Recruiting Repercussions: A Conversation with Super Sports Lawyer Don Jackson

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath:
for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
Romans 12:19

Basketball Recruiting… These words have been thrust to the forefront of America’s ongoing sports dialogue… Basketball Coaches are the new “thugs”… Overnight, AAU and college coaches have become morally equivalent to the Jamaican Shower Posse… It is impossible to envision a return to things as they were… We are truly in a new era…

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Recently indicted Business Manager, Christian Dawkins

We all knew recruiting was a rough and tumble, bare-knuckle brawling business. The stakes are so astronomically high, that damn near anything goes. We’ve seen Rick Pitino get away with providing strippers and prostitutes for recruits and their ohhhh so willing Dads, Uncles and Ol’ Heads… About a week ago, this statement would have been met with some meek challenges from some quarters… No longer… It’s out there for all to see…

Anything goes…

Want the kid? Will he make a difference for you? Will he get you to the NCAA tournament?

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Indicted Adidas Executive, Jim Gatto

Pay him… $150,000… $100,000… That’s about the going rate… As a result of a high profile federal fraud and bribery scandal shaking the foundations of college basketball, all possible doubt has been removed.

Let’s be clear…

Shoe companies, agents and financial advisors PAY college coaches, AAU programs and family members for the services of elite scholastic basketball players. They have the tapes…

But, most keen observers of collegiate athletics already knew that was the case. It’s inevitable and it will continue… High profile basketball and football players have a tremendous monetary value to the top college programs. A 5 year extension for some of the top coaches could be worth anywhere from $25-$40 million. Shoe companies are paying the top college programs $12-19 million per year to wear their shoes and uniforms. Assistant football coaches in the BIG BOY programs make upwards of $1.5 million annually and top basketball assistants pull down $500,000 – $750,000.

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So, one has to ask… What are the BEST players worth in that context?

See… the way capitalism is set up… Money finds it’s way to things of value.

The top defensive ends, left tackles and quarterbacks impact the outcome of games, hence they are extremely valuable. So are the top 50 or so basketball players in the nation. The people and organizations controlling their destination and selling their performances are literally shitting money!

While the NCAA reaps over $1 billion every year from the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament alone, the players (the actual performers in this show) are supposed to receive room, board, books tuition and fees. That’s it…

The prevailing NCAA rule is as follows: NCAA guidelines for improper benefits violations of at least $700 recommend an athlete sit out at least 30 percent of the season and repay the value to charity as conditions for reinstatement.

Well… as anyone that has read the recent headlines and stories can tell you, we are waaaay past that threshold.

What’s the penalty for improper benefits of $150,000?

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Donald Jackson, Attorney – The Sports Group

Don Jackson is a prominent Alabama-based sports attorney. Jackson represented Todd O’Brien when St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli refused to release him to play for the University of Alabama-Birmingham after he graduated from St. Joseph’s University. More recently, he represented Archbishop Carroll native, Derrick Jones in his battle with the NCAA while playing at UNLV. Jackson, has handled many NCAA eligibility cases for athletes including former Mississippi State forwards Mario Austin and Renardo Sidney. He also represented former Southern Mississippi and Tennessee head coach Donnie Tyndall in his appeal process to attempt to remove or lessen the 10 year show-cause penalty given to him in 2016 after violations were found during his time as head coach at Southern Miss. He currently teaches Sports Law courses at the Cumberland School of Law, Samford University.

One of the most respected attorneys handling cases involving the NCAA, Jackson recently noted that this recent scandal is

“going to break new ground… “Those rules are out of the window of this case, because no one ever envisioned a $100,000 benefit.”

In the past, collegiate student-athletes improperly receiving $100-$200 have been held out of games and the suspensions were much harsher as the value of the benefits increased.

So what’s likely to happen to the young players involved in the current collegiate recruiting scandals?

“If the student-athlete received money, knew it was a violation and accepted it anyway, it’s more likely that he could be sanctioned in a potentially harsh way,” Jackson said. “And if he lies about it, then he’s going to be charged with … an unethical-conduct charge, which could render him permanently ineligible.”

The Black Cager also asked Jackson for his opinion on an ongoing eligibility controversy involving several Overbrook High School student. Three young Black players have transferred into Overbrook, one from Boys Latin HS and two from West Philadelphia HS. The sending schools have, thus far, refused to “sign off” on the transfers… As a result, the three Black young men are currently ineligible to compete in varsity basketball.

