Why Did He Commit to Them? Toward A Better Understanding of the College “Decision” Process

What the fuck? Why?

Why did he commit there? Why didn’t he choose us? Why didn’t he come to our school?

Our academics are better! We win more! We produce more pros! Shit makes no sense…

Many resort to knee-jerk accusations that the kid was “bought off” to explain the decision… They had to cheat… Why else would he choose them over us?

Every year around this time, passionate alums and casual observers rack their brains trying to make sense of decisions made by 18 and 19 year old elite Black male student-athletes. Indeed, an entire multi-million dollar industry has emerged dedicated solely to tracking the college selection processes of elite predominantly Black male student-athletes. Scout and Rivals are two of the biggest media enterprises dedicated to in-depth coverage this annual race to sign the very best scholastic ballers. Rivals was purchased for $100 million by Yahoo in 2007. Scout generates over $100 million in annual revenues.

Malik NLI

Malik Ellison committing to St. Johns

Despite intensive media coverage, very little thought is given to the actual decision-making process itself.  Core questions at the center of the ‘mainstream’ dialogue are fairly easy to delineate: Where will Black male athletes sell their athletic labor in return for an athletic scholarship? Which predominantly White NCAA Division I institution will profit generously in return?

The Black Cager is dedicated to going a little deeper than that. I want to foster understanding. So… How can we begin to make sense of these “decisions” made by thousands of young Black men entering collegiate athletics every year?

I want to provide a basic framework for understanding the all too often overlooked decision-making process. While the analytical focus is on urban Black male basketball players, the framework can be applied across racial and ethnic backgrounds as well as geographic settings. Many white ballers from the cornfields of the mid-west face the same circumstances.

My basic hypothesis is that predominantly white college sports fans, alums, writers and even coaches assess the decision-making process from a purely “rational” point of view. In doing so, they consistently fail to understand and appreciate the limits or “bounds” the student-athlete operates under. As a result, the observers are usually confused and unable to comprehend why decisions are made. This confusion leads many to make unfounded and unwarranted accusations about the character and integrity of the process, the student-athletes and their families.

What are the limits and constraints? What are the “bounds” imposed upon student-athletes making college decisions? Elite Black male student-athletes facing college decisions have to work under three unavoidable constraints.

  1. They only have access to limited, often unreliable, information regarding possible alternatives and their consequences,
  2. The human mind has only limited capacity to evaluate and process the information that is available. And,
  3.  only a limited amount of time is available to make a decision.

Therefore even student-athletes intent on making rational choices are bound to make satisficing (rather than maximizing or optimizing) decisions in complex recruiting situations. This vital fact is overlooked by disappointed and frustrated supporters of programs that lose recruiting battles. Moreover, it is not addressed by ‘mainstream’ sportswriters and analysts trying to explain outcomes to their targeted audiences.

All they know is, to them, shit don’t make no sense… As a result, message boards are flooded with nasty, vile and even racist attacks on young men that chose a program other than theirs.

Mookie NLI

Tamyra ‘Mookie’ Laws committing to Holy Family University

Fans fail to understand that these limits (bounds) on rationality make it nearly impossible for student-athletes and their families to consider every contingency, necessitating reliance on advisers, ‘handlers’ or even agents operating behind the scenes.

Black male student-athletes, like everyone else, are to some extent rational beings in that they will try to logically understand things and make sensible choices. This is rightfully assumed by most observers. Collegiate sports fans, alums and college coaches assume that student-athletes have preferences among the colleges offering scholarships that allow them to state which option they prefer.

From a purely rational perspective, these preferences are assumed to be complete (the student-athlete can always say which of two college programs they consider preferable or that neither is preferred to the other) and transitive (if college A is preferred over college B and college B is preferred over college C, then A is preferred over C).

However, observers make the mistake of assuming student-athletes take account of ALL available information like academic reputations, graduation rates and probabilities of events like winning conference championships, appearing in the NCAA tournament and being drafted by an NBA team. It is further assumed that a student-athlete weighs the potential costs and benefits in determining preferences, and acts consistently in choosing the self-determined best choice of action.

That’s how most causal observers think the process works. But…. That’s not how it actually goes down…

For elite Black male student-athletes the college recruitment process is extremely daunting and complex, and they do not have the capacity to understand everything. As noted earlier, they only have access to limited, often unreliable, information regarding possible alternatives and their consequences. Yes… college coaches are able to make an unlimited amount of phone calls and text messages to recruits. Of course, they do everything they can to get their message across to the young men.

