Philly Pride & Triple Threat is Focused on Education

PPTT(L to R) Kamal Yard, Philly Pride & Triple Threat, Bill Gibson, Chief Enrollment Manager for Secondary Schools, Nick Regina, Deputy Secretary for Enrollment Management and Eric Worley, Philly Pride & Triple Threat

Philly Pride & Triple Threat (PPTT) is committed to serving youth in and around the Philadelphia area in three distinct arenas; Education, Athletics, and Life.

Educationally, members of the foundation receive the necessary academic incentives and support to assure success in the classroom. Athletically, members of the foundation compete on a well organized basketball team and are involved in other basketball related activities. The two main goals athletically are; development of fundamental skills and exposure to college coaches. From a Life standpoint, participants are coached and mentored by high character and quality individuals with the primary goal of instilling appropriate life lessons in the individual students.

Eric Worley and Kamal Yard are diligently working together to inspire promising inner city youth to be leaders, champions and student-athletes as well empowering them to be successful in high school, college and life.

Specifically, these gentlemen use basketball as a “hook” to engage young men and women in the program.  The larger, more important objective is to help Philadelphia area youth access high quality educational opportunities, internalize positive value systems and refine life skills that will prepare them for the day the ball stops bouncing.

Their track record is extremely strong.

Rysheed JordanRysheed Jordan, St. John’s University, Philly Pride & Triple Threat Alum

Well over 30 collegiate athletes have come through the program. St. John’s Rysheed Jordan and DePaul’s Brittany Hrynko are both projected to go in the 1st round of the NBA and WNBA draft respectively.  The PPTT program has developed some of Philadelphia’s most talented players in recent years.  Many have prospered in some of the most academically challenging independent and Catholic high schools in the area.  Recent Temple University commit Levan Alston (Haverford School), St. Joseph’s University commit Chris Clover (St. Joseph’s Prep), Tony Carr (Roman Catholic), Sean Lloyd (Mt. Zion Prep, MD), Josh Sharkey (Archbishop Carroll), and Lamar Stephens (Haverford School) have come through their ranks.  In each case, the young men were well-prepared for the rigorous academic programs they encountered.

Philly Pride & Triple Threat is, clearly, one the leading youth sports development programs in the Greater Philadelphia region.  They take the responsibility of preparing students very seriously.  Over the past couple of years, Philadelphia’s public schools have faced unprecedented budget problems and experienced massive teacher and counselor layoffs. An already under-served group of urban students have found themselves virtually abandoned.  As a result, the roles of Worley and Yard have evolved and expanded.

They have become de facto school counselors for a significant portion of the 500 or so students in their program. More and more, they have been asked to help guide more students from poor and middle-class families to the area’s top middle and high schools. By default, Philly Pride & Triple Threat has been providing students with the kind of personalized counseling that students from more affluent families tend to get from private counselors or their school-based guidance counselors in the suburbs. They have worked tirelessly to establish relationships with Independent and Catholic Schools in Philadelphia out of necessity.

Brittany HyrkroBrittany Hrynko, Depaul University, Philly Pride & Triple Threat Alum

As noted earlier, Philadelphia is the midst of an unprecedented series of budget cuts. The cuts were to the bone!! In 2013, the Philadelphia school system laid off 3,783 employees, including 676 teachers and 283 counselors. Along with teachers and counselors, those losing their jobs included 127 assistant principals and 1,202 aides who monitor the cafeteria and playgrounds. Most recently, The SDP raided the The existing Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Health and Welfare Fund, which has about $40 million built up in it. The future for Philadelphia’s public schools is very bleak.

Nonetheless, every day Yard and Worley work with students and parents hungry for good school placements.  They recognized that they needed to become much more knowledgeable about the application and financial aid process at tuition-based schools. Toward that end, they recently met with Nick Regina, Deputy Secretary for Enrollment Management and Bill Gibson, Chief Enrollment Manager for Secondary Schools for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Yard says, “Mr. Regina and Mr. Gibson made us feel that our students would be welcomed in Catholic schools. I learned some important things that I can’t wait to share with our families.”  He gained a better understanding of the processes in place within Catholic High Schools.  According to Yard, “The Catholic high schools are very real options for our kids, we’ll make every effort to link our parents with admissions staff in several Archdiocese schools.”

Worley, a former teacher and principal in Philadelphia’s public and charter schools was also excited. According to Worley, “Catholic high schools are accessible and affordable for many our kids. I know first hand, how frustrating it can be for parents seeking a better school placement for their child. I look forward to helping our students access and navigate the application process.”

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Yard and Worley also have a PPTT High School Assist Project, which will help sixth through eighth grade student-athletes succeed in middle school and leverage that success to gain admission to excellent college preparatory high schools. The HS Assist Project will offer academic instruction/tutoring, homework help, life skills development and test preparation for sixth through eighth graders.

The PPTT College Assist Project, will continue to provide high school student-athletes with the individual support necessary to be successful in high school and to prepare for college. College Assist Project support includes SAT and other test preparation, high school counseling, application/financial aid workshops, college visits and NCAA eligibility and recruiting guidance.

If you want see the fruits of Yard’s and Worley’s labor just peruse the rosters of Inter-Ac and Catholic High School teams or check your TV listings and find some Big East games, women or men.

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About Independence Mission Schools: An Open Letter to “Good” Parents

Ms. Christine Lemongelli teaches her class about grammer.

Hey Mom… How you doing Dad?… Grandmom and Grandpop I need to bend your ear… I just want a few minutes of your time. I know time is a precious commodity and you don’t have a lot to spare.  But I want to share some important information about urban educational opportunities for your children and grandchildren.  So while I know you’re busy, please take a few moments and consider what I’m about to say…

Every day you worry. You’re afraid. You’re always anxious. Will today be the day? Will the school call and inform you that something bad has happened to your child? You watch the news… You see the sexual assaults… You read about staff members being knocked unconscious… You see kids protesting just to keep basic amenities in place…

You have been diligent about instilling the proper values in your child. I know you don’t play games when it comes to raising your child.  Honesty, compliance with rules, sensitivity to the feelings of others, control over impulses and acceptance of responsibility for his/her behavior have been reinforced from the moment they entered this world. You are a good parent. You take it very seriously. It shows. Your child follows rules and meets behavioral expectations in the home, school and community on a consistent basis. He/she has never exhibited any illegal or antisocial behaviors. Your child is a good kid.  Yet, you worry.. all day, every day.

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More than anything else, you seek an educational setting where your child can focus on attaining and maintaining a level of academic performance that is commensurate with his/her intellectual ability. You understand the need for a positive and safe educational environment.  With that in place, your child will flourish.  However, finding (and affording) such a placement has been difficult.

