay Wright from the mainline came in an shut shit down… It worked out well for everyone.

Villanova and Temple haven’t deemed Rahsool Diggins worthy of a scholarship offer yet. Both of those schools plus St. Joseph’s, La Salle and Drexel have yet to be convinced that Jaylen Stinson is scholarship worthy. I find myself astonished yet again.

Next Friday, they travel to the Southside of the city to face some other overlooked Philly guards. Neumann-Goretti’s Hak Byrd, Hysier Miller and Chris Evans have yet to garner scholarship offers commensurate with their basketball abilities.

Me… I’d bet the house that John Mosco’s guards and the Neumann-Goretti kids can play and play well for those programs. And… I suspect they would sell a few tickets to 2,000-3,000 of my closest friends as a bonus… I’m just sayin’.

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Jaylen Stinson addresses the media after big win.  Photo Credit: The Miller Report

Marv and Big Sool… Thanks for the storyline!

Boo Farmer… Mayo, ketchup, fried onions and hot peppers… American Cheese, NONE of that cheese wiz bullshit!

Kev Sanchez… See you Friday Bro!

 

Stevie Mitchell: PA Hoops Legend in the Making!

Elite High School basketball in small town Pennsylvania is different… There’s no competition for the attention of Hoopheads… There are no pro teams in Coatesville, Chester, Norristown, Allentown, Lebanon, Scranton and Reading. There are no high major college basketball teams. As a result, all of the considerable basketball energy in these hoop hotbeds is channeled toward scholastic teams. When HS programs are contenders for state championships and/or feature high major college prospects things become especially intense.

Special teams and players are revered… Truly great small town PA high school players are exalted to legendary status before they go the prom. This, I know because I have seen it first hand. As a 12 year old in 1977, I encountered the legend of Bob Stevenson. Larger than life in the small town of Elk Lake, Stevenson was my introduction to small town PA basketball superstardom.

Darby Township High School had beaten Stevenson and Elk Lake in 1975 on the way to a State Championship title. In 1977, an undefeated Darby Township entered yet another do or die playoff matchup matchup with Elk Lake and their feature attraction. This Single ‘A’ playoff game drew a record crowd of 5,100 fans to the Scranton CYC. In an incredibly physical contest, Elk Lake benefited immensely from many trips from the foul line. Darby Township’s imposing frontline (Alton McCoullough 6’9″, Billy Johnson 6’7″ and Mike Gale 6’6″) was effectively neutralized by the referees as Stevenson converted an incredible 26 of his 30 attempts at the charity stripe in an Elk Lake win.

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Billy Owens, Carlisle High School 1987

Two year later, as Darby Township made yet another of it’s many runs deep into PIAA playoffs, one would constantly hear the name Sam Bowie from Lebanon Cedar. In the mid 80’s it was Billy Owens and Jeff Lebo from Carlisle. By the early 90’s, Reading’s Donyell Marshall was the man. Lower Merion’s Kobe Bryant and Coatesville’s Rip Hamilton also ascended to legendary status before crossing the stage to receive their diplomas. More recently, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson cemented his iconic status in Chester well before his graduation.

A couple years ago, I actually attended the parade held for the great Lonnie Walker after he closed out his prolific scholastic career at Reading HS with a state title.

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Lonnie Walker during Reading’s State Championship Parade

Here we go again…

The last 10 months have witnessed the rapid rise of another small town basketball legend in the commonwealth. Last season, Stevie Mitchell was a very good basketball player for Wilson West Lawn in Berks County. He was ballin’ out… But very few outside of Berks County knew who he was.

He played with a solid AAU club… Team Final-Red has a solid track record of developing area kids, but Mitchell longed to compete on a national stage. He wanted those bright lights that only the shoe companies can provide. Enter Philly Pride, which plays on the Under Armour Association Circuit. These guys get kids the exposure they need… Philly Pride annually produces anywhere from 7-9 Division 1 basketball players.

Some prospects come with little to no fanfare and literally blow up in a matter of weeks while barnstorming with Philly Pride. See for example, current Atlanta Hawk Charlie Brown. After the completion of his senior season at George Washington HS in Philadelphia’s Public League, Brown had exactly ZERO (0) Division 1 scholarship offers. Indeed, he had verbally committed to D2 West Chester which plays in the PSAC. After playing with Philly Pride for a few weeks, Brown had over 15 Scholarship offers from mid to high major programs across the nation. He ended up committing to Phil Martelli and St. Joseph’s. There are many other examples.

John Harrar toiled away in Delaware County. He was known primarily as a high major football prospect. While he was a very good basketball player at Strath Haven, the scholarships offers were few and far between. Big John suited up for Philly Pride, played at a few stops, tossed a few jokers around like rag dolls and next thing you know UConn is hitting him up. Then they offered… Subsequently, the other big boys decided to jump in… Pat Chambers and Penn State fell in love with Big John and on a visit John determined that the feeling was mutual… Done deal… Big John went from a virtual unknown to a Big 10 basketball player courtesy of Philly Pride.