For many student-athletes this quickly results in hundreds of calls and/or text messages per day. As a result, coaches begin to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher, “whaaan, whann, whann, whann, whann…”

Coaches understand this, even if fans don’t, so they rely on the development of intermediaries like AAU/grassroots coaches, HS coaches, family members, friends, girlfriends, etc. to deliver messages to student-athletes. Unfortunately, in many instances, the “interests” of the intermediaries supersede the interests of the student-athletes. “If he comes with us, we’ll take care of you or your AAU/HS program” is the message the intermediaries hear. In this way, information reaching the student-athlete becomes limited and unreliable regarding possible alternatives and their consequences.

At this point, the possibility of a truly ‘rational’ outcome has been compromised. The student-athlete is receiving skewed information.

Rakeem Graduate

Rakeem Christmas Graduated from Syracuse University in 3 years

Further complicating the process is the fact that the human mind has only limited capacity to evaluate and process the information that is available. This is especially so for urban Black male student-athletes. The athletes and their family members very often do not possess the intellectual tools required to adequately understand the process as it unfolds.

It’s really bad… Really, really bad…

On August 24, 2015, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that “nearly half of all adults in [Philadelphia] – more than half a million men and women – lack the basic skills necessary to qualify for postsecondary training or hold jobs that permit them to support a family. Many function below eighth-grade levels.”

How are parents and grandparents that can’t read supposed to sort through the labyrinth of NCAA regulations and appropriately weigh the options available to them? They can’t….

The student-athletes themselves may be in an even worse position. A recent study by the Schott Foundation for Public Education found that the four-year HS graduation rate for Black males in many of America’s urban areas was profoundly abysmal. Detroit, MI (23%) has the lowest Black male graduation rate in the country (in Detroit only 13% of White males graduate from high school within a four year period), followed by Philadelphia, PA (26%), Clark County, NV (27%), Pinellas County, FL (28%), Cleveland, OH (28%), New York, NY (28%), Chatham County, GA (28%), Richmond County, GA (29%), Duvall County, FL (29%), and Norfolk, VA (31%). For the 26% that remain engaged in school, in 2014, 42 percent of students met the reading standards bar set by the state on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, down from 42.3 percent. In math, 45.2 percent met standards, down from 46.9 percent.

Plainly stated, many student-athletes and their families lack the educational foundation necessary to adequately process, evaluate and process information available on the various collegiate programs offering athletic scholarships.
DeAndre Bembry dunking on VCU
Then on top of that, there is limited time to make a decision. The NCAA manages the daily operations of a National Letter of Intent (NLI) program that includes 650 Division I and Division II participating institutions. Through the establishment of signing periods, the NLI program imposes deadlines on student-athletes and their families. And, there’s always the possibility that another player may take the desired scholarship.
Most elite Black male scholastic student-athlete are confronted with limitations imposed by poor educational backgrounds, a lack of understanding NCAA regulations and other factors. Given this set of circumstances, there is no way student-athletes can have a complete understanding of the recruiting process before having to make a decision.
Within this context, truly ‘rational’ decisions become impossible… What emerges are decisions that are ‘good enough’…
Information, more or less, tends to change people’s decision. Every student-athlete is limited by the decisional limitations outlined above. The better the athletic prowess, the more complex the issues become, thereby increasing the cognitive load. And where there is cognitive overload, student-athletes rely upon coping mechanisms to arrive at a decision.
They settle for a school that is ‘good enough’ as opposed to finding the ‘best school’. Black male student-athletes end up choosing a school that meets most of their goals instead of going for the optimal solution.


This is where college fans and alums become confused. They wonder: Why did he choose a school that hasn’t been to the tournament in 10 years? Why did he choose a program that doesn’t have as many NBA players as ours?

In choosing college destinations, in can be argued that there are no optimal decisions, but choices that are in some sense locally optimal at best. The implications of these decisions are based on bounded rationality, which is senseless to observers applying rational logic, but completely sensible for the student-athlete making the decision.

Elite Black male student-athletes do exactly what makes the most sense to them, in the context of the moment, with their current understanding. If you are a white college educated-male with college educated parents that were in a position to pay for your education you likely have no frame of reference for understanding this process.