In many ways, you feel trapped… You love the city. You live in West Philly… You live in North Philly… You live in South Philly… You live in Germantown… You live in Mount Airy… You work hard to make sure your kids are well-fed, well-clothed and the bills are paid.  However, sometimes it feels like your walking up a down escalator. Every time you get paid, you see where the City of Philadelphia has taken nearly 4% of your money. Every time you spend some money you see the City of Philadelphia has taken another 2% of your money, on top of the 6% that goes to the State of Pennsylvania.

It’s enough to make you want a drink or smoke… But they will get you at the register, yet again, if those are your vices… When you buy that glass of wine, cocktail or beer, the City of Philadelphia takes another 10% of your money. If you buy a pack of cigarettes, the City of Philadelphia takes another $2 of your hard earn funds. It feels like you can’t win…

It’s tough to make it in Philly. In fact, like most of your friends and neighbors you are working 1.5 or 2 two jobs just to make ends meet. I get it.

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More than anything else, you would like to find a safe high quality school setting for your child. You want to feel good about dropping your child off every day. For those 7 or 8 eight hours, you want to feel they are safe and sound.  You need a school that maintains a healthy balance between accomplishing academic goals and meeting your child’s social and emotional needs. Despite the high cost of living in Philadelphia such schools are very few and far between.

I may have found an answer to some your prayers.

Independence Mission Schools (IMS) is a non-profit organization managing a network of 15 Catholic elementary schools across the city of Philadelphia.  These schools, formerly run by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, are beacons of hope to their communities; they provide a high-quality, low-cost education to more than 4,700 children of all faiths from many of the City’s most under-served neighborhoods, delivering opportunity to these children and their families.

Some of you may already know about these shining lights of hope in the midst of our rapidly decaying urban educational system.  The Independence Mission Schools have seen an increase of approximately 1,000 students over the past 12 months.  So, clearly the word is slowly getting out amongst our folk.  But for the most part, they have relied on parents talking to other parents and alums sharing their positive experiences.  Word of mouth has been their most effect marketing strategy.

I’m a firm believer in “catching” people doing “good things.”  Positive stories deserve at least as much attention as the negative tales that bombard us on a daily basis.

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Over the past couple of years, local print and television media have focused their sights, almost exclusively, on school violence, cheating scandals, poor test scores crumbling facilities and an unprecedented budget crisis prompting massive teacher and counselor layoffs. Relying solely on “mainstream” media outlets, one gets the sense that there is no hope for urban education.  The prevailing narrative would have you believe that we’ve abandoned all hope for adequately educating low to moderate income inner-city Black and Brown kids.

Meanwhile, in neighborhoods all across the city Independence Mission Schools have been delivering high quality educational services to an overwhelmingly African-American, Latino and Asian cohort of high achieving and well behaved students.

Over the past week, I have visited four Independence Mission Schools. Al Cavalli, the President of IMS, invited me to visit schools in different parts of the city. I toured St. Rose of Lima near the Overbrook section, St. Martin de Porres in North Philly, Our Mother of Sorrows/St. Ignatius (OSSI) in West Philly and St. Thomas Aquinas in South Philly. At each school, the Principal set aside over two hours out of their busy schedules to provide me with a detailed background of the mission and workings of their respective schools.

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I was introduced to every teacher and every class in these schools. The students in these schools are representative of the neighborhoods in which they are located. St. Rose, St. Martin and OSSI are 99%-100% African-American. St. Vincent’s student body reflects the tremendous diversity prevailing in a reinvigorated South Philadelphia. There are Black, Vietnamese, Chinese, and White students learning together.

The children, without fail greeted me with welcoming smiles. In unison, each class said ”Good morning Mr. Wilson, welcome to St. Rose/St. Martin/OSSI or St. Thomas… God Bless you!” They were attentive and fully engaged in the lessons. Their eyes were bright. They were learning! The young boys, without fail, initiated the “pound hug” – a stylized version of the handshake, almost exclusively performed between two Black males, that consists of a combination of a handshake and one-armed hug. Needless to say, I was impressed. I respected these boys and they respected me.

The level of technology in these schools is a well-kept secret. Every class featured a state of the art “smart board.” Computers and IPads were everywhere.  In classroom after classroom I experienced the feeling of seeing the “light-bulb go on” in the minds of these young scholars. IMS is empowering educators and inspiring life-long learners. Vince Mazzio, Principal at St. Thomas kept reiterating his belief that he is preparing kids for “jobs that don’t exist yet.” We all know he is right. Rarely does one encounter urban educators that are actually “walking the walk” and not just “talking the talk.”

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IMS has created transformative urban learning environments, for today and tomorrow. Upon entering these schools, one immediately realizes they are truly different. We all know the extent to which most Philadelphia public schools are characterized by a persistent pattern of acting out, disruptive or negative attention seeking behaviors.

The social setting in Independence Mission Schools is conducive to learning. Of course, these schools are tuition-based. The cost is approximately $4,000 per year. According to Cavalli, the overwhelming majority of IMS families receive financial assistance. Moreover, payments are spread across 10 months. The typical family pays somewhere between $100-$300 per month.

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My question to you is: What is peace of mind worth? I know it’s tight.  It won’t be easy.  But, let’s keep it real… I see young Black boys walking to and from dysfunctional public schools wearing $150-$250 sneakers every day. I see young girls do the same with $200-$400 hair weaves flowing down their backs. What’s more important?  What truly matters? I guess what I’m asking is: Will it be consumption or investment?

You are a good parent. You care. I know how much your child’s future means to you.  I can help you find a good school for your child. Feel free to contact me via email at delgrecowilson@aol.com. I look forward to helping you lay the foundation for a bright educational future.

Remembering the “Gentle” Big Man: Lari Ketner

Lari and Bru

Lari Ketner and Bruiser Flint, Umass Basketball

Twenty years ago, Lari Ketner pumped in 20 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks to lead the Roman Catholic Cahillites to the Catholic League Championship in the historic Palestra on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. The 1993-94 Roman Catholic team is widely regraded as one of Philadelphia’s most talented scholastic teams over the past twenty-five years. According to LaSalle University legend, Donnie Carr, “Lari was the best big man I ever played with.”

Ketner served as an anchor in the paint for Roman Catholic teams that featured Donnie Carr, Arthur “Yah” Davis, Eugene Small, Tamir Harbin, R.C. Kehoe, Ronnie Conway, Will McKnight, Chris McNesby and John Atkinson. The following year, Roman would reach the final again. This time, Roman would lose to Archbishop Carroll. That loss in the Championship game ended a streak of 20 consecutive playoff victories.

Lari would go on to play at UMass where he was recruited by John Calipari who left after Ketner sat out his freshman year. Playing for Bruiser Flint, Lari frequently displayed astonishing athleticism for man standing 6’10” and weighing 280 lbs. After three solid seasons, he was drafted into the NBA where he played for three teams in two seasons.