The young man from Boys Latin has a 3.9 GPA and strong standardized test scores. The two from West Philadelphia High School are both scholarship level basketball players. Both have Division 2 offers and legitimate Division 1 interest. The West Philadelphia transfers are also fatherless. Both lost their Dads to senseless gun violence.

Who speaks for these young men and others like them?

The Black Cager asked Jackson for his opinion on the Overbrook eligibility cases. He responded as follows:

“Sports, when taught appropriately, can be formative, reformative and transformative. The game can shape, mold and change lives. When I see families and young people attempt to use the game to elevate their lives and provide opportunities (only) to face opposition from individuals that are only focused on selfish, short sighted motivations, it angers me… Overbrook is a widely renowned secondary school with an incredible history. Efforts to impede these youngsters’ ability to better their live are unethical and, frankly, immoral. Young African-American men face considerable obstacles everyday. It is troubling to see officials in secondary schools place additional obstacles in their paths to education and accomplishment. It is pathetic.”

The college basketball scandal will continue to unfold and national media outlets will cover it incessantly.

The story of the smart kid and the fatherless boys will be covered by the The Black Cager. Regional and national interest in this case is growing. They say, Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly Love…

Will the adults deciding the fate of the young brothers placed in their care live up to the moniker?

I hope so and I WILL keep you posted… Until then, drop ’em a quick email and let ’em know how you feel…

Boys Latin HS
Joe Dunn, Athletic Director
215-387-5149
jdunn@boyslatin.org

RJ McDaniel, Principal
215-387-5149
rmcdaniel@boyslatin.org

West Philadelphia HS
Mary Dean, Principal
215-471-2902
mdean@philasd.org

Barry Strube, Athletic Director
215-471-2902
bstrube@philasd.org

Overbrook HS
Robert Miller, Athletic Director
215-581-5507
rdmiller@philasd.org

Yvette Jackson, Principal
215-581-5507
yljackson@philasd.org

 

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Kids Transfer ALL the Time! Deal With It…

Transfers are very, very common among high school students… Even some VERY GOOD basketball players transfer… Here’s a few off the top of my head…

Rico Washington – Frankford to Ben Franklin

Brian Shorter – Gratz to Oak Hill

Tasheed Carr – UCity to Oak Hill

Nazeer Bostick – MCS to Roman Catholic

Mike Watkins – Bartram to MCS

Traci Carter – Roman to Life Center

Tony Carr – Abington Friends to Roman Catholic

Josh Sharkey – Abington Friends to Archbishop Carroll

Devon McClendon – Academy Park to Chester

Glenn Sabb – Cheltenham to ANC

Zah Harrison – Wood to Cheltenham

Dave Beatty – Carroll to St. Benedict’s to Imhotep

Matthue Cotton – ANC to St. Benedict’s to Eastern

DJ Newbill – Imhotep to Strawberry Mansion

Jarrod Denard – Imhotep to Friere Charter

Marcus Littles – ANC to Neumann-Goretti

Justin Anderson – Chestnut Hill to ANC to Archbishop Caroll

Rashid Bey – Glen Mills to Neumann

Allen Betrand – Fels to Roman Catholic

Justin Steers – Tacony Charter to Friends Central

Skinny Warwick – UCity to Friends Central

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Three TRANSFERS Stevens (Haverford School), Bostick (MCS) and Carr (Abington Friends)

I guess the ADs of these sending schools failed to “protect” the kids from themselves?

Kid doesn’t want to go to your school?

Let him go…

Wish him well…

Open enrollment and school choice is a good thing! A VERY good thing!

 

 

 

 

 

“Fuck Him! Fuck His Scholarship!”

Bzzzzzz… Bzzzzzz… Bzzzzzz… the alarm on athletic director’s Bob Smithson’s new IPhone 7 is annoying as hell… But, it serves it’s purpose. Smithson rises out of the bed, kisses his lovely wife, showers, eats breakfast, chats with his kids and make his way to the garage. The toughest decision of his morning awaits… take the SUV or the sedan?