In February 2019, Stevie Mitchell was a small town guard putting up big numbers with a flashy game. He was very productive in Berks County. As is the case with all the small town superstars, upon first glance the question looms: Can he do it against top competition?

Although they never expressed any reservations, its safe to assume that Kamal Yard and Amauro Austin, Philly Pride Co-Directors wondered exactly what they had on their hands. How would Mitchell’s small-town suburban-bred game translate on the super-athletic, fast-paced Under Armour Association Circuit? How would Stevie do against some of the very best players in the nation?

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Stevie Mitchell, Philly Pride

Austin notes that any concerns he may have had were quickly allayed when he observed Mitchell’s work ethic. “He absolutely wanted to attend every voluntary workout and open gym we had. Stevie and his parents drove over an hour each way whenever there was a chance to get in the gym and work.”

Mitchell’s character also impressed Austin. “Stevie doesn’t want anything extra. So many kids want sneakers or gear… He just wanted an opportunity to compete.” In an era when so many young people feel entitled to special treatment and extra benefits Mitchell was a breath of fresh air for Philly Pride.

Then they started playing games…

Like thoroughbreds jumping out the gate at Churchill Downs, Mitchell was off and running! Game after game, he would score from all 3 levels and put the clamps on highly ranked opposing guards. He would regularly drop 25-30 points per game and be the very best on-ball defender on the court. The consummate teammate, Mitchell consistently collected 4-5 steals while constantly communicating with teammates on the defensive end. The HIGH MAJOR potential became impossible to ignore.

Offensively, his game is fully loaded… Mitchell can pull-up from mid-range… He can catch and make 3’s from deep. A crafty and shifty ball handler, he create space with crossovers, in and out dribbles and step back moves. While he is capable of getting by his defender at will, Mitchell is a very calm and patient player.

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Stevie Mitchell and Aaron McKie

After just a few weeks with Philly Pride, La Salle Head Coach, Ashley Howard had seen enough. On May 1, 2019 he offered Mitchell a basketball scholarship. About six weeks later Temple Head Coach Aaron McKie and VCU would join in the race for his services. By the end of the summer, Mitchell’s offers were well into the double figures.

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As the Under Armour Association season came to a close, Mitchell was named the UAA 16U MVP after leading Philly Pride to the top spot in UAA and the number one ranking in the country. The small town kid was officially declared the best 16U player on a major shoe company summer circuit.

Oh… by the way, he also led Philly Pride to the 16U National Championship.

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Stevie Mitchell and the Championship Philly Pride UAA 16U Team

As the foliage started to turn yellow and red, what had been a buzz began to transform into a roar. More and more coaches took note of his refined and polished game, his tenacious approach and his burning desire to emerge victorious. The big boys joined in the chase. St. Joseph’s, Marquette, Ohio State, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Michigan, Miami and Stanford among others expressed their desire to have Mitchell join their programs.

People started to look closely under the hood… They were pleased to see a very high Grade Point Average and outstanding test scores. What? Wait a minute… He’s an Ivy League caliber student? Are you serious? Yessssssir… Next thing you know Penn and Harvard are making their way to Wilson West Lawn open gyms and practices.

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Perhaps more than any other kid in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, Mitchell has a extremely wide range of options. He can opt for high major basketball in the ACC, SEC, Big East or Big 10. Or, he could decide to pursue the academic challenge of playing at Harvard or Penn.

With all of this going on, Black Cager Sports decided to check up on Mitchell and catch his game with heated rival Reading High School. Arriving early at 4:30 pm for a 7:00 pm varsity tilt, the sense of anticipation was palpable. The stands were 80% filled for the JV game. The fans were absolutely eager to get this thing underway.

This is the suburbs… There was no metal detector… The staff at Wilson West Lawn was warm and welcoming. They noticed my cameras and bag. When I noted that I was from Black Cager Sports and ESPN Radio they made sure I was comfortable and had everything I needed to get my work done. Impressive… First Class…

Mitchell sat in the stands right behind the JV bench with a few of his varsity teammates. Whenever there was timeout, he would jump up and stand on the edge of the JV huddle absorbing the coaches instruction.

The consummate teammate…

At halftime, the gym now filled to capacity, coaches from St. Joseph’s, Marquette, Notre Dame, Harvard and Villanova were following Mitchell’s every move. He gets up, stands under the basket, and rebounds for the JV players as they shoot in preparation for the second half. The HS All-American, the MVP of the Under Armour Association, the kid with 20+ high major offers was chasing down errant shots and passing to 14 and 15 year old JV teammates. Mitchell was offering words of encouragement to guys that will not see a minute of time in the varsity game.