Lari & AquariusLari and Aquarius Ketner

Earlier this month, Lari passed away after a long battle with a rare form of colon cancer. His passing has deeply impacted his Philadelphia family members and friends. Donnie Carr remembers Lari as “A great person. He was ‘too nice’ at times. Lari was truly a gentle soul and above all else he was a great friend.”

A celebration of Lari Ketner’s life will be held on November 2, 2014. All of his Philadelphia family members, friends, teammates and the entire Philadelphia basketball community will pay their respect to the “gentle” Big Man.

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A Tragedy in Song: “Hot Nigga” by Bobby Shmurda

Very insightful!!

M.B. Watson

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About a week ago, as I enjoyed abnormally slow Starbucks Wi-Fi, two young women walked up to my friends and me. They had a question that I did not expect until after it was asked. It was a cultural question composed of so many layers that I doubt they understood. I’m sure they failed to understand ONLY through lack of trying. That one question opened my already ponderous mind to a sea of worrisome thoughts. What was this awful question?

“Hey, can you guys teach us the Shmoney dance?”

Now, before (or after) you chuckle at how ridiculous my predicament was, understand that the song “Hot Nigga” had been on my mind for awhile. Not only because of how catchy it was or how infectious the featured Schmoney dance is. See, the song had plagued my thoughts because I couldn’t help but view it differently that most of the 8,000,000+…

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Sex, Black Male Athletes & The Responsibilities of Ol’ Heads

Tom Payne-page-0

Young fella… Let me holla at you for a minute…

I see what’s going on… She’s cute… not what you are used to… not “thick” like the girls from ’round the way… but cute nonetheless… Moreover, she’s always around… after practice… after dinner… outside study hall… in the lobby of the dorm. She always speaks first. She’s thirsty.  She’s trying real hard to get your attentions.  Seems like her wardrobe consists solely of yoga pants. You’ve noticed and she knows you’ve noticed. It’s just a matter of time ’til  y’all hook up.  Growing up you were never really interested in dating white girls, but DAMN it’s so many of them hanging around the team… You’re curious.. You’re thinking about it… Be careful young fella.

It’s a tough balancing act. You came to college to play ball first and foremost. Everything else is secondary. Academics? Yeah… the coaches talk about studying hard, but you (and everyone else for that matter) know their main concern is your development as a ball player. You are there to win games.  Being a scholarship athlete is a job.. A full-time job… You are evaluated based on your performance on the court and on the field. Besides, if you take the classes they’ve lined up for you and work with your academic advisers you’ll be fine. You will graduate in four years.

But what about the blonde in the yoga pants? Let’s call her Becky.  There’s no adviser to guide you through that situation. Young fella you are on your own.  You have to rely on your own judgement.  After a while, you decide to “hang out” with her. She has a BMW 3 series… nice… She has a credit card with what seems like no limit… Pizza? She’s got it… Wings? She’s got it… Movies? She’s got it… $50?… Yeah, she’s got that to…

Never, throughout all of your years in the “hood,” have you encountered a girl like Becky.  You have no frame of reference for this type of “relationship.” It really doesn’t make sense to you… She’s not your lady… She’s not your girlfriend… but… you like it. You really like it.  You’ve been conditioned to like it.  When they recruited you, they put about 4-5 girls just like her in front of you for the entire weekend. These girls looked like Becky and they were ready, willing and able… You smashed. It was all good. You committed… “Coach, I’m coming to BIG State!”

So now you’ve been on campus for a few weeks, it’s Friday and there’s no practice tomorrow. A rare day off. You can’t believe coach actually has nothing planned in the morning.  So you, two teammates and your boy from home decide to head over to a keg party at a nearby apartment complex. Soon as you enter the door, there she is… Becky… Y’all lock eyes… It’s a wrap, she’s by your side for the rest of the evening.  You playfully flirt.  You test the limits… How far will she let me go?  You grab her ass, she’s ok with that… You kiss her, she’s ok with that.

After a 7-8 drinks things start to get a little “loose.” Y’all decide to slip off to the bathroom. You close the door behind her and she gets on her knees. The effort is there, but the constant knocking at the door is really distracting. After 10 minutes or so y’all decide to go back to your room. This poses problems for your boys.  You’re the “man,” everyone knows you, not them.  They are just dudes at a party.  Your friends don’t like their chances of “hooking up” if you aren’t there with them.  Everybody decides to leave.  You, your crew and Becky head back to your dorm.

black-and-white-mike-jordan-sonMichael Jordan’s Son, Marcus and friends

Upon arriving back at the dorm, it’s on. You and Becky immediately disrobe and engage in consensual sex. Very good consensual sex. So good, your boys have been listening at the door the whole time. As a result, they are drunk and horny.  These guys are in a frenzied state of mind.  When you leave to clean yourself in the bathroom,  your teammate decides to enter the room.  We have just entered the danger zone. Young fella… Make no mistake… Lives are about to change forever.

Becky sees him taking off his pants and gets worried. She didn’t sign up for this.  She let’s him know she doesn’t want to have sex with him. He totally disregards her protestations.  He’s gonna take it.  He grabs her, places his forearm across her chest and pins her down on the bed. In a matter of seconds, Becky knows she has no options.  It’s total mismatch. He’s 6’4” and 245 lbs. She’s 5’3” and about 120.  Your boy… your buddy… your homie… forcefully spreads her legs and penetrates her vagina.  He’s not wearing a condom.   After a few minutes he lifts her up, flips her over and forces himself into her anus. Becky is crying.  Her spirit has literally left her frail body.  She has given up on physically resisting. She’s just hoping that this ordeal will soon come to an end. It doesn’t.

After wiping yourself down, you re-enter the room.  The other two guys are on your heels.  You see what is happening.  Your boy is ravaging Becky.  You know it’s not right. You know it’s foul. But you don’t take a stand.  You are now complicit. Unfortunately, you are “down” – legally and in a fraternal sense – with your boys… You’re weak and you allow Becky to be raped.  It unfolds right in your face.  Your boy from home forces his penis in her mouth while your teammate continues to assault her from the rear.  Your other teammate whips out his cell phone and starts recording the incident. Becky has become an inanimate object, she exists solely as a means of pleasuring the young men.  No one give any thought to her feelings, her pain, her humiliation.  Eventually, her crying becomes overbearing and y’all decide to cease. You throw her a towel, a rag and a hoodie. You and your homies retreat to the living area leaving her lying is a pool of sweat, tears and semen.

After a about 10 minutes, you ask her if she’s “alright.”  Becky’s eyes are open, but she is unresponsive.  It’s as if she comatose. She has just been subjected to a brutal felony gang rape.   But in a haze of ego and displaced loyalty to your friends, you convince yourself somehow, someway that she wanted it.   You have absolutely no idea how much trouble you are in.  Back in the living area, your boy has already forwarded the video and pics to several other friends.  Your dumb ass then shares it with other players on the team.