He remembered… His wife has to pick up some new lamps, so he takes the sedan. Within minutes he is on  I-476 headed toward Philadelphia. After the 35 minute commute, he arrives in the parking lot and heads into the Hilltop school building. The first bell rings in exactly 17 minutes, enough time to check a few emails from his coaches and down a cup of coffee…

SCHOOL

Meanwhile, in the Cecil Johnson projects… Jamir Jenkins is running a lil’ late… His Mom works the overnight shift and he has to get his 3 younger siblings dressed and ready for school… Jamir quickly realizes his youngest sister doesn’t have a clean uniform. He finds a stain free shirt, grabs a washcloth, some dishwashing liquid and procedes to “spot clean” the tartan dress… “Good enough,” he tell his sister…

He pours store brand “Fruit Lupes” in 4 bowls… However, when he grabs the milk he realizes there’s only enough for maybe one serving. It’s the 27th of the month, so the balance on the ACCESS card has been $0 for nearly 2 weeks. All too familiar with this situation, Jamir “stretches” the milk so that the cereal in three bowls is at least moist. He quickly wolfs down his dry bowl.

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After walking his siblings 3 blocks to school, Jamir jumps on the Broad Street subway… After two stops, he transfers to the Market-Frankford Elevated Train. He rides the “El” to 60th street. Once he exits, there’s a 12 minute wait for a bus that will drop him off at the school.

He arrives at the school, with 3 minutes to spare… He races to his homeroom, hitting the door just as the bell rings…

Soon as the bell quiets, on the other side of the building, Smithson opens an email titled “Jamir Jenkins Transfer”…

The Athletic Director at a Eastside High School town has written Smithson to let him know that he will not “sign off” on the paperwork that will allow Jamir to play varsity basketball.

See… Jamir played last season for Eastside… He was their best player… An incredible athlete, Jamir plays the game with a combination of finesse and power that is uncommon at the scholastic level. Standing 6’4” inches, he has a vertical leap exceeding 40 inches. His ball-handling skills are very solid and his shooting is excellent.

Adidas Gauntlet Dallas on Friday, April 15, 2016.

Jamir has emerged as a strong prospect for a Division 1 basketball scholarship. Schools like Fairleigh Dickinson, North Carolina A&T, Central Connecticut State and Robert Morris have expressed interest in offering him a scholarship. They all let him know that they will follow him during his high school season.

The stakes couldn’t be higher for Jamir. This is his way out… His father was murdered when he was 4 years old. His mother is struggling to make ends meet and keep a roof over their heads. The cost of attending these schools for four years ranges from $160,000 to $240,000. There’s no way Jamir can attend without a basketball scholarship. The money is just NOT there…

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Indeed, the coach and the athletic director at Eastside know this is the case. They’ve been to the home… They picked him up and dropped him off more than 20 times last year. They saw the sparse, well-worn second-hand furniture. They bought him some sneakers so he could play better and so he could fit in with his teammates. They know his father is deceased. They know his Mom is struggling…

They also know that Jamir had been having “beef” with some of the Eastside kids… There were multiple fights… There were several occasions where Jamir had unexplained lacerations on his face… There were other times where his hands were swollen around the knuckles… Jamir would never elaborate, but the other kids did…

“Coach, those boys from 53rd St. mess with him everyday…”

Things were looking up though… This past summer, Jamir linked up with two of his friends and they decided to play with an AAU club called Philly Thunder.

Great Move!

They had some really exciting moments… They beat a couple of the well-funded high profile shoe company sponsored teams. In one instance, Jamir had a follow-up dunk where his head literally hit the rim! Video of that dunk went viral, with over 300,000 views.

College coaches became increasingly intrigued… They started showing up at Philly Storm games… At first 1 or 2… As the summer went on, there were more each game… By the end of the summer 15-20 coaches were watching the Philly Storm games.

The attention and the success was new for Jamir. Weary of fighting his way into and out of Eastside High everyday, he had already decided to transfer. After playing with his friends in the summer he decided to join them at Hilltop.

Hilltop plays in the competitive B Division, whereas Eastside is in the lowly E Division. This is not insignificant… In search of a college scholarship, playing in a tougher decision appealed to Jamir. But more than anything, he didn’t want to fight anymore.

So… he transferred… He left Eastside and enrolled in Hilltop…

After reading the email from the Eastside coaches, the Hilltop athletic director, Smithson, responded with a mere two words…

“I agree!”

With that, the Hilltop athletic director, the Eastside athletic director and the Eastside coach determined that they would deny Jamir a chance to compete and play varsity basketball at Hilltop.

They “agreed” that he transferred for “basketball reasons” and was therefore ineligible to play at Hilltop… These three suburban-dwelling, college educated white males, each making between $70,000 and $90,000, determined that they would collude to end Jamir’s high school basketball career.

