Eric Dixon Previews West Catholic Prep’s Boys Basketball Season

By Eric Dixon 11/26/2018

“Take a breath. Relax. Now Reset.”

Coach Miguel Boc and his staff are engineering a cultural and organizational “reset” at West Catholic Prep that they believe will eventually bring the program the respect and accolades that come with winning. But for now its “One day at a time,” the first year head coach explains.

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Coach Miguel Boc leads a practice at West Catholic Prep

Watching them go about their work at a recent practice, you get the feeling that the fresh air the program has so desperately needed is finally flowing into the Burrs gym at 46th and Chestnut. Coach Boc can be seen going back and forth from one end of the court to the other as assistants, Kyle Finklea, Jonathan Michaels and Jermaine Washington oversee drills. As he steps in to add a detail or point you can see the energy and passion he brings as he exudes a seriousness that belies his years. At 28, he’s the youngest on the staff. Still, there is no mistaking who is in charge.

“It’s his program,” says Michaels, who at 51 is the sage of the group, as he speaks whimsically of how the other staff members are young enough to be his sons. “I was done, then Boc called me and asked me to give him whatever I could. Now I’m here all the time.” Michaels, like Boc, has a love of the game and the students. He says the youth of the the staff has “energized” him.

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Assistant Coach Jon Michels and Miguel Boc

For Coach Boc being the 3rd coach in four years at West Catholic Prep has it’s challenges, but far more rewards. He is grateful for his young charges who he believes were looking to embrace a new direction after the uncertainty of the past few years. He comes in as a disciple of one the best coaches in our area, Andre Noble of Imhotep Charter School. The most influential thing he takes away from his time with the perennial area powerhouse isn’t directly related to basketball.

“I want my kids to know I care. I want them to know I have their backs”, says Coach Boc. The biggest thing he saw in Noble was “his heart”. He wants to show his staff and players the same thing. He wants them to know that he genuinely cares for them as people and players. He wants to focus on their lives beyond high school and find a college situation for all his players. These are lofty aspirations, however Coach Boc believes he can reach them if he can master the next most important thing he took from Noble: “his attention to detail”.

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The recently refurbished floor in the West Catholic Prep Gymnasium

It’s no surprise, assistant Coach Michaels, a 30 year coaching veteran, shares this respect for the details. “The importance of the little things”, as he puts it, could be seen in how diligently Michaels explained the nuances of post defense and offense to junior Naadhir Wood, a talented 6-7 forward. Wood and his teammates were receptive to the repeated tutelage. Michaels explains that he can be stern with them and hold them accountable because they know “what I’m all about.” They know he cares for them. He regards them like one of his own children. “They’re mine.”

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D1 prospect Samier Kinsler ’19

Coach Boc will rely on Wood’s deft post touch and the leadership and perimeter scoring of Samier Kinsler (6-0) and Imere Harris (5-11), an experienced backcourt tandem, to keep the team afloat as they learn to navigate the deep, rough waters of the Philadelphia Catholic League. Although half of the 12-man roster are seniors, the group still has to learn and grow together as the season goes along. Four juniors and just two freshman round out the varsity squad that wants to “get to the Palestra and go to States” according to Boc’s coach on the floor (COF), Kinsler.

But first they will “Take a breath. Relax. Reset.”

 

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Assessing The Roman Empire

Will the sun set on the Roman Empire in 2019?

Nope…

Roman Catholic has long stood among the greatest scholastic basketball programs in Philadelphia and along the Eastern Seaboard. Mike Bantom, John Griffin, Zane Major, Dallas Comegys, Tarone Thorton, and Bernard Jones are some of names that come to mind when thinking of the Roman program in the late 60s, 70s, and 80s. The late great Eddie Griffin ushered in the new millennium at Broad and Vine. For decades, when one thought of the Catholic League, one thought of the Cahillites.

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Roman Catholic’s Eddie Griffin in the McDonald’s All-American Game

Oh every once in a while, someone like Rodney Blake would appear at Bonner and disrupt the established order. Comegys and Thorton just couldn’t get past Big Rod. But it always seemed that Roman could make an adjustment, find a player, do whatever it took to get back on top.

Til he appeared… He invaded from the south…

Sir Carl Arrigale of St. John Neumann appeared on the scene for the 1998-99 season. It took him just 36 months to win his first Catholic League title. He then proceeded to win 10 titles over the next 14 seasons.

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Neumann- Goretti Coach Carl Arrigale

For a decade and a half, the Roman Empire was sacked… Long live Sir Arrigale and the Saints…

The Cahillites grew increasingly frustrated… One could hear the whispers… They were circumspect about General Chris McNesby. While always in the mix, for years, he failed to capture the crown.

That is… Until he did!

Then he did it again and rode off on his stallion into the sunset… Just like John Elway, McNesby left as a two-time champion…

The Roman Empire was regaining it’s footing, back to back titles, and BOOM General McNesby retires…

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Former Roman Head Coach, Chris McNesby

The fuck?

In an instant, one of the most prestigious scholastic coaching jobs in America was available… Who?

Who would take the reigns?

Roman decided on a bright, young, energetic yet unproven assistant coach.

Matt Griffin… son a coach… brother of a coach… Was named Head Coach.

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Roman Catholic Coach, Matt Griffin

 

Immediately, the questions emerged… Is he ready? Can he manage a game? Can he recruit? Can he relate to the players?

His first year, a phalanx of Vikings arose from Warminster and scorched the landscape. Led by the brilliant Commander Gillespie and General Mosco, they crushed the competition while taking no prisoners.

But just as they did in earlier decades, the Roman Empire regrouped a year later. In a classic battle that came down to the final play, the Cahillites captured the Crown for the 3rd time in 4 years.

