Catholic League Champions, Roman Catholic has Big Balls!

Big Balls!

Matt Griffin has ‘em…
Lynn Greer has ‘em…
Seth Lundy has ‘em…
Hakim Hart has ‘em…
Allen Betrand has ‘em…
Lou Wild has ‘em…
John Kelly has ‘em…

That’s why they are Champions of Philadelphia’s Catholic League!

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Bonner-Prendie has one of the most imposing frontlines on the eastern seaboard. Senior, Ajiri Johnson is a long, lean supremely athletic 6’8’ power forward. Possessing excellent timing and patience on defense, he’s a shot -blocker extraordinaire who attacks the rim with force on offense.

Junior, Tariq Ingraham, also standing 6’8”, comes in at around 250 lbs. A problem around the basket, he possesses very soft hands and a nice touch around the basket.

Both will play Division 1 basketball. Ajiri for Kevin Baggett and newly crowned MAAC regular season champion Rider University Broncs. Ingraham will play for a D1 program to be determined at a later date.

Tonight… these two teamed with, Catholic League MVP, Isaiah Wong to lead Bonner-Prendie into battle against the Cahillites in the historic Palestra on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.

Yes… District playoff and State playoff games remain for both teams. Indeed, both may be playing for several more weeks…

To those unfamiliar with Philadelphia scholastic basketball the following will not make much sense: The season, for both teams, ended tonight!

Even if Bonner-Prendie wins a State Championship, it will not erase the pain they endured tonight. They know this is true, Roman knows this is true, Philly hoop heads know this is true…

The only thing that can makeup for the loss tonight is a win on the Palestra floor 365 days from now…

During a press conference following a hard fought semi-final victory over Archbishop Carroll, Bonner-Prendie Head Coach Jack Concannon was asked “which means more the Catholic League or the State Championship?”

To which he responded, “If I’m gonna be honest, the Catholic League…”

If you’re from these parts, you knew that’s what he would say… If you’re from somewhere else it just doesn’t make sense…

Why would it mean more the be the best of a group of 14 Catholic schools than to be State Champion?

You really can’t explain it… It just does!

The intensity… The competitiveness… The rivalry… It’s unmatched…

Shit… Truth be told it reminds me of what the Big 5 used to be before Villanova relegated the rest of Philly’s D1 programs to JV status.

It was a beautiful ugly ass game… It was filled with lots of mistakes and extended periods of poorly conceived basketball… Frequent turnovers… Too many quick shots… Too many fouls…

Roman senior, John Kelly a tough, hard-nosed 6’4” right tackle masquerading as a power forward was saddled with 3 fouls before he could break a sweat. Before we reached the midway point of the first quarter, Kelly effectively became another member of Griffins coaching staff as he took a permanent seat on the bench.

Uh Oh!

You could feel the anxiety… How are they gonna box out Ingraham and Johnson? Who’s gonna wrestle Ingraham on the box?

There were other, seemingly serious, issues…

Seth Lundy, a supremely gifted 6’6” small forward with a beautiful shooting stroke did not touch the ball over the first 7 minutes of the game… He literally did NOT touch the ball… No… seriously… Lundy did NOT touch the ball…

Predicatably…

Bonner jumped out to 5-0 lead to start the game… They extended it to 11-3 with 2:30 left in the first quarter…

Roman looked overmatched… Bonner appeared to be too big and too athletic up front…

But…

Roman has BIG BALLS!

By the end of the first quarter, Roman was leading 12-11…

From there… We had a classic Catholic League slug fest, the teams repeatedly traded body blows, upper cuts and left hooks… Both teams have incredibly strong chins… They kept eating those blows and coming forward…

Everyone of the 9,000 or so jammed into the grand old arena knew the game would come down to the last possession…

And so… With the score tied 49-49 with just over a 1:20 to go… Roman Catholic had possession…

Ten times out of ten times, coaches call timeout in this situation and try to micromanage what they perceive as the most important possession.

Matt Griffin, however, has BIG BALLS!