It ain’t personal… Cut the kids a break…

The Declining Significance of Sonny Hill and the Resulting Loss of Social Capital


Sonny Hill at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

Founded in 1968, the Sonny Hill Community Involvement Basketball League uses basketball as a foundation for teaching life skills. For thirty years or so, the Sonny Hill league reigned as the undisputed best summer high school basketball league in America. The Holcombe Rucker League in Harlem is also highly regarded. But, the talent in Hill League was unsurpassed. Gene Banks (Duke), Lewis Lloyd (Drake), Clarence Tillman (Kentucky/Rutgers), Mo Howard (Maryland), Pooh Richardson (UCLA), Nate Blackwell (Temple), Dallas Comegys (DePaul), Lionel Simmons (LaSalle), Kobe Bryant (NBA), Rasheed Wallace (North Carolina), Rip Hamilton (Connecticut) and Alvin Williams (Villanova) are just a few of the great scholastic players that laced ‘em up in the Hill League.


Gene Banks

The concentration of talent was incredible. You could walk in McGonigle Hall on Temple University’s campus and catch the incredibly strong Rico Washington (Weber State) battling the powerful low-post force, Brian Shorter (Pitt) on the blocks. If you were more attracted to guard play, the wizardry of Michael Anderson (Drexel) was on full display as he went against consummate Philly point guard Howie Evans (Temple), the blindingly quick Bruiser Flint (Drexel) or the explosive Steve Black (LaSalle). Summer basketball in Philadelphia was truly something to behold.

The Sonny Hill League was an outgrowth of the Charles Baker League. In 1960, Mr. Hill founded the Baker League as place for professional basketball players to work on their craft during the off-season. The four-team league that began playing outdoors on the concrete court of of North Philadelphia eventually grew to attract some of the biggest names in basketball. Over the years, Wilt Chamberlain, Guy Rodgers, Hal Greer, Billy Cunningham, Bill Bradley, Earl Monroe, Darryl Dawkins, Joe Bryant and World B. Free were regulars in the Baker League.


Wilt Chamberlain

It’s all gone!

The Baker League no longer exists and the Sonny Hill League is a just shell of what once existed.

Recently, I received a phone call early one morning from St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli. He asked, “Del what happened to the Hill League… I’m reading the box score from a college league playoff game and I only recognize one name – Biggie Minnis.” The Hill league no longer attracts the best high school and college players in the area. There can be no denying the fact… The Hill League has fallen off… That conversation with Martelli stuck with me for a few days. I brought the topic up with Bruiser Flint, Ashley Howard and Geoffrey Arnold. They coach at Drexel, Villanova and St. Joseph’s respectively. I asked each the same thing Martelli asked me: What happened to the Hill League?

The focus of the conversations was on  two distinct questions: 1) Why did the Hill League become insignificant? And, 2) What have we lost as a result?

There is a consensus that the rise of AAU and shoe company teams contributed mightily to the demise of the Hill League. However, the more interesting question becomes: Could the outcome have been any different?

Brian Shorter

Brian Shorter

Mr. Hill’s tenacity and drive enabled him to form and maintain a youth sports league that is nearing it’s 50th year of existence. Perhaps, these same traits rendered him a unable to adapt and become more flexible when the AAU movement crept into Philadelphia. Rather than accommodate the schedules of the biggest AAU tournaments, Mr. Hill forced players to choose. Over time, the lure of jet travel across the country, stays in fine hotels and playing in front of 200-300 college coaches was too much for Philly’s best ballers to resist. Gradually, more and more began to play exclusively for prominent local AAU programs like Team Philly (Adidas), Team Final (Nike), WeRone (Under Armour) and Philly Pride (Under Armour).

The kids, however, being from Philadelphia needed an outlet to settle their neighbor “Ball-Beefs.” Rahim Thompson’s popular Chosen League has emerged to satisfy that thirst for local school yard competition in the summer. Thompson, ingeniously, decided to work around the schedules of the biggest AAU tournaments which take place during NCAA live periods. In this way, he has been able to have the very best scholastic players in Philadelphia participate in his league. The Chosen League has surpassed the Hill League as the place to see the best local players during the summer months.

chosen league

Philly Schoolboy Legend Rysheed Jordan in the Chosen League

What have we lost? The best answer I could come with is: We have lost a great deal of “Social Captial”.

For Mr. Hill and his colleagues Claude Gross, Tee Shields, Fred Douglas, Vince Miller and James Flint the Sonny Hill League was about far more than just basketball. The Sonny Hill League Community Involvement League is an organization that not only includes roughly four dozen youth basketball teams, but also features career-counseling and tutoring programs.

It’s been that way since the beginning… “During that summer of ’68, gang warfare was a big problem all over the country,” Hill said. “Kids were dying. Neighborhoods were being torn up. So I decided to put my name on a league that would get some of kids who would be in gangs to focus their efforts on basketball… I talked to people all over the city. We got truces established. If a kid was found crossing a rival gang’s turf and he said he was going to play in the Sonny Hill League that got him a pass. At first it was a diversion for those kids. Now over the years we’ve grown into a program that gets kids off the streets, gets them learning and gets them a chance to lead productive lives.”

