Stevie Mitchell Commits to Marquette University

PHILADELPHIA, PA – Stevie Mitchell (Philly Pride/Wilson West Lawn) has committed to play college basketball at Marquette University. Mitchell has emerged as a Pennsylvania Scholastic legend in Berks County. He enters his senior as the all-time leading scorer for Wilson West Lawn.

An incredibly unassuming, humble and God fearing young man, Mitchell has handled his rise to basketball prominence with an unusual amount of grace. His recruitment process was intriguing. Because he is a consensus top 100 player, he was offered scholarships from some of the finest high major basketball programs in the nation. Miami, Georgia Tech and VCU made pushes to land Mitchell.

His very strong academic profile led some of the most competitive and prestigious academic institutions to try to add him to their respective learning communities. Stanford, Penn and Lehigh tried to land this scholar that happens to play a lil’ basketball.

Locally, in addition to the Quakers, Villanova St. Joseph’s and Temple recruited Mitchell hard. It’s easy understand why. The young man is loved by adults, peers and young kids alike. On the court, he is a relentless competitor with a well-rounded offensive game that will allow him to contribute immediately to the Marquette program.

Marquette Assistant Coach Dwayne Killings made Mitchell a priority. Killings and Marquette Head Coach, Michael Wojciechowski, stalked Mitchell like hungry lions on the Serengeti for more than a year. Their efforts were rewarded. They have landed the 2019 Under Armour Association 16U MVP. They landed the leader of the #1 ranked and National Champion 16U Philly Pride squad. They landed a stellar student with exceptional grades and test scores. They landed a true gentlemen with genuine love for young basketball fans. And, perhaps most importantly, once the buzzer sounds and the games begin, they will learn they landed a BAD MUTHAFUCKA!

Stevie can flat out ball… Big East Bound!

Coronavirus “Refugees”: HS Student-Athletes

Elections have consequences…

In 2016, America reacted to the close of the first presidential administration led by a Black man by placing a reality TV star, Donald Trump, in the White House. By any reasonable measure, the host of “The Apprentice” has failed to adequately deal with the public health crisis caused by coronavirus pandemic that overwhelmed the mid-Atlantic region in the first half of 2020 and continues to advance through the South and mid-West with relentless verve.

Coronavirus is kicking our American asses! It reminds me of the Dream Team’s blowout of Somalia. Just like the African nation on the court, the USA led by “Coach” Trump is offering very little resistance.

Coronavirus has grabbed America by the pussy…

This situation could conceivably create pockets of athletic “refugees.” Recently, Maryland joined six other states with the District of Columbia, to move its fall season to the New Year. Unless, all 50 states and Washington, D.C. follow suit, scholarship level HS student-athletes have a tough choice to make.

Courtesy Woodrow Wilson High School Basketball, Washington, D.C.

If a football or basketball player in Maryland or Washington, D.C. has received “interest” from NCAA Division 1 or Division 2 programs but no offers, they feel immense pressure to perform in scholastic contests to prove themselves worthy of a scholarship. If they have offers from low major D1 programs or D2 programs, they feel pressure to prove themselves worthy of mid to high major offers.

The horrendous handling of the coronavirus pandemic by the Trump administration resulted has resulted in tremendous uncertainty in all facets of American life, including scholastic sports.

On February 26, President Trump boasted that the coronavirus was about to disappear altogether from the United States. “You have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.”

As of August 15, there have been 4,793,950 confirmed cases and 157,416 deaths.

People are justifiably shook… State governors and state sanctioning bodies have been forced to develop strategies and policies to deal with a NATIONAL crisis. They are performing admirably in their attempts to fill the void resulting from the breathtaking absence of Presidential leadership as the United States limps through the largest public health crisis in a century.

However, it should be noted that the absence of federal leadership has resulted in 50 different intervention strategies. The variation among the responses is significant. Some states have postponed Fall and Winter sports until 2021. Others are committed to fielding teams and having them play as if the coronavirus crisis has subsided.

District of Columbia — Per July 16 announcement, the District of Columbia State Athletic Association has postponed interscholastic activities until January 2021. Under this plan, winter season practices would begin Dec. 14 with games coming Jan. 4. Postponed fall sports would begin practicing Feb. 1 with games getting underway Feb. 22.

Maryland — The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) announced Aug. 3 that football along with all its fall and winter sports will be moved to a hybrid two-semester plan starting in 2021. The exact plan for how it will fit into the two semesters is still being worked on, but Maryland joined six other states with the District of Columbia, to move its fall season to the New Year. According to a MPSSAA news release, the new plan will be made available in the next couple of weeks.

Now… the parents of D.C. or Maryland student-athletes face a choice. Let’s assume their child has been contacted by college coaches interested in following him/her and perhaps offering an athletic scholarship. Thanks to the inept response of the occupant at 1600 Black Lives Matter Blvd., spring and summer organized sports activities have been abrogated.

No basketball playoffs… No grassroots/AAU events… No 7 on 7 football… No combines…

The NCAA implemented a “dead period” in March. It looks as if it will extend through the fall… No face to face recruiting… No live evaluation of players…

Athletic scholarships are worth anywhere from $200,000 to $320,000 depending on the school. That’s a nice chunk of change… These kids have invested years of training, practice and conditioning for this moment and it’s suddenly taken away.

What if the pandemic deepens? The schedule set for January 2021 may not come to fruition. What if they just cancel sports altogether?

Do D.C. and Maryland parents send their kids to play in Pennsylvania where games are scheduled to take place? Even if there are no fans, the video can be shared with college coaches looking to fill out rosters.

If Drexel told the kid they want to evaluate him in high school games, does he move to another state to make it happen. Drexel costs north of $80,000 per year. A Maryland kid could come play in the Philadelphia Catholic League or Division A of the Public League and prove himself worthy of the $320K schollie… Or, he could wait, hope and take the chance that the pandemic will subside and their current schools will have sports in the spring.

While driving on I-95 last weekend, I saw a “caravan” of a couple hundred fit, lean and athletic 17-18 year olds walking on the side of the road. They were headed north towards Philadelphia.

Elections have consequences… The next one is November 3, 2020.

Kamal Yard Discusses Philly Pride and the Summer of 2020

This is a summer like no other…

Usually, by August 1st, college coaches have dropped the cost of a nice off-lease family car on the “books” at various grassroots/AAU events scattered across the country. In March, they would have made it out to the playoffs in the big states for sure. New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina and Florida would have attracted hundreds of guys wearing golf shirts with University logos embroidered on their chests.

The last two weekends in April would have seen a full-out stampede as Nike, Under Armour, Adidas and the independent circuits would have gotten underway. The very best 15U, 16U and 17U basketball players would have competed in front of hundreds of NCAA Division 1 coaches looking for prospects that help them participate in March Madness over the next few years.

College coaches catching /grassroots AAU action

Venues would have been filled beyond capacity as parents, hoop heads, media members and college coaches shoe horn themselves into small gyms to watch VERY big high school athletes demonstrate their athletic prowess. Shoe company sponsored grassroots events may be the most NON-socially distant activities in all of sports. They are like basketball Mardi Gras. You find yourself saying “excuse me, excuse me, excuse me” all day as you attempt to move about the facility.

You can tell what several thousand people had for lunch as you stand/sit hip to hip and shoulder to shoulder trying to catch a glimpse of the next Durant, Harden or Embid.

Peach Jam Crowd

Shoe company sponsored Grassroots/AAU basketball would have inevitably led to thousands of cases of coronavirus being spread among players, parents, fans, media members, coaches, trainers, security guards, workers, etc.

There was literally no option other than to shut down completely…

The last two weeks in June would been a preview to next year’s high school season. Hundreds, maybe thousands of high school teams, would have gotten together to compete in from of hundreds of Division 1 coaches in NCAA sanctioned high school “live period” events.

Unlike grassroots/AAU events, these events give kids an opportunity to play in front of the college coaches with their high school teammates. Kids that may be the 7th or 8th man on shoe company teams are stars on their high school teams. It’s an entirely different look for the kids. Kids deemed not good enough to make elite grassroots/AAU teams also get to play in front of the guys known for making “STRONG ASS OFFERS.” More importantly, they get to play in front of scores of D2, D3 and NAIA coaches looking for hidden gems that can move their program forward.

Coronavirus killed those opportunities this year…

The second weekend in July would have witnessed a shortage of jet fuel as every college coach in America would have made his way to North Augusta, South Carolina and Baltimore, Maryland for the Nike Peach Jam and the UAA Finals, respectively.

