Two years ago, I penned an opinion piece titled, “Pat Chambers FUCKED UP! Now What…” In that piece, I wrote:
“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… 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… 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.”
There was universal agreement that Chambers made a huge mistake. There was serious disagreement regarding the appropriate consequences. I made my position very clear:
“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.”
Little did I know that my stance would lead to the immediate destruction of what I thought were friendships. Because I felt that Chambers should be allowed to continue coaching, I was vilified by some Black men in Philadelphia. I was labelled a sell-out by a kid I had mentored for years. Another Black man publicly alleged that Chambers “must be paying” me to take such a position.
What these critics failed to consider was Chambers’ formidable track record. Chambers, from the moment he arrived in Happy Valley gave a lot of young men from the Greater Philadelphia region an opportunity to play Big 10 basketball. More importantly, he knowingly took chances on kids from less than ideal backgrounds and family situations and he stood by them throughout their, sometimes turbulent, time at Penn State.
It is no secret that some Philly kids, especially some of the Black kids, go off to college carrying significant “baggage.” Indeed, some of the most talented Philly schoolboys of the past quarter century have allowed their baggage to destroy seemingly surefire NBA careers.
Unlike many other college coaches, Chambers stood by his guys when they “fucked up” on campus. He addressed the behaviors, he dealt with the PSU administrators, he punished the offenders… What he didn’t do was cast aside the young men. He continued to guide and embrace the young men while admonishing them for their fucked up behaviors.
He did this behind closed doors… He didn’t make suspensions public… He never castigated them in front of outsiders… The players remained part of his program while serving private penance.
The discreet manner in which he dealt with wayward players in his program left casual observers completely in the dark. However, those close to the players and the program knew just how hard Chambers worked to help the young men transition to adulthood off the court. They knew how hard he worked to keep young Black players in school and on track to graduate.
A relentless recruiter, he established something akin to an underground railroad from the Greater Philadelphia region to Happy Valley during Chambers tenure.
Chambers gave Philly kids an opportunity to attend a world class university, compete at the highest level and he stood by them through all types of adversity.
The good far outweighed the bad… Clearly, the President and AD at Florida Gulf Coast University agreed with that assessment.
On March 15, 2022, FGCU officially introduced Chambers as the new FGCU men’s basketball head coach on Tuesday, March 15 in a special press conference from the Hillmyer-Tremont Suite in Alico Arena. Chambers became the fifth head coach in program history.
He’s back… Chambers is STILL my guy… He’s my friend… Before his appointment was made public, I had an opportunity to congratulate him and ask what his initial priorities were. In typical Chambers fashion, his response was short and very direct…
“Dahmir Bishop… I want Dahmir Bishop!”
Dahmir Bishop is a special kid to me. Before he was an Imhotep Panther, before he was a St. Joseph’s Hawk… Dah was a Darby Township Eagle. He played youth football for my lifelong friend Stacey Dandridge. He was, once again, in the transfer portal. I watched him grow increasingly frustrated over the past 2 seasons as his minutes fluctuated on HawkHill.
I hung up and called Dahmir and his father Rudy immediately. “Pat Chambers wants Dah to play at FGCU.” The conversation lasted about 10 minutes. After talking to Dah and Rudy… I texted Chambers… “You got Dahmir!”
“Send me his number…” Shit was done… I was very happy for Dah…
Few weeks later, I receive a call from Julian Dunkley. “Your man Pat Chambers is headed to IMG to see a kid, can you get him to take a hard look at Blaise Vespe?”
“Sure… I’ll do it right now.”
Ring… Ring… “What up Pat?”
“I’m headed to IMG to see a kid.”
“I know… While you’re there, I need you to take a long look at Blaise Vespe. Really athletic white kid that played for Carl at Neumann-Goretti. Runs and jumps extremely well, I hear he’s developed some perimeter skills down there at IMG.”
“You got it…”
A week or two goes by and Julian calls to tell me “Blaise committed to FGCU.”
“Yo man, he committed to Pat. Blaise and his Dad really like him.”
I hang up and call Chambers… “Yo… I didn’t know you offered Vespe.”
“Del… You told me to look at him, he’s your guy… I liked him… I offered him a scholarship.”
This is Pat Chambers…
Next up, Xavier Pina, from Deptford. “What’s up Pat? You gonna offer X?”
“I’m gonna go to the JUCO in Texas, evaluate him and take it from there.”
Shortly thereafter, Xavier posts “I’m blessed to receive an offer from FGCU.”
I call Xavier and his father… “Take that shit! I’m telling y’all… Take that shit!”
Chambers also stalked and nabbed Memphis transfer big Sam Onu from the Phelps School.
Today, Rahmir Barno, a consensus top 150 player from Imhotep Charter School committed to FGCU. Barno is fresh off a fantastic summer on the EYBL where he played for Team Final.
The region is well represented on the FGCU coaching staff as well. People that actually know Chambers really fuck with Chambers. For example, he re-recruited Chester’s Shep Garner and gave him an opportunity to begin his college coaching career at the D1 level. Kyle Griffin, who worked with Chambers at La Salle last year is also on his staff. To round out his staff, Chambers hired another one of his former players, ex-Roman Catholic head coach, Matt Griffin as an assistant.
FGCU will have 5 players and 4 coaches from the Greater Philadelphia region next year. The Eagles are now unofficial members of the Philadelphia City 7. The underground railroad is running in the other direction these days.
There are still a few guys that haven’t spoken to me since I publicly supported Chambers two years ago. Thing is… those guys don’t know Chambers and I guess I never really knew them.
PHILADELPHIA, PA — Soooo… I turn off City Avenue onto the bucolic campus of Friends’ Central High School. It’s about 7:30 pm on a Monday and the parking lot is packed. There is not a single available spot… Hundreds of cars packed like sardines… So many that it is obvious that the yellow lines are considered mere suggestions. Cars have ventured onto the manicured lawn.
I say to myself, maybe there’s some kind of orientation or something. They must welcoming new parents and students for the upcoming school year… This a LOT of people. After carefully perusing the lot three times, finally, I see a spot. It’s open… But there’s a sign that written in an Asian script. Chinese, Japanese, Korean? I’m not sure.
I have absolutely no idea what the sign says. It could say your car will be immediately towed for all I know. But, after scouring the lot for for more than 10 minutes, I’m anxious to get inside and so, I decide to take a chance.
I park and pray…
I take the brief stroll through the beautiful campus and finally reach the gym. I am warmly greeted at the door. After securing admission, I walk down the hall and there is Ahmad Nowell ’24 (Imhotep/Team Final), Robert Wright III ’24 (Neumann-Goretti/Team Final), Justin Edwards ’23 (Imhotep/Team Final) and Nasir Washington ’23 (West Philly). They are all wearing the same jersey.
Goooood Damn… Da fuck is goin’ on… that team is loaded…
Welcome to the Chosen League!
I ease into the gym… excuse me… excuse me… excuse me…
It’s packed… I am no longer wondering why all the cars were in the parking lot.
All these people knew what I knew… It was time for Chosen League basketball… Rahim Thompson is at it again…
Thompson has once again demonstrated his keen understanding of the nuances of summer basketball. Every year he masterfully schedules Chosen League events during periods when the kids are available and anxious to play a highly entertaining brand of basketball. Better than anyone else, Thompson deftly manages to avoid the never ending tug-of-wars over players that take place every summer.
Will the skill of masterful politicians like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Thompson consistently avoids the pot holes and pulls off the the most exciting and action packed summer basketball events.
