Black Cager Scouting Report: Antwan ‘Booty’ Butler… Philly PG!

At least once a week, I get a call from a college coach saying “I need some toughness… I need a Philly guard to help us get over the hump.”

Antwan Butler is a pure Philly Point Guard!

His game is extremely efficient… No fluff… Nuthin’ cute… Nuthin’ extra… Just winning play after winning play after winning play…

Butler is a pass first point guard in the traditional sense. He takes his responsibility as a point guard very seriously… As a result he is able to lead his teams to victories over squads featuring much more heralded and more highly ranked players.

He plays with an uncommon level of determination and truly enjoys setting up his teammates. He consistently finds guys and gets them the ball in positions where they can finish plays successfully… A true leader.Antwan Butler - Scouting Report copy-page-0

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Black Cager Scouting Report: Matt Cotton… HIGH MAJOR

Matthue Cotton is a HIGH MAJOR student… His GPA is north of 3.4 and his M/V SAT score is north of 1000…

Matthue Cotton is from a HIGH MAJOR family… His mother is a US Army veteran and served in the Iraq War. His father works for the US Department of Homeland Security…

Matthue Cotton is a HIGH MAJOR person… He enjoys volunteering at a teen shelter, feeding the homeless, and reading his donated books to children at a day care center…

Matthue Cotton is a HIGH MAJOR basketball prospect… He is one of the top two or three college basketball prospects from the Greater Philadelphia Region in the Class of 2018…

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Matt Cotton - Scouting Report

Matthue has scholarship offers from the following Colleges and Universities (The Ivy League Schools do NOT offer athletic scholarships):

Miami (ACC)

OK State (BIG 12)

VCU (A10)

Colgate (Patriot)

Seton Hall (Big East)

St. Joseph’s (A10)

University of Pennsylvania (IVY)

Columbia (IVY)

St. Bonaventure (A10)

Virginia Tech (ACC)

Rhode Island (A10)

Rutgers (Big 10)

Temple (AAC)

Lasalle (A10)

Towson (CAA)

NJIT (Atlantic Sun)

Tulane (C-USA)

Hartford (Am East)

 

 

Philly’s March Misery! Bring Back the Short Shorts…

We ain’t shit!

Philly is supposed to be a basketball town. At least, that’s how it’s been perceived all my life. Rodgers and Lear, Jack Ramsay and Cliff Anderson, Larry Canon and Kenny Durrett, Bilsky and Wohl, Corky Calhoun, Mike Brooks, John Pinone, Tim Smith, Mike Anderson… The list goes on and on…

Youngbucks…I know how this sounds… Believe me, I don’t want be that old guy we all know.

You know… that guy around the way, always talking about how good things were “back in the day”… He continuously compares contemporary developments unfavorably to the way it was when he was a kid… Inevitably, the old players and the teams that wore the really short shorts are always “better” in every way in every conversation.

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I really don’t wanna be that guy… I never liked that guy… Always thought he was wrong anyway…

But… Truth be told… The teams in the really short shorts were MUCH better than what Philly is putting out these days.

Other than Villanova… City 6 basketball stinks!

When I was 14 in March of 1979, Temple and Penn were in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament. Also, in that East Region that year were the following teams: North Carolina, Duke, Georgetown, Syracuse, Connecticut, Rutgers, Iona and St. John’s. Temple lost to St. John’s in the first round… Penn, however, knocked off Iona, North Carolina, Syracuse and then St. John’s to reach the Final Four where Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were waiting for the Quakers. The FINAL FUCKIN’ FOUR!! Penn.. yes… the Quakers!

When I was a kid… That’s how Philly rolled in March… My man Tony Price (pictured below) held it down.

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When I was 16 in March of 1981, ninth-seeded St. Joseph’s got past Creighton 59-57 in a closely fought 1st round battle. Next up was mighty DePaul featuring consensus All-Americans Mark Aguirre and Terry Cummings. Led by legendary Ray Meyer, the Blue Demons were heavy favorites over the scrappy Hawks featuring a bunch of local dudes.

In a low scoring affair, as expected, DePaul was up 7 with about 10 minutes to play. Slowly and steadily, St. Joseph’s chopped the lead to one point, 48-47, with 48 seconds left in the game. Then with 13 seconds left on the clock, St. Joseph’s fouled Skip “Money” Dillard who proceeded to miss the front end of the 1-and-1.