Jack Johnson-page-0(1)Becky is devastated.  She is bleeding.  All sorts of thoughts are running through her head. “Do I have a disease? Herpes? Aid? Am I pregnant?”  Blaming herself, she wonders what she could have done differently.  Yes, she wanted consensual sex with YOU.  The key words here are “with YOU”.  She didn’t want to be tossed around and shared by a group of strange men.  Unbeknownst to you and your friends, Becky has just endured life altering physical and psychological trauma.  Even though you don’t yet realize it, your athletic careers are already in jeopardy and your reputations will never recover.

Different versions of this episode are playing out on college campuses all across the country. Young Black college and professional athletes are literally “wildin’ out” on campuses and in hotels across the country. Of course, white athletes are wildin out too.  But, I’m not concerned with Ben Rothlisberger, Christian Peter and other white athletes right now.  Young fella, I am worried about you.  With alarming frequency, the media provides us with detailed accounts such as the one above.

Even casual fans can recognize that Black college and professional athletes such as yourself are increasingly involved in “alleged” sexual assaults. When not substantiated, these allegations, nonetheless, linger. They permanently stain the reputation and decrease the earning potential of guys like you. You do not want to be forever linked to the words “sexual assault” and “RAPE.”  If substantiated, athletes face immediate repercussions meted out by the criminal justice system and living their remaining years as a registered “sex offender.” Either way, the social and financial costs of sexual assaults are extremely high and should be avoided at all costs.

But how do you learn to deal with these situations? Who will demonstrate and model more appropriate ways to engage in sexual relationships with females, especially female “groupies”? I know you don’t really have a relationship with your father.  Who can help save you from yourself?

My contention here is that your Ol’ Heads have to do a better job preparing you for the complex and often confusing social circumstances awaiting elite basketball and football players on college campuses.  It ain’t enough to just deliver you to a Nike, under Arnour of Adidas school.  Ol’ Heads have to do more.  They are the ones in a position to make a difference.  Ol’ Heads have earned your respect and that of young Black males. They are youth coaches, high school coaches, AAU coaches, mentors, teachers or any older gentleman that demonstrates a willingness to impart knowledge.  Ol’ Heads know exactly how these scenarios can play out.

Young fella, if you truly don’t understand how you ended up arrested and charged with rape, your Ol’ Heads failed you.

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I’m gonna always try my best to give it you raw and uncut.  Young fella, I have to speak TRUTH. Take it however you want, but here it is.

Some things have been issues from the moment Black men set foot on Jamestown, Virginia in 1619.  Since then, their place in the fledgling society has been an issue of vital concern to dominant white males. Very early on it was decided that Black males would be subjugated and relegated to far less than second class status.  By 1640, at least one African had been declared a slave and formally ordered by the court “to serve his said master or his assigns for the time of his natural life here or elsewhere.” Your Ol’ Heads understand that Black male sexuality and the Black penis have been viewed as major threats to the established social order by successive generations of white Americans over the past 370 years. Your Ol’ heads know that Black male interactions with women, especially white women, throughout American history have been aggressively policed and excessively punished. Ol’ Heads tend to understand this instinctively even if they are not familiar with the ugly, horrific details of manner in which American society has interacted with Black male genitalia.

The problem, as I see it young fella, is that collegiate sports has become such an integral and important part of American culture that many Ol’ Heads think that these historically observable dynamics no longer apply to elite athletes such as yourself.  And, to certain extent, they are not wrong. They are just shortsighted.  As long as you are performing in sanctioned contests that generate approximately $900,000,000 annually for the NCAA, they will let a LOT of shit “slide.”  Up to and including sexual assaults…

However, when you are no longer eligible to play or become ineffective at toting the rock or dunking a ball… When you can no longer contribute to victories and earn $$$$ for BIG state, the reality of America’s long standing fear of Black sexuality will rear its’ ugly head.  You will quickly come to understand the extent to which America continues to be fearful of the Black penis.

Eddie Johnson-page-0Young fella… Let me give you a quick history lesson on this subject.  They have always reserved the “legal” right to cut your dick off for that same shit y’all did to Becky.  In 1769, Colonial Virginia established a law which “authorized the castration of any slave who attempted to have sex with a white woman,” but it had no similar provision when white men attempted or in fact ravished black women.  Young fella… pay attention…  In 1775, Colonial Georgia formally enacted the prohibition against teaching a slave to read or write. The penalty for violating this prohibition was set at fifteen pounds sterling. That fine was was 50% larger that that for willfully castrating a slave or cutting off a limb.  That means the penalty for cutting off your balls was only half as much as the fine for teaching you to read.  I know what you are thinking: “I would have escaped, I would have run off…” You had better make to freedom if you tried.  In Colonial South Carolina, a third attempt at escaping to freedom warranted castration.  This mysterious fascination with and simultaneous fear of Black penises was not limited to the South.  In Colonial Pennsylvania, all Black males, free and enslaved, found guilty of attempts to rape a white woman were castrated.  The macabre behavior continued, in extra-legal forms well after independence from England.

In his recent film, Quinten Tarantino captured the essence of the issue at hand when Django was hung naked upside down in a barn while he awaits castration. The white man longing to execute the job, Billy Crash, one of the overseers, delighted in the thought of cutting off Django balls.  But, young fella, I don’t have to rely on cinematic fiction to illustrate how this is part of America’s DNA.

Throughout American history, when Black males were lynched the murderers would routinely cut off their penises. Sometimes, Black dicks were kept as souvenirs in pickle jars. In other instances, they were shoved into the mouths of the victim as he dangled from a tree. Eighty years ago, on October 26, 1934 Claude Neal was lynched in Marianna, Florida for having an affair with Ms. Cannidy, a young white neighbor.

A member of the lynch mob described the gruesome episode in great detail:

“After taking the nigger to the woods about four miles from Greenwood, they cut off his penis. He was made to eat it. Then they cut off his testicles and made him eat them and say he liked it. Then they sliced his sides and stomach with knives and every now and then somebody would cut off a finger or toe. Red hot irons were used on the nigger to burn him from top to bottom.” From time to time during the torture a rope would be tied around Neal’s neck and he was pulled up over a limb and held there until he almost choked to death when he would be let down and the torture begin all over again. After several hours of this unspeakable torture, “they decided just to kill him.”

The mob of angry whites tied Neal to a rope at the rear of an automobile and dragged over the highway to the Cannidy home. Somewhere between 3000 and 7000 fervent whites from eleven southern states were excitedly waiting his arrival. When Neal’s corpse arrived, it was immediately mutilated by the onlookers. It was then taken back to Marianna, where it was hung to a tree in the courthouse square.  Young fella, pictures (see below) were taken of the mutilated body and hundreds of photographs were sold for fifty cents each. Neal’s fingers were sold as souvenirs.