“Fuck him!”

“Fuck his scholarship!”

“We need to make an example of him, these kids cannot just change schools when they want. We need them to stay put and ensure that OUR team is competitive.”

One immediately wonders what Jamir’s father is gonna say… Then you remember his father was murdered 14 years ago.

Later that evening, the Hilltop athletic director and his wife sat down after dinner and reviewed the performance of their children’s college fund. Then they compared the academic performance of three area schools in preparation for exercising their right to choose the best educational settings for their family.

 

Open Gym: Neumann-Goretti

Come down 11th Street look for the opening in the gate, make a hard right. Find a parking space in the lot and walk up the stairs that resemble NYC fire escapes. Pass through the the doors and you are THERE!

You are in the home of the Neumann-Goretti Saints. On this particular evening it was hotter than the dashboard of the 1973 Ford Pinto with the windows up on the Las Vegas strip in the middle of August. Seriously… in late September, it felt like you were in a giant oven set to broil. I immediately exclaimed to the Head Coach, Carl Arrigale, “Maaaaan… It’s hot as Sh#t in here!”

He replied, “that’s the way we like it… This is how poor boys play basketball…”

Coming from a man ALWAYS possessing a plethora of scholarship level college prospects, Arrigale’s comment made me smile. Poor? Maybe not financially wealthy, BUT… by any reasonable measure of high school basketball talent, Neumann-Goretti is undoubtedly one of the “wealthiest” schools in the Greater Philadelphia region over the past two decades.

A lot of diamonds have been mined in that HOT South Philly gym… Earl Pettis, D.J. Rivera, Scoop Jardine, Rick Jackson, Lamin Fulton, John Davis, Danny Stewart, JaQuan Newton and many others... these are true gems!

But… They come and they go…

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McDonald’s All-American Quade Green and Top 100 forward Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree

One year ago, Arrigale’s starting five included a Villanova power forward and a Kentucky point guard. Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree was a top 100 frontcourt player. A long lean athletic power forward, he consistently beat opposing bigs end to end. He was on the receiving end of several lobs for spectacular dunks every game. Possessing excellent timing and the patience of Job, he was an elite rim protector… He’s gone.

Also gone is one of the greatest guards in the history of Philadelphia scholastic basketball. McDonald’s All-American, Quade Green was the unquestioned leader of a very good Saints squad. He set the tone… He controlled the ball… He made every big decision… He took every big shot… It was, in every respect, the Quade Green show… He’s gone.

So… what can we expect from the 2017-18 Saints?

While the GREAT guard has moved on to the bluegrass state, Neumann-Goretti still has several VERY GOOD guards on the roster. Senior Dhamir Montague is big, strong, skilled combo guard. Standing 6’3″ with a rock solid 190 lb frame he able to capable defend the 1,2 and 3 position. A solid ball-handler with ranging out to 3-point line, Montague is an experienced leader. NEC, America East and MEAC programs should be all over Montague, he can be an immediate contributor at the low-D1 level.

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Noah Warren, Neumann-Goretti, Senior Combo Guard

Another very good combo guard in the Neumann-Goretti camp is Noah Warren. Warren is very quick with the ball in transition and turning the corner in half court sets. On the defensive end, he does an excellent job playing the passing lanes and creating turnovers by stealing and deflecting passes. Although, his release is a little low, it is quick and repeatable. Warren is threat to score from anywhere on the floor. He effectively utilizes a variety of floaters around the basket. Low D1 and strong D2 programs should be pursuing this proven winner.

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Chris Ings, Neumann-Goretti, Junior Point Guard

The top junior in the program is point guard, Chris Ings. He is a solid mid-major D1 prospect with offers from LaSalle and Mount St. Mary’s in hand. Ings is an explosive athlete who attacks the rim in transition. He likes to dunk and is capable of finishing through contact. After a two year stint as Green’s understudy, Ings displays a quiet confidence in his ability to assume the reigns of the program. He directs the team in scrimmages, often telling his big center, Marcus Littles (George Washington commit) to “post up”. With a tight handle, Ings is able to wait for Littles to establish position. Ings repeatedly delivered post entry passes accurately and gently into Littles target hand.