Without using a timeout St. Joseph’s Bryan Warrick pushed the ball up court and found freshman Lonnie McFarlan wide open in the right corner. Anyone and everyone knows that Lonnie loved to shoot… He shot early and he shot often… He took good shots and he took bad shots… But this time as he raised and cocked his arm to squeeze one off, two Blue Demons came running toward him. Instead of shooting, McFarlan passed (pictured below) the ball to John Smith underneath the basket for the game winning layup with 2 seconds left on the clock.

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When I was young… That’s how Philly rolled in March… Fuck #1 DePaul… Take dat ass home…

When I was coming of age this was expected… The events of this era shaped my understanding of Philly college hoops.

With the good, came some really bad… Two years later, in January 1983, at the Palestra, John Thompson a Black Coach brought his predominantly Black Georgetown squad to town to face Villanova. In a shameful episode, Villanova fans held up several similar signs.  One bedsheet read “[Patrick] Ewing Is An Ape.”  What? Huh? Another Villanova fan wore a t-shirt that read, “Ewing Kant Read Dis.”  What the fuck? While Ewing jogged on the court for pregame introductions, yet another Villanova fan threw a banana peel on the court. I was done with Nova… DONE!

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When I was young… That’s also how Philly rolled…

Fuck those Nova racists!

Fast forward two years and Georgetown and Villanova met for the National Championship. On April 1, 1985, Villanova featuring Ed Pinckney, Dwayne McClain, Harold Pressley, Gary Mclain and Harold Jensen shot 22 for 28 (79%) from the field and defeated the Hoyas. It was a great performance and, for the most part, Philadelphia embraced the Champion Wildcats…

When I was young… That’s how Philly rolled…

Nonetheless, I sat that one out… No parade for me… The wounds from the treatment of Georgetown and Ewing at the Palestra were still too raw… Couldn’t get over it… I rooted for Georgetown… HARD!!

In the winter of 1987, John Chaney put THE Philly squad together… Howie Evans at the point… Mark Macon at the 2, Mike Vreeswyk at the 3, Tim Perry at the 4 and Ramon Rivas holding down the Center spot…

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They beat EVERYBODY!!

Well… almost everybody… UCLA (81-76), South Carolina (63-50), Mississippi (70-61) were among the victims during a 14-0 start. Then the Owls lost a tough one on the road by a single point to UNLV (58-59) before running off another 18 game winning streak. An 83-66 ASS-whuppin’ administered to the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, North Carolina is indicative of the strength of this team. Damn… they were good! That squad would finally succumb in an Elite 8 matchup with Duke. They finished the year 32-2.

When I was young… That’s how Philly rolled…

At 34th and Market, the great Mike Anderson (pictured below) averaged over 19 points per game during his college career. The Engineering and Science alum led Drexel to their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 1986. They lost to eventual national champion, Louisville. Louisville featured Milt Wagner and Billy Thompson from the Camden dynasty on the  other side of the Ben Franklin Bridge. Anderson was named to the UPI and Sporting News honorable mention All-America teams in 1986. Anderson also led the Dragons to an upset win over David Robinson and Navy in the Palestra in 1987. Anderson would become the first Drexel basketball player to make the roster of an NBA team.

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When I was young… That’s how Philly rolled…

At 20th and Olney, from 1986 to 1990, a young man from South Philly scored 3,217 career points—the third-most in NCAA history. This was different era. Lionel Simmons played for one high school (Southern HS) and he played for one club (South Philly/Sonny Hill) in the summer. Simmons (pictured below) would be named the the Naismith, Wooden, AP and NABC National College Player of the Year in 1990, as well as a consensus first-team All-American. This Claude Gross protege became the only player in NCAA history to score more than 3,000 points and grab in excess of 1,100 rebounds. Simmons led the Explorers to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances (1988-90). He won three MAAC Player of the Year awards and he established the NCAA basketball record for most consecutive games with double-figure scoring (115).