Tonight was no exception… Some of the VERY BEST scholastic players in the region, were on the floor. Edwards, who recently committed to Kentucky, is pushing for the top spot in the national rankings. Nowell and Wright are consensus top 40 in the nation. Zion Stanford ’23 (West Catholic/K-Low) is being hotly pursued by Temple, St. Joseph’s and Boston College among others. His Burr teammate Adam “Budd” Clark is a consummate Philly PG that has attracted the attention of several D1programs. Washington and former Imhotep Panther, Naji Reed, are also legitimate D1 prospects.
Maaaaan listen… Rahim got the dudes in the house!
But wait… There’s more…
He also has THE DUDETTE! The TOP girl baller in the region, Hannah Hidalgo ’23 (Paul VI/Philly Rise) could easily play in the Boys division of the Chosen League. Truth be told, she would do a lot more than hold her own… She’s that good. So much so, that it’s somewhat difficult to assess her when she compete against female high school competition. Hidalgo, a key member of the 2022 USA Basketball Women’s U17 National Team, is an elite national and international talent.
The best girls… The best boys… In one gym, side by side.
Chosen League is where it’s at… The camaraderie and respect that were on display are unmatched locally. The Chosen League long ago ascended to the top of the summer basketball food chain in Philadelphia. The combination of magnificent basketball talent and a family friendly game atmosphere is irresistible to true Philly hoop heads.
For those of us of a certain age, you could close your eyes and think it was 1982 and you were on Broad Street in McGonigle Hall… But it’s the summer of 2022 and this is the new tradition. It’s the biggest and best game in town this time of year. I’m telling you… Make your way to Friends’ Central. But you’re probably gonna have to park on the Philly side of City Avenue.
If you have a problem on the Philly side, you can lodge a complaint with City Councilman Isaiah Thomas. He’ll be on the sideline trying to figure out a way to slow down teams with 7 or 8 Division 1 players. Good luck with than Councilman.
CAMDEN, NJ — The prestigious Black Cager Fall Classic will take place this October at two gymnasiums in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The previous five Fall Classic events ran from 2017 to 2021 at facilities located in the the Greater Philadelphia region. The event has attracted some of today’s top collegiate basketball players during their high school years, including Donta Scott (Maryland), Jay Heath (Georgetown), Ace Baldwin (VCU), Jalen Carey (Rhode Island), Hakim Hart (Maryland), Seth Lundy (Penn State), Eric Dixon (Villanova) and Rahsool Diggins (UMass).
The move to Allentown was facilitated by Jason Boggs and Marlon Thomas from the East Side Youth Center in conjunction with Toomey Anderson, Athletics and Activities Coordinator for ASD. The Fall Classic is one of the most eagerly anticipated pre-season scholastic showcase events on the East Coast.
“The Black Cager Fall Classic has evolved into one of the premier high school events of the season, and while the event continues to grow year over year, we realize there’s more talent to be celebrated in other parts of the region, especially in Lehigh County where the popularity of high school basketball is extraordinary,” said Jason Boggs, East Side Youth Center. “By bringing the event to Allentown, more players from Berks and Lehigh counties will be afforded the opportunity to showcase their skills on the Black Cager stage, while the event can continue to grow in new communities.”
The Fall Classic, entering its 6th year with a history of sold-out crowds, will continue to serve as a preseason hub for some of the top east coast teams and national talent. Games are slated for October 8-9.
The event has showcased several NBA players over the years, including 2022 NBA lottery pick, Jalen Duren, Denver Nuggets rookie Collin Gillespie and Jordan Hall who was recently signed by the San Antonio Spurs.
All Black Cager Fall Classic events will be played in accordance with health and safety regulations set forth by Lehigh County ordinances at the time of play.
About Black Cager Sports Black Cager Sports Media, established in 2013, is one of the premier sports media outlets on the Eastern seaboard. Black Cager is a Black-owned and operated blog website and digital media company headquartered in Camden, New Jersey that produces content on collegiate and scholastic sports and pop culture. Founded by Delgreco Wilson, it began as a sports blog in 2013 and began live-streaming sports talk shows and live games in 2018. Black Cager was instrumental in the founding of the Philadelphia Black Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017. The publishing division was launched in 2021 with publication of highly acclaimed WIRED DIFFERENTLY: My School Journey by Maryland basketball star, Donta Scott. The company has achieved consistent growth due to its unique, raw and engaging style of sports coverage.
For more information, please contact email@example.com
Everyday… there’s another one. Today it was UCLA… The storied Bruin program… The most venerated college basketball program in American history put it out there. UCLA wants Archbishop Wood’s Jalil Bethea, thus they offered him a basketball scholarship. Bethea has yet to see the inside of an 11th grade classroom and if he wants, he knows he can attend the same program that gave us Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Walt Hazzard, Andre McCarter, Bill Walton, Marques Johnson, Reggie Miller and Pooh Richardson.
Bethea is a smooth shooting guard who can flat out shoot the long ball. In one recent game at the Peach Jam, he dropped 33 points on only 13 shot attempts. While he shows some combo ability, he is already adept at spotting up or shooting off the dribble. He scores in bunches… He’s a decent ball handler who can create for himself and teammates. Bethea’s a BAD boy…
Coaches across the nation have taken notice. In addition to UCLA, VCU and Mississippi State have made their intentions know… They all want Bethea…
He’s not alone ANC’s Elmarko Jackson ’23 holds offers from Louisville, Ohio State, UCLA, Michigan, Indiana, Texas and Kansas.Neumann-Goretti’s Robert Wright III has been targeted by Georgetown, Louisville, Mississippi State and Penn St. Isaiah Wong and Wooga Poplar are at Miami. Taquan Woodley and Rahsool Diggins are at UMass. Jalen Warley, Naheem McCleod and Jeremiah Bembry are Florida State Seminoles. Jalen Duren spent a year at Memphis where he collected his first million or so in exchange for rebounding, blocking shots and dunking on every living soul in the American Athletic Conference. Imhotep’s Justin Edwards committed to, his dream school, Kentucky today.
These young men have made or will have to make a decision whether or not to leave the region and play at a program in a high major conference with all the bells, whistles and muthafuckin’ money.
How do we best understand the predicament these young men face and the ensuing decisions they make? Well… I submit that rational choice theory provides a set of tools that are useful in attempting to answer this question. From a rational choice perspective, we assume that the young men use rational calculations to make rational choices and achieve outcomes that are aligned with their own personal objectives. These results are also associated with maximizing an individual’s self-interest. Perceived playing time and NLI compensation are two areas of interest for most players. More playing time and money is understood to be better than less playing time and money. The college decision is understood as an outcome that provides the young men with the greatest benefit and satisfaction, given the limited options they had available.
Today, in 2022, it seems fairly obvious that these young men should fully weigh all their options prior to making a college destination decision. Many in the Philadelphia community routinely celebrate offers from colleges and universities hundreds and even thousands of miles away. Today, the young men are allowed and encouraged to take up to 10 official visits to see, touch, smell and hear what each program has to offer.
Really solid, sound and practical advice… Gather as much information as possible and weigh your options.
Things were very different just 3 short years ago. Back then, there were many in the Philadelphia community attempting to fight market forces. However, market forces are always a tough opponent and suffer very few defeats. The strategy these guys adopted in their fight was to artificially impose a bounded rationality on the players. At the core of their approach was the idea that players should make decisions that are rational, but within the artificially imposed limits of the information available to them and their mental capabilities.