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Chris Ings delivers a post entry pass to Marcus Littles

These guys are playing “old school” smart inside out basketball. You can almost see, Ings thinking about the potential mismatches Littles will encounter this season. As the point guard, Ings is building Littles’ confidence and making sure he can go to that well whenever needed and come away with two points. One thing for sure… If defenders allow Littles to get that ball on the low block, comfortably in his right hand, you can go ahead and count the two points. He has a very soft jump hook and a nice turn around jumper. Also, on more than once occasion, Ings used him in “pick and pop” situations and Marcus easily knocked down 15-18 foot jumpers. These two are working very well together…

One should not lose sight of the fact that Arrigale has some other very promising weapons to bring to bear in this year’s Catholic League wars.

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Ahmad Fair, Neumann-Goretti, Sophomore Combo Guard

Ahmad Fair repeatedly beats his man off the dribble and got in the lane. I mean repeatedly… He is very tough off the bounce… He creatively employs a variety of crossover dribbles, hesitation moves and in and outs to create space or get his defender off balance. He is very quick and likes to attack, attack and attack again. Once he gains increased confidence in his pull-up jumper he will become a complete offensive player very difficult to defend. All this young guard needs is repetitions. This season, he will provide a very nice change of pace when entering the game for this year’s squad. He can be counted on apply pressure and collapse defenses.

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Hakim Byrd, Neumann-Goretti, Sophomore Point Guard

Another tough undersized guard is Hakim Byrd. Standing 5’8″, Byrd is very quick and elusive with the ball. Byrd exudes savvy and confidence. Possessing a reliable stroke extending out beyond the three point line he is able to effectively space the floor. With the ball in his hand, Byrd likes to drive and kick to open teammates. Utilizing a very quick first step, Byrd easily blows by initial defenders. He will bring speed and pressure defense to the table when he enters the lineup.

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Chris Evans, Neumann-Goretti, Freshman Shooting Guard

Three newcomers may be important factors determining if Neumann-Goretti can return to the Palestra for Catholic League Championship Game. Chris Evans is a 6’0″ freshman combo guard. A skilled ball-handler, he’s trying to fit in with the established stars populating the Neumann-Goretti backcourt. The one skill he’s not hesitant to display is his shooting ability. He’s got a quick release and he mades several deep jump shots while I was observing the scrimmage.

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Taquan Woodley, Neumann-Goretti, Freshman Power Forward

Two other newcomers will likely eat up frontcourt minutes. Noah Syer is 6’7″ 200 lb transfer from Sterling High. A good athlete, he’s especially active on the defensive end. Taquan Woodley is an intriguing 6’6″ freshman from Camden, New Jersey. Watching Woodley, it’s pretty clear that he will  come up with some very clutch rebounds for the Saints. Although inexperienced, he fully uses his length, athleticism, and timing along with a relentless hustle to help secure rebounds for his team. Woodley does a good job boxing out when near the basket, and tracking down rebounds that get away from the hoop.

Neumann-Goretti lost a LOT last year… Carl Arrigale has regrouped and reloaded… Will it all come together? Time will tell… Arrigale has been there every year for what seems like forever…

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Carl Arrigale and the 2017-18 Neumann-Goretti Saints

Arrigale won six straight Catholic League championships before losing the last three titles Roman Catholic (2X) and Archbishop Wood. The only other coach who has won at least six titles in a row is former Roman coach Dennis Seddon, who retired in 2007.

Apart from his 10 total Catholic League championships – a number only Seddon can match, Arrigale has also captured seven of the last eight Pennsylvania Class AAA state championships.

Gonna be interesting in the Catholic League this year… I can’t wait!

Open Gym: Cardinal O’Hara

Located in the heart of Delaware County, Cardinal O’Hara’s basketball fortunes rest on the shoulders of a true “Philly Point Guard.” Antwaun “Booty” Butler is a grizzled veteran of Philly Public League and PIAA playoff wars. He’s come away from more than his fair share of skirmishes with some BIG name scalps. For example, in addition to a 20 game winning streak, he’s led an undersized, undermanned Del Val program to playoff victories over a very good Mastery North program and nationally prominent Neumann-Goretti and Imhotep.

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Antwuan “Booty” Butler, Senior Point Guard

A complete player, before the first game this year, Butler has already amassed more than 1,000 varsity points. He gets buckets, but he’s not a scorer… He is a consummate “Philly Point Guard.” Elite Philly Point Guards have an ability to do something special every time they put the ball on the floor. HoopHeads have been spoiled over the past few years. There have been several guys that have upheld the tradition… Tony Carr (Roman Catholic/Penn State), Quade Green (Neumann-Goretti/Kentucky), Collin Gillespie (Archbishop Wood/Villanova) and Daron Russell (Imhotep/Rhode Island) have proudly represented the brand.