Claude-Neal-1934-Marianna-FLClaude Neal, Marianna, Florida 1934

In some important ways, times have changed significantly.  Think about it young fella.  For the better part of four centuries, brutal lynchings and castrations accompanied even the slightest thought of engaging in sexual relations with white women.  Yet, today young Black men are engaging in sexual relations with white women on college campuses in Florida, Texas, South Carolina, Kentucky, others states throughout the former Confederacy and all across the country. Even when white women cry “rape” the cases are frequently made to go away.

By now Young fella… I know your asking: How does this make sense? What is going on? What changed?

Incredibly, at this historical juncture, it is apparent that many white police and University officials place more value on the alleged Black perpetrator’s athletic services than they do on the “honor” of the putative white female victims.  The investigative reports are there for all to see.

Most recently, mainstream media outlets like ESPN, the New York Times and the Washington Post reported that white males in positions of authority are  hindering investigations of Black males suspected of sexually assaulting white women.  University presidents, athletic directors and coaches are routinely siding with prominent young Black athletes and questioning the accounts of alleged victims.

Young fella, you wanna know what’s really going on?

In the immortal words of Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, Method Man and the rest of the legendary Wu-Tang Clan, “Cash Rules Everything Around Me” C.R.E.A.M./Get the money; dollar, dollar bill, y’all.  The fear of Black male sexuality still exists, but it has been overridden by naked greed.  Elite collegiate athletes generate huge sums of money for their respective institutions.

Young fella , as soon as you are no longer a substantial source of revenue, the fear will become readily apparent.

Your Ol’ Heads understand this innate fear. Unfortunately, truth be told, just like the white males cashing in at the colleges, a lot of Ol’ Heads have been blinded by greed.  Hoping to cash in if you make it, many Ol’ Heads are not willing to impose behavioral expectations on guys like you.  They are afraid of being cast out of your inner circle.  They are worried that you will make it to the NFL or NBA and they won’t be around to share in your success and reap financial rewards.

In short, the game is fucked up!!

Fearful of losing access, Ol’ Heads fail to provide guidance for dealing with these situations.  You have never been subjected to logical consequences for your negative behaviors.  As a result, you have no idea how the larger society views these types of sexual escapades. Because you can ball, people have been letting you get away with all types of transgressions since you were 10 or 11 years old.  Young fella you have been socialized to believe you are above the rest of society.  You are part of a generation of gladiators incapable of consistently exhibiting socially appropriate behaviors in all settings.

Mike Tyson-page-0Far too many of today’s Ol’ Heads view their role as making problems go away. In the past, Ol’ Heads prepared youngbucks to deal with a complicated, confusing and discriminatory society. These days, Ol’ Heads just say, “Don’t worry ‘bout it, I’ll fix it.”

That is extremely unfortunate.  Your generation is paying a high price for this.  More than anyone else, Ol’ Heads are in a position to spell out the truth.  Ol’ Heads know their youngbucks. They know if y’all are capable of assaulting or raping women. They have spent countless hours in cars, gyms and classrooms with youngbucks. In many instances, they have diffused sensitive situations involving inappropriate behaviors with girls and young women.  The responsibilities of Ol’ Heads are much deeper than the responsibility of college coaches, given the unique relationships and access that Ol’ Heads enjoy.

Reuben Patterson-page-0Ol’ Heads also understand the dynamics of race as they have historically applied to Black athletes.  From 1905 through the early 1970’s, major NCAA college basketball and football programs fielded teams that were predominantly white.  In the south, “Affirmative Action” was firmly entrenched in the recruitment process.  Participation in major college athletics was exclusively (100%) the preserve of white males for these seven decades. Highly skilled and supremely gifted Black athletes were barred from participation and lesser white athletes were awarded scholarships.

After explicitly denying Black males an opportunity participate for seven decades, the pendulum has swung entirely in the other direction.  One watching two top SEC teams on television today could easily envision the same game taking place between Grambling and Southern in the mid 1960’s. Outside an occasional center or quarterback, dominant college teams are predominantly African-American.

The money has really changed things young fella… The rise of the Black athlete and the accompanying exponential growth in revenues has led us a point where many white fans, boosters, coaches, administrators and even law enforcement officials value winning college athletic contests (and the generating millions of dollars) more than they fear Black penises.

But… youngfella… please… please… Don’t be fooled, it’s all about the money.

Let’s look at the investigation of a rape allegation against the reigning Heisman winner and quarterback of the national champion Florida State football team.  This incident and the ensuing actions on the part of authority figures provides a clear picture of just how far the pendulum has swung.

Darren Sharper-page-0On Jan. 10, 2013, a female student alleged that Jameis Winston has raped her about a month earlier and reported him to the Tallahassee police.  According to a statement released by the university, senior athletic department officials met with Mr. Winston’s lawyer, Mr. Jansen, within days of his identification as a suspect and quickly concluded that “there were no grounds for further action.” The accuser’s former lawyer, Patricia A. Carroll, said the department did not contact her at the time to get her client’s side of the story.

What the fuck is up with that?  Fifty years ago a mob would have tried to drag Winston out of his home and hang him up on a tree a few feet from the courthouse steps.

Young fella… If we remember what Wu-Tang tells us, that “cash rules everything around me” then things start to make sense.  On the field, Winston is a dynamic force and a dominant leader. Florida State has yet to lose a football game in the in year and a half he has been the starting quarterback. Wins translate into dollars. County officials estimate that home games generate anywhere from $1.5 million to $10 million into the local economy, depending on the quality of the opponent.  Last year Florida State reported a football profit of $20 million, which covered much of the expenses for other sports teams while also helping the athletic department contribute $2.6 million back to academic programming on top of athletic scholarships.

The New york Times has reported that the police investigator who handled the case, Scott Angulo, “has done private security work for the Seminole Boosters, a nonprofit organization, with nearly $150 million in assets, that is the primary financier of Florida State athletics, according to records and a lawyer for the boosters.”

As long as he has eligibility left, FSU and the authorities in Tallahassee will continue to let a LOT of shit slide.  Winston as of October 14, 2014 is 19-0 as the starting QB.  He also has a Heisman trophy and a National Championship in hand.  You… young fella… you ain’t Jameis Winston.

Act like you got some sense!!

Banana In The Tailpipe: PA’s New Graduation Requirements

If you are of certain age, say 40+, you remember a time when Eddie Murphy was “Eddie Murphy.”  At the height of his stardom, Eddie delivered comedic tour de forces in rapid succession. You know you remember staying in the house just to see which characters he would bring to life on Saturday Night Live.  Buckwheat and Gumby were my personal favorites.  His ascent was phenomenal.  Eddie’s stand-up comedy films were blockbusters of the highest magnitude. Like me, you remember and prefer Eddie before he started talking to animals and wearing fat suits in PG rated films. You remember the profane rated R Eddie.  Perhaps, Eddie’s most lasting contribution to popular culture came in one of the most memorable scenes of the original “Beverly Hills Cop.”  Thanks to Eddie, everyone knows that some bull shit is about to go down when you are told “don’t fall for the banana in the tailpipe.”

banana_tailpipe_1785

Well Black Philadelphians, I am emphatically warning you that Governor Corbett and the Department of Education are dangling bananas in close proximity to your tailpipe.  Here, I will do my very best to keep you from being caught off-guard like Sergeant Taggart and Lieutenant Bogomil in Beverly Hills Cop. Those guys didn’t see Eddie (Detective Axel Foley) sneak behind their car and placed bananas in their tailpipe to choke the engine and prevent them from following him.  I, however, see Governor Corbett and his band of DOE bureaucrats kneeling, bananas in hand, behind tens of thousands of cars in Philadelphia, Chester, Reading, Pittsburg, Lancaster and other urban areas across the state.