They would determine what information was made available to the players. They wanted to establish informational boundaries. According to them, the players did not need to know Power 5 schools flew private planes exclusively. The young men did not need to know how much money players received at each school. They did not need to see the practice facilities, training rooms and weight rooms at these programs. No need to visit the apartments.
As one coach explained to me, the player should make a rational decision in his best interest, but “he don’t need to see all that shit… it will only confuse him.”
These men wanted to treat players like mushrooms… “Keep ’em in the dark and feed ’em shit.”
They don’t see the players as ‘rational self-interested agents’ seeking to optimize the happiness created by college selection decision. Instead, they see players as satisficers — as people who choose the option that will satisfy their needs and wants without exerting a lot of effort into making sure they’ve considering every single possibility.
I disagreed. I felt very strongly that adults should help youth gather as much information as possible and help them process the information. Players and parents I have encountered all want as much information as possible. Players and families routinely process information and make informed decisions.
Looking back, this disagreement resulted in some rigid lines being drawn in the sand. Black Cager Sports was ostracized in some local circles.
Another coach put it in the starkest possible terms, “If you don’t tell (Player 1) that coach A and Coach B are bad men, then you need to stay away from my program.”
I respected his directness. I have stayed away. I couldn’t say things I did not believe.
I took the kids on those visits… Perhaps a little before my time, I have always felt strongly that the young men absolutely need to see all that shit. So much so, that I often drove them there to take a close look. Coaches calling/texting kids everyday for months and sometimes even years deserve an opportunity to live or die based on their work.
I believe in markets… I’m an American… Let ’em sell their program…
Young basketball prospects and their parents should gather and process as much information as possible. They should know the full range of their options. They should lean on their knowledgeable advisors. They should compare academic programs, living arrangements, travel accommodations and of course financial compensation.
I think every program that wants the kids should have an opportunity to shoot their shot… Every coach should get a chance to make a pitch… Zooms make things a lot easier… I look around today and I see the young men weighing their options and making informed decisions.
The recruitment process is about what’s best for the player. They should gather as much information as possible and make informed decisions.
That was also the case in 2019, some of the locals just got off track for brief moment.
The collegiate sports landscape is much different than it was just a few years ago… UCLA and USC are in the Big 10… Huh? You gotta be kiddin’… Who woulda thunk it?
Some college football and basketball players are making north of $1,000,000 through NIL deals. Some have Lamborghini car deals… F150’s are commonplace…
These previously unthinkable changes have come at breakneck speed.
So much so that, many of the key stakeholders in college sports – coaches, administrators, presidents – have yet to fully grasp their significance. One can only imagine the challenges unsophisticated high school students and their parents are facing as they navigate this highly competitive and constantly shifting landscape. Surely, they could use some good practical advice.
University of Maryland star forward, Donta Scott, has witnessed these momentous shifts first hand. Scott and the other athletes that came in 2019 with him are the “new” college ballers.
Today’s price is not yesterday’s price… Things are very different…
These new ballers have access to pure free agency. If they don’t like their role in a college basketball program, they can enter free agency through the transfer portal. This process is frictionless, an email to the compliance officer or the athletic director and, within 48 hours or so, the player is a completely unfettered free agent eligible to play immediately on another campus.
This is completely new and unprecedented… “Old” ballers could not even begin to conceive of the level of freedom afforded to today’s players.
Having navigated the NCAA eligibility process and remained on-track to graduate this year, Scott has decided to share his story in a book titled Wired Differently: My School Journey. Drawing from the lessons in his book, he shared some practical and timeless advice to 50 or so middle school students at the St. Frances Academy basketball camp.
The core of Scott’s message was clear, “If you know you are struggling to understand, get some help.”
Scott explained that he used to grapple with why he learned differently than his peers. Scott told the youth, “The journey that I had on the way up before basketball was just rough… I wasn’t in a good educational placement and it was a lot of up and down moments with my family moving a lot and just a lot of negativity in the area I lived in. There was gun violence and some of my friends were hanging around the wrong crowd. I knew I needed help in school to reach my goals. So, I asked for help.”
Right before entering high school, Donta identified a strong supporting cast that would stand by his side. The key figures were his mother, Sandra Campbell, and his AAU basketball coach, Howard Hudson. “I got in a really good high school [Imhotep Charter] with a lot of people around me, a lot of good mentors and a lot of people who tried to help me with my school and academics.” said Scott.”
Scott gave all the excited campers an autographed copy of his book. Recent Maryland commit Jahnathan Lamothe ’23 came to the book talk in support of Scott’s appearance at St. Frances Academy. The highly regarded Lamothe will join another St. Frances alum Julian Reese on the Terrapin roster in 2023. A St. Frances to Maryland pipeline seems to be emerging.
Scott was excited to meet the kids and give them a copy of Wired Differently: My School Journey.Dr. Abby Baker, a renowned Philadelphia-based psychologist and assessment expert, notes that Scott’s book is a valuable resource that “helps parents and students understand and support their children’s learning issues and behaviors by providing concrete strategies to help children reach their full potential.”
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a sector of the U.S. Department of Education, 84 percent of Black students lack proficiency in mathematics and 85 percent of Black students lack proficiency in reading skills. Scott wants these under-performing kids to seek help.
While his message was center primarily on academic issues, it is very applicable to the myriad of issues related surrounding NIL deals and the transfer portal.
“If you know you are struggling to understand, get some help.”
The Star-Ledger (www.nj.com) is the largest New Jersey Daily Newspaper by circulation. As such, NJ.com serves as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general NJ populace. Despite claims of journalistic objectivity and impartiality, NJ.com’s sports columnists have not been calling balls and strikes fairly. This is especially observable when one examines recent coverage of the mighty Camden High School Panther basketball club.
One could argue, NJ.com’s function is to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate NJ sports fans with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger New Jersey society. Specifically, North Jersey basketball is good… South Jersey basketball is bad… In a world of concentrated basketball talent and major conflicts of interest between North Jersey and South Jersey, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda.
Over a 4 day period spanning 06/21 to 06/24 NJ.com rolled out three stories with headlines intended to disparage Camden High’s basketball program… We are witnessing an orchestrated smear campaign…
Kevin Armstrong and NJ.com have been more than up to the task of smearing the Camden program and the Wagner family. How else are they going to deal with Camden’s rapid ascension? Camden has lost on the court to exactly ONE (1) NJ opponent in 3 years. This was an upsetting turn of events for some… North Jersey had become accustomed to having an excess of basketball talent when compared to South Jersey. DJ Wagner, Aaron Bradshaw, Rasheer Fleming, Cornelius Robinson and Cian Medley have flipped the script. Camden has become the disruptive force on NJ’s scholastic basketball landscape.
The North Jersey bias and assumption of basketball superiority has had a multilevel effect on mass-media interests and choices. Powerful North Jersey stakeholders have been able to filter out the news fit to print, marginalize dissent, and allow the NJSIAA and dominant North Jersey private school programs to get their messages across to the NJ public at large.
Countering these bullshit narratives is the core of the Black Cager mission.
What do we know?
Let’s take a look at some of the “findings of the six-month investigation of the Camden High School basketball program conducted by Kevin Armstrong under the auspices of New Jersey Advance Media and NJ.com.
Armstrong uncovered the following:
1) Camden has “boarded-up houses” and “derelict brick edifices scheduled for demolition” within the city limits.
2) “Five of Camden’s top six scorers do not reside in the city of 73,000 people… and are the only out-of-district students in the school.”
3) Colleen Maguire, Executive Director of the NJ State Interscholastic Athletic Association, “said she will begin a review to determine whether rules have been broken.”