Nope… Not this year…

Peach Jam 2019

The weeks of July 20-23 (Monday-Thursday) and July 23-26 (Thursday-Sunday) would have seen two sessions of the 2020 NCAA College Basketball Academy take place at four regional sites.

University of Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah, WEST).
University of Winthrop (Rock Hill, South Carolina, SOUTH).
Wichita State University (Wichita, Kansas, MIDWEST).
University of Connecticut (Storrs, Connecticut, EAST).

Naaaah… Also cancelled…

NCAA Basketball Academy

Everything was cancelled… Coaches have been relegated to their homes and forced to hone up in their technological skills as they try to recruit virtually.

It’s just not the same… Coronavirus has robbed the kids of the opportunity to prove themselves and earn scholarship offers worth $200,000 to $320,000 over four years.

Kids in the Philly area have been playing nonetheless. It’s what they do. Outside… In semi-structured open runs… In sweaty Church gyms… wherever there’s an available basket, kids have gotten together and played…

Just not in front of college coaches and not with their grassroots/AAU teammates…

Until today…

In a tightly controlled setting, Kamal Yard, Founder/Director of the Philly Pride Basketball Club put together an intimate day of hoops. Highly respectful of the easily transmissible virus that is raging throughout much of the nation, Yard and his associates checked the temperature of every person that entered the facility. The tightly controlled crowd of about 50 spectators was situated behind a net and located approximately 20-30 feet from the playing surface. Social distancing was practiced and masks were in abundance.

Kamal Yard discusses Summer of 2020

While the event began at 9:00 am, I arrived for the marquee matchup between Yard’s 16U squad and the K-Low 16U team sponsored by Adidas. The game got underway around 3:45 pm. Once could clearly see the kids were excited to be playing. They were happy to be in uniform and under the lights. Of course, both team looked the part… The gear, as usual, was on point.

The basketball, on the other hand, was a little uneven. One could tell the kids hadn’t played together that much. The timing was just a little off.

Individually though, Philly Pride is loaded on both the 16U and 17U teams. Every kid fortunate enough to wear the Philly Pride uniform on their national teams this summer is a bona fide Division 1 prospect. Philly Pride has a little something for programs at every level from the high majors down through the low majors.

Looking for poised, controlled, cerebral point guards? The Philly Pride 16 crew has two, Mark Butler and Dylan Blair. These guys play a controlled floor game that belies their youth. Need a big, strong, bruising big man, Mike Walz is your guy. Want some athletic wings and stretch 4’s? Al Amaoudu, Gabe Moss and Dan Skillings fit the bill. In the market for a smooth, athletic shooting guard with a silky stroke from deep? Take a hard look at Khalil Farmer.

Khalil Farmer, Philly Pride

If you have more immediate pressing needs and want to focus on the Class of 2021, the Philly Pride 17U crew is one of the finest grassroots/AAU clubs in the nation. Indeed, this team won the UUA 16U National Championship last summer after being ranked number 1 in the nation for most of that season. They are led by the UUA 16U MVP from last year, Stevie Mitchell. A high major point guard, Mitchell will formally make his commitment announcement next Wednesday. It has been widely speculated in various media outlets that he is headed to Marquette to play in the Big East Conference.

Stevie Mitchell, Philly Pride

Playing alongside Mitchell, is Ed Holland. Holland is a 6’6 wing with range that extends well beyond the college three-point line. Like Mitchell, Holland is also a highly intelligent young man with multiple Ivy League programs vying for his services. Yale, Penn, Columbia and Princeton are prominent among the 20 or D1 offers Holland has received thus far.

If Mitchell is the engine that makes this club run, Rahdir Hicks is the transmission. Yet another in a seemingly endless line of Coatesville guards, Hicks has an incredible feel for the game. His childhood friends and teammates include AJ Hoggard (Michigan State), Jhamir Brickus (La Salle), Duece Turner (Bucknell) and Dapree Bryant (Villanova Football). Hicks is carrying the tradition this year and it’s in good hands. He effortlessly changes paces. Hicks is able to probe and penetrate at will. He makes ball handlers extremely uncomfortable on the defensive end. He will likely end up at a mid-major program and be given the keys shortly after unpacking his bags.

Zach Hicks is a long 6’8 slender shooter. He has drawn attention from SEC, American and A10 programs and it’s say to understand why. He’s capable of creating space for his shot using 2-3 dribble pull-ups, step-backs and in and out dribbles.

One of the most intriguing prospects in the region is Christian Tomasco. Coming in at 6’9, he has excellent length. His dexterity and athleticism are surprising for a kid his size. Tomasco consistently outruns opposing bigs. His teammates look for him on the wing and he able to catch the ball take a few dribbles and aggressively attack the rim. In a half court setting, he displays a nice touch that extends beyond the three point line. While his frame is slight, he’s a willing post defender with very good instincts. He will team with Aaron Lemon-Warren to give Archbishop Ryan a very formidable front court. Ivy, Patriot and CAA league schools will be taking a hard look at Tomasco once the NCAA allows them off campus.

Christian Tomasco, Philly Pride

With very few fans, temperature checks and only one court in play, today’s event was unlike the typical grassroots/AAU get together.

That’s a good thing… This is far from a typical summer…

I respect Kamal Yard for giving the kids a chance to put on uniforms and run up and down the court.

Coaches… If you want to see exclusive video of today’s action, hit up Kamal. I pretty sure y’all can work something out.

A Place of Refuge & Redemption: Basketball is MORE than a game!

By Eric Dixon

At first glance basketball is just a game, but for those who live it and love it is much more. It is a place and journey all at once. “It is my place of refuge,” states Ashley Howard, former Drexel guard and current Head Men’s Coach at LaSalle University. This “game” provides life lessons beyond classrooms and lecture halls, provides light in darkness and reveals the inner makings of people like open wounds.

Ashley Howard, La Salle Head Coach

Anyone who has ever been transfixed by the bouncing of the ball on the asphalt, mesmerized by the rhythm of ball pounding against the concrete with a tenacity and consistency born of an innate attraction to an activity that can transform, transmit and transport you to places beyond your imagination. 

The game speaks to players with a melody that, like any other music, is understood and heeded no matter the circumstance or locale. “Basketball is the universal language,” says Khalif Wyatt, a former Temple University standout and successful international player. Wyatt, a “chubby” Norristown native, followed the music from “Oak Street Park” to Champagne, France, with stops in China, Israel, and the Philippines in between. 

Temple Great, Khalif Wyatt

Basketball is a connector, it brings people together in ways that help them form lifelong bonds that endure past players’ physical ability to play the sport. Darnell Alford, a Trentonian, was a relative unknown when he was tabbed to play in the minor professional league United States Basketball League. “Played for free just to get on,” he said. Alford, a standout guard at Monmouth University, credits his relationship with Trenton natives Bryan Caver, formerly of Seton Hall, and Greg Grant, a diminutive speedster that spent 9-years in the NBA, playing for 6 different teams, with making him aware of professional international opportunities in the sport. Caver in particular took a liking to the athletic Alford, encouraging him to play in summer leagues around Trenton and prove his mettle in the sport. “He told me to just go do what I do. Just play hard to the end and don’t quit.” He did just that using the lessons learned playing in those summer leagues to hone his skills that landed him a professional gig in a top Australian Pro League for 4 years, before returning home to Trenton to take care of his young son, Darnell Alford Jr, who is now playing professionally internationally. 

Alford Sr., now works in education, teaching and coaching, imparting the lessons he learned in life to the young people he works with. “I didn’t even know playing (internationally) was a thing until I (learned it) from them”, he mused, recounting how it was the relationships that he built that helped him grow in the sport and in life.  

Basketball is a counselor and a teacher. “I felt like a fish out of water when I first got to St. Joe’s Prep,” says Howard, who was first introduced to the game as a preschooler as a ballboy at the Chaney/Sonny Hill Basketball camp when he would tag along behind his grandfather who was the camp chef. “I used ball to get me through.”  

In 1997, Howard lost his beloved grandfather and had to lean on the game and his family to cope. That experience gave him a determination to succeed, and not just in basketball. “I determined then that I was not going to be denied success in life.”  Later when he “wasn’t in a good place” after transferring to Bonner, it was again his old friend basketball that helped him maintain and flourish, finishing second in Catholic League scoring to legend Rasual Butler.

For many, basketball is merciful and presents a path to redemption, granting some second and, sometimes, third chances at success. Nafis Ricks, former Lamberton High bucket-getter, lost his bearings and it was the game that guided him back and showed him the way. “I didn’t know about the (NCAA) Clearing House,” laments Ricks, who despite being a prolific scorer his senior year (35 ppg), he was unable to overcome academic shortcomings and a lack of exposure to garner a scholarship. He attempted to shore up his academic resume at MCI, a prep school in Maine. The situation proved untenable and he ended up leaving that January. 