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Penn State commit, Seth Lundy ’19

Visiting the cramped Roman gymnasium today, one finds a battalion that appears ready to defend and perhaps expand the Roman Empire. The current roster features at least 5, maybe 6, Division 1 scholarship players. Penn State commit Seth Lundy ’19 is a top 100 talent at the SF/PF spot. St. Joseph’s commit Hakim Hart ’19 has a feathery soft jump shot with range out the NBA 3 point line at the SG/SF position. Lynn Greer ’20 is another top 100 level talent playing in the backcourt. Also in the backcourt is Justice Williams ‘22, a mercurial 6’3” freshman combo that plays with USA basketball. Manning the middle is 6’9” Jalen Duren ’22 a top 5 level talent in his class. Sheeeeeesh…..

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St. Joseph’s University commit, Hakim Hart

 

Combo guard Louis Wild ’19 is a scholarship level player, perhaps low D1 or high D2. Lightning quick Michael Anderson ’21 will catch the eye of scouts with his scoring and playmaking abilities. Athletic wing Gabe Perez ’19 will also play college basketball.

The Cahillites are loaded! Roman is LONG!. Roman is ATHLETIC! Roman has shooters. Roman has an elite rim protector.

In just under 2 weeks, they venture down to the nation’s capital where they will face two exceptionally strong and proud programs. The battles with Archbishop Carroll and DeMatha Catholic will give us an early read… Are the youngins ready for prime time?

Then on December 16, the Cahillites face Public Power, the nationally ranked Imhotep Panthers. This has the makings of the Philly high school Game of the Year.

Shit ‘bout to get real around here! Hoop Headz… Take Terrell Owens advice and “get your popcorn ready!”

Black Cager Sports looks forward to covering these exciting matchups!

Eric Dixon Previews Pennsbury’s Boys Basketball Season

By Eric Dixon 11/23/2018

The definition of winning for Coach Bill Coleman and his staff  has become fluid over the past 8 seasons at Pennsbury High School. The coach noted that although he has always appreciated the importance of his impact on the lives of his players, he realized some time ago that he needed to shift his focus from winning not just on the scoreboard to winning more in other areas of coaching as well.

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Coach Bill Coleman and Pennsbury Basketball Team

Player development and leadership training has worked its way to the forefront of the Bucks County program which is a perennial top 3 finisher in the Suburban One League (SOL) National Conference the last few years. Last year they finished 3rd with a 14-9 record before bowing to Bensalem in the first round of the District playoffs in disappointing fashion, coming up just 3 points shy against their inter-county rivals.

This flexibility in the understanding of winning is shared by long time assistant coach Gary Jones, also entering his ninth season at the school. “We want to win in every situation. We want to win on lose balls, we want to win” in how the team prepares, said Coach Jones. They also want to win in how they develop kids “Development is 100%” added the former LaSalle Explorer.

“We will not be outworked,” declared Coach Coleman, who is praised by his staff for his work ethic and commitment. “Outwork Everyone” is one of the coach’s primary tenets. As a staff, which also includes Pennsbury alum Adam Doan, who guides the JV team, they hope that they can impart to the team how important it is to work hard to succeed. That message seems to have reached senior team leader Gary Francis, a do-it-all 6-4 forward.

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Gary Francis

“I am taking things way more seriously, watching more film, talking to Coach more,” said Francis, adding that he’s been working hard to improve his ball-handling and shot creation as he prepares to take on a “way bigger role” for the Falcons. The well-built wing has lofty team goals that include bringing a National Conference title to the program in his final varsity campaign. The conference has been realigned, moving last year’s champion Abington out and William Tenent in.

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Collin Connor

In addition to Francis, Coleman will also lean on juniors Collin Connor and Kyrie Miller to provide leadership to his young team, which boasts just 2 seniors. Along with Connor, the staff is hoping 6-2 junior guard Cooper Arnold can provide floor spacing and create lanes for Francis and the mercurial Miller, a 5-10 speedster. Junior forward Charlie Nuschke, a lacrosse player, will be called upon to control the paint for the squad.

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Kyrie Miller

Luke Dellagratte, a heady 6-4 forward, is the only other senior on the team and will be looked upon to provide important rebounding and defense on a team that is challenged with an overall lack of size. However, what they lack in size they will make up for in effort and intensity, according to Coleman. “We will be defensive and disruptive,” he said. The team will also be “tough” says Coach Jones. “Resiliency is very important. It’s a common trait among great layers at all levels of the sport.”

“Devine” Intervention: Khalil Turner’s Philadelphia Story

Written by Khalil Turner

Family is supposed to protect you. The safest place in the world is with your family…

Isn’t it?

That is what I was always taught… In fact, I internalized and deeply believed that message.

Then real life intervened!

What happens when your family becomes a threat to your safety and well-being? I was truly unprepared for the moment I had to really face that situation head on.
Never had I felt that my safety and well-being were at risk… Never, ever… My older siblings, however, have not always agreed.

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Khalil Turner and his extended family

About three years ago, I was just starting my freshman year at Sankofa Freedom Academy Charter School. Finally, I was a “big boy.” I was a High School student filled with anticipation and eager to begin my academic and athletic journey, when a report was filed with the Sankofa counselor. This report stated that my sister and I were being “mistreated” at home.

More specifically, my siblings felt so strongly that our health and general well-being were at-risk that they decided to formally intervene. It was that bad. Looking back, I realize I lacked a frame of reference, I thought it was normal. I thought everyone struggled like we did… But my older siblings knew better and they came to the conclusion that my family was unable to adequately provide for and protect us.

A call was made…

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Khalil Turner and his older siblings during his LOI signing ceremony

Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