4) Dajuan Wagner was involved in a fight as a teenager 21 years ago.
5) William Wesley took Wagner to a strip club after he scored 100 points in a game, also 21 years ago.
6) Dajuan Wagner’s stepfather Leonard Paulk “was convicted and sentenced to life in prison” 18 years ago.
7) “In 2014, [Former Camden High Coach Rick Brunson] was accused of sexual abuse but was acquitted.”
9) John Mirenda, CEO of Greentree Mortgage is “listed as treasurer and financial director for Scholars Elite.”Right after Dajaun was drafted and signed a $7.4 million dollar rookie contract Greentree provided him with a $258,000 mortgage for a West Deptford house for his mother.
10) “On a Tuesday in May. Two schoolchildren dribbled until their yellow bus picked them up around 8 am. Soon after, Bradshaw walked out of Juanny’s house and Perkins followed him. They got in a red Chrysler, which Perkins drove to school.”
Six months… these are the findings of the “Special Report”
Major outlets like NJ.com dominate New Jersey media. Marginalization of South Jersey programs, like Camden High, results from deeply ingrained, yet unacknowledged, biases. The propaganda filters function so naturally that seasoned media news people like Kevin Armstrong, can convince themselves that they are operating with complete integrity and goodwill. In this way a hired “hitman” is able to convince himself that he chooses and interprets the news “objectively” and on the basis of professional news values.
Nonetheless, if one exercises even a modicum of discernment, it becomes obvious that the recent barrage of negative and defamatory headlines emanating from the North Jersey-based media outlet are part of a well conceived propaganda campaign. The raw material of the most recent high school basketball season, was passed through successive journalistic and editorial filters, leaving only the cleansed residue fit to print.
Armstrong and NJ.com made choices… Real consequential choices… Over the course of six long months, they attempted to fix the premises of discourse and interpretation, and define what was newsworthy in the first place.
Thus, readers were informed about fisticuffs and strip club excursions that took place while George W. Bush and Dick Cheyney ran the White House in 2002. Armstrong and NJ.com let readers know that upon becoming a multimillionaire 20 years ago, Dajuan Wagner bought a suburban home for his mother. This is what passes as relevant information in the NJ.com newsroom.
What don’t we know?
Within the limits of the constraints established when given the assignment in January, Armstrong would surely claim that his “special report” is objective. However, the fact remains that the North Jersey constraints are so powerful, and are built into the system in such a fundamental way, that alternative bases of news choices are hardly imaginable.
Armstrong looked at everything but the prevailing rules…
The readers of the special report resulting from a six-month investigation were never informed that according to “RULE AMENDMENTS” NJSIAA Bylaws, Article V [Eligibility of Athletes], Section 4(K) [Transfers]… The parents and coaches of the Camden High School Basketball players didn’t do a damn thing that was wrong…
Somehow, these Amendments modifying the governing rules and regulations were overlooked by the investigative “journalist” during the six months he spent on the Camden “case.” That, it should be noted, is a generous assessment of Armstrong’s work. A far more sinister account would assume that the “hitman” knew about these amendments and purposely chose to exclude them from the context in which he chose to discuss parental educational choices.
Maybe he will respond… It would be very interesting to know why Armstrong chose to discuss “boarded up buildings” and ancient arrests but not amendments to NJSIAA “transfer rules” while conducting a six-month investigation of transfers to Camden City schools…
Until they are considered and applied to the individual transfers to Camden City charter schools, these facts truly FUCK UP the carefully crafted narrative that Camden somehow “cheated.”
For the 2020-2021 season, each NJ student-athlete was permitted one “free transfer.” For that free transfer, the amendment clearly stated “there SHALL NOT be a requirement that the parent or guardian move with the student-athlete…”
As you can, see the transfer rules were relaxed considerably. Talented young people chose to take advantage of the temporary rule modifications and enroll in Camden Charter High Schools.
How do you highlight the fact that “Five of Camden’s top six scorers do not reside in the city of 73,000 people… and are the only out-of-district students in the school” while avoiding a discussion of the rule modifications that made some of these transfers possible and LEGAL?
One could convincingly contend that Armstrong and NJ.com did not set out in search of truth. The aim, as best I can tell, was to further inculcate NJ sports fans with the belief that North Jersey scholastic basketball is superior to that played in South Jersey. Moreover and more importantly, the goal was to reinforce a codes of behavior where it is unimaginable to leave North Jersey private schools to pursue an education in Camden, New Jersey.
Camden folk are smarter than Kevin Armstrong and NJ.com think they are… Camden High has a really, really good basketball team. The adults, the parents, coaches and administrators reviewed the rules closely and very carefully.
Apparently, they looked closer than the guy paid to spend six-months trying to besmirch and sully the good name of the Panther program.
Sports was a primary means of socialization for many Black boys coming of age in urban and suburban environments in the 1970s. I was blessed and privileged to live in Darby Township and be educated in the Southeast Delco School District. My parents moved from West Philly and enrolled me in Darby Township Elementary School for the 1971-1972 school year. Perfect timing… In the 2nd grade, I left Heston Elementary in West Philadelphia and was dropped into Darby Township, a nurturing, small-knit sports crazed small town of about 3,000 abutting the southwest border of Philadelphia.
It was largely through sports that young Black boys in Darby Township became familiar with and adapted themselves to the interpersonal relationships of their social world in Delaware County. Plainly stated, most of the time, we beat the shit down the legs of our county opponents, this was especially the case on the hardwood. Through athletic competition, Darby Township boys developed ideas about themselves and about those in the surrounding areas with whom they interacted. We understood that they had better facilities and more resources, we knew we had better players.
Often… Much better players…
Guys like the recently deceased Russell Hamm and Alton McCollough made guys like Geoff Arnold, David Crawford, Robert Carter, Carl Robinson and Roger Johnson believe that they could play against and beat best teams in Delaware County and beyond. Seriously… In the the mid to late 1970’s, Darby Township High School punched way above it’s weight class on Delaware County’s courts and fields.
So what… we were the last school in the region to play with metal fan shaped backboards and slightly bent rims… That was our shit… check rock…
Very rarely… However, did the opponents have better players… Almost never…
A year before we moved to Darby Township, my brother from another mother was the only athlete in Darby Township’s illustrious history to be named 1st-team All-Delco in both football and basketball. However, at that time, I didn’t have a clue about Chris Arnold… I didn’t know Darby Township existed… I hadn’t begun to pay attention to sports…
While Chris was crushing ’em, I was five years old in 1st grade at Heston Elementary in West Philly, rushing home to see Ultra Man and play with spinning tops. When I arrived in Darby Township a year later, Chris was gone, he was pursuing a CIAA Hall of Fame Football Career at Virginia State University.
Soon as I met my new next door neighbor Dean Jackson, sports became the center of my child hood existence. His older brother Jerome “Coke” Jackson was obsessed with basketball and his brother Darryl played football Darby Township. His father, Mr. Jack was a knowledgeable NFL and NBA fan. Dean and I constantly played or watched sports.
By the time I was in the 4th grade, I was fully embraced by the Darby Township village. By then, my brotherhood had expanded to include Dean and Geoff Arnold… My mother accepted him and his mother and father accepted me. That year, Chris was selected in the 10th round of the NFL draft by the Oakland Raiders. Chris played Chris played two years in the WFL from 1974 to 1975 with some very good Birmingham teams. His rookie year, his Birmingham Americans defeated the Florida Blazers 22-21 in what was the World Football League’s first and last championship game before 32,376 fans at Legion Field.
For boys in Darby Township… Pro football was a reality… why not? Chris made it.