Disheartened and disillusioned, he put basketball down and started lifting boxes at UPS. It didn’t take long for the game to beckon him back, with his little brother providing the motivation to heed the call. He was led to JUCO standout Johnson County Community College in Kansas, where Ricks rediscovered his love for the sport and learned how to be a better leader, he landed at Missouri State University. There he decided he’d seek a livelihood in the game.

Wyatt, who credits his mother, Gail Clinkscales, with teaching him his values and brother, Aziz, and father, Vincent with providing the motivation and support he needed, didn’t even give a professional career even that much forethought. “I never really thought about it,” recalls the 2-time Isreali League Player of the Year, reflecting on how he felt during his stellar senior season on North Broad Street. “I was pretty much just focused on the game at hand, focused on the moment.” 

Wyatt says no one considered him a pro prospect in middle school. He had a “great” training camp experience with the Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers before being waived after the last preseason game. He spent very little time languishing over being cut by the hometown team. He would soon board a plane to go to the other side of the world after signing a six figure contract with the Guandong Southern Tigers within hours of being let go. He would play just one season in China before finding great success in the top league in Israel, where he won both individual and team awards, winning a championship while earning MVP honors.

Basketball can also be humbling, forcing players to put their pride aside and re-evaluate their place in the game and in life. Howard, who was dealt a devastating career ending diagnosis after his sophomore at Drexel, shared an experience that showed the importance of being humble and flexible as you go along your journey. 

Bruiser Flint and Archie Miller, Indiana Coaches

After his playing career was snatched from him, denying him the one thing that had been a constant in his world since he was a toddler, his college coach, Bruiser Flint, offered him a way to stay involved as a student coach. Howard excelled in his new role, his natural desire to teach and lead drove him to clutch the opportunity to his bosom and nurture it with the same determination and passion that made him a standout guard in high school. 

Upon graduation from Drexel, he accepted a position as a camp coach at Hoop Group’s Invitational Camp. His confidence was high going into the experience. He was ready to show his talent and acumen in coaching and training players. However, before that he needed to be humble.

“The first thing Mike Rice (camp organizer) says to me is ‘Look, we just finished up the other camp and those kids left the dorms a mess. I need you to grab a mop and a bucket and get those rooms cleaned.” Howard was surprised and confused, but he set his feelings aside and accepted the task. Within two months he went from holding a mop and bucket to the title of “Camp Director”.

Basketball can also expose us to harsh realities and how we respond in the face of such ugliness may determine where our journey may end or begin. Howard’s tireless work ethic and team first attitude won him supporters within the Hoop Group. One such person was Robert Kennedy, an organization official.  At dinner one evening Kennedy suggested a candidate for the La Salle head coaching vacancy who was attending the camp hire Howard immediately if he did get the job. The coach then looked at Howard, who was the only African American at the table, and said plainly “I’m not going to have any coloreds on my staff.” Howard brushed off the shockingly racist response. A month later he was invited to join the La Salle staff by the man the university actually hired instead of the bigot. In 2004, Dr. Gianni made Howard an assistant coach and his coaching career began in earnest. His resiliency helped to earn him a professional home in his “place of refuge”.

Robert Kennedy, Hoops Group President

The importance of resiliency was also imparted to Wyatt as he traveled his own road in the sport. He was playing the “best basketball of his life” in February of 2017 when he tore his ACL playing in Israel. This would begin a two year span of personal exploration and growth for him as he searched for things to help him in his recovery and also cultivate his other interests. He would launch his Marathon Sport endeavor which would channel his desire to help youth and give back through sports and other enrichment programs. (For more information visit www.msport.big.cartel.com). He also adopted a new nutritional regimen which includes mostly vegetables and fish. Wyatt, 29, hopes to play five or six more years before he turns his attention to his other interests full time.

Ricks, who had seen his fair share of struggles, going through 6 agents in 3 years, achieved his goal of providing for himself and his family as a professional basketball player. He also learned a lot about himself and his problems with mental health that hastened his eventual decision to quit playing professionally and return to the States. He is open about his challenges with PTSD, depression and anxiety. Missing his young daughter, the rigors of acclimating to a different culture, while living out of hotel rooms and from pillar to post with the constant travel that goes along with playing internationally, he was left “mentally burnt out.” After returning home he became involved in education and eventually joined the staff at The University of Missouri, reuniting with his Missouri State coach, Cuonzo Martin. Today he is spearheading programs to raise awareness of mental illness and give players tools to cope with these issues.   

Although Alford, Ricks, Howard and Wyatt have had very different journeys through the game they all showed some common traits as they went along the way. The humility and resiliency they displayed as they dealt with ebb and flow of their basketball lives is noteworthy and informative. The game is many things to those who choose to embrace it. Basketball can take you places, introduce you to people and teach you about yourself and those around you with a surety unexpected in a mere game.

Recruitment of Hysier Miller: The Long Slow Grind

With Nanna Njoku (Sanford/Villanova), Jordan Longino (Germantown Academy/Villanova), Rahsool Diggins (Wood/UConn), Stevie Mitchell (Wilson West Lawn/Marquette) and TaQuan Woodley (Camden/Penn State) off the board, high major college coaches searching the shelves in Philadelphia’s class of 2021 are starting to focus on Neumann-Goretti’s tough hard-nosed PG Hysier Miller.

Hysier Miller, Neumann-Goretti

To some, Miller’s rise to prominence may seem meteoric. In actuality, it’s been a long slow, steady grind on the independent grassroot circuits and in Philadelphia’s Public League. For years, Miller toiled in relative obscurity with some of the best youth basketball coaches/instructors/mentors in the region. Jason Young and Harold Mackey Boswell developed a fine HS player. Sean Colson and Carl Arrigale have produced a high major “Philly” guard.

I first met Hysier when he was about 3 years old. His older brother, Mark, was one of my favorite participants in a youth program and we became very good friends. While there was about 30 years separating us, we shared a love for the game of basketball. Mark, like thousands of young Black boys in Philadelphia, was struggling behaviorally in school. My initial goal was to help Mark comply with school rules and expectations.

Once I became aware of his love for hoops, I used the game to help Mark learn to navigate educational and professional settings in a socially acceptable manner. We attended scores of college basketball games. Temple, St. Joseph’s, La Salle and especially Drexel. Mark became a huge Dragon fan. Then Dragon Head Coach Bruiser Flint and Assistant Coach Geoffrey Arnold took a liking to Mark. Mark had complete run of the program. He attended Bruiser’s summer camps. He befriended Samme Givens, Frank Elgar, Chaz Crawford and his favorite player Bobby Jordan.

Never, not one time, did Mark exhibit behaviors that would raise an eyebrow or be a cause for concern while he was in a college basketball setting. But, unfortunately, I couldn’t keep him on campus 24 hours a day. When Mark was in his neighborhood proximate to the Wilson Park public housing development, he assumed another identity.

As the young people say, Mark was about that life… Eventually, he would have run-ins with law enforcement. No longer enrolled in the program, Mark remained my friend. We ran the gamut… Juvenile court hearings, probation, Youth Study Center, Glen Mills… I have stood by Mark as he worked his way through the juvenile and subsequently adult justice system.

I love Mark, he’s like my little brother.

His late grandmother, mother, aunts and adult sisters all accepted me as part of the family. They are “my people.”

All this time, Mark would tell me about his lil’ brother Hysier “Fabb” Miller and how good he was in basketball. I knew Hysier as the kid too young to tag along when Mark and I would go to games. Nonetheless, I really liked Hysier. He was always unfailingly polite, respectful humble. Just a very nice boy.

Hysier Miller in 8th grade

Once he got to middle school, his mother Juanita would always say, “Mr. Wilson you gotta go see Fabb play, he’s my basketball star.” I hear this so often, I really didn’t take her seriously initially. I was, however, very happy to know that he was involved with organized youth basketball.

Engagement in organized basketball activities almost always leads to positive school outcomes like fewer suspensions and increased graduation rates. If we had been able to get Mark involved in youth basketball, I truly believe his path would have been much different.

Juanita also raved about his coach, Mackey. I didn’t know Mackey at the time, but the respect and appreciation Juanita had for Mackey spoke volumes. He would take care of Hysier for days at a time as they traveled up and down the east coast playing in tournaments. While I didn’t see Hysier play in middle school, I did begin to ask him about his game. He was always focused. He worked relentlessly… He would work out everyday on his own. Hysier was a true Philly “hoop head” in the making. I respected his grind.