He decided to leave the fate of the game in the hands of his 15 year old point guard. In terms of basketball skills, Lynn Greer is a prodigy. Young Mr. Greer is endowed with exceptional ball-handling and shooting abilities. There can be no denying his physical gifts… He very, very talented…

But… his basketball judgement is still evolving… He exhibits a willingness to take questionable shots at questionable times…

This propensity begged the question: What would he do in crunch time?

All tied up in the biggest game of his nascent coaching career, Matt Griffin left it all up to Greer…

If Roman was to win in regulation, Greer would have to make the play…

Not the gritty, tough, supremely confident Towson commit Allen Betrand… Not the Top 100 high major prospect Seth Lundy… Not the best long range shooter in the area, Hakim Hart…

Matt Griffin left the game in the hands of Lynn Greer, III…

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Lynn Greer III and Lynn Greer, Jr.

Greer dribbled across half court with about 1:20 left in the game… He passed the ball to Lou Wild who cradled the ball while time lapsed 1:10… 1:07… 1:03…

Eventually Tariq Ingraham lumbered out toward Wild… Wild quickly and easily maneuvered around Ingraham and passed to Betrand…

Recognizing the obvious mismatch, Betrand quickly gave the ball back to Wild…

Wild dribbled out a few more seconds… 0:54… 0:51… 0:47…

With 0:47 left on the clock Wild passed to Greer…

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Lynn Greer, III addresses the media following win

In the middle of the floor, 9,000 spectators focused on his every move… The Catholic League MVP staring him down… Greer grabbed the game by the throat…

Greer has BIG BALLS!

Confidently, he had the ball on a string… He danced around the middle of the court… In and out.. crossover… strong move toward the key with a belt high left hand pat…

He probed… He tested… He teased… He wanted to see how the defense would react…

He backed all the way up and began the process over again…

Behind the back… right to left… in and out… strong move down the right side…

He probed… He tested… He teased… He wanted to see how the defense would react…

0:28… 0:23… 0:19…

Now he’s dancing at midcourt… Wong intently staring him down… He dribbles toward the middle of the court and then back over toward the right…

0:13… 0:09… 0:06…

Finally… he attacks… he blows by Wong with a blazing first step… Before you can blink he’s in the lane… defense collapses…

He finds Hakim Hart with a perfect touch pass… The ball gently touches Hart’s hand for a millisecond and he gently lays the ball off the backboard…

Perfect play…

0:01.6 left on the clock…

Bonner makes an unsuccessful attempt to throw a full court pass, catch and shoot…

Game over…

For the 3rd time in 4 years, the Cahillites are Philadelphia Catholic League Champions…

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Catholic League Champions, Roman Catholic Cahillites

The season is over…

Still have a few District and State playoff games to get through, but we all know…

The season is over…

See you in 365 days… I’ll be under the basket…

 

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AlwaysLive/Black Cager Youth Hoop Tip Off! March 3-4!!

We are excited to announce the ALWAYSLIVE/Black Cager partnership. We want to help mid-Atlantic area AAU/Grassroots programs get their season off to a STRONG start. The best way to do that is to provide a platform for STRONG competition. Come play two REALLY good games with us against strong competition.

We will work with you to ensure that you coaches, players and parents have a positive early season experience.

Play two tough games in three hours. No sitting around, no long waits. Play a game, rest a game then play a game. Select games will be live-streamed.

The ALWAYSLIVE/Black Cager Youth Hoop Tipoff 8U-14U (DOUBLE PLAY)  event will showcase the area’s best talent in the 8U – 14U divisions. ALWAYSLIVE maximizes recruiting exposure by gathering complete game video, advanced statistics and, player data for recruitable (14U-17U) prospects. An ALWAYSLIVE event also provides enhanced player profiles for each participant which will be shareable with recruiters, coaches, and fans.

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Register here for ALWAYSLIVE/BlackCager Youth Tipoff

 

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See You There!!

The Rise of $$$ and the Erosion of Boundaries in Youth Basketball

“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
Timothy 6:10

Because money has become central to youth sports at an elite level, grown men involved with the game today are unwilling to say “no” to kids… men are unwilling to establish boundaries with kids for fear that they will leave the programs…

Because money has become central to youth sports, men encourage kids to lie, deceive and be disloyal…

The centrality of money negatively impacts the culture of youth sports, especially basketball…

To argue that Philadelphia’s basketball culture has not deteriorated or that the deterioration is not related to the increased presence of money in nonsensical… Indeed, I would argue the respect for boundaries and money are inversely correlated… The more money involved, the less respect for boundaries.