Back at the High School in fall of 1972, Russell Hamm was an electrifying dual threat Quarterback for the Eagles. During an era when there was a widespread belief that Blacks were incapable of playing the position, Russell was the very best QB in Delaware County.
Unfortuantely, I missed my chance to watch him play. I was eight years old and otherwise occupied… I heard of “Gap”… Russell’s nickname… The older guys in the neighborhood said “Gap is a bad boy.” I heard ‘em, but truth being told, I was with Dean and we way more concerned about jumping the creek, popping wheelies from pole to pole, playing “ruff and tumble” and “Utah” than watching high school football… It just hadn’t clicked for us yet. At least not at the high school level.
At that point, my football fandom was limited to religiously watching Monday night football for the halftime highlights, narrated by Howard Cosell. Week after week, O.J. would run over, through and around NFL defenders in rain, sleet and snow. I missed Gap’s exploits… ABC and Cosell made sure I saw O.J.’s. I would soon begin to pay closer attention.
When Darby Township boys moved from DTE to Studevan Middle school for the 5th grade there was, generally speaking, a shift from a “play stage” to a “game stage.” As we grew older, the boys shifted from noncompetitive games to athletic contests (such as footraces and basketball games). In the stage of competitive games, the boys encountered stricter rules and regulations. We learned how to play under the guidance and direction of caring and concerned adults. A middle school teacher, Mr. Kirkland, formed an ultra competitive Studevan intramural league… We played in the cafeteria on portable 9 foot baskets with fan backboards…
We kept stats… Accurate stats… I’m sure that helped us with basic math…
The Darby Township summer league “pee wee” Division also gave us an opportunity play and witness real structured basketball games. The Colts football club developed young football talent. By the time you hit Studevan Middle School, sports started getting real in Darby Township.
It’s 1975, I’m in the 5th grade and Darby Township HS wins it’s 2nd State Basketball Championship in seven years. This gets my full attention…. wait a minute… the whole town is getting on buses to go to basketball games… the girls are paying extra attention to the players… the newspapers are covering the games… Summer League is POPPIN’!
Fuck it… I’m a basketball player… I’m in… I’m gonna play at Darby Township High School too, I’m gonna make All-Delco and I’m gonna win a State Championship… Watch…
That was the plan… 5th grade… Why not?
Geoff’s other brother Pete Arnold, Mike Terrell and Richard McCollough led the Eagles as they knocked off Elk Lake, Forest City, Northwest Area and Rockwood in the state playoffs to capture the Class A title.
That’s what we did in Darby Township.
It’s 1977… I’m in the 7th grade and my last year at Studevan Middle. That year Darby Township HS coudn’t be beaten on the basketball court… led by a magnificently skilled junior All-Delco center, Alton McCollough, the Eagles ran the table… won every regular season game… Just stompin’ folk left and right…
I’m 12 years old… Mike Gale, Bill Johnson, Dan Terrell and Fred Lee started alongside McCollough as undefeated Darby Township entered a playoff matchup matchup with Elk Lake. 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 free throw line in an Elk Lake win. Maaaaan… They got robbed… I couldn’t wait to get to high school.
The next year, I’m in the building… Darby Township High School… Finally… Here we go…
Soon as I get there, the varsity football team runs the table… undefeated… Champs…
Now I’m watching up close… Keep in mind, Darby Township HS only had about 400 students and 200 boys… We all knew each other and we all knew each other’s families. I think that helped make the competition fierce. If you were the best in Darby Township that truly meant something, you were one of the better players in Delaware County.
In 1977, Walter Payton ran for an NFL leading 1,852 yards that year. But from the perspective of a 12 year old Darby Township boy, Payton would have been a top 3 running back at Darby Township High School. We had Cardell Baskerville and Vincent Clark. The way I saw it, Payton would have to split time in the Eagle backfield. Baskerville was named the best high school football player in Delaware County. He was a physically imposing power runner with exceptional straight-line speed. Every time he touched the rock, there was a sense that he could take it to the house. I’m an 8th grader, watching him make one cut and go downhill, running through tackles and running over defensive backs. I don’t think I ever saw a defender successfully bring him down with an arm tackle. No shot… absolutely no shot… You had to physically confront Baskerville and very few high schoolers were up to that task.
Baskerville, Vincent Clark, Gary Gadsen and William McCollough were so good, that the 8th and 9th grade boys believed they were HIGH MAJOR high school stars. Baskerville and Clark were good enough to play at Penn State or Oklahoma.
We didn’t see anyone better than the guys from ’round the way… Honestly, it wasn’t really close.
We couldn’t wait for our turn to dominate, be named All-Delco and win state championships… As Darby Township boys, it was our birthright. We had no idea that we were the poor, little Black school…
Fuck U talkin’ bout… We beat the shit down the legs of everybody… across the board.
As the days became shorter and fall turned into winter, basketballs started bouncing in the gym. For the 1977-78 season, adjustments had to be made. Mike Gale and Billy Johnson were playing in college. The starting backcourt, Danny Terrell and Fred Lee, transferred out of Darby Township… they weren’t really from 2-5 anyway…
Only Alton remained from the previous team that trashed Delaware County going undefeated in the regular season… Alton was more than enough. His brother William “Blub” McCollough and Lee Taliaferro would replace the carpetbagging Terrell and Lee in the backcourt. Two sophomore forwards, Kevin Gale and Deric Loury and a senior wing, Mark Carter, would emerge to play key roles in the front court. Alton led the Eagles team on a steady march through the state playoffs, defeating Forest City, St. Clair and Northwest Area before falling to Father Geibel in the State Championship game.
Tough loss, but we figured we’d be back again real soon…
More importantly, college coaches were beginning to make their way 801 West Ashland Avenue… I’m 13 and I see Alton commit to Temple University. Alton introduces a generation of Darby Township boys to Big 5 basketball. He went on to have a strong career at Temple, scoring over 1,000 points and pulling down 673 rebounds.
It’s hard to convey what Alton’s accomplishments meant to the boys coming behind him at Darby Township High School.
Alton… Slim… from down the Center… from the projects… He made it…
His Owl teammates became regular fixtures down the Center Court next to the projects. Neal Robinson and Kevin Broadnax, Temple Owls… Down the Center… Playing with and against Darby Township boys… All the time.
College and college sports became a very real pathway for Darby Township boys like me…
Alton McCollough indelibly stamped that into the minds of young middle and junior high school boys from Darby Township. For that, we are eternally grateful.
Soon, flowers began to bloom in Conway Park and the track and field season got underway. It should be noted that we did not have neither a track nor a field at Darby Township High School. Our track athletes ran the halls of the school, the community streets and occasionally borrowed the track facilities of neighboring schools to hone their craft.
It’s not that Darby Township High School had poor track and field facilities… We had NO track and field facilities.
Despite this substantial obstacle, Darby Township found itself competing in the 1978 State Class AA Track Championship meet. No track… No field… No long jump pit… No nothing… Nonetheless, Darby Township expected to win…
How? Why? Make it make sense… How was Darby Township, a school with neither track nor field, in position to win a state track and field championship?
Darby Township won because our very best like athletes like Chris Arnold, Russell Hamm, Cardell Baskerville and Alton McCollough could compete nationally. That being the case, we were definitely competitive in all Delaware County, district and state matchups.