As he neared completion of the 8th grade, he told me that he was going to attend Martin L. King HS. I was elated… One thing for sure, if Fabb had any real basketball talent, King Head Coach, Sean Colson would develop it, polish it, refine it and give the city a true college ready Philly guard. I’ve seen him do it over and over again.

With Hysier coming from Wilson Park in South Philly all the way to Stenton Avenue, in Germantown, every day, I was a little worried. That’s a very long commute for a 15-16 year old. But Hysier really appreciated the attention from Colson and he wanted to get better. It worked… Over the next two years, Colson molded Hysier into one of the best guards in Philadelphia.

The texts would inevitably come before “BIG” games… “Mr. Wilson, can you come to my game tommorrow?”

I made it out to a few games and I could see the potential to play at the D1 level. He was competing relentlessly… He was one of the better defensive guards in the city as a freshman. Offensively, Hysier more than held his own every time he stepped on the court. As a sophomore, he was the unquestioned leader of the Martin L. King squad.

However, the notoriety wasn’t there. No one really noticed.

Hysier decided he wanted to play on the biggest scholastic stage in the region. He transferred to Neumann-Goretti to play his last two seasons in Philadelphia Catholic League.

Soon as we talked about the transfer, Hysier told me he was gonna get to the Palestra and win the Catholic League Championship.

Straight up… First thing out of his mouth…

At the start of his junior campaign, Hysier had ZERO (0) scholarship offers. I felt he was as good or better than kids in his class with 10 or more offers. I told him I would make sure he had offers commensurate with his playing ability by the end of the season.

In October, I take Hysier and his Aunt Linda to visit Head Coach Zack Spiker and Drexel University. Now all along, Mark is calling me 2-3 times a week from prison and I’m keeping him updated on Hysier’s progress. He wants to know how he’s playing, does he have any scholarship offers, can they win the Catholic League.

I let Mark know I’m taking Hysier to visit his favorite program. Mark’s excited. He still likes Drexel. It was a very nice visit. Spiker is a very affable and personable man. He makes Hysier and his Aunt feel at ease. Drexel has updated the facilities, the locker room is very nice and the gym has been modernized. The apartments are top notch. I could tell Hysier liked University City. It’s a vibrant and diverse learning community within walking distance of Center City.

Outstanding visit…

As we walked back to the car to head out, Hysier asked “Did he offer me?”

“Naaaah… you will know when a coach offers you.”

I call Coach Spiker and tell him that Hysier liked the visit and was looking for an offer… Coach Spiker said, “we want to continue evaluating him while he plays for Neumann-Goretti in the Catholic League.”

“Coach… Once he starts playing the fields gonna be pretty crowded.”

Couple of weeks later, Hysier and wake up early and drive to visit Mark’s favorite college player Bobby Jordan who’s an assistant at Wagner College. We watch practice and tour the campus, Head Coach Bashir Mason and Jordan are wonderful hosts. As the visit winds down, Mason tells Hysier, “I want to come see you play at Neumann-Goretti before I offer a scholarship.”

“Coach… Once he starts playing the fields gonna be pretty crowded.”

Hysier Miller and Bobby Jordan at Wagner College

December rolls around and they start playing basketball games. First up, Westtown and Jalen Warley ranked #36 in nation by ESPN and #21 by Rivals. In his debut with Neumann-Goretti, Hysier steals the ball from Warley 3 times in open court while leading his team to a convincing wire to wire 64-59 victory over the much bigger Westtown squad.

Another one of Mark’s friends, Rider Assistant, Geoff Arnold watched the Westtown game. Impressed with Hysier, Arnold said he will bring the other Rider coaches to watch Hysier. They subsequently watch Hysier go against the highly regarded Lynn Greer III and Roman Catholic. Hysier is matched up with Greer and he does well as Neumann-Goretti wins 77-69 in double overtime.

Rider Head Coach Kevin Baggett has seen enough… He offers Hysier a full basketball scholarship.

Mar Mar Jones (sister), Delgreco Wilson, Kevin Baggett, Geoff Arnold, Linda Brown (Aunt) & Hysier Miller

Next up is Archbishop Wood led by Rashool Diggins ranked #69 by ESPN and #41 by Rivals. Miller scores 24 points and leads Neumann-Goretti to a 66-55 win over Wood. Diggins managed a hard-fought 14 points.

Wagner Head Coach Bashir Mason is in attendance at that game. Literally, within 3 minutes of the first quarter, he says “I’m offering him a scholarship.”

Things start to pick up for Miller, Hofstra offers him a scholarship. Eventually, Drexel extends an offer.

Just like he said he would, Miller helps lead Neumann-Goretti to the Catholic League Championship as they defeat Lynn Greer III, Jalen Duren and Justice Williams for the second time with everything on the line.

Talking to Mark several times a week, I let him know we are just beginning. With the state playoffs and the April “Live Period” I expected Hysier to pick up no fewer than 8-10 high major offers over the spring.

Then coronavirus struck…

Everything was shut down… No playoffs… No live period… No opportunity for Hysier to demonstrate his progress for coaches.

Fortunately, earlier in the year I had told my friend Michael Starling from Raw Sports that I expected Hysier to be the breakout star in in the Catholic League this year. Always looking to highlight deserving players, Michael made sure to focus his lens on Hysier during several of the biggest games of the year. Also, Charles Jones from BornLeader Sports decided to break down his game films and compile an outstanding highlight video for Hysier.

Armed with links to these videos, I pushed Hysier hard. First up Pat Chambers and Keith Urgo at Penn State. Knowing how much the Nittany Lions appreciate Philly toughness, I sent those guys the links. They contacted Hysier immediately after viewing the videos. Within 2 days, Chambers offers Hysier a Big 10 Basketball scholarship.

I also had conversations with VCU, Seton Hall and SMU. Everyone was interested, but they were all very deep in the recruitment process with other guards and reluctant to offer players they could not watch live.

Coronavirus was fucking up the process…

I continued to lean on my friends… I pressed Ashley Howard… But he had a freshman starter and was locking down the magnificent 2020 PG Jhamir Brickus from Coatesville HS. I figured Chris Clark at Temple would listen. Chris was a Catholic League product and I know he would see how much Hysier’s no-nonsense approach to the game mirrored that of his boss, Templ great, Aaron Mckie.

Chris immediately got it… But the Owls were also in deep with other PG prospects. Chris would not let up, he maintained contact with Hysier and the Neumann-Goretti coaches. Forced to recruit through ZOOM conference calls, McKie and the rest of the Temple staff got to know Hysier.

Eventually, in early July, Coach McKie extended an offer.

Last week, Joe Dooley, the head coach at East Carolina reached out. Joe and I go waaaay back to when he successfully recruited the Morris twins out of Prep Charter while he was an Assistant at Kansas.

Dooley said, “I need some toughness… I need kids that aren’t gonna back down.”

I sent him the Raw Sports and Born Leader Sports videos and he offered Hysier a scholarship within a few minutes of viewing them.

St. Joseph’s, Seton Hall, Virginia Tech and VCU have expressed interest.

However, it’s almost August, there will be no live periods… there will be no NCAA camps… there will be no NBA top 100 camps…

It looks like Division 1 coaches will be tethered to their respective campuses throughout the fall.

I am encouraging young boys and girls with real offers on the table to weigh their options and take one of those offers. Division 1 scholarships are valued anywhere from $200,000 to $320,000.

My man Mark should be home this fall, just in time for the Catholic League Basketball season.

All things considered, North Broad Street seems like it makes a lot of sense. Hysier’s rather large and boisterous extended family can attend every game. Temple pays a cost of attendance stipend. They have state of the art facilities, including luxury apartments for student-athletes. The academic support is first rate. And, most importantly, I trust Aaron McKie and Chris Clark with the social, emotional and basketball development of a young man I love.

Hysier Miller celebrating the Catholic League Championship

In the midst of one of the wildest years in recent memory, some shit just makes sense… We’ll see if Hysier agrees…

College Basketball Recruiting During the Coronavirus Pandemic

This is a unique era… Since March, college athletic departments have been effectively shut down… The NCAA has halted ALL face to face recruiting for Division 1 college basketball coaches… Since March, D1 Basketball recruiting, both men’s and women’s, has been in a dead period

Shit is at a complete standstill…

During a dead period a college coach may not have face-to-face contact with college-bound student-athletes or their parents, and may not watch student-athletes compete or visit their high schools. A “dead” period is a time when coaches cannot have any contact other than phone contact with players they are recruiting. Coaches can’t scout, visit players’ homes, bring recruits in for visits, talk to them in-person. Coaches may write and telephone student-athletes or their parents during a dead period.