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Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, the erosion of boundaries within Philadelphia’s Black basketball community has emerged as a social problem. Most of us have cringed after reading a kid described as a “bum, trash, hoagie or even a pussy” by grown men on facebook or twitter. It is not uncommon to hear parents, friends or ol’ heads ruthlessly attack referees and coaches during games. Doesn’t matter the venue… Collegiate, scholastic, grassroots or youth levels it happens everywhere the game is played these days.

Adult males text and “slide in the DMs” of 13-14 year old boys on a regular basis… Sometimes they contact these boys multiple times a day, everyday for months at a time…

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Many may think of these blatant boundary crossing incidents as the actions of a few isolated rogue individuals. In this way, these behaviors are attributed to some personal fault or pathology in the adult or the kid and the parents, or all of them. In other words, if the parents “want the attention” then the issue is a personal problem affecting only a few “abnormal” situations.

However, those immersed in Philadelphia’s basketball community know full well that these are not isolated incidents. These behaviors have emerged as the new norm. Boundary crossing behaviors occurs so frequently… SHIT HAPPENS SO MUCH… it is no longer a private matter, but rather a public issue. It has also become much more difficult to attribute its causes to the personal defects of a few bad apples in the basketball community. So why is this happening?

The causes grow out of important shifts in the structure and resulting culture of the basketball community itself. Understanding the proliferation of boundary crossing behaviors, requires an assessment of how personal experiences are shaped by social factors built into the basketball community in which we all operate.

The past 15 years or so have witnessed the ascent of elite travel grassroots basketball clubs with the Philadelphia basketball community. Guys like Lonnie Lowry (K-Low Elite), Kamal Yard (Philly Pride), Terrell Myers (WeRone Hoops), Rob Brown (Team Final) and Paul Gripper (Team Phenom) have at various times assembled groups of highly talented youngsters and barnstormed across the country with varying degrees of success. The opportunity to play in very nice venues against the top players in the country is, understandably, very attractive to youngsters and their parents.

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There are many positive aspects to the travel team experience. More than ever, Philadelphia kids get an opportunity to been seen by coaches from different parts of the country. In one weekend, a young man can play in front of 300-500 Division 1 coaches. In recent, years several Philadelphia area players have completed their senior HS season with no Division 1 and picked up 15 or more offers in April-May based solely on their performance in AAU/Grassroots events. There is undeniably a lot of good!

But what are some of the social costs associated with rise of elite travel ball in our community?

The erosion of boundaries within the Philadelphia basketball community has accompanied the shift away from recreation center-based, neighborhood focused youth basketball programs.

Everyone is scrambling for a spot on a sponsored team…

Elite travel basketball at the highest levels is fully funded by major athletic shoe companies (Nike, Adidas and Under Armour). These public traded multi-billion dollar companies have each established separate summer “circuits” where their teams compete against one another.

The sponsored clubs typically have have 2 or 3 teams that are “fully sponsored.” The shoe companies pay the costs associated with travel, lodging, feeding and clothing these clubs as they traverse from city to city playing in front of college coaches eager to evaluate and gain access to the finest players.

As evidenced by the high profile scandals involving NBA Agents, financial advisors and coaches at Louisville, Arizona, Auburn and South Carolina… Shit gets tricky when thousands of dollars are involved.

The budgets for sponsored teams can range anywhere from $75,000 to $200,000+ for team loaded with potential NBA players.

The insertion of money has resulted in a massive change in the culture. The mere existence of an opportunity to profit has resulted in men violating and regularly trampling boundaries that were once firmly established.

Shit done changed…

At the core of it, one has to question the continued existence of the all important adult/child distinction… Organizations like the Sonny Hill Community Involvement League was run by a core of dedicated volunteers. Men like James Flint, Claude Gross, Tee Shields, Fred Douglas, Tee Parham and Vince Miller were former great high school players committed to developing young men into responsible adults. The teams were neighborhood-based and in most case you had to earn your way onto the team.