Don’t fall for the banana in the tailpipe!!

All you have to do is take your eyes off Jay Z and Beyonce for a moment and pay attention. For just a few moments let’s ignore the trails and tribulations of Benzino, Stevie J and Joseline.  Put down the remote, you can see Olivia Pope on DVR some other time.  I wanna show you something.

Here it is… Here comes the Bull Shit… this is the banana they are placing in your tailpipe… It can be seen on the PA DOE website:

“The Commonwealth’s graduation requirements will help guarantee that a Pennsylvania diploma reflects the skills and knowledge graduating students need to be successful in college and the workplace. These requirements will allow districts to ensure students are meeting state standards.”

At first glance, this appears to be well intentioned statement.  One might even think they want to help Pennsylvania’s public school students. After all, the requirements “help guarantee” that PA diplomas mean something. Moreover, the implementation of these requirements seems to be a benevolent act. It “allows” districts to meet state standards. What can be wrong with that? It sounds good… really good.

Ok… Let’s go… However, when you try to start your car, it putters, backfires violently and stalls leaving you stranded because you fell for the banana in the tailpipe.

Let’s look closely at the “new” PA High School Graduation Requirements for a Student Graduating in (or after) 2017…

Of particular importance is the following requirement:

“Students WILL be required to demonstrate proficiency in each of the content areas listed below by passing Keystone Exam, an Advanced Placement (AP) Exam, an International Baccalaureate (IB) Exam, or a local exam in the related content area. If necessary, your LEA must provide supplemental instruction until proficiency is demonstrated or criteria are met for project-based assessment participation.”

The chart below spells out the required exams over the years spanning 2017-2020. For present purposes, I will limit the discussion to the Algebra 1 and the literature requirement. Beginning in 2017, PA HS students will have to demonstrate “proficiency” in those two subjects as well as biology. In 2019 English Composition exams become mandatory. The following year Civic & Government will be added. In order to graduate, students will have to demonstrate proficiency in these areas. According to Webster, proficiency is defined as a high degree of competence or skill: expertise. Of course, we all WANT Philadelphia’s high school graduate to exhibit a high degree of competence in these academic subjects.

PSSA test schedule-page-0

The problem is the long-standing and persistent fact that the overwhelming majority of Blacks in Philadelphia’s dysfunctional public schools have absolutely no shot at meeting these requirements.  Historically, one of the most effective ways of discriminating against Black Americans has been mandating tests that white Americans knew they could not pass.

Some Jim Crow laws, like Pennsylvania’s onerous graduation requirements, did not specify race.  Nonetheless, they were written and applied in ways that very effectively discriminated against Blacks.  For example, many racist states, counties and cities used so-called “literacy tests” administered with informal loopholes and trick questions to bar nearly all blacks from exercising their right to vote.  The appeal of this tactic is easy to understand from a white supremacist perspective.  Consider for a moment that more than 130,000 Blacks were register to vote in Louisiana in 1896. Eight years later in 1904, after the implementation of  literacy tests only 1,342 Blacks remained on the voter rolls.  Nearly 99% of Blacks were ineligible to vote because they “failed” the so-called literacy tests.

Jim Crow is reemerging.  Black public school students will have an extremely difficult time graduating under these requirements.  Most won’t make it.  More importantly, Governor Corbett, the Secretary of Education and everyone in the Department of Education know this is the case.  For Black students, graduating from Philadelphia public high schools, beginning in 2017 will be damn near as hard as it was for Blacks to vote in the deep South in 1904.  Truth be told, only a small percentage of Philadelphia’s Black students can meet the”new” graduation requirements.

Manufacturing a generation of “non-graduates” is the true goal of the PA DOE’s policy shift.

Every year, the DOE administers standardized tests. According to the DOE these tests “measure how well students have achieved in reading, mathematics, science and writing according to Pennsylvania’s world-class academic standards. By using these standards, educators, parents and administrators can evaluate their students’ strengths and weaknesses to increase students’ achievement scores.”

While we have considered the dictionary definition of “proficiency,” we need a clear understanding of what the the PA DOE means by “proficient.” Remember, in order to graduate from PA high schools, students MUST demonstrate proficiency on the state tests.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Education has identified four levels of performance:

The Advanced Level reflects superior academic performance. Advanced work indicates an in-depth understanding and exemplary display of the skills included in the Assessment Anchors.

The Proficient Level reflects satisfactory academic performance. Proficient work indicates a solid understanding and adequate display of the skills included in the Assessment Anchors.

The Basic Level reflects marginal academic performance. Basic work indicates a partial understanding and limited display of the skills included in the Assessment Anchors. This work is approaching but not reaching satisfactory performance. There is a need for additional instructional opportunities and/or increased student academic commitment to achieve the Proficient Level.

The Below Basic Level reflects inadequate academic performance. Below Basic work indicates little understanding and minimal display of the skills included in the Assessment Anchors. There is a major need for additional instructional opportunities and/or increased student academic commitment to achieve the Proficient Level.

By combining the percentages of Black students scoring Advanced and Proficient, we can get a clear picture of how many students would have graduated in recent years if the 2017 standards were already in place. Put another way, the most recent test results serve as a very good indicator of what is likely to happen in 2017 and beyond. Let’s be clear… Governor Corbett and the supporters of the new graduation requirements already know what percentage of Black students are “proficient” in academic subject areas.

Let’s take a look at the Math scores. At the top, Philadelphia’s public schools are very impressive. At Masterman HS, 97.9% of the Black students are proficient in math. Black Central HS students also performed very well with 93.8% of the students demonstrating proficiency. However, is must be noted that these schools have always been the highest performing and toughest to gain admission to in the School District of Philadelphia.

PSSA - Math-page-0

In reading, Black Central students were the top performers with 97.2% of the students demonstrating proficiency. Masterman was next, coming in at 96.7%. They were followed by Black Girard Academic Music Program and Carver Engineering & Science students at 95.3% and 90.2% respectively.  Clearly, Black students at these exclusive “magnet” schools are doing well.

Student performance levels are very important to PA superintendents and principals in the district. That is how the “effectiveness” of administrators is measured. There are consequences when students don’t perform well.