That’s Social Capital!!


Lionel Simmons

The basic premise of social capital is that social networks have value. Social capital refers to the collective value of all “social networks” [who people know] and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other [“norms of reciprocity”]. Through the Sonny Hill League, Philadelphia’s Basketball community was awash in social capital. Shit… were were wealthy in that regard.

Social capital emphasizes a wide variety of quite specific benefits that flow from the trust, reciprocity, information, and cooperation associated with social networks. Social capital creates value for the people who are connected and, at least sometimes, for bystanders as well. Think of all the trust people had in John Hardnett, Claude Gross and Tee Shields. Think of all the information the administrators of the Sonny Hill League possessed and shared with participants and bystanders.

The Sonny Hill League fostered and facilitated information flows (e.g. learning about scholarships, learning about coaches looking for players, exchanging information about players with college coaches, etc.). This was social capital.

The Sonny Hill League established norms of reciprocity (mutual aid). Alums to this very day do for one another. For example, I have called on Lionel Simmons to help kids pay for SAT prep materials and tutoring. The Sonny Hill League network connected folks who were in similar in-groups. The League facilitated connection among individuals.


Rasheed Wallace

The Sonny Hill League facilitated a broader “Philadelphia” identity and solidarity among Philly ballers. The Sonny Hill League helped translate an “I” mentality into a “we” mentality.

When the group of men keep an eye on one another’s players in the streets, that’s social capital in action. When a tightly knit community of youth coaches recommend players from other teams for scholarships, that’s social capital in action. Passing the hat to get up money to get a kid down south for school was social capital in action. Social capital can be found in friendship networks, neighborhoods, churches, schools, bridge clubs, civic associations, and even bars.

The Sonny Hill league has declined in significance. Philly’s basketball community is poorer as a result. We have lost a great deal of social capital.

The elite shoe company sponsored AAU programs will take care of the best 50-60 players… The Sonny Hill League would take care of 800.

The MYTH of the “Bad” AAU guys

I HATE AAU basketball!
I hate it!!
I hate it!!
I hate it!!
Because it’s just a lot of coaches exploiting kids to try to get a payoff one day.
Robert Horry

Robert Horry is wrong…

On far too many occasions prominent basketball athletes and coaches have come out and bashed AAU basketball.  The criticisms are knee-jerk and reveal a lack of intimate knowledge about what good AAU programs actually do for young people. They have a bad experience or see some bad things occur within one program and condemn the AAU/grassroots circuit based on very limited interaction. It’s just not a fair assessment.

Over the past six months, I have had the pleasure of working with several young men and women as they sought to meet the increasingly stringent NCAA eligibility guidelines. In each case, these young people were referred to the Assist Project by their AAU coaches or program director.

deja imhotep

Deja Reynolds holding the Championship trophy with her Imhotep teammates

Here a brief list of just a few of the young people that came through this year:

Deja Reynolds (Girls), Philly Triple Threat/Imhotep High School – Temple
Kimar Williams, Team Philly/Constitution High School – Florida International
Samir Doughty, Team Philly/Math, Civics & Sciences High School – VCU
Derrick Jones, WeRone Hoops/Archbishop Carroll High School – UNLV
Mike Watkins, Team Philly/Math, Civics & Sciences High School – Penn State
Horace Spencer, NJ Gym Rats/Findlay Prep High School (NV) – Auburn
Eric Cobb, Heart & Hustle/ St. Francis HS (MD) – South Carolina
Malik Ellison, WeRone/Life Center Academy (NJ) – St; John’s
Traci Carter, WeRone/Life Center Academy (NJ) – Marquette
Charles Brown Philly Pride/George Washington High School – St. Joseph’s


Traci Carter and LaSalle Basketball legend Donnie Carr

In each case, a representative of the AAU program identified an issue that could cause eligibility issues and sought out assistance in addressing the problem. Some kids needed to take additional core course. Some needed to replace poor grades in previous core courses. Some needed tutoring for the SAT/ACT exam. Some just needed encouragement. What they all received was a very clear explanation of their academic situation.

Once they understood what they needed to accomplish to meet NCAA eligibility standards, a plan was put in place. The AAU guys made sure the kids had the SAT/ACT study books. The AAU guys transported the kids to tutoring sessions. The AAU guys stayed in contact with the parents to make sure the kids stayed on track.