We are approaching the 6th month of the current extended dead period. It’s seems likely that the dead period will be extended through the fall.

This begs the question: What should class of 2021 boys and girls with D1 scholarship offers do? How should they proceed?

If kids have scholarship offers that are real, meaning the head coach would accept a commitment, the kid should carefully weigh his options and accept one of the scholarship offers sooner rather than later. Bear in mind, college coaches are constantly engaged in the roster management process. While they may have offered kid A a scholarship, most likely they have made similar offers to kid B, kid C and kid D. Even if kid A is the preferred target, the coach has an obligation to his staff and his team to effectively administer the roster management process.

If the team needs a point guard and kid A is the primary preferred target, but kid B is acceptable and ready to commit, the coach will likely take the commitment from kid B rather than risk not landing an acceptable point guard prospect.

In such a scenario, the options for kid A will be reduced over time as kid B, kid C and kid D accept scholarships. If kid A knows where he wants to go to school and they have offered him a scholarship, he should accept it.

Sometimes, people advising kids want to keep the process open to help other kids in an AAU or HS program. The thought is that having college coaches coming out to see the star player will help increase the visibility for lesser known players in the program. In many instances, that is true…

Not today though… The coaches ain’t coming out…

The advisers may also argue that other “higher profile” programs will eventually offer and the kid shouldn’t take the offers on the table.

Maybe… maybe not… It’s truly a crap shoot this year…

We are operating in truly unforeseen circumstances. Ordinarily, college coaches would have had an opportunity to evaluate kid A in April, June and July during AAU/Grassroots live periods, NCAA camps and HS live periods. Those evaluation opportunities were nonexistent this year. In normal times, college coaches would be able to visit high schools in September and October and evaluate kids in “open gym” settings. It does not appear that D1 coaches will be allowed to do so this year.

The dead period is likely to continue through the fall… It is what it is…

So… If kids have real offers, they have to be creative and find ways to gather the information necessary to make a decision. While they cannot take official or unofficial visits to campuses and engage athletic department staff, they can visit the city and tour the campus on their own. If they really want to see what the campus looks like, get on a plane or gas up the car and go check it out on your own. Ask people questions while you are there. Do what you can do without assistance or contact from the basketball staff.

It’s a big decision… Treat it as such…

Do NOT wait for permission from the NCAA to take official or unofficial visits… It’s probably not coming…

Again… If kids have scholarship offers that are real, meaning the head coach would accept a commitment, the kid should carefully weigh his options and accept one of the scholarship offers sooner rather than later.

Don’t let kid B, kid C or kid D take the scholarship you really want…

Bloomfield College: NJ’s Black College

by Eric Dixon

“We’re like Family!”

Bloomfield College, as it has been known since 1961, has been serving it’s community with responsiveness and proactive compassion since its beginnings in 1868 as a German Theological Seminary. It is appropriate and inspiring that the private liberal arts school is led by “spiritual” and passionate leaders who are committed to helping their students find their professional and personal purpose. 

“God orders your steps,” intimates Sheila Wooten, the school’s athletic director of 18 years and de facto mother figure, who has been a fixture at Bloomfield since her Hall of Fame basketball career there in the 1980s. She embodies the commitment that she hopes to “grow” in the student body she serves. “Service” is a mantra repeatedly espoused by both Wooten and Gerald Holmes, her assistant Athletic Director and Head Men’s basketball coach, a post he’s held for 19 years. 

“One thing my father always told me was do something you love and give back”, says Holmes, a 4-time Coach of the Year during his tenure at the school of 1700 students, which evolved into a predominantly black (PBI) and Hispanic Serving (HSI) institution in the mid-1990s. The commitment to an underserved sector of the education industry was necessitated after ancillary campus policy changes facilitated a shift in student demographics. “We started to get more applications from Essex County so we began to look to better serve those communities,” says Wooten, who shared that during her days as a BC Bear the school was only about 35% African-American. “I enjoyed my experience here (as a student) which is why I came back,” she added saying that even though the majority of the students were white, “we all worked together.”

Sheila Wooten, Athletic Director

So why consider Bloomfield College? The answer is a simple one: The People. Holmes, who came from a family of “learned” professionals, and Wooten, one of six siblings from a depressed section of Atlantic City, bring different perspectives but the same passion to “give back” even though neither had early plans to gain their current positions. “This was not my journey” says Wooten, echoing the sentiments of her “brother” who also shared that he entered coaching on a lark after seeing someone he knew garner a high school coaching position. 

Holmes, a scrappy 5-7 PG at NJIT (D3) in the mid-80s, said his love of the game didn’t lead him into coaching until 6 years after his playing eligibility expired. Wooten said a chance encounter and some coaxing from a former mentor, Al Restaino, led her to her current perch atop the athletic department where she is one of 5 female ADs and the only African American in the CACC. Both share a love of the college, sports and helping student-athletes reach their goals on and off the field or court. 

Dr. Marcheta Evans, President

In addition, Wooten and Holmes lauded Dr. Marcheta Evans, the new President of the school for her continuing and enhancing the commitment of creating a familial environment in the athletic department and school in general. She is the 17th president of the college and first African American female. “I was attracted not only to Bloomfield College’s mission; its designation as a minority-serving institution (PBI and HSI) committed to providing access to an affordable education; the quality of our distinctive, nationally-ranked curriculum offerings; but also to the importance placed on inclusive excellence and preparing our community to be multiculturally-competent citizens,” is part of her perspective she shares in her letter to the school community on the Bloomfield College website.

Athletically and socially, BC offers 14 sports and a wide range of other extra-curricular activities that cater to their specific demographic groups. One example is the “Male Empowerment Club” which welcomes men from all nationalities and ethnic groups but is geared to address concerns of African American males in particular. “We see the unique problems they face and want to help them”, says Wooten.

Gerald Holmes, Men’s Basketball Coach

In men’s basketball, Holmes’ program offers a solid culture, a great atmosphere and winning tradition to “tough, hardworking” players looking to maximize their abilities. Did I mention that they win? A lot. Competing in the CACC the Bears boast an impressive 322-192 record with 11 regular season first place finishes, 7 league titles and 8 NCAA tournament appearances. This team success has translated well into individual accolades for players in the program which has produced six (6) CACC players of the year under Holmes.

Academically the school offers “personalized education with small class sizes that allow faculty to provide detailed assistance and instruction to meet the needs of students. Also, part of the school’s aspirations can be seen in its commitment to making higher education affordable for their students. “Bloomfield College is the first institution in New Jersey to eliminate its comprehensive and course fees” to maintain one of the lowest tuition rates for a private college in the state.

The practical benefit of attending the school is the “Bloomfield Bounce”. According to its website the students are often propelled several rungs up the socio-economic ladder from where they are upon entering the school. This adds pragmatic substance to the pursuit of the institution’s  mission statement.

Holmes says although the school’s lack of top tier facilities and awareness of the quality of instruction and academic rigor can present some challenges in recruiting, his focused approach to recruiting and the large amount of talent in New Jersey make getting the right players for his program easier. He demands “mental toughness” from players and believes in an honest approach to recruiting and coaching relieves much of the frustration that small college coaches often experience. 

Holmes counts a few influences on his approach as a coach and a prominent one is former Temple great, John Chaney, whose fiery temperament seems in contrast to Holmes’ calm but stern off court demeanor. He is a molder of men who uses the tools of honesty, consistency and accountability to shape his players into contributing community members. In his own way he furthers Bloomfield’s aim to, in the words of Dr. Evans, “recruit, retain, and graduate students to be ‘workforce-ready’ as well as civically-engaged, global individuals.”

Whites, Blacks and Jews: Recent Examples of Tribalism in Sports

The U.S. Constitution was written as a tribal document. Indeed, based upon a careful reading of the document in 1857, the United States Supreme Court in a majority opinion written by Chief Justice Roger B Taney, ruled that no African-American, free or enslaved, had ever enjoyed the rights of a citizen under the Constitution. Taney argued that, since the time of the ratification of the Constitution, blacks had been “regarded as beings of an inferior order, altogether unfit to associate with the white race … and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

Roger Taney statue removed from Maryland State House

The Constitution was designed to protect the rights and interests of the white American tribe. Those arguing otherwise have absolutely no respect for the intellect of non-whites.