So, exactly what happens, under the “new” graduation requirements, when students cannot pass or demonstrate proficiency? According to the DOE, “Waivers to Commonwealth graduation requirements will be granted by the Secretary of Education on a case-by-case basis with determinations communicated to the LEA no later than 10 days prior to graduation.” This means that some bureaucrat in Harrisburg will determine if non-proficient students can graduate 2 weeks before the graduation date.

People…. The car is sputtering badly at this point… you are barely able to get the engine to turn over much less accelerate into traffic…. The banana is in the tailpipe….

Let’s consider a few real world cases. At Sayre HS in West Philadelphia, only 4.8% of the Black students demonstrated proficiency in Math. That means 95.2% “failed” or were non-proficient. Over 100 Black students took the exam, so that means the DOE would have to consider 97 or 98 waivers on a “case-by-case basis” from Sayre alone. That’s assuming the highly competent and thorough SDP administrators submit these waiver requests to the DOE in a timely manner.

At John Bartram HS, only 8% of the 187 Blacks tested at proficient levels. That means the DOE would have to consider another 172 waivers on a “case-by-case basis.” Only 9.2% of Strawberry Mansion’s students were proficient, this school would generate over 60 waiver requests. Universal Audenreid students came in at 9.7%, out of 124 Black students, 112 would need waivers from the DOE to graduate. Over 190 Overbrook HS students would need waivers to graduate. Is the picture becoming clearer?

You’re beginning to realize your car simply won’t run… The banana is in the tailpipe. You ain’t goin nowhere… Axle Foley is laughing at you as he drives away.

Now, here’s where they say fuck you Black Philadelphia.

According to the PA DOE, “Chief School Administrators requesting waivers for more than 10% of a graduating class must also submit for the Secretary’s approval a written improvement plan enhancing instruction, curriculum, and supplemental services in alignment to the Keystone Exams.” In Math, only Masterman and Central would NOT have to submit “improvement plans.” The vertical vertical black line represents the 90% proficient threshold.

PSSA - Reading-page-0
Virtually every principal might as well start writing the improvement plan right now. The data for reading is not much better. Only four schools would NOT have to write plans for “enhancing instruction, curriculum, and supplemental services.”

Here’s the question: Who is going to pay for enhancing instruction, curriculum, and supplemental services? Look at the charts. According to DOE criteria, all but 2 to maybe 4 Philadelphia public high schools require these interventions. Where will the funding come from?  This is yet another UNFUNDED mandate thrust upon districts already being choked financially.

Let’s keep it 100, as the kids say. Philadelphia is the midst of an unprecedented series of budget cuts. In 2013, the Philadelphia school system laid off 3,783 employees, including 676 teachers and 283 counselors. Along with teachers and counselors, those losing their jobs included 127 assistant principals and 1,202 aides who monitor the cafeteria and playgrounds. Most recently, The SDP raided the The existing Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Health and Welfare Fund, which has about $40 million built up in it. There ain’t enough cigarette smokers in Philadelphia to finance the massive levels of intervention that will be required under the graduation requirements pushed through by Governor Corbett’s DOE.

Fuck you Black Philadelphia…

We must stop pretending. Only about 28% of Philadelphia’s Black males were graduating in four years anyway. These new graduation requirements will make it much, much tougher to maintain that abysmal graduation rate. It will surely drop significantly.  Governor Corbett knows this. Remember, he’s the one that put the banana is your tailpipe.

The forecast is crystal clear. Uneducated and undereducated young Black men and women will inevitably dibble and dabble in black market economic pursuits. Even those that remain committed and engaged in the educational process for 13 years (K-12) will emerge with Certificates of Attendance, not diplomas. How will employers, college admissions offices, trade schools and trade unions value those Certificates? They will certainly be worth significantly less than traditional diplomas.

Black Boy

Corbett and his cronies are literally betting that young Black males will resort to criminal activity to survive.

He foresees a need for additional prison beds in and around Philadelphia. Pennsylvania is spending $400 million to construct two new prisons at the SCI-Graterford site in Montgomery County after slashing nearly $1 billion in public education funding. The funds are in addition to the $1.8 billion corrections budget signed by Republican Governor Tom Corbett, an increase of $208,000 from last year (capital projects are counted separately).

Corbett is making room for 1,000 new prisoners at Graterford. This $400 million is an investment in “public housing” for the undereducated Black males currently muddling through Philadelphia’s woefully inadequate public schools. The two newly constructed prisons will replace the current Graterford, which now houses just more than 3,000 inmates. The new Phoenix prisons will be 2,000 inmates each.  Corbett’s Department of Corrections will transition the current inmate population to the new prison, which will leave us with an additional approximately 1,000 inmate beds.

Those beds will inevitably be filled by those who fell for the old banana in the tailpipe trick.

NJ Playaz, Team Final and WE R1: AAU Done Right

Steve Kerr-page-0

Is Steve Kerr correct?  Has the process of becoming a better team basketball player “become completely lost” within the now dominant world of AAU basketball?  Kerr’s sentiments have been echoed by many within the basketball hierarchy.  Detroit Piston’s Head Coach, Stan Van Gundy says, “[AAU] is a bad system for developing players… They aren’t learning to handle the ball, they aren’t learning to make plays against pressure. The emphasis with our high-school players is to get exposure and play as many games as you can and show everybody how great you are.”

The deeply held pessimism is enough to make one wonder if there are any redeeming aspects of AAU/grassroots basketball.  Nonetheless, any knowledgeable basketball person will tell you AAU/grassroots circuits (NIKE, Under Armour and Adidas) have superseded high school in importance for aspiring collegiate and professional players.  Hence, parents face a quandary, do they forgo the most significant platform in terms of exposure and high level competition because of the concerns expressed by coaches like Kerr and Van Gundy?  Or, do they try to identify AAU programs doing the things the “right” way?  I’m going to assume that virtually every parent will choose the latter course of action.

This begs the question:  What does AAU/grassroots basketball look like when it’s done right? Of course, first and foremost the program must be competitive.  Of course, a good AAU program has to win tournaments.  Kerr complains that winning is devalued.  He significantly overstates his case.  Winning matters and it matter a lot.  No one wants to play for a program that get’s smoked game after game. Nobody wants to be on the wrong end of 20, 30 even 40 point blow outs in front of ACC, Big East, Big 10, SEC and A10 coaches. Good AAU programs win games. Some of the very best AAU programs are in the mid-Atlantic region. NJ Playaz, Team Final and WE R1 are doing AAU/Grassroots basketball the right way. They win and their players consistently go on to play at next level.

These are grassroots organizations with well-established support structures and developmental programs that have improved the quality play among their participants. It should be noted that high quality programs enhance the athletic, educational, and social development of the student-athletes. It can’t be all about winning AAU games and tournaments. But, make no mistake these programs win a lot of AAU games and tournaments.