Watkins and Newbill

Mike Watkins and Penn State great D Jay Newbill

Rick Barrett and Horace Spencer made sure little Horace knew what he needed to do when he was in the 11th grade. They brought the young man in and we reviewed his academic record together. Eric Worley asked me to reach out to Deja Reynolds. Once Philly Triple Threat made the referral, Kamillah Durham made sure her daughter made it to at least 10 tutoring sessions. Eric always checked in and checked up in her progress. Lonnie Lowry and Kamal Yard cast aside their competitive energies and both grabbed Samir Doughty by his collar and made sure he did what he needed to do. Terrell Myers literally harassed Derrick Jones about his course work and SAT scores. Donnie Carr did the same for Traci Carr.

Yesterday, Philly Pride/Triple Threat arranged an academic “team meeting” attended by a highly regarded school psychologist, two Triple Threat coaches, a player, his parents and myself. The aim was to review the rising 9th grade player’s academic record and explain the NCAA requirements to the player and his family. As we approach the first year with new NCAA standards in place, this is exactly what AAU programs need to be doing.

Let me repeat that… this is exactly what AAU programs need to be doing!


UNLV freshman and WeRone/Archbishop Carrol product Derrick Jones

I was touched… When I received the call to arrange the meeting, I realized that my message has been getting through. Despite the negative chatter circulating about the role played by AAU programs, I am here to tell you… I have seen these guys save kids… I have seen these guys inform and empower parents… I’ve seen these guys support parents intimidated by the recruiting process… I’m telling you… these guys do a good job and you can catch their players on TV this fall as they suit up in the Big East, C-USA, AAC, A10, Big10 and SEC conferences.

Rick Barrett – NJ Gym Rats

Kamal Yard – Philly Pride

Eric Worley – Philly Triple Threat

Lonnie Lowry – Team Philly

Terrell Myers – WeRone Hoops

Rob Brown – Team Final

Rod Harrison – Baltimore’s Finest

Bay Frazier – Team Melo

Omhar Carter – Mississippi Basketball Association

Even at the middle school level, guys like Marvin Stinson (Bottom Ballers), Howard Hudson (Philly Triple Threat) and Paul Gripper (Team Phenom) have established rigorous academic standards for participation in the respective programs.

Are there problems in some AAU programs? Of course… just like there are problems in some businesses, congressional offices, college athletic departments and every other type of organization.

Bottom Line… If your AAU coach or program director hasn’t asked you for report cards or transcripts… You need to find another program. The end game is to prepare student-athletes for life after high school. You can’t do that if you don’t even know how he’s performing in school. If you need a referral to a quality AAU program just reach out an ask… I’ll give you at least 3 recommendations.

Youngfellas.. If you are the best player in the gym? Leave….

… and go find a gym where guys will push you and make you a better player. Charles Brown, Jr., A Saint Joseph’s University 2016 commit took this advice to heart and tracked down Jameer Nelson and Emmanuel Mudiay of the Denver Nuggets. He spent some time working out with the NBA players. Most importantly, he listened as they talked about different aspects of conditioning and mental preparation necessary to play at the highest level.

CHarles Brown Jameer Nelson

Charles Brown (Philly Pride/St. Joseph’s University) and Big 5 Hall of Famer, Jameer Nelson (Denver Nuggets)

Over this past Spring/Summer Brown exploded on the national scene with a series of phenomenal shooting performances for Philly Pride AAU on the Under Armour Circuit. As a result, he was heavily recruited by Big 10, SEC, Big East and Big 12 programs. A true Philadelphia and a man of his word, Brown never wavered from his verbal commitment to St. Joseph’s. “It was nice to see people recognizing that i could play at the highest level, but I made the decision to become a Hawk a while back. There’s nothing that could change my mind. My mother, my father and the rest of my family already feel like we are part of St. Joseph’s University. Coach Arnold and Coach Martelli have made us feel welcome. I can’t wait to play on Hawk Hill.”

Brown got a chance to gauge himself against the very best today.  Emmanuel Mudiay was a lottery pick of the Denver Nuggets in the recent 2015 draft. He is expected to immediately contribute as Denver makes a push for the playoffs in the super competitive Western Conference. “Emmanuel is super athletic and highly skilled”, said Brown. “It’s really a pleasure to just watch him go about his business.”

CHarles Brown Mudiay

Charles Brown and Emmanuel Mudiay (Denver Nuggets)

Brown reports to St. Thomas More Preparatory School next week. He will be playing in the New England Prep School League for the 2015-2016 season.