It took a civil war and the deaths of 750,000 Americans to (temporarily) establish that Black Americans warranted protection under its Bill of Rights. That protection lasted a brief period spanning twelve years from 1865 to 1877. The white tribe rigidly implemented and enforced a white supremacist Apartheid/Jim Crow social order from 1877 to the mid 1960’s. The struggle to have the rights and interests of Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans and other people of color fully recognized and protected continues today.

Reconstruction Era Black Congressmen

But focusing on the Constitution’s shortcomings and flaws can result in an under appreciation and overshadow what it actually accomplished. Its core mission was to forge, out of a diverse population, a new national identity, uniting Americans of European descent into a white America tribe. To a remarkable extent, it succeeded.

Throughout the colonial and revolutionary eras, Americans were a multiracial, multi-ethnic conglomeration… A diverse mix of English, Dutch, Scots, Irish, French, Swedes, Italians, Germans, Greeks, enslaved Africans and terrorized Native Americans.

The Founding Fathers deftly united the people of varying European backgrounds into a white American tribe. The Constitution was a key tool deployed to overcome profound divisions among people of European descent. The Founders guaranteed members of the white tribe religious freedom. The Constitution also declared that the United States would have no national church and no religious tests for national office. These foundational guarantees helped America avoid the religious wars that for centuries had torn apart the nations of Europe.

The Founders also utilized the idea of white supremacy to establish the “others” once they granted American citizenship status to members of the white American tribe. The Black tribe was relegated to “chattel” status. The Native American tribe was deemed “savage” and marked for removal or eradication.

Tribalism lies at the heart of the American experiment.

Today, we are witnessing tribal allegiances return once again to the foreground. The white tribe is alarmed. The United States is experiencing rapid demographic shifts that are resulting in the inevitable tanning of America. The nation is well on its way to becoming a predominantly Black and Brown country.

Formed explicitly to further white American tribal interests, these shifts are resulting in considerable angst and tension for all Americans. The angst is observable in many aspects of contemporary American life, including sports. Riley Cooper, Colin Kaepernick, Lebron James, Drew Brees, Kylin Hill, Pat Chambers, DeSean Jackson, Stephen Jackson and Bubba Wallace are just a few prominent sports figures that have found themselves at the center of racial tempests in recent years.

Colin Kaepernick

It makes sense that racial strife permeating American life in general is spilling over onto the playing fields and courts as well as into the locker rooms. Sports have played a pivotal role in American communities since the dawn of the 20th century. Today, athletic contests pushing physical limits are more popular than ever before. Sports is a booming industry at the youth, high school, college and professional levels.

As long as local governments, schools, universities and major corporations continue to see sporting events as sound investments, sports will play a vital role in society for the foreseeable future. This means sports will continue to provides one of the most visible platforms for racial wrangling.

At no other time in American history have sports played such a dominant role in daily life. Their absence due to the coronavirus pandemic only serves to heighten their importance. While we have had no games, yet we have had plenty of tribal warfare taking place in the world of sports.

The white tribe, for the most part, until the George Floyd murder at the hands of the Minneapolis police remained steadfast in their opposition to Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protesting of police brutality and murder during the national anthem. It should be noted that there were some whites that defected and supported Kaeperneck prior to Floyd’s life being extinguished on camera. Indeed, Nike launched a massively successful marketing campaign focused on Kaeperneck’s peaceful protest campaign. However, the tribe’s resistance front remained strong.

The unquestioned leader of the white tribe, President Donald Trump, loudly and relentlessly beat the racial drums on this issue. He engaged in a sustained attack on NFL players who kneeled in protest of the national anthem. Trump’s line of attack reached a crescendo in September 2017 when he openly challenged NFL owners to release anyone who engages in the movement started last year by Kaepernick.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” the president said at a campaign rally for an Alabama candidate for the U.S. senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions.

The white American tribe loved Trump’s antics.

Adequately describing social developments prevailing in contemporary America requires a word as primal as “tribe” to place adequate focus on the mindless allegiances and deeply held partisan affiliations. Tribes have formed everywhere. In many ways they are similar to gangs, sans the violence. Like gangs, tribes demand loyalty, and in return they confer the security of belonging to insecure people longing to belong. They’re badges of identity, not of thought. Indeed, they are hostile to intellectual pursuits and sophisticated analyses. Tribes make thinking unnecessary, because they do it for you. This point is important… Tribes will attempt to punish you if you try to think for yourself. According to their imbecilic logic, to get along without a tribe makes you a fool. Moreover, to give an inch to the other tribe makes you a sucker.

This conceptualization is applicable to hard-core Trump supporters. Their blind allegiance to the president is unlike anything in recent history. Those red baseball caps give them a sense of belonging to the white nationalist tribe. These people not only reject intellectual pursuits, they frequently abandon science altogether. Those that accept science-based Center for Disease Control guidance are considered suckers.

Fuck a mask… Fuck social distancing… Fuck your health… The white tribe is “giving up its freedoms.”

The Black tribe is similarly engaged in reflexive and regressive behaviors. Recent revelations that Penn State Head Basketball coach Pat Chambers used the word “noose’ while talking to then freshman point guard Rasir Bolton has riled up the Black tribe. Eighteen months ago, on the heels of a poor performance against Wisconsin, Chambers said, “I want to be a stress reliever for you. You can talk to me about anything. I need to get some of this pressure off you.

“I want to loosen the noose that’s around your neck.”

With these words, unknowingly Chambers initiated a tribal skirmish that wouldn’t see a retaliatory strike for 18 months. But when it came, it came hard and heavy.

Pat Chambers

With Chambers at the helm, Penn State has made deep inroads into the Philadelphia basketball community. He’s recruited several prominent players from Philadelphia’s Public and Catholic Leagues. DJ Newbill, Shep Garner, Lamar Stevens, Seth Lundy, Izaiah Brockington and Mike Watkins are a few of the more prominent Philly kids that have donned the Nittany Lion uniform. Philadelphia has been good to Chambers and Penn State.

So when it was revealed that he uttered the word “noose” to a Black player, the Black tribe within that community was triggered. Members of this tribe quickly gathered around the fire (social media) and declared their commitment to seeing Chambers terminated. The speed with which partisan lines were drawn was spectacular. Like a gang, the Black Philadelphia basketball tribe demands undying loyalty, and in return they confer the security of belonging to the larger group.

The significance of the sense of belonging cannot be overstated. These are a group of frustrated middle-aged men that could not play in high school and college… They do not coach… They wield zero influence beyond the tribe itself… Basically, it’s a bunch of bitter irrelevant “never was” dudes that were MAYBE honorable mention all-milkcrate. With the Black basketball tribe and the advent of social media, they have created a basketball home for themselves. They have created a self-contained place where their thoughts, opinions and arguments related to basketball matter.

Membership in this tribe is a badge of identity, not of thought. For the most part, they reject anything but the most simplistic instinctual responses. “Chambers is a racist, Penn State must fire him immediately.”
Individual tribal members do not have to think, because tribe thinks for them. In the case of Chambers, there’s no need to examine his actual track record with his Black players. There’s no need to even talk to the Black players from Philadelphia.

The Tribe demonstrated that they will attempt to disparage and punish anyone with a propensity to think for themselves. For them, to spend ven a moment assessing the actual situation as it has existed within the Penn State basketball program over the past decade makes you a fool. Moreover, to condemn Chambers actions, to call for suspension, suggest cultural competency training and NOT demand that he be dismissed makes you an Uncle Tom.

This strain of behavior is spreading almost as fast as the coronavirus…

Then less than 24 hours after the Chambers headlines grabbed the nation’s attention, the Jewish tribe gathered around the fire (social media). Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson ignited controversy by sharing anti-Semitic comments on social media this week.

DeSean Jackson

Jackson posted a quote on his Instagram Story on Monday which was attributed to Adolf Hitler, stating in part “the Jews will blackmail America, they will extort America, their plan for World Domination won’t work if the Negroes know who they were.” The Jewish tribal response was predictable and swift…

Notably, former Eagles president Joe Banner, who is Jewish, forcefully declared, “If a white player said anything about (Black people) as outrageous as what DeSean Jackson said about Jews tonight there would at least be a serious conversation about cutting him and a need for a team meeting to discuss… Which would be totally appropriate. Absolutely indefensible.”

Here we go again…

Tribes, as I have noted, eschew sophisticated analyses. Banner demonstrated the reflexive and instinctual nature of the tribal response. Tribes don’t think things through. They just want casualties… They are interested in the body count… Careful consideration of Banner’s reaction validates this assertion.