This year, Sam Sessoms, Jr. (Shipley/Binghamton commit) and Booty Butler are the guys.

With the revocation of Del Val’s Charter by the School District of Philadelphia, Butler was thrust into a quasi “free agent” status for his senior season. There was widespread speculation that he would join one of the established basketball powers… Would he end up at Martin L. King? Would he play at Constitution? Would he fill Gillespie’s shoes at Wood?

For those that know Butler, it’s not surprising that he’s at Cardinal O’Hara. After all, he played some his finest basketball and won some of his biggest games playing for Jason Harrigan at Del Val Charter. After Bulter’s sophomore season, Harrigan was named the Philadelphia Daily News Coach of Year. Perhaps, sensing the precarious nature of Del Val’s long-term future, Harrigan accepted the challenge of guiding the moribund Cardinal O’Hara program in the ultra-competitive Philadelphia Catholic League.

While he’s added some talent over the last year, Harrigan remains short-handed. But for this year, at least, O’Hara cannot be counted out…

They got Booty Butler!

Thick-bodied and tough, Butler embodies that tough Philly Point Guard mentality we have become accustomed to watching Carr, Green, Gillespie and Russell. He is probably the most physically imposing point guard in the Greater Philadelphia region. His speed makes him a threat to create a fast break in the blink of an eye. He plays a very efficient, no-frills version of the position. Butler, generally speaking, makes good decisions in transition. He pushed the ball relentlessly at every opportunity, seeming to gain strength when opponents begin to wane.

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Herman Suazo, Senior PF

While Butler will inevitably carry much of the load, he will have some assistance. O’Hara picked up some much needed size and athleticism when senior power forward Herman Suazo transferred from Wilkes Barre High School. Suazo stands 6’6″ and weighs 190 lbs. He’s going to help O’Hara on the boards and provide some quality low post defense.

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John Dinkins and Dajon Womack

Two other quality combo guards have made their way to O’Hara this year. Elijah Smith a strong 5’10” combo guard has transferred from Academy New Church and 6 foot wing John Dinkins has come over from Mt. Pleasant (DE).

Senior wing Garret Ripp will provide some energy and athleticism. He’s an excellent athlete, at 6’0″ he attacks the rim with outstanding leaping ability. After transferring in from West Catholic, Dajon Womack should be a significant contributor. He’s a solid “glue guy” that’s always around the ball. Womack is a very willing and capable on-ball defender, he rebounds well and he comes up with loose balls.

But…

At the end of the day… This team will go as far as Booty Butler can carry them…

He may have score much more than he’s been asked in the past, but Booty will probably be up to the task…

If anyone knows how to get the most out of Butler, it’s Harrigan…

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Jason Harrigan, Cardinal O’Hara Coach

He may not have as many weapons as some of the top programs, but he’s got Butler… On many nights this winter, that will be enough. Yo Booty… Welcome to the Philadelphia Catholic League!

Open Gym: Camden High

“You want da High?”

“Yo Got da High!”

For decades that chant has roared from the student section in victory after victory as the storied Camden High School basketball program rolled over opponents… In recent years there has been a steady uptick in a program that had fallen on hard times.

Camden has regained it’s place of prominence among South Jersey programs. The question… The ONLY question that matters, is… Does Camden have what it takes to compete with the powerhouse programs in North Jersey?

The names are very familiar… St. Benedict’s, The Patrick School, Hudson Catholic, Rosselle Catholic and Immaculate Conception… With the closing of mighty St. Anthony’s and the retirement of it’s legendary Hall of Fame Coach, Bob Hurley, New Jersey basketball supremacy is up for grabs.

For the first time in recent memory, Camden High may be among the elite programs in the state. They have tremendous size, athleticism and experience.

All of that was on display in an “Open Gym” at the Camden Boys and Girls Club across the street from the now shuttered “Castle on the Hill.” The buzz around this year’s team is palpable. Upon entering the gym, I was warmly greeted by highly respected, long-time independent scouts Chick Gillespie and Allen Rubin. These guys sniff out talented college prospects as well as anyone in the nation.