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When I was young… That’s how Philly rolled…

Now… we have Nova, the reigning National Champions. They play a beautiful brand of basketball. They play as a unit. Their coach is a true gentleman. One of their assistants is Philly’s own Ashley Howard (pictured below with the late Claude Gross). They just get it right. For example, they locked down the local kid having the best high school season a few weeks ago. This young man didn’t play on one of the shoe company circuits. He didn’t play for one of the established basketball powers. He is not uber-athletic or lightning quick. All that he did was play basketball BETTER than everyone else in the greater Philadelphia region this year. I really respect Howard and Wright for that!

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I’m learning to not hold the Nova sons accountable for the sins of their Nova fathers… It’s REALLY HARD!

Surveying the City 6 landscape, only one conclusion can be drawn: Other than Nova… We ain’t shit!

Temple? Done! With a record of 16-16 (7-11 in the American Athletic Conference), Temple closed out the season with a loss to East Carolina in front of about 80 people in the first round of the AAC Tournament.

St. Joseph’s? Done! With a record of 11-20 (4-14 in the Atlantic 10 Conference), St. Joseph’s closed out the season with a loss to UMass in the first round of the A10 Tournament.

La Salle? Done! With a record of 15-15 (9-9 in the Atlantic 10 Conference), La Salle closed out the season with a loss to Davidson in their first game in the A10 Tournament.

Drexel? Done! With a record of 9-23 (3-15 in the Colonial Athletic Association), Drexel closed out the season with a loss James Madison in the first round of the CAA tournament.

Penn? Still alive… barely… With a record of 13-14 (6-8 in the Ivy League), Penn takes on Princeton (21-6, 14-0) Saturday at the Palestra in the first Ivy League Tournament.

That’s Philly’s brightest hope outside of Nova… Penn with 8 league losses might somehow, someway steal a game against Princeton (undefeated in the Ivy League)…

We are fucked!!

Bring back the short shorts…

Tribulations of a Basketball Junkie: Martin L. King Let Me Down!

I confess… I am an addict… I am a degenerate basketball junkie…

I drive all over the Greater Philadelphia Region and beyond in search of my fix…

I NEED to see good competitive, well played basketball games! My addiction is full blown!

In just the past couple of weeks, I’ve been to Baltimore, Bensalem, Bryn Mawr, Malvern, Souderton, 54th and City Ave., 33rd and Walnut and tonight Solly Ave in Northeast Philadelphia chasing… I’ve seen Division 1, Division 2, Division 3, JUCO and high school contests.

All in search of a really good fuckin’ basketball game. Sometimes I come across that good, good…

For example, last Thursday, I watched Martin L. King take mighty Imhotep, ranked 6th in the nation, to the brink of defeat. It was really, really UGLY, but it was GOOD… In a hard fought defeat, King controlled the game throughout much of the first three quarters before falling 53-49 in overtime. Photo below (PennLive/Daniel Gallen)

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That game was full of missed shots, fouls, turnovers… It more closely resembled a bare-knuckle backyard brawl than a basketball game. Shit… I kept waiting to see Kimbo Slice emerge from the King huddle and check in the game. Even though he never appeared, I got my fix… I did witness Wil McNair, standing 6’10” and weighing about 250 lbs team with 6’6” 225 lb Elijah Kiah-El to meet Imhotep’s extraordinary athletes at the rim time after time. Repeatedly, Donta Scott, Dave Beatty and Koby Thomas tried to go over and through the King bigs. Over and over, they were turned away, shots rejected. Repeatedly, they regrouped, reloaded and came back to challenge the big boys somewhere near or over the rim.

This was “good basketball”… Not pretty, not elegant, not fluid… But good…

In the end, Imhotep’s lightning quick superstar Daron “Fatts” Russell was able to impose himself on the less experienced King guards and will Imhotep to the Public League title. Fatts is dat dude! The Pub’s best player on the best team got it done. Nonetheless, I was impressed with King’s performance and their effort.

For a few days, at least, my urges were satiated…

However, the monkey soon reappeared on my back… I was unable to resist the pull of the Palestra, the Catholic League Championship was calling me…

“Gonna be some GOOD basketball” (photo by Zamani Feelings)

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The matchup featured the Philly player having the greatest high school career, Quade Green, going against the player having the greatest high school season, Collin Gillespie. Had to be there..