In track and field, Darby Township was the the best because we had Ward Crump and the other schools didn’t. They had the nice weight room facilities and modern rubber tracks, but Township had Crump. The Eagle’s finest sprinter Ward Crump and running back Vincent Clark would be featured in Sports Illustrated a couple months apart from one another. About Crump, they wrote “As a senior, in 1978 Crump became the first athlete to win four gold medals at the state Class AA track meet. He won the 100-yard dash in 9.7, the 220 in 21.8 and anchored the winning 400-meter and mile relay teams.”
I repeat… Darby Township had no track and no field…
What Darby Township had was a bunch of really fast dudes and a really respected coach guiding the way. Speaking to reporters about Crump, a year earlier, in May 1977, Darby Township Track and Field Coach Alonzo Covert said, ”The beautiful thing about Ward is that he takes it all in stride… Everybody else is going bananas and other kids may have a tendency to get over-inflated, but not Ward. And he never once complained about what we asked him to do.”
As a junior, Crump won the District 100-yard dash (10.01), with teammate Ed “Sputnik” Bishop second, then, took the 220-yard dash (23.05), with Bishop fourth.
Ok… I’m 12 and my neighbors are running 10 flat 100s…
Covert had debated putting Crump in the 440, but decided to let him run with the two relay teams (880 and mile) – and he helped both to victory. “In the district meet, you go with your best and give it your best shot.”
Covert said, ”My assistant and the people I know told me we had a shot (for the district title) but not too many others around the district figured we could do it.”
Why would they? Darby Township had no track and no field, it was the poor little Black school.
Media reports noted that Darby Township suffered an early setback when – Sylvester Blandford, one of the favorites in the 330-yard intermediate hurdles, was disqualified for running out of his lane. But Blandford, a standout junior, came back to take second place in the 120-yard high hurdles and helped both the 880 and mile relay teams to victory. Leon Stiles, who qualified in both the 440 and 880, was in the unseeded heat of the 440.
“I talked it over and everybody agreed we should put him in the half-mile,” Covert said. “So, I said fine, he’ll run the quarter. He drew the first lane, ran a 50.8 by himself and that was good enough to win it.” Stiles later came back to help DT’s mile relay” team get home a winner. Vincent Clark, a sophomore, also ran with both winning relay teams.
As you can see, my ol’ heads set the bar incredibly high.
The 1970s was the golden age of Darby Township sports. Chris Arnold jumped out and dominated in football, basketball and track. Russell Hamm emerged as an All-Delco dual threat QB about 40 years before his time. Cardell Baskerville was one of greatest running backs of his era. Alton McCollough dominated Delaware County basketball for two seasons. Ward Crump literally won a state track and field championship by himself.
All of them are now gone… My neighborhood heroes are no longer with us…
Their legacy lives on. They showed us Darby Township boys are good as and probably better than anyone else. They were our athletic shining princes exemplifying the Golden Era of Darby Township sports.
As a young boy, Donta Scott realized that he learned differently than his peers. Now, the University of Maryland basketball star is opening up about educational experiences and path to the University of Maryland and the Big 10 Conference in a book he authored, WIRED DIFFERENTLY: My School Journey — and he’s sharing his story with high school student-athletes through a book tour.
On Monday, Scott announced his six-event tour which begins in July. Each hour-long conversation promises to be candid, inspiring, and full of practical advice from one of the best players in the Big 10 Conference. Scott was one of the Terps’ best players last year, averaging 12.6 points and 6.2 rebounds a game. He’s expected to play a leading role as the UMD men’s basketball program transitions from the Mark Turgeon era to the beginning of the Kevin Willard era.
Scott was hit by a car as a toddler and hospitalized with a head injury that he believes has made academics an uphill climb for most of his life, and he was later diagnosed with a learning disorder. “I was late coming to things,” he said. “(With basketball) I started clicking and seeing the bigger picture.”
Scott wants the book to offer hope to young athletes who have learning disabilities and other academic struggles, and help them overcome the fear of asking for help. The youngest of nine, Scott is the first of his siblings to attend a four-year-college and wants to use his platform to offer concrete guidance on how to meet admission standards and qualify for scholarships as well be a role model for anyone who may not have one at home.
“Even if you don’t see it, there are kids who look up to you,” he said.
The book was written and published by Black Cager Press with Delgreco Wilson, a fixture of the Philadelphia basketball community who mentors students through the college recruiting process. A friend of Scott’s youth basketball coach, Wilson said Scott was often labeled a “bad kid” because his anger with schoolwork would boil over.
“Young Black guys struggle, and there’s a stigma attached to learning difficulty,” he said. “Instead of just saying, ‘I don’t understand,’ or ‘I need extra help,’ they act out. They are just trying to keep people off the fact they don’t know how to do the work.”
Scott was recruited by schools including Temple, Georgetown, Seton Hall and South Carolina, but it was his comfort with UMD’s academic support staff that made the difference, Wilson said. “He has absolutely just taken control over that aspect of his life,” he said. “Donta takes his time and learns. Once he grasps something, he really has got it.”
Scott acknowledges it took some time to find his groove in college, but an emphasis on scheduling and time management has made the difference.
The conversations on the book tour will be centered around important themes in WIRED DIFFERENTLY: My School Journey. Scott and Wilson have partnered with different high schools throughout the mid-Atlantic region to promote the book, which was published by Black Cager Press. (Student-athletes in attendance will get a copy of the book)
The book tour stops include:
1) St. Frances Academy (MD) – A perennial Baltimore Catholic League powerhouse and the alma mater of current Maryland forward Julian Reese and the home of Maryland commit Jahnathan Lamothe.
2) Imhotep Charter HS (PA) – A perennial Philadelphia Public powerhouse and the alma mater of Donta Scott. Imhotep is the home of of current Maryland target and ESPN Class of 2023 #4 prospect Justin Edwards and ESPN Class of 2024 #44 Ahmad Nowell.
3) National Christian Academy (MD) – A perennial PG County basketball powerhouse and the home of current Maryland target and ESPN Class of 2023 #42 prospect Isaiah Coleman.
4) Camden HS (NJ) – One of the top public high school basketball programs in the nation. Home of the current Class of 2023 ESPN #1, DJ Wagner and 2023 ESPN #20 Aaron Bradshaw.
5) West Catholic (PA) – The Philadelphia Catholic League runner-up in 2022. West Catholic’s roster features several young Division 1 basketball prospects.
6) Constitution HS (PA) – A perennial Philadelphia Public League power. Constitution consistently challenges for PIAA state championships and produces scholarship level prospects.
Colloquialisms survive for a reason. We all are familiar with words or phrase that are not formal or literary, typically, colloquialisms are employed in ordinary informal conversation. In the era of the transfer portal, it’s easy to convey meaning through use of colloquialisms. For example, with 500 D1 players left in the portal last year and another 800 currently parked there, the meaning behind the phrase “a bird in the hand is better than 2 in a bush” is easily grasped.
Still… the lesson is lost on so many…
Another, basketball specific, colloquialism has never been more apropos.
All ballers and hoopheads have heard it countless times…
“Bring your game not your name.”
Whether it’s made explicit or left implied, the sentiment underpinning the phrase is ALWAYS in place in Philly. The Philly Live 2022 Basketball Event at at Jefferson University (formerly Philadelphia University) in East Falls is no exception.
Apparently, the Roselle Catholic basketball program did not receive the memo.
When we last saw the Lions, North Carolina pledge Simeon Wilcher ’23 led the way with a team-high 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists in a victory over mighty Camden High as Roselle Catholic (29-2) won the final installment of New Jersey’s Tournament of Champions. The victory represented Roselle’s fourth title in four attempts, capturing the state’s highest honor previously in 2013, 2015 and 2018.