Seated in the bleachers observing were some of the finest college players of the past 30 years. Pervis Ellison was watching intently. Ellison was the MVP of the 1986 NCAA Final Four, a Consensus All-American, the number 1 pick in the 1989 NBA Draft and a NBA player for more than a decade. Seated a few feet from Ellison was the man himself, Mr. Camden basketball, DaJuan Wagner. Wagner was a consensus High School All-American at Camden High before averaging more 21 ppg as a “one and done” player for Memphis University. His flourishing NBA career was cut short by illness and injury.

Camden

L to R, Tyrone Pitts, Pennsylvania, Vic Carstarphen, Temple, DaJuan Wagner, Memphis

Seated next to Wagner and recording the scrimmage was Vic Carstarphen, another Camden High All-Timer who went on to man the point for some very good Temple teams under the great Temple Hall of Fame Coach John Chaney.  Carstarphen was discussing the players with Tyrone Pitts, another life-long Camden resident that played in the Ivy League at the University of Pennsylvania before embarking on a lengthy professional career overseas.

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LaMarr Greer (L), Florida State and Camden Superintendent, Paymon Rouhanifard (R)

On the floor, barking directions was LaMarr Greer, a Middle Township HS alum and former Florida State standout. Greer’s son, Corey, is a Division 1 point guard prospect coming off a serious knee injury. Greer participated in all activities, did not wear a brace and moved fluidly while scrimmaging. When asked how he feels, Greer replied “my knee is fine… I just have to get back in basketball shape.”

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Corey Greer, Camden Senior Point Guard

Roaming the paint during the scrimmages was a slender, raw 7’0″ center named Osato Iduwe. Still developing his offensive repertoire, Iduwe is a presence on the defensive end of the court. His extensive wingspan consistently alters and blocks shots. He’s a capable defensive rebounder and he plays within himself. He will ably man the center position for Camden.

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Camden High power forward/center, Osato Iduwe (center)

Helping out on the boards will be senior SF/PF Myles Thompson. Standing 6’4″, Thompson has really leaned out over the past 6 months. As a result he is much quicker and more agile. At the same, he still has a very refined low-post offensive game. He’s got a nice package… Up and unders… Drop steps… Turn around jumpers… Jump hooks… All done at a very nice pace with excellent footwork.

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Camden High senior small forward/power forward, Myles Thompson

Then there’s Lance… Standing 6’9″ Lance Ware is a Top 50 player and it is immediately observable why… He plays like a very fluid 6’4″ wing… He grabs defensive rebounds and immediately begins pushing the ball up court… Head up, looking for teammates…

Remember… Lance is 6’9″…

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Camden sophomore small forward/power forward, Lance Ware

He deftly uses a crossover to elude a defender… Head still up… quick no look pass to teammate under the basket for a layup…

Huh? Whoaaaaa…

On one play, after pushing the ball end to end he decided to take off about 10 feet from the basket…

“What’s he doing?”

The ball was extended in his left hand and he jumped off his right foot… After floating for what seemed like 5 seconds, he punished the rim while slamming the ball straight through to the floor… An “ol’ skool” Dr. J one-handed off one leg “gusto dunk”… The gym and all the grizzled basketball veterans said the same thing….

“Dayyyyyymn!”

This could be special year for Camden High basketball… Itchy Smith, Milt Wagner, Billy Thompson, Kevin Walls, DaJaun Wagner, and now… Lance Ware!

Everyone is on board… Camden is a city trying to re-emerge after some very trying times… There are signs of progress… Cooper Hospital is expanding, Subaru has come to town, Campbell’s still calls Camden home and the Philadelphia Sixers are poised for a rebirth from their new Camden home…

They are all in… Indeed, Camden Superintendent, Paymon Rouhanifard is working as assistant coach with the freshman team. Tasked with overhauling one of the most challenging urban public school systems in the country, Rouhanifard carves out a few hours everyday to work with kids on the court. The value of his presence cannot be overstated. 

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Superintendent Rouhanifard works with a young player on free throws

Black Cager Sports asked him why he believes sports matter in urban education. Rouhanifard responded by saying, “I believe in a holistic educational experience for kids, that means developing the mind, body and spirit of kids. Sports are an integral part of that holistic experience for kids. To take it a step further, especially in Camden, I think sports change kids lives and kids are learning here the same way they learn in a classroom. The skills they gain on a basketball court, volleyball court or a football field are the skills they need to be successful in life. If you’re coachable, show that you are resilient and fight through adversity… All of those things you take with you for the rest of your life.”