We all know how that ended… Green and Neumann-Goretti jumped out early and took control of the game. He was able to impose his will and Wood was down 13 at the half, with Gilllespie limited to a mere 2 points… Things looked bleak…

Truth be told… an informal survey among several media members (Randy Miller, Amauro Austin and myself) at halftime gave Wood less than a snowball’s chance in hell to comeback and win… But…

Collin Gillespie is a BAD MUTHAFUCKA!

He finished with 24 points and Wood wins going away.

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This set up what seemed to be an intriguing matchup tonight. Big, bruising, intimidating, aggressive Martin L. King versus the Wood basketball orchestra conducted by Maestro Gillespie.

Now… we all know junkies don’t think straight… Why should I be any different?

Listen to this dumb shit…

I told several of my friends, I think Martin L. King might be able to win. After playing to a full house of 9,000+ in the majestic Palestra, the tiny gym on Solly Ave. couldn’t be an exciting venue. After defeating Neuman-Goretti, Quade Green and Carl Arrigale for the second time this season, Wood had to ripe for a let down. Right? McNair and Kiah-El would be problematic for the competitive, determined and rail thin Seth Pickney. Right?

I envisioned a scenario where the bigger, stronger King players would impose themselves on Wood and cause the symphony to miss a few notes for a change. No way Wood would be able just pick apart Sean Colson’s staunch defense. After all, King just hit mighty Imhotep with body blows, upper cuts and right crosses for four full quarters before finally yielding in overtime.

King’s toughness would be problematic for Wood’s precision… Right?

Fuuuuuuuuuuck no!

How bad was the beat down? Let me try to explain… Let’s put it in a comparative context…

Those of you of a certain age might remember the “body bag game” between the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins 27 years ago. The score that Monday Night was 28-14. A defeat for sure, but nothing epic is reflected in that score. To get a true sense of the magnitude of that particular beat down, one has examine the injury report.

Buddy Ryan’s defense knocked NINE (9) Redskins out of the game with injuries… Nine players left the game and did not return… Simply stated, it was a complete ASS Whuppin…

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I really hadn’t thought about that game until riding home from the Wood-MLK game trying to think of an adequate comparison for what I just watched. How do I convey the extent to which the Catholic League champ crushed the soul of one of the Public League powers?

There I sat, in the balcony with bleachers at full capacity… Good thing the Fire Marshall’s kid wasn’t playing… eagerly anticipating a “good game”…

I was ready…

I needed my fix… I needed a good, competitive and hard-fought basketball game…

Man… Let me tell you… King let me down… Right out the gate…

After 3 minutes of play, the score was Wood 16 – Martin L. King 2.

From there, shit went downhill.

The maestro was in his bag…. Weaving in an out of the King defense, Gillespie dribbled effortlessly right around the King bigs until he located one of his snipers standing, feet set, elbows cocked and ready to rain 3’s.

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The net was barely moving. One after the other, Cerruti, Pickron and Funk hit the back of rim and the ball fell straight down. You could see it developing, Gillespie created space… off a screen, crossover or an in and out dribble absconded his defender… on the loose, he came straight at the King bigs, head up, surveying the entire court… As soon as defenders committed he made a no look and extremely accurate skip pass to Cerruti, Pickron or Funk… for 3…. Splash!

After 4 minutes of play, Wood 21, MLK 6…

It’s worth noting, the Wood wings weren’t the only ones having fun… Seth Pickney and Julius Phillips caught the occasional Wood miss and slammed the ball back through the rim with tremendous force. Hanging on the rim, like second graders discovering monkey bars for the first time, they severely tested the springs in the breakaway mechanism.

With 38 seconds left in the 1st half, Wood 43, MLK 24…

I’m almost ashamed to admit I couldn’t shake my junkie tendencies… I kept hoping and believing the King team I watched against Imhotep would somehow make an appearance. I waited for a run… I pleaded for several consecutive stops on the defensive end… I wanted to see some “good basketball!”

I was trippin’…

With 4:08 left in the game, Wood 81, MLK 43…

Alas, I had to deal with the fact that I wouldn’t get my fix tonight… I had to face facts… King let me down…

No good basketball on Solly Ave… Just a good ol’ fashioned “Ass Whuppin”…

Yo… What time Booty play Quade tomorrow?

AAU/Grassroots: “The Game is the Game”

We have entered officially entered the heart of “basketball season”!