There’s an obvious and appropriate Eagles case study that serves as a useful comparison for the Jackson incident. It’s worth a quick review… During a Kenny Chesney country music concert in June 2013, Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper was caught on video calling Black people “niggers.”

Riley Cooper

Despite Banners claim to the contrary, the Eagles did not cut Cooper after he called Black people niggers. One could argue they actually embraced him. Exactly, what were the consequences applied in the Cooper case?

In August 2013, the Eagles announced that, “Riley Cooper will be seeking counseling and we have excused him from all team activities. This is all new territory and we are going to evaluate this timetable every step of the way. He will meet with professionals provided by the Eagles during this period of time to better help him understand how his words have hurt so many, including his teammates.”

Then on February 27, 2014, the Eagles announced that they signed Cooper to a new contract. According to reports, the terms of the deal include $25 million over 5 years.

So… What the fuck is Joe Banner talking about?

Banner is bright man that has manned the helm for two NFL franchises. He most certainly was very much aware of the Riley Cooper “nigger” episode. Yet, he made the patently false claim that if a white player said anything about Black people as outrageous as what Jackson said the team would consider cutting him.

That’s simply not true. The team in question, the Philadelphia Eagles, not only didn’t cut Riley. They signed him to a next 5 year $25 million dollar deal just months after he called Black people niggers on a video that went viral.

It’s tribalism that prevents Banner from making the obvious comparison and conducting a sober analysis. He feels, perhaps rightly so, that his tribe is under attack. His response, nonetheless, does nothing to move the dialogue forward in a constructive manner.

Joe Banner

How do we begin to limit the impact of tribalism? From whence does it come?

The causes of America’s resurgent tribalism are many. One obvious explanatory factor is seismic demographic shift underway. Whites have ruled this continent since the colonial era. They have enslaved, subjugated and oppressed people of color for centuries. They are well aware that they will lose their majority status within a few decades. On some level, whites have to wonder if people of color will do unto white as whites have done unto them. Tribalism is spreading like penicillin in a petri dish under these conditions.

Another factor is perceived declining social mobility and a growing class divide. Over 33 million Americans have filed for unemployment is recent months. People are scared. Rent and mortgages are due and they don;t have jobs. The global pandemic is only intensifying despite the quixotic proclamations of President Trump. This seems to be contributing to widespread retreat into tribes.

Finally, social media has evolved in a manner that rewards expressions of outrage. Any dunderhead with a cell phone can “go live” and rally up a tribe predisposed to feeling under attack and pitted against another tribes. Tribal idiots have stages and platforms to spread ill-formed ideas and half-baked arguments among other frustrated tribal members.

Unfortunately, the past three years have witnessed further entrenchment of tribalism. Hence, social interactions, even in the world of sports, are devolving into mindless zero-sum competitions, one in which tribes measures success by the extent to which they can stroke their member fears and appealing to their ugliest us-versus-them instincts.

Count me out… I refuse to stop thinking for myself…

Social Media and Dumb Muthafuckas: The Gift and The Curse…

One of the greatest joys I have experienced is to have my ideas and thoughts read and responded to by thousands of people across the globe in just a few hours. Last night, I wrote a piece that was read 2,849 times in less than 24 hours. It reached folk in Canada, Thailand, Afghanistan, Switzerland, Lithuania, Isreal, Ecuador and Spain. This was not possible 25 years ago.

Social media has allowed writers, photographers, videographers and other content creators to share their work quickly and directly with a wide ranging audience. By social media, I mean the sum total of websites and applications that are designed to allow people to share content quickly, and engage with the public efficiently, and in real-time. The ability to share ideas, opinions, videos and photographs in real-time has transformed the way we live and address social phenomena.

From the outset of my “Black Cager” social media journey, I’ve always wanted to make my content accessible. I make it a point to use common (some say coarse) language. I find common everyday language is inviting to people that may not ordinarily spend 10-15 minutes perusing an opinion piece. As a result, I’ve pulled in some “non-traditional” readers. Lately, I find that this strategy may have costs that outweigh the potential benefits.

There has emerged a crew of critics that mistakenly assume the accessible and common language form unsophisticated arguments. Key points go over their head like Vince Carter’s dunk on Frederic Weis.

It’s becoming more and more frustrating. While I welcome their readership, these clumsy, crude and childlike thinkers have repeatedly proven themselves incapable of grasping even slightly nuanced and subtle lines of reasoning.

Indeed, I am sure a few of them they are working their way through this essay. So… Let me take this opportunity to be perfectly clear… I want them to grasp the thesis of this particular essay…

Y’all some real dumb muthafuckas!

Over and over, their responses to points raised in different pieces display an astonishing lack of intellectual rigor. Simply put, they wade into the deepest end of the pool and they can’t swim a fuckin’ lick.

Honestly, I’m waiting for one of them to start a feeble retort with “I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night…”

For several years now, I’ve been hoping to see even a glimmer of clarity in thinking… I await anxiously even the faintest display of an ability to think carefully, deeply and with rigor when faced with new knowledge and arguments.

Alas, I have come to the realization that it is not forthcoming… ever. It cannot come… Like my ol’ heads said back in the day. “you can’t get blood from a turnip.”

They lack the capability of engaging constructively and methodically when exploring ideas, theories and philosophies. They can’t think at the conceptual or societal level. Hence, they resort to and rely upon “I just don’t like him… He ain’t shit… He’s getting a bag” and other tired personalized insults and tropes.

FUCK ‘EM…

I’ve come to the sad conclusion that they simply do not possess the ability to analyze and construct knowledge with depth, insight and intellectual maturity. It is apparent that they never applied themselves in school. Sadly, they never learned how to learn. For a large number of Blacks, these attributes are acquired via the challenge of ongoing and systematic study at places like Hampton, Howard, Spelman, Fisk, Lincoln, Cheyney, Morgan and Delaware State. Intellectual rigor is encouraged and nurtured in learning communities designed to expand and strengthen young Black minds. The challenge for faculty at these institution is impart into students the ability to consider other points of view and make a thoughtful argument.

I have resigned myself to the fact that countless hours spent playing Madden and NBA2k or hanging out at Danny Wok’s, Jim’s Steaks and Sneaker Villa is simply not an adequate substitute for reading a book.

Please note that I fully realize that formal education does not necessarily lead to intelligence. Indeed, some of brightest and most thoughtful brothers I have encountered spent considerable time learning, reading and studying while incarcerated or developing and refining their skills working one of the trades. What separates these guys from the pack of dullards is their ability to recognize and acknowledge when they don’t know something.

The dumbest muthafuckas really, truly think they have THE answer. They are quick to grab a mic or go live to “call it how they see it”… Huh?

Ignorant and ill-formed folk have been inspired by the singular ascendance of one of their own to the highest office in the land in 2016. As a result, they really believe they are experts and capable of expounding on a wide range of topics… It’s America… Have at it… Dumb muthafuckas…

All I ask is that you stay over there and leave me the fuck alone…

Pat Chambers FUCKED UP! Now What…

Penn State Men’s Basketball Coach Pat Chambers finds himself is a huge racial hole of his own making. The timing could not be worse. This is, by far, the worst possible time for a rich middle-aged white man, especially one in a position of power, to be accused of racist behavior in the fifty-five years I have been alive… By far…

Keith Urgo, Rasir Bolton and Pat Chambers

So how did we end up here?

Eighteen months ago, in January 2019, Chambers told then freshman starting point guard Rasir Bolton, “I want to be a stress reliever for you. You can talk to me about anything. I need to get some of this pressure off you…

I want to loosen the noose that’s around your neck.”

There it is… the big ass RACIAL elephant in the room. Chambers with that sentence created a devastating imagery that harkens back to the darkest days in this nation’s long and violent struggle with racism/white supremacy.

A middle-aged white man, working under a multi-million dollar contract at one of the most highly regarded public research Universities in the nation, said “I want to loosen the noose that’s around your neck” to a young 19 year old Black man under his direct supervision. It’s an inexcusable comment… There is no other way to assess it.

Rasir Bolton, Pat Chambers and Keith Urgo

That’s really, really fucked up… Unbeknownst to him, Chambers built a huge problem for himself right as the word “noose” passed through his mouth… A year and a half later, the bill has come due.

There are no ifs, ands or buts needed… It was a very bad and very bigoted moment… I have made this clear to Pat Chambers.