Rouhanifard further added, “For me personally, sports changed my life. For some kids, yes, the classroom is where they are more likely to excel or extracurricular activities like chess. But for me personally, sports changed my life… The relationships I had with coaches helped make me the person I am today. I am grateful that I can help pay it forward here.”

“You want da High?”

“Yo Got da High!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Cager TV to Livestream Select Scholastic Play-by-Play Classics Match-ups!

Throughout the upcoming season, high school basketball fans won’t miss a moment of live regular season action in some of the most exciting match-ups. Black Cager Television will make several Scholastic Play-By-Play Classics games available nationwide through livestreaming on Facebook Live.

In addition, fans will be able to access archived versions of the live games to view on demand through the Black Cager youtube channel and the http://www.blackcagersports.com web site shortly after the conclusion of the contests.

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Among the featured Scholastic Play-By-Play games are the following:

Malvern vs. Archbishop Carroll, December 9, 2017 – This game features high scoring Malvern sophomore guard, Duece Turner facing off with the high powered Archbishop Carroll tandem of AJ Hoggard and Justin Anderson.

Neumann-Goretti vs. Shipley, December 9, 2017 – The key matchups in this game are at point guard and center position. Neumann-Goretti’s Chris Ings squares off with Shipley’s legend in the making Sam Sessoms (Binghamton commit). On the block, we have a heavyweight battle between Neumann-Goretti’s center Marcus Littles, and Shipley’s rapidly improving low post stalwart Ray Sommerville.

Bethlehem Catholic vs. Martin L. King, Jr., December 9, 2017 – A battle between two perennial powerhouse programs. Ray Barbosa’s Bethlehem Catholic squad will be led by power forward/center Ryan Young (Northwestern commit) and point guard Justin Paz. Martin L. King Head Coach, Sean Colson will rely heavily upon center Wil McNair and point guard Denelle Holly, Jr.

Shipley vs. Coatesville, January 20, 2017 – Shipley’s Sam Sessoms goes head-to-head with Coatesville’s Jhamir Brickus in one of the most promising point guard match-ups of the year. This game is sure to thrill those that appreciate high level point guard play.

Haverford School vs. Plymouth-Whitemarsh, Jaunary 20, 2017 – The Haverford School features an exceptional backcourt led by Khoran Randolph with highly prized freshmen Jaylen Stinson and Christian Clover expected to make significant contributions. Forward Christian Ray is one of the top players in the Philadelphia area. Plymouth-Whitemarsh’s backcourt features the talent and ultra-competitive Williams twin, Ahmad and Ahmin. Their center, Naheem McLeod is emerging as one of the finest low post players in the nation.

Westtown vs. Camden (NJ), January, 20 2017 – Westtown is led by future lottery pick small forward, Cameron Reddish (Duke commit) and, power forward Jake Forrester (Indiana commit). Top 50 sophomore Noah Collier will provide some excitement at well. Camden features Top 50 power forward, Lance Ware, 7’0″ center, Osato Iduwe, wing forward Myles Thompson and point guard Corey Greer.

According to Founder, Jeremy Treatman, “This livestream schedule showcases the some of the outstanding basketball programs in our area, but it also is one of the best vehicles to brand and share what we do at Scholastic Play-by-Play Classics.”

Scholastic Play By Play Classics has showcased dozens of current and future NBA stars including: Lebron James, Dwight Howard, Dajuan Wagner, Eddie Griffin, Jameer Nelson, Kevin Durant, O.J. Mayo and Michael Beasley. More than 400,000 fans have attended 75 events and another 1,000,000 plus have watched games produced on ESPN, Comcast Sports South, Comcast SportsNet, CN8, and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. Scholastic Play-By-Play has hosted games at the Palestra, Temple, Villanova, St Joseph’s, Greensboro Coliseum (NC), Ohio State, US Bank Arena (OH), Dayton U, The Pyramid (TN), and Sovereign Bank Arena (NJ).

About Black Cager Television: Black Cager Television is a division of Black Cager Sports Media family. The Black Cager Sports Media family of products includes Black Cager Sports Talk Show, Black Cager Promotions, Black Cager Sports web sites and the Kwalifī smartphone app. Visit http://www.delgrecowilson.com, http://www.blackcagersports.com and http://www.kwalifi.com