We’ve had a few weeks to digest the Falcons shittin’ the bed like no other team in the history of sports… Except maybe the 2016 Golden State Warriors…

It’s March!

Very soon… in a matter of days… we will be relentlessly bombarded with ads for NCAA March Madness. Shit gets crazy… People with absolutely no interest in college basketball will spend hours pouring over brackets trying to pick a winner from the field of 68 schools lucky enough to participate. Inevitably, some small school with a name like “NorthSouthEast Pennsylvania A&M” will knock off “Big State.” Or, maybe an HBCU with a shoestring budget like “Tubman University” will squeeze past “Big Tech.”

American sports fans, not just college basketball fans, will be mesmerized by the possibility of the 1 vs 16 or the 2 vs 15 upset. It’s magnificent theater! As good as it gets in the American sports landscape. One ALMOST gets a sense of what it was like to watch Roman Emperors feeding humans to hungry lions.

In an orgy of spending, the NCAA will make over $1,000,000,000 dollars televising Lil’ Man’s crossovers and Stink-Stink’s dunks over a three week period. With a couple of good wins a few relatively obscure coaches will go from making $300,000 to $2,000,000 in a three week period as the mega-programs at the top of the food chain poach leaders of the best mid-size basketball programs. All this stuff will be covered in the most minute detail by ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS Sports, YahooSports, ABC, NBC and hundreds of mainstream sports outlets.

Meanwhile… There’s some other really interesting shit taking place…

Out of view, in every major city across the country there is a real fuckin war underway!

Look at a US map and pick a city… Any city? Houston, Baltimore, Miami, Oakland, Chicago, Kansas City, New York… Doesn’t matter…

For illustrative purposes, today I’ll focus on a high school in Jackson, Mississippi. Medgar Evers High School is where Darryl Johnson, a 16 year old 6’7’ high school sophomore, received 87 text messages while he was in school today. Darryl tried to focus on his school work but his jack was on fire…

What the fuck? Bzzzzzzzzz… Bzzzzzzzzzz… in his pocket over and over…

Stealthily, every few minutes he reached in his pocket and read text messages from coaches with various AAU/Grassroots programs.

“What up Kid? What we gotta do to make this happen?”

“What size you wear? I got 2 pair of KDs and the new Duke Kyries for ya!”

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“What’s your Pop’s inmate #? Gonna put lil’ sumthin on his books.”

Darryl tried to listen to the history lesson on the Great Depression, but he couldn’t focus…

The teacher words were gibberish… Just like Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice! (click link)

His team is still alive in the state playoffs. They locked up the county title last week. He’s trying to focus on his High School quest for another state title, it’s 3rd in 4 years, but it’s nearly impossible…

The war is raging!

AAU/Grassroots teams are in the middle of their “tryout” season… Darryl is the top sophomore in Mississippi. The Nike program in his area has been trying to lure him for two years non-stop. Same with the Adidas program.

But Darryl’s surrogate father, Jimmy Earl, is his youth coach and he’s been a fixture on the Under Armour Circuit for years. They met when five years ago when Darryl was in the 5th grade. Back when everybody called him “Dirty Darryl.” He hung out at the local playground while Earl was teaching his own son the fundamentals of basketball. Long, gangly and quiet Darryl caught Earl’s attention when, standing about 6’1″, he said he was only 11 years old. Although he could barley tie his shoes and could not make a layup, Earl knew the kid would have a chance if he worked at it. Besides, his son was a point guard and here was the BIG he could develop alongside his son.

“Where’s your Daddy?”

“I don’t know my Daddy….” Darryl said…

Where’s your Momma?

“She at work…”

“You want learn how to play basketball?”

“Yessir… I do…”

With that, Earl and “Dirty Darryl” entered into an arrangement… They later formalized it with Darryl’s Momma, Bernice, an in-home health aide working 12 hour shifts 7 days a week, 9:00 am – 9:00 pm. Bernice make $8.25 per hour. Just enough to keep a roof over Darryl’s and his 4 siblings’ head and something resembling food on the table.

Her job leaves very little time, however, for actually raising her children… She welcomed Earl’s help with Darryl…

When Darryl first came home with two new pairs of sneakers, she’s pleased. She profusely thanks Earl knowing she would NEVER spend $125 on a pair of basketball shoes.