The consummate teammate…

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Wilson Middle School Students and diehard Stevie Mitchell fans

I’m seated with about 12 of my newfound 6th and 7th grade friends along the baseline. These guys are chattering non-stop about ‘Stevie Mitchell.’ I feign ignorance and ask “Is Stevie really that good?” These kids, all 12 of them were insulted… How dare I ask such a question… I must be from another planet…

I pushed further… “I bet he can’t even dunk”

Within 30 seconds 4 different kids were waving their smartphones in my face with videos of Stevie dunking repeating on the screens.

“Look… look… look…”

“Ok… Ok…”

So the game finally gets underway. The very nice Wilson West Lawn gymnasium with stadium style seating is filled to capacity… Standing room only for the Stevie Mitchell show.

The Wilson West Lawn Athletic Director sees me surrounded by my energetic and boisterous new found friends. He offers me a padded chair, I declined. I drove over an hour for the full experience and these kids were definitely helping me achieve that goal. I had to watch with my guys.

Wilson West Lawn jumps out early 15-3 lead after the first quarter. Stevie is taking his time… Letting the game come to him. His team is well coached. They run their sets and demonstrate a lot of patience. Whenever there is a breakdown in the Reading zone they pounce and get a clean, relatively easy look at the basket.

But, this is rivalry game and, of course, it tightened up. At the 4:13 mark of the 2nd quarter the score is 19-11. Reading is scratching, clawing, fighting every step of the way. It’s an effective strategy. With 2:41 left in the 2nd quarter the gap has closed to 4 points, 21-17.

The Reading game plan is clear. They were determined to prevent Mitchell from going off. He was face guarded end to end. Whenever he beat his initial defender, there was ‘no layup’ rule in place and it was strictly enforced. Reading defenders put Mitchell on his ass each and every time he attacked the basket.

Good ol’ fashioned HARD basketball fouls.

Halfway through, the score was 28-24 Wilson. After the 3rd, Wilson was up 5, 36-31.

Wilson won going away… 54-38

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Young boy wearing an authentic Stevie Mitchell autographed basketball shirt

 

Philly Pride’s Kamal Yard noted that “Mitchell has an incredible ability to put a bad play or a bad game behind him a focus on what’s in front of him. Even though he rarely has a bad moment on the court, when he does he shakes it off better than any player I’ve seen.”

Mitchell would only convert 3 field goals. But he would finish with 21 points because he cashed in on 15 out of 19 free throw attempts.

After the game, Mitchell was surrounded by at least 50 kids seeking autographs.

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Mitchell signs autographs after the game

If you still harbor any questions about his legendary status, drive out to Wilson West Lawn and catch a game, they will be erased by the final buzzer. In the Fall of 2021, Mitchell will join a college basketball program. Whoever is fortunate enough to secure his services will welcome an intelligent, selfless, immensely talented, highly competitive champion.

A legend will be on the yard…

It’s Miller Time! Neumann Knocks Off Roman!

Hysier “Fabe” Miller has been one of the best guards in Philadelphia for three years… For the first two, he was a key cog for Martin L. King Jr. coach Sean Colson in the Public League. A great PUB and college guard that fought his way to the NBA, Colson has developed a well-earned reputation as one of the premier basketball trainers in the nation. When he’s not coaching MLK or Philly Pride, he can be found at the Steph Curry’s camp, the Under Armour Top 100 camp or in the gym with NBA players like Atlanta Hawk teammates DeAndre Hunter and Charlie Brown. Miller is the latest high level player to refine and polish his skills under the guidance of Colson. But that’s just part of his lineage… The boy is from the Southside…

Nate Blackwell, Jeff Myers, Lou Myers, Rashid Bey, Donnie Carr, Scoop Jardine, Lamin Fulton, Biggie Minnis and Hysier Miller…

He is the latest in a long line of super competitive, no-nonsense South Philly guards.

After rising early in the morning to travel from the southern end of the the city to the far Northwest to attend Martin L. King, Jr. HS for two years, Miller has found a basketball home in his beloved South Philly. He has joined a loaded Neumann-Goretti squad picked by many, including, the Black Cager as the #1 team in the region before the season started. Some wondered how Miller would adapt to his new role after being the ‘man’ for MLK last year. Would he be able to adjust to playing off the ball? How would he handle not being the man? All those questions have been cast aside.

A quiet, confident and highly intelligent young man, Miller has embraced the opportunity to play in front of capacity crowds against some of the best teams in the nation. Grateful for the opportunity to play in the Catholic League for the legendary Carl Arrigale, he has gladly come off the bench and he has served as a starter while the Saints have navigated an extremely tough early portion of their schedule. Miller has added considerable value to Neumann-Goretti. In a matchup with Westtown in December, Miller exhibited exceptional lateral movement and a willingness to play ‘chest first’ on-ball defense against the best opposing guards. He frustrated the highly regarded Jalen Warley and forced him commit several turnovers in the middle of the court as  Neumann-Goretti ran away with the game.