There was no money involved for the coaches… There were no flights across country to Los Angeles or Las Vegas… No all expenses paid trips to Chicago, Orlando or Atlanta.

Just a game against Germantown on North Broad Street at McGonigle.

These MEN were not going to compromise their values. For what? They were willing to confront disruptive parents… They were willing to dismiss unruly players…

“Get the fuck out of my gym with that bullshit” was a fairly common refrain amongst these guys…

The Philadelphia basketball community controlled the spaces dedicated to High School and youth basketball… This is no longer the case…

Fast forward to the contemporary era… the motivations are different… Money has negatively impacted the Philadelphia basketball culture…

Clubs, inevitably, feel pressure to attract the best collegiate prospects… Ultimately, the shoe companies want to sell shoes… The primary way they accomplish this is by having superstars wear their shoes… Kevin Durant (Nike), Lebron James (Nike), Steph Curry (Under Armour) and James Harden (Adidas) some of the biggest names.

The pressure to attract and keep talented players has resulted in a widespread compromising of values… Many in the basketball community excuse the inexcusable and forgive the unforgivable…

Times have changed for the worse…

It is impossible to imagine Claude Gross calling a 13-14 year old boy everyday begging him to play for South Philly… It’s also hard to imagine a mother and father in the 70s, 80s or 90s allowing a adult male stranger to call her son every single day for months trying to get him to play with a club…

“Leave my son the FUCK alone”… I can just imagine the responses during that era…

Today, it’s all good… Parents want their kids to play with sponsored teams so badly they allow unfettered access to boys with 8:00 pm bedtimes… WTF?

Parents want to be ranked and receive scholarship offers as early as the 9th and 10th grade… They apply incredible pressure on youth and high school coaches when they feel their child is not receiving the accolades due to him… Imagine a Dad sitting behind the bench cursing at Vince Miller about playing time for his son…

Trying to attract the best clubs and their registration fees, event promoters openly and brazenly seek to destroy business opportunities for other event organizers… Imagine Tee Parham trying to keep Fred Douglas from sponsoring a tournament…

Grassroots coaches encourage deceit, deception and disloyalty…”Fuck them, you should be over here… They ain’t taking care of you… You should leave them… Don’t tell nobody I talked to you…”

Imagine James Flint trying to steal a player from John Hardnett…

Adult fans make deeply hurtful negative public attacks on 15-18 year old boys… When kids play with another school or another grassroots program they become targets for senseless vilification… Imagine someone’s uncle writing that a kid is “bum” or “trash” in a newspaper 20 years ago…

Packs of young men and boys follow and support their friends in a socially unacceptable manner… Competition turns into strife… Crowds resort to violent assaults to resolve verbal disputes… Imagine fans at a Sonny Hill League game stomping the parent of one of the players…

Neighborhood beefs are resolved through murders at games… Imagine a man being shot on North Broad St after leaving a Sonny Hill or Baker League game…

Things have truly changed for the worse…

A few (40-60 kids) are better off… They travel across the country, play in great events against top competition… They are seen up close by college coaches eager to offer scholarships…

The vast majority, and the City as a whole, are much worse off because the recreation-based, neighborhood focused programs have been decimated in the process… The values and important boundaries that were once well established and consistently reinforced in these programs have been obliterated…

As a first step, we should work to strengthen and support organizations like the Ralph Brooks Community League, BAA League, Retroaction Sports and the Chosen League. We need these leagues and organizations to flourish… We need the values promoted within these groups to spread and once again become the norm in Philadelphia.

Many of the younger (30 and under) members of the basketball community grew up in this new era… They have no real frame of reference for an adequate comparison…

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Sonny Hill League

They could not imagine Mr. Hill at 5’7” 150 lbs bringing an entire gym to halt and complete silence because a guys shirt was not tucked in… Everything stopped… No talking, no playing… No nothing until the shirt was tucked back in and Mr. Hill was finished talking…

We are much worse off as a result…

Basketball beefs are corny…