Moreover, it truly does not matter if Chambers intended it in a bigoted manner. It’s a bigoted statement. The word “noose” has a very specific connotation in the Black American community. The threat of the noose has been used to rigidly enforce an Apartheid/Jim Crow racist/white supremacist social order throughout American history. After slavery was abolished, lynching with “nooses” emerged as a horrific weapon used to reinforce white supremacy and suppress Black civil rights. At least, 4,000 Blacks were lynched with nooses between 1877 and 1950. There have been countless incidents of people using nooses to intimidate or terrorize Blacks in the ensuing years.

Pat Chambers knows this. Or, he should have known this was a totally unacceptable manner in which to speak to a young Black man in his basketball program.

Chambers, in a recent interview published on ESPN’s TheUndefeated.com, stated, “I didn’t realize that word would hurt him, and I am truly, truly sorry for that.”

There can be no doubt that Chambers should have realized that word would hurt any young Black man in his program. Saying he didn’t know it would hurt weakened the apology considerably.

Adding insult to injury, Bolton also alleges that Chambers later told him he was impressed with how “organized” and “well-spoken” his parents were.

Well… Damn… Now the RACIAL Hippo just joined the elephant in the living room.

From the moment Black people stopped working for free in the United States of America, a derogatory stereotypical narrative emerged: Blacks are disorganized, inarticulate and lazy. I have been praised countless times for my writing and being articulate, each and every time it feels like a paper cut.

Da fuck you talkin’ bout?

I attended some of the best schools in this country… Why can’t you assume that I am organized and well-spoken? It’s another inappropriate and bigoted comment.

The score is now 0-2 and Chambers is down in the late innings.

Figuratively speaking, he has RACIAL shit on the soles of both shoes. We now know that Bolton left the program and had a fine year at Iowa State after he was granted a waiver to play right away without sitting out a year. Chambers and Penn State also experienced a successful season. The divorce seemed to have worked out for both parties.

George Floyd, the man who was killed by police officers in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. Credit: Selfie, no credit

Then everything changed… The world seems to have finally come to the realization that racism/white supremacy is horrible and very much present in all aspects of American social life. After the murder of George Floyd, everyone has a heightened sensitivity to the stench of the 18 month old racial shit on Chambers shoes. College student-athletes have become activists and now lead racial reform movements. A football student-athlete at Oklahoma State called his Head Coach into question for supporting a network with a history of racist programming. Another football student-athlete sparked a movement that led to the removal of the slaveholder racist/white supremacist Mississippi state flag after it proudly flew for more than 126 years.

I wholeheartedly supported these movements. I stand with these kids. I applaud their bravery and willingness to confront racism/white supremacy. I think Bolton and his parents did the right thing when they formally complained to the Penn State administration last year. That’s what they should have done.

Obvious questions emerge: What was the appropriate consequence for Chambers’ actions 18 months ago? Did Penn State impose such consequences? Now, that the story has become public, what consequences, if any, should be taken today for Chambers actions 18 months ago?

Should he be fired? Should he be suspended?

Living and working in the Philadelphia region, reaction has been swift and, for the most part, very harsh.

As coach of the Nittany Lions, Chambers has had an incredible amount of success recruiting the Philadelphia region. Devonte “DJay” Newbill (Strawberry Mansion), Shep Garner (Roman Catholic), Tony Carr (Roman Catholic), Lamar Stevens (Roman Catholic), Nazeer Bostic (Roman Catholic), John Harrar (Strath Haven), Izaiah Brockington (Archbishop Ryan) and Seth Lundy (Roman Catholic) are some of the area players Chambers has recruited to play in Happy Valley.

Given the intense racial climate of today, it should come as no surprise that some observers are calling for his immediate dismissal. Time is up for racism/white supremacy…

For many Blacks, especially those unfamiliar with his racial track record, Chambers’ words uttered 18 months ago in the practice gym should cost him his job and perhaps his career. For them, the mere fact that the word “noose” crossed his lips is evidence of a previously unseen and deep seated racism/white supremacy permeating his true character.

As noted earlier… I agree that Chambers FUCKED UP! But does his behavior warrant a career death penalty? I don’t think so…

So… What should have happened?

There can be no denying that he should have been disciplined. The transgression should have been formally documented in his personnel file. An unpaid suspension of some sort would have been appropriate… Additionally, Chambers should have been required to attend a recognized cultural competency training… In short, Chambers should have definitely been subjected to serious and logical consequences for his behavior.

It should have been noted that further transgressions of this sort could lead to termination.

Penn State, apparently, chose not to impose such consequences. In this regard, the Penn State athletic director, Sandy Barbour, fumbled.

Sandy Barbour, Penn State Athletic Director

Now, because these incidents did not reach the general public 18 months ago, there was no widespread media coverage at the time. For better or worse, they have come to the fore right now, the absolute worst time… ever.

Eighteen months after Chambers said he wanted to “loosen the noose”, we have cops lynching unarmed Black men in the street. We have several young Black men dangling from trees with ropes around their necks in recent weeks. We have had a garage door pull fashioned into a noose in the garage of the only Black driver on the Nascar circuit. We have Confederate statues being toppled like dominos across the country. We have “Black Lives Matters” riots and protests in virtually every city and town in America and many others in nations spanning the globe.

The flames of racial anger are raging like California wildfires. Rasir Bolton came along and dropped an 18 month old kerosene soaked ” We Are” rag into that fire.

Again… Pat Chambers FUCKED UP.

With his carefully crafted reputation and, perhaps, his career hanging in the balance, I am sure he knows he FUCKED UP.

Here’s why I am sure Chambers grasps the seriousness of his situation…

Because he know what FUCKING UP looks like… So do I… On many occasions over the past decade, young men playing for Pat Chambers have also FUCKED UP. It’s what young college age men do…

It’s what I did when I was in college. I FUCKED UP… I smoked marijuana every day while I was in college. EVERY SINGLE DAY… I got in trouble for it… I was placed on something called “social probation” and my mother was notified about my fuck ups. I was arrested while in college. I was caught “running a speakeasy” while in college. My friends “hustled” relentlessly, while we were in college… I invested in their entrepreneurial efforts. I had several “incidents” in the girls dormitory while in college. I thank God, the adults at Lincoln University didn’t throw me away. I truly appreciate the patience, love and understanding they displayed every single time I FUCKED UP! Upon leaving Lincoln, I came to truly understand and appreciate the importance of grace.

Upon graduating from Lincoln, I had full fellowship, with substantial stipend, offers from Delaware, Michigan, Ohio State and California-Davis. At any one of 20 or more points during my time at Lincoln, I could have been kicked out of school. However, the adults believed in me and believed in my potential to do better. It’s a lesson that I’ve never forgotten.

Two weeks after graduating Lincoln, I was on a plane headed to the University of Michigan where I was paid to pursue graduate studies. After that, the University of Delaware and the University of Maryland paid me to do the same. I eventually taught at Maryland and Lincoln.

All of that after I FUCKED UP damn near every day in undergraduate school at Lincoln University.

Over the past ten years, I’ve watched Philly kids go out to State College and guess what… from time to time, they would FUCK UP. Sometimes they would get caught smoking weed… On occasion, they would be arrested… They would get into fights… They would have incidents with young women on campus. On each and every occasion, Pat Chambers handed out a measured and logical consequences for the behaviors. Never… not once, did he throw the young men away. Each and every time he notified all of the adults involved with the young man and came up with a plan to address the negative behaviors, while NOT throwing the young men away.

Some of the incidents were serious. He’s dealt with complex mental health issues. On multiple occasions, Chambers was urged by many commentators to dismiss the young men from the program. Never… Not once did he go down that road. Today, these young men are productive, contributing members of society and more importantly, they are Penn State graduates.

All this despite the fact that they FUCKED UP on campus more than a time or two…

So today, the tables are turned… This time Chambers FUCKED UP. There are some calling for his dismissal, there is a loud crowd gathering on the courthouse steps… They want the Penn State administration to remove Chambers from his position as Head Coach of the Men’s Basketball program. I get that… I understand those yearning to see his head roll… So far, the administration hasn’t given any indication that they are preparing to throw him to the angry mob. Hopefully, Chambers’ behaviors will treated as he has treated others. Of course, Penn State must address his bigoted comment, but they shouldn’t throw away the man.

If so, he will be held accountable for his actions. He will learn from his FUCK UP. And, most importantly the Penn State community will be better off as a result.

TaQuan Woodley ’21 (PSU Commit), Rio Pitts ’30 (Holds PSU “Offer”) and Pat Chambers.

Besides, I have a seven year-old nephew that Chambers offered a basketball scholarship during a trip to Happy Valley. I also have a 3 year-old grandson. If they are interested in Penn State, I would send them both to play for Pat Chambers.

I know my youngins… They are likely to FUCK UP…