“No big deal…” Earl replied.

Actually, it’s wasn’t… Earl has three storage rooms where he keeps about $40,000 worth of sneakers at all times.

After a few months, the neighborhood kids drop the “Dirty” from Darryl’s moniker… He wears new basketball gear everyday. Darryl has over 20 pair and he meticulously cleans them each time they are worn. He never wears the same pair twice in a week.

Eventually, Earl learns that Darryl has been suspended from school over 30 times… Shit doesn’t make since since he’s extremely well-behaved when he’s with Earl’s family in his home. Keeping it real, Earl’s wife never fails to mention that Darryl does more around the house than her own children. Why is Darryl so obedient and compliant in the home and disruptive and defiant in school? What gives?

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Darryl requests that the school psychologist “test” Darryl to see if he has any learning “issues.” He’s shocked to learn that while he was in the 6th grade at the time, Darryl was reading at a 2nd grade level and his math skills were barely 3rd grade. Clearly, his long-standing pattern of acting out behaviors were designed to cover up the fact that Darryl could NOT do the work. Facing a perceived choice between being considered “dumb” or “bad”, Darryl chose the later time after time.

Earl intervened and broke that horrific pattern…

The evaluation discovered that Darryl had neurologically-based processing problems. These processing problems interfered with basic skills such as reading, writing and/or math. They also interfered with higher level skills such as organization, time planning, abstract reasoning, long or short term memory and attention. In other words, he needed an Individualized Education Plan with special accommodations in place to help him learn.

Earl made that happen… He changed the trajectory of Darryl’s educational journey…

Earl attended every school meeting, dragging the Mother along when a parental signature was required. Within a year, Earl was the de facto parent. Darryl spent at least 5 nights a week at Earl’s house. On Christmas, he reached under the tree retrieved and opened his gifts just like Earl’s other kids. On Thanksgiving, he sat at the table with the rest of Earl’s extended family.

Earl was his Pop…

Earl chose his high school… A local public basketball power with an exceptional special education program. In doing so, Earl had to fend off EVERY private and Catholic school in the region. By the 8th grade Darryl was 6’5” and 190 lbs. He more than held his own with local High School stars in workouts and pick up games. Everyone knew he was ‘next up.”

In the past, Earl referred most kids to private and Catholic schools, but the kids with “special needs” floundered academically. They would receive mostly Ds. They would earn enough credits to remain eligible, but their low GPAs would put them at-risk of not meeting NCAA eligibility requirements.

Not this time…

Earl knew full well that Darryl’s ONLY shot at going to college was a basketball scholarship. His family could never afford to send him… Earl met with the principal, the Special Education Coordinator and the coach. They put a plan in place to support Darryl and make sure he had adequate accommodations in place.

Freshman year, Darryl starts varsity and does well. He blends in with some of the older players and becomes the “glue guy”. He defends the other teams best player… He leads the team in rebounds… He draws charges… He dives for loose balls… The HS coach LOVES him…

His GPA is 2.8…

In the summer, he plays for Earl on the Under Armour 15U circuit… There he shines… He’s the MAN on Earl’s team and they are ranked in the top 5 nationally… He get invited to several Top 100 Camps where he does extremely well against the top players in the country.

Sophomore year, Darryl expands his game… While he still does much of the dirty work, he’s become a much more polished offensive player… He’s also grown… Now, standing a legit 6’7” and weighing at 21lbs, Darryl is real problem at the high school level. Mississippi, Mississippi State, Southern Mississippi, Jackson St, Alabama and about 12 other schools have offered full basketball scholarships…

As noted earlier, Medgar Evers is in the midst of a playoff run. Darryl is trying to stay focused on the task at hand…

But that fuckin phone is on fire… Every 2-3 minutes another text…

“You gotta look out for you…”

“Earl ain’t got ur back… You should come over here…”

“Hit me when you get out of school… Got sumthin’ for you…”

Non-stop… Eventually, Darryl shows Earl the texts… At first, Earl becomes visibly pissed off…

BUT… What’s he gonna do?

He sent damn near identical texts over the past couple hours to 5 kids that play for the same coaches contacting Darryl…

In fact, he has to meet the parents of one the other coaches kids at the Cheesecake Factory in 45 minutes… One thing for sure…

The game is the game…