DJ Newbill Arrives in France to Begin Professional Career

The Head Coach and the General Manager of the Asvel Basketball Club in Lyon met recent Penn State graduate DJ Newbill at the airport as he arrived in France. Newbill is anxious to start training with the team and looks forward to playing in the highly competitive French first division. One of his teammates with Asvel will be Ahmad Nivins, a 2009 graduate of Saint Joseph’s University. Asvel has won the French league Championship at total of 17 times.

Newbill France

D Jay Newbill with Coach and General Manager of Asvel Basketball Club

“I just want to help the team win… I want to win a French League Championship”, said Newbill. He added, “My time at Penn State has prepared me for this moment. I look forward to becoming a part of a great basketball club. I’m ready to go to work… Where’s the gym?”


The Black Cager looks forward to following Newbill and Asvel as they prepare for the 2015-2016 season. The link for the Asvel website is below:

Asvel Basketball Club Website

DJ Newbill Racially Profiled and Arrested by German Immigration Officials

Youngfella… I need you to follow the rules… I need you to study hard… I need you to be respectful… I need you to play hard… I need you to respect authority figures like coaches, teachers and police… But, truth be told that might not be enough…

I remember it like it was yesterday… John Hardett brought a kid to my office and asked if I could help him with an algebra class. The kid was quiet, unassuming and unfailingly respectful. His name was Devonte Newbill. Right away, he said “call me D Jay.” Hardnett, the most respected basketball mentor in Philadelphia over the past 15-20 years, brought Newbill over 3-4 times a week for the next 2 months.

D Jay would arrive and I would immediately place a dry erase marker in his hand, stand him front of a white board and make him work through problem after problem after problem after problem… His improvement was dramatic, his confidence soared and he began to view himself as college bound.

Even though Newbill had spent his 9th and 10th grade season as a deep reserve, Hardnett insisted he would be the best player in Philadelphia over the next 2 years. At the time, it was clear that he believed in Newbill’s abilities more than Newbill himself.

For the first year I knew him, I never saw him play basketball. I knew him as a young man from a tight-knit family in North Central Philadelphia. I knew him as a kid that was dependable, hard working and humble. I didn’t know if basketball would get him there, but I wanted to see Newbill go to college. Toward that end, I instructed him to always take pictures of his class roster, report cards, state assessment results, etc. and text them to me. I promised I would make sure he remained on track be NCAA eligible.

The most important thing he could do, I explained, was to control the way the principal, counselors and teachers perceived him. Specifically, I said “When I ask people how you are doing, a big smile should come across their face.” When I visited Strawberry Mansion High School a few weeks later, the principal told me that “D Jay won’t let me carry anything, bags, books, equipment. He’s the only student I’ve had that insists on carrying things for the female staff members.”

Newbill gets it. He was and remains atypical. Before he was the man at Penn State, He was the man at Strawberry Mansion High School. He was the leading scorer in Philadelphia. He was 1st team All-City. He was 1st team All-State. He was being recruited by colleges like Rutgers, Georgetown, West Virginia, Marquette and Temple. All too often young men develop a sense of entitlement under these circumstances. Not Newbill… But, you already know that.

Yesterday, I published an open thank you letter he wrote to the President, Athletic Director and basketball coach at Penn State University. Within 24 hours, his letter was viewed by over 25,000 people.

Today, he was traveling to France to begin his career as a professional basketball player. During a stopover in Germany, Newbill was racially profiled and arrested on suspicion of being a terrorist. This young man has NEVER been arrested or detained by police in the United States of America. This young man has just completed his requirements for a Bachelors Degree from Penn State University. This young man has represented his family, his North Philly community and Penn State University with class and dignity.

Unfortunately, the German customs official ONLY cared that Newbill is Black.


Below, please find a Facebook post by Francois Lamy, a French agent working with Newbill’s Agency, ASM Sports. The post was originally written in French.

Immigration, ordinary everyday racism, and other joys of our daily lives, as sensitive as either the subject, this is the day to tackle it. Today a basketball player that I placed in France to the Asvel, DJ Newbill, in my opinion a player and a guy who is exceptional, was arrested by German immigration officials. The official reason, absence of a visa for long stay. It is important to note that visas for sports professionals are regularized once on the territory. Therefore the situation is a little farcical in addition to be unpublished.

A basketball player coming from American to play in Europe is stopped at the German border, questioned, and then released after payment of a fine, but retained in the transit area waiting for deportation to the USA. I have never such an incident my long career. It must be specified that Newbill is an American citizen. Just as a French citizen in the USA, does not need a visa for return on the French territory and can stay there 3 months, Newbill can stay in France fro 3 months, but must regularize his situation in case of prolonged stay or to work.