Since then, the top team in New Jersey, has added 6-7 Duke commit, Mackenzie Mgbako ’23. He is currently ranked 3rd in the 2023 class by ESPN. Roselle Catholic is loaded. Top notch matchups including Roselle are usually must see TV. Hence, a sizable contingent of coaches and hoopheads trekked to the Jefferson University campus in East Falls to witness Roselle Catholic take on Philly powers Roman Catholic and Imhotep.
Unfortunately, the Lions came down the Jersey turnpike and across the Ben Franklin Bridge shorthanded. The trip would not end well…
They came to Philly Live, to square up with the Cahillites and the Panthers without the 3rd and 10th ranked players in the nation.
Roselle Catholic brought their name and not their game.
They took two L’s as result.
The first game, however, was hard fought and competitive. Indeed, Roselle led for much of the contest. But in the end, they just couldn’t do anything to slow down Xzayvier Brown ’23. With Wilcher absent, The Lions had no one capable of matching Brown’s basketball I.Q. They were unable to control him in any way, shape or form. He did whatever he wanted and went where he wanted to go. As he has for 3 years, Brown demonstrated that he is a natural born leader and excels under pressure. Throughout the game, Brown took and made big shots. He’s used to the big stage, he’s been holding down the point guard spot for the Cahillites from the very first time walked through the door at Broad & Vine. He knows how to control the tempo of the game and displays some sneaky athleticism and good length that helps him blow by opponents and make athletic finishes. Brown is a very solid mid to high major point guard prospect.
I wish the future Tar Heel, Wilcher was there to offer some resistance… Without Wilcher, Roselle had no answer for Brown as he led Roman to a come from behind victory with scores of college coaches watching every play.
Nonetheless, Roselle Catholic nearly held off the Cahillites in an exciting evenly matched game. However, In their next game, the Lions paid an extremely high price and heavy tax for showing up shorthanded.
Nearly everyone in the building was focused on this matchup. I settled along the baseline, under the Roselle Catholic basket, next to my man Rudy Davis.
If this game were played in Boston, say, around 1966, Imhotep’s Coach for this game Kevin Stewart would have lit a nice big victory stogie when the ref tossed the ball in the air for the jump ball. That’s because, beginning to end, this was an ol’ fashioned extension cord whoopin’… welts and all…
Imhotep jumped out to a 12-3 lead… For Roselle, things went downhill from there.
Plainly stated, Imhotep beat the shit down the legs of the Roselle Catholic. If it were wrestling, both shoulders were pinned early and the ref could’ve counted, rather slowly, to 30.
When the score reached 12-3, I said to Rudy, “They are not going to score 25 points.”
At the other end, elated Imhotep players dunked and dunked and dunked. Justin Edwards, the magnificent senior leader of this incredibly talented Panther squad, exhibited the combination of skills, toughness and athleticism that will, surely, land him in the 2023 McDonald’s All-American game. When he was not scoring with absolute impunity, he was aggressively battering Lion field goal attempts off the backboard or walls.
If it were a boxing match, the score would be 120-108 on all cards.
As the game approached HALFTIME, the “mercy rule” was in effect. The lead was north of 30 and the clock never stopped running again.
If it were a football game, Imhotep would have been taking a knee for all four downs late in the first half.
Before the halftime buzzer sounded, former St. Joe’s point guard, Tasheed Carr ambled over to baseline where I was seated. Disappointed and frustrated, Sheed expressed his feelings about Roselle Catholic being there in name only.
That’s a problem in Philly… Especially, against Edwards, Nowell and the rest of the Panthers.
Sheed shouted, “What is this? Where is Wilcher and Mackenzie?”
“Who are these guys?”
“Get these guys outta here…”
Eliciting laughter from the locals, Sheed’s comments stung the small, but previously vocal, Roselle contingent seated to my right. I’m pretty sure that was the intention. It also had to sting the Roselle players on the floor as well. They were well within hearing distance.
Truth be told though, Sheed had a point… As Omar Little would say, “When you come at the King, you best not miss.”
Roselle didn’t even bring a full clip… They’re gonna have to run that back with Wilcher and Mgbako on the floor. It’s a must at this point… They HAVE to run that back… somewhere, somehow…
From the outset, players wearing Roselle Catholic uniforms were brought under immediate domination and control in all aspects of basketball by the Imhotep defense.
I think it was 45-12 when I left at the half… I asked Rudy to text me the final score. Before I arrived home, he hit me…
They HAVE to run that back… I wanna see Imhotep play a fully represented Roselle and Camden. I’m tryin’ to see sumthin…
A free and independent press is a necessary condition for the intellectual freedom and democracy that supposedly exists in the United States. In America, we supposedly have access to a wide range of competing news sources. In reality, we have a press that is far from free and unbiased. Control of mass media outlets is concentrated in a few privileged hands with clear agendas. How we perceive the world is largely determined by those who control the means of mass communication and their agendas can often be easily revealed with just a few scratches on the surface of their spurious arguments.
Take for example the recent intentional, premeditated effort to undermine the reputation, credibility, and character of the coaches, parents and players in the Camden High School basketball program. New Jersey Advance Media conducted a six-month investigation of the Panther high school basketball program. The finished product, a so-called “Special Report” was published on June 21 at 10:00 am with the following headline: “Camden celebrates a hoops rebirth. But critics wonder: Did they cheat their way to a championship?”Kevin Armstrong is the investigative reporter responsible for the malicious piece.
According NJ.com, Armstrong joined the NJ Advance Media staff in January. His arrival coincided with the onset of the six-month investigation. Seems like, maybe, he was hired specifically to perform the task of taking down Camden High basketball.
The special report reads like a smear campaign targeting Dajuan Wagner, the Wagner family, Camden school district administrators, basketball coaches, players and parents. Supposedly the free press matters because it uncovers the truth. Investigative journalists are trained to analyze and explain complicated issues. They play an important role. Without mass media outlets such as newspapers, radio shows, blogs, etc, the average American would have little to no knowledge of what’s going on around them. Most people lack the time and resources to investigate issues and stories that affect them and impact their communities. In theory, that’s where journalists come in.
So exactly what was the issue affecting New Jersey residents and impacting New Jersey communities that Armstrong spent six-months investigating?
After reading his piece several times, I have concluded that the core issue is as follows:
How has a HS basketball team hailing from what Armstrong describes as “a city of violent crimes and vacant lots after decades of factory abandonment, economic stagnation, corruption, white flight and arson” beat the shit the down the legs of NJ opponents for 3 straight years?
For some, the excellence and dominance Camden High has displayed on the hardwood the past three years is a problem that must be resolved.
Armstrong’s detailed descriptions of Camden City paint what can only be described as a decidedly dreary and gloomy picture. In his special report, he highlights “boarded-up houses” and “derelict brick edifices scheduled for demolition.” He seems to be preparing his readers for the question at the core of his report: Why would elite HS basketball players from six towns spread across five counties venture to Camden to play high school basketball for the Panthers?
For Armstrong, these decisions are not rational. Indeed, he goes so far as to openly question if these transfers were legal. It’s a two-fold assault… On one level, he’s arguing the parents are neglectful. By emphasizing the deteriorated state of some of Camden’s infrastructure, Armstrong implies parents are sacrificing their child’s educational development and, perhaps, placing their physical safety at risk. Moreover, and more importantly, he is unfairly labeling everyone associated with the meteoric rise of the Camden basketball program over the past three years a cheater.