Playaz Peach Jam2014 NIKE Peach Jam Champions, NJ Playaz

In 2014, Team Final, led by Rob Brown, was the regular season champion of the NIKE EYBL circuit. Their 14-2 record was the finest in what is widely considered the most competitive grassroots league. Jimmy Salmon’s NJ Playaz (pictured above), led by All-American Isaiah Briscoe (Roselle Catholic HS) won the prestigious Peach Jam title. The Peach Jam Tournament provides a culmination for teams playing on the NIKE sponsored the travel team circuit and allows 40 teams to compete for an ultimate goal each summer. It is the premier tournament of the summer. The Final Four of the Peach Jam wan nationally televised by ESPNU (see below).

Peach Jam ESPNUAnother nationally recognized AAU program has emerged out of Middletown, Delaware. Under the direction of Terrell Myers, WE R1 took home both the regular season and UAA Tournament championships in 2014.  Led by Derrick Jones and Malik Ellison We R1 defeated highly regarded Sports U to capture the Under Armour Association title (pictured below).  WE R1, like NJ Playaz and Team Finals, is generally considered one of the most competitive grassroots programs in the nation. All three are consensus top 25 teams, with NJ Playaz and WE R1 coming in 1, 2 in most national rankings.

2014 Under Armour Association Finals2014 Under Armour Association Champions, WE R1

So, they win big games and bring home hardware from the biggest tournaments.  What else makes these programs special?  Some obvious questions immediately come to mind: Do their players get recruited? Do they get scholarships? The track record of Jimmy Salmon and the NJ Playaz in this area is beyond reproach. Tim Thomas (Villanova), Wayne Ellington (North Carolina), Gerald Henderson (Duke), Eddie Griffin (Seton Hall), Marcus Toney-El (Seton Hall), Vince Carter (North Carolina), Kenneth Faried (Morehead St.), Dahntay Jones (Duke), Sean Singletary (Virginia), Earl Clark (Louisville), Jeremiah King (Drexel) and Kyle Anderson (UCLA). Of course J.R. Smith and Kobe Bryant would have been included had they elected to play collegiately instead of jumping straight to the NBA. Another Playaz alum is NY Giants ALL-PRO wide receiver Victor Cruz.

Kyle AndersonKyle Anderson, NJ Playaz

Team Final alumni roster includes NBA lottery picks Tyreke Evans (Memphis), Mike Gilchrist (Kentucky) and Dion Waiters (Syracuse). This year alone, seven Team Final players have committed to NCAA Division 1 programs. This list includes Malachi Richardson (Syracuse), Donte DiVincenzo (Villanova), TreVaughn Wilkerson (Hartford), Trey Lowe (Temple), LaMarr “Fresh” Kimble (St. Joseph’s), Ahmad Gilbert (Geaorge Mason) and Levan Alston, Jr. (Temple). Khaif Wyatt (Temple) and JaQuan Newton (Miami) are also recent high profile Team Final Alums.

dion waiters

Dion Waiters, Team Final

We R1 alums include Dexter Strickland (North Carolina), Ben Bentil (Providence), Markus Kennedy (SMU), Jaylen Bond (Temple), Jared Mann (Stanford), Charles Cooke (Dayton), Khalid Lewis-El (LaSalle), Isaiah Washington (Penn St), Austin Tilghman (Monmouth). This year’s UAA Championship team featured Tim Delany (Villanova-commit) and Derrick Jones (ESPN #22, 2015). Also in the program is Sedee Keita (ESPN #34, 2016).

Ben BentilBen Bentil, WE R1

By any reasonable measure, these programs produce kids that get recruited at the highest levels.  But, what else should you look for in a “good” AAU program?  Well, a good AAU/grassroots program build social cohesion and and increase social capital among young people and adults in their respective communities. The younger kids in the program and the larger community should benefit from the success of the older kids.  By the time the players participate on the 16u and 17u teams, they are generally very well known and look up to by younger players in the program and the surrounding community. Pay attention to the twitter and instagram accounts of the players in the program.  Read what they write.  Look at the images they project.  Is this how you want your child to portray himself publicly?  Watch how the student-athletes interact with younger kids and other members of the increasing AAU fan base. For programs like NJ Playaz, Team Final and WE R1, basketball is used as a practical tool to engage young people in their communities through volunteering, resulting in higher levels of leadership, community engagement and altruism among young people.

Dion book bag 2Dion Waiters, Team Final, interacting with youth during Book Bag Giveaway

Another indicator of a good program is the intensity of the relationships between the players and level of respect players (and former players) have for the coaches.  The relationships between AAU teammates are just as strong, perhaps even stronger, than those among high school teammates. Young people regularly spend 7,8 or 9 hours in vans traveling out of state to play in tournaments. They eat and sleep together on the road. In each of the highlighted programs, positive peer relationships are encouraged through coaching. If you spend anytime watching the teams practice and play it becomes apparent that social inclusion is very important to the coaches.  Talk to the kids that aren’t the stars on the team.  How do they feel about the program?  Of course, the guys getting all the attention and limelight are likely to be happy.  Are the non-starters benefiting as well?  Do they speak highly of the coaches and their teammates?

Social inclusion also relates to offering equal opportunities to educational programs regardless of ethnicity or basketball ability. There is a great deal of attention paid to ensuring Division 2, Division 3 and NAIA level players are academically eligible.  Rob Brown, Jimmy Salmon and Terrell Myers are consistently monitoring report cards, arranging SAT tutors and tracking GPAs.  Each treats the low D1, D2 and NAIA recruits the same way they treat the ESPN top 50 kids.  When evaluating programs, find out how the last man on the bench is treated.  That is a true indicator of the quality of the program.

Sedee

Sedee Keita, WE R1, ESPN #34 (2016)

Lastly, find out if their players exhibit a pattern a negative acting out behaviors.  Do they get suspended from high school or college?  Are there allegations or accusations of sexual misconduct or assault? Have their alums been arrested while in college?  Given the recent explosion in the number of criminal incidents involving high profile athletes, it is important to know the people you trust with your children.  There can be little doubt that NJ Playaz, Team Final and WE R1  have a positive impact on character-building in their participating players. The thugh element is virtually non-existent in these programs.  These young men go off to college and the overwhelming majority are highly successful on the court and they graduate.

This can be largely attributed to the respective roles Jimmy Salmon, Rob Brown and Terrell Myers  play within their respective organizations.  Plainly stated, they have high expectations and as a result have a positive influence on the degree of ‘character-building’ within their programs.  Research suggests that participation in organized athletics such as AAU basketball can be used as a means to reduce delinquent behavior. But it’s important to understand that playing basketball alone does not directly impact on negative behavior. Accordingly, good AAU programs combine basketball activities with academic, leadership and job-skills development and training to address risk factors in children and youth.

If you want to see AAU done right visit any one of these programs.