This young man is African American, and has never been out of the United States before. This is the first experience that he has with Europe. An officer of the German immigration, doubted his statement that he was in Europe to play basketball. He also doubted that France was the country of final destination. Newbill was interrogated for hours. German immigration official were convinced he had a terrorist motive.

I challenge anyone to dare to tell me that this is a coincidence. I have also had the pleasure of having this official on the phone. I told him it was normal. I asked him to try to understand because it was the first time in almost 20 years that this kind of concern is presented.

He then increase the tone, until I will do the same, and he proposed to remind the US Consulate in Frankfurt for they come in person attend their national.

All this to say that ca inspires me a few thoughts more broad:

Our good populist policies which are having a hayday on immigration issues forget well voluntarily to educate us on the reality of immigration procedures everywhere in the world: They are strict, complex, cold, without past-right nor states of soul. And they of course have good reason to be, are we not ourselves selective before inviting someone in our respective homes? But they are also implemented on the ground by human beings, and therefore can sometimes be subjectively applied.

Why specifically that player here, while several hundreds of players pass through European countries before coming play in France by regularizing their visa once in the territory? Ask the question is to answer it.

If there is a despicable ideology that we must fight, it is that one race is superior to another. Once again, it is all the racist or the oppressed of someone, ca is not the prerogative of a color. But the whiff post slavery or colonialists are unbearable and the nest of a lot of latent conflicts and misunderstandings remaining. This Mr. Faber, chief of the police station of Terminal 1 of Frankfurt, is going to bite the fingers very long to be allowed to go to its primary instincts. I made a promise to the player, and have already asked the US Consulate in Frankfurt to escalate to the German state that one of their employees has behaved with a baseness unworthy, what they have assured make tomorrow. These people forget that they are public servants in the service of the State of course, but with the missions of service and order able.

Francois Lamy, French Sports Agent

Chief Faber racially profiled D Jay Newbill. Newbill was just trying to make his way to his first job as a Penn State graduate. Degree in hand, a first Division French team has signed him and agreed to compensate him handsomely. Once they get to know him, I’m sure they will come to love him. But right now, he’s just a Black man in a German airport.

That, unfortunately, is enough to lead to arrest. He’s not affiliated with any terrorist organizations. He’s never been in any kind of legal trouble. He’s a god fearing Christian. He’s great friend. He’s a great teammate. He’s a loving brother and caring grandson. He’s a solid citizen. But, none of that matters.

He’s a Black man in a German airport. That fact alone resulted in an arrest and detention on suspicion of being a terrorist.

Unfortunately, race matters.

D-Jay Newbill: An Open Thank You Letter to PSU President, AD and Head Coach

August 15, 2015

Eric J. Barron, President
Sandy Barbour, Director of Athletics
Pat Chambers, Men’s Basketball Head Coach

Penn State University

Dr. Barron, Ms. Barbour and Coach Chambers:

I want to publicly thank you for giving me an opportunity to develop and grow as a man, student and athlete at Penn State University. As I embark upon my professional life, I realize more than ever that attending Penn State University was the best decision I have ever made. Penn State embraced me, a poor kid from the tough streets North Philadelphia, and made feel challenged, supported and loved during my four years on campus. They went by far to0 quickly.

There were many who questioned my decision. Many people felt that I would NOT achieve my academic and athletic goals if went to Penn State. Today, I stand here as a proud graduate of Penn State University and emphatically say they couldn’t have been more wrong. I endured the lowest of lows and the highest of highs while enrolled at Penn State. I lost my mentor, John Hardnett, right before I came to Penn State. John believed in me before anyone else. John repeatedly told me I would be a college graduate. He told me this day would come. When he passed away there was a void in my life.

Coach Chambers stepped in and stepped up. While he demanded a lot from me and constantly pushed me to become a better student and basketball player, there was never a moment I didn’t feel respected and loved. Penn State was where I was meant to be. Penn State was my home. I was destined to be a Nittany Lion!

DJ Newbill Screaming

Nittany Lion ROARING!!

On September 15, 2012, two years after John passed away, I lost my mother. I experienced a level of pain and despair I didn’t think was possible. Coach Chambers, my teammates and the entire Penn State community put their collective arms around me and literally carried me through the toughest period of my life. For that, I will be forever grateful.

As I prepare to play professional basketball in France, I do so knowing that I have a home and an extended family in State College, Pennsylvania. I will spend the rest of my life serving as an ambassador for Penn State University. I want see hundreds, even thousands, of other young poor Black Philadelphia boys and girls experience life as a Nittany Lion. While I am leaving campus as a student, my heart and soul will always be present and accounted for in Happy Valley!!