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Boo Farmer & Kev Sanchez, Front Row/Center Court

Tonight he was matched up with another highly regarded high major prospect, Lynn Greer, III. Greer is an established star in the Catholic League. He is capable of scoring in bunches. Greer doesn’t need screens or much help at all. He’s able to create space off the bounce utilizing excellent crossover and hesitation moves. In most games, Greer is a problem.

Tonight, Arrigale was able to leave Miller on Greer for extended periods by himself with no help. It was a great guard matchup… Greer played an excellent floor game. He played within himself, made very few mistakes and did not force the issue.

Overall, Miller and Greer were a push. They essentially cancelled each other out. For those who haven’t followed Martin L. King. Jr. over the past couple of seasons, that may come as a surprise. Throughout much of his High School career, Greer has been a top 100 player… He has participated in USA basketball and played on the EYBL circuit with Team Final and Team Takeover.

Miller, on the other hand, is just a hard nosed, hard playing tough kid from the Wilson Park projects. He’s hungry… He NEEDS a scholarship! There’s no college without a scholarship. He’s earning his keep the hard way… Game by Game… The folk that matter are noticing, as soon as he emerged from the locker room after the win tonight, Wagner Head Coach Bashir Mason offered him a scholarship.

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Hysier Miller moments after Wagner Head Coach Bashir Mason (r) offered him a scholarship

A great culmination to a great evening of high school basketball for Miller.

He helped Neumann-Goretti withstand a barrage of breath-taking, gravity-defying, FUCK yo Momma’s Momma, NBA quality dunks from Jalen Duren. It’s simply ridiculous to think Duren is just a sophomore. He is beyond physically dominant in one of toughest high school basketball leagues in the United States of America and he’s not even half way through his high school career.

I don’t know how to adequately describe the manner in which he attacks the rim. Duren dunks on your ancestors… HARD as shit! Big Momma and Pop Pop are begging their grandsons to do something… anything… make it stop!

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Jalen Duren, Roman Catholic at the free thrown line

But… when forced to make basketball plays away from the rim, he’s just ok. He’s not an adequate shooter and he has yet to develop reliable go to moves and counter moves. Moreover, going to him down the stretch is a questionable strategy because he’s yet to prove himself a capable free throw shooter.

Fouling Duren in one and one or bonus situations can be equivalent to forcing a turnover. He missed 3 out of 4 crucial free throws down the stretch. For the game he was a 1 out of 5 from the free throw line. Greer was 3 for 7.

In a game that close, between two evenly matched teams, the margin for error is razor thin… Neumann-Goretti capitalized…

I’m just gonna put out there… If you don’t like Jordan Hall and Hak Byrd, you don’t like basketball!

Hall is simply a magnificent high school basketball player. On a team with two kids that will be Division 1 point guards, Hall is the unquestioned primary ball-handler. At 6’8” he towers over opposing guards and wings. Until he shoots, one would think that he is a southpaw or ambidextrous. The ball is on a string… He teases opponents by dangling it out in front of them only to yank it back and explode by them when they reach time and time again.

Hall plays downhill, attacking the defense aggressively while keeping his head on a swivel. He’s constantly looking for the help defense, he’s forcing the double team and whenever it comes the ball is abruptly delivered to the player left open for a clean look at the basket. Neumann-Goretti plays good, solid basketball. Carl Arrigale has these super talented kids playing unselfishly at the high school level. He has almost too many weapons at his disposal.

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Hakim Byrd, Neumann-Goretti

Teams have problems dealing with Hakim Byrd’s combination of speed and skill. In the open court, it’s almost unfair. In most instances, Byrd is gonna lay it up… One way or another… If not, he’s gonna pull up for a three or a mid-range jumper that’s damn near as reliable as a layup. The most aggressive scorer on this year’s version of the Saints, Byrd is playing at an extremely high level. He spells Hall from time to time as a playmaker, but for the most part Byrd is looking to get buckets… And… He does his job exceedingly well!

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Hysier Miller, Neumann-Goretti. Photo Credit: Flawless Focus

Rahsool Diggins (Archbishop Wood), Stevie Mitchell (Wilson West Lawn), Jhamir Brickus (Coatesville), Lynn Greer, III, Jaylen Stinson (Archbishop Wood), DJ Wagner (Camden), Tazir Cantey (Lindenwold), Hakim Byrd and Hysier Miller… There’s a plethora of talented and tenacious guards playing in the region right now. This, my friends, is the Golden Era…

Y’all just not recognizing!