So, exactly, how does he formulate his assertion that Camden cheated? Armstrong argues that “school officials seemingly made sports-driven enrollment decisions en route to the championship.” The “evidence” he provided included the fact that “five of Camden’s top six scorers do not reside in the city of 73,000 people… and are the only out-of-district students in the school.” Now, at first glance, these may appear to be unconventional and unique circumstances. But, the plain and simple fact is they are neither unconventional nor unique.
Indeed, the NJ Department of Education (NJDOE) sponsors an “Interdistrict Public School Choice Program.” According to the NJDOE website, “New Jersey’s Interdistrict Public School Choice Program enables approved choice districts to enroll K-12th grade students who do not reside within their districts without cost to their parents. The program increases educational opportunities for students and their families by providing students with school options outside of their district of residence and giving parents the power to select a school program that best serves their child’s individual needs.”
So… Every year, the state of New Jersey provides students with out of district school options and gives parents the power to select a school that best serves their child’s individual needs. That’s good stuff… Really good stuff… No one objects out of district placements unless the students happen to be elite Black basketball athletes and their parents happen to determine that Camden public schools best serve their child’s needs. If that happens… It’s a BIG fuckin’ deal… So much so that a huge media outlet, like NJ.com which had an average of 12.1 million unique monthly visitors consuming a total of 70 million page views per month in 2018, must identify and retain the services of a journalistic “hitman” like Kevin Armstrong and provide him with the resources necessary to conduct and exhaustive six-month investigation.
Fuck outta here…
According to the NJDOE, “The Public School Choice Program benefits students and parents, as well as the choice districts. Choice programs might have smaller class sizes, increased instructional time, and a school culture more conducive to a student’s success in school. Many choice districts have established specialized and innovative programs and courses that focus on areas such as the arts, math and technology, and are open to students who meet the eligibility requirements of the special programs. Opening enrollment to students outside the district can bring in more students interested in taking advantage of these special programs and courses, allowing both the programs and students to grow and flourish.”
I agree with the NJDOE. I am a staunch supporter of school choice… While the Camden School District is not part of the DOE program, I assume the logic underlying the decisions of the parents of young men on the Camden basketball program is the same as that underlying the decision of parents taking advantage of the school choice program.
However, Armstrong, NJ Advance Media and NJ.com made very different assumptions when assessing the decision-making of Camden basketball parents. Instead of assuming the out of district transfers “benefit [Camden basketball] students and parents, as well as choice districts” like the thousands of other students exercising similar options, Armstrong presented this information to Colleen Maguire, Executive Director of the NJ State Interscholastic Athletic Association. Upon receiving Armstrong’s report, Maguire “said she will begin a review to determine whether rules have been broken.”
Here comes the bullshit…
From my perspective, Armstrong appears to be a “hitman” hired to use the byzantine set of NJSIAA rules to have the Camden High State Championship vacated and prevent the Panthers from an almost inevitable repeat next year. Camden has lost exactly one (1) game to a New Jersey opponent over the past three years. As noted by Armstrong, they beat NJ public school opponents by an average of nearly 40 points per game.
They can’t take it anymore. They are tired of getting the shit beat down their legs.
They can’t do anything about it on the court. So, they have resorted to smear campaigns disguised as special reports and NJSIAA investigations.
Powerful voices have chimed in and publicly sullied the name and reputation of Camden’s administrators, players, coaches and parents. Armstrong cites a quote from former NJ governor and youth sports advocate Richard Codey where he emphatically states, “All the adults are cheating, everybody knows it and nobody seems to care.”
After getting the shit beat down his legs by 41 points (93-52) in the Group 2 state final, Central High coach Shawn McCray exclaimed, “Are there really rules? You find the loopholes and get it done. That’s too much work for me.”
Armed with a rather weak case in their effort to eliminate Camden from NJSIAA competition, the hitman mades a concerted effort to besmirch the reputation of Dajuan Wagner and the Wagner family. There can be no other logical reason for including a recap of fight Dajuan was involved in 21 years ago. It seems Armstrong wants his readers to internalize and adopt a perception of Dajuan as violent and menacing. This depiction is a far cry from the quiet, unassuming and gentle man known to everyone in Camden.
The hitman also chose to refer to a night 22 years ago when William Wesley took Wagner to a strip club after he scored 100 points in a game. Again, this incident took place 21 years ago. What is the relevance to the 2022 state champions? There is none… But, the goal is create a distorted perception about Dajuan and his family… Sucka shit… That’s what it’s called ’round my way.
Cognizant of the fact that many will remain ambivalent and some will view teenage fights and a visit to a strip club as a something akin to a right of passage, Armstrong decided to include references to the trial and conviction of Dajuan Wagner’s stepfather Leonard Paulk. The hitman noted that “Paulk was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.” What he failed to do, however, was to explain how the legal troubles of Wagner’s stepfather from 18 years ago are related to the 2022 Camden High School basketball team.
Paulk’s arrest and conviction are included as part of the hitman’s sustained effort to shape and reinforce a decidedly negative perception of Dajuan and the Wagner family… Period.
After attempting to painstakingly disparage Wagner and his family, the hitman set his sites on Rick Brunson, coach of the Panthers for the past three seasons. The hitman wrote that, “In 2014, [Brunson] was accused of sexual abuse but was acquitted.” Why… What purpose does the inclusion of this allegation serve? Judge James Booras ruled the state was “unable to meet the burden of proof required” to convict Brunson for the April 2014 incident. Furthermore, during the trial Brunson’s defense team questioned why the woman waited 10 days before contacting police and claimed the woman was seen on video laughing with Brunson after leaving the massage room.
He beat the case… In America, you are innocent til proven guilty. Right? Brunson is innocent… Period. This incident is a non-incident and is included as a salacious sidebar.
Nonetheless, the hitman understood that inclusion of this allegation could further his effort to characterize the Panthers as a lawless program.
Next up on the hitman’s list was Pervis Ellison. His “crime”? Pervis “fundraised aggressively” according to the hitman. The hitman also took quick shots at William Wesley and John Mirenda, CEO of Greentree Mortgage. Mirenda is called into question because he’s “listed as treasurer and financial director for Scholars Elite.” Why is that problematic for the hitman? Because right after Dajaun was drafted and signed a $7.4 million dollar rookie contract Greentree provided him with a $258,000 mortgage for a West Deptford house for his mother.
What da fuck does a 20 year old mortgage deal for an NBA lottery pick have to do with the 2021-2022 Camden HS basketball team?
Nothing… Absolutely nothing…
The hitman was just throwing a whole lotta shit on the wall and hoping some of it sticks.
Hitmen are noted for their persistence and Armstrong is no different. He carefully stalked his prey. He described what he witnessed while on a stakeout, “on a Tuesday in May. Two schoolchildren dribbled until their yellow bus picked them up around 8 am. Soon after, Bradshaw walked out of Juanny’s house and Perkins followed him. They got in a red Chrysler, which Perkins drove to school.”
Da’ fuck? The hitman’s staking out the homes of HS basketball players…
His six-month detail completed, the hitman submitted his special report, NJ.com published it.
The investigation has commenced…
Unable to beat ‘em on the court. Governor Codey and a few competing coaches have retained the services of NJ Advance Media and NJ.com to knock the mighty Camden Panther program out of contention. Armstrong’s defamatory piece was just the first public salvo in what will surely be a relentless campaign to prevent the Black kids from the poor, but exceedingly, proud city of Camden from beating the shit down the legs of their New Jersey opponents.
I can’t wait to see next season’s versions of the mighty Panthers…
U want Da High?
“Hell no” is apparently the response from some influential folk in NJ scholastic athletics.