I look forward to becoming an active member of alumni associations. I look forward to talking to middle and high school students about MY university. While I have to go work in France, I will return to campus as soon as the wheels of the plane touch down on American soil.

Thank you for believing in me. I hope I have been able to make you proud of me.


Devonte “D-Jay” Newbill ’15
Penn State University

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Keeping It Real: Kevin Dougherty for PA Supreme Court

More than ever before, this electoral cycle, with all the ballyhoo and hoopla surrounding the candidacy of Donald Trump has devolved into a veritable circus – the greatest show on earth. At both the local and national levels, print, digital and television media outlets bring the 3-ring circus into our living rooms. Trump, the businessman turned reality-television star has consumed the lion’s share of bandwidth, page space and TV time. It’s entertaining if you are into simple-minded reality shows. The problem is that elections are more than just a show.

More than anytime in recent memory, the stakes for Blacks, especially males are extremely high. This is especially the case within the legal system. This election is crucial. Working Philadelphians have an opportunity to ensure adequate representation on state’s highest court. Time after time after time… in recent years, Blacks have experienced highly questionable treatment at the hands of police and in America’s courtrooms. So much so, that one would reasonably expect law enforcement relations with Blacks, Latinos and other minority groups to be a central issue in the campaign.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. The “mainstream” media offers little variety in news perspective and editorial policy. They are all almost exclusively focused on Donald Trump’s performance in daily polls. Media coverage of the election is generally superficial, consisting of a few brief “headline” stories centered on poll results and banal commentaries from the left and right depending on the network.


Judge Kevin Dougherty, Candidate for PA Supreme Court

If you have genuine interest in understanding how the upcoming elections will impact your life and that of those you love, you have to seek out the candidates and put them on the spot. As a Black male I am particularly alarmed by recent reports citing a 26% Black male 4-year graduation rate in Philadelphia’s public schools. I am concerned about the massive numbers of Blacks going in and coming out Pennsylvania’s state prisons. We need a fresh set of eyes on these problems. The only way to gain some insight into the way candidates understand and approach these important issues, is to track them down and ask them directly. So…. that’s what I did.

I spent over two hours with the Hon. Kevin Dougherty, candidate for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. We spent about 30 minutes discussing his commitment to impacting lives from the bench. Make no mistake, Dougherty has a well-earned reputation as no-nonsense tough judge. What’s less known is the fact under his leadership, Philadelphia’s Family Court cut the number of kids in foster homes by half. Additionally, Dougherty has embraced creative second-chance programs for at-risk youth. While on the bench, he has always remained conscious of the “future” life chances of the juveniles appearing before him. Dougherty has expunged thousand of juvenile criminal records allowing young people to access employment and educational opportunities.

The significance of Dougherty’s approach to this important issue cannot be overstated. So many young boys and girls find themselves caught up in the juvenile justice system. Their juvenile records could serve as a very real barrier in their efforts to access employment, housing and education. Dougherty gets it.

We live during a period where it’s vital that we keep it real… That’s why The Black Cager endorses Judge Kevin Dougherty for a seat on the PA Supreme Court.

Working Together for HS Student-Athletes: Scholastic Sports Think Tank

A recent analysis of data over the past two years revealed some very interesting findings. Of all of the freshman that accepted scholarships to play basketball in the Atlantic 10 (A10) Conference over the past two years – 2013 and 2014 – 52% would NOT have been eligible if the 2016 NCAA eligibility guidelines were already in place.

Through analysis of SAT test score data and discussions with concerned HS Principals, HS coaches, AAU coaches, parents and student-athletes it was determined that Black student-athletes in the mid-Atlantic Region (NY, NJ, PA, DE & MD) were particularly at-risk of not meeting the new guidelines. Another area that may experience significant problems is Jackson, Mississippi.

We have decided to form the Scholastic Sports Think Tank (SSTT) to:

1) Disseminate information and increase knowledge of NCAA, NAIA and JUCO initial eligibility guidelines: The NCAA will implement several significant and increasingly stringent freshman eligibility guidelines. These guidelines will take effect on August 1, 2016.

2) Increase understanding and provide access to innovative interventions designed to help student-athletes meet the new eligibility requirements: Through accessing innovative interventions, we aim to help student-athletes access the tools necessary to meet eligibility requirements. We aim to get student-athletes to think outside the box for solutions.

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For many of our youth, athletics is the means to accessing higher education. SSTT will work to help our youth understand what they need to accomplish in order to be eligible for athletic scholarships.

Look for announcements for FREE full-length practice SAT exams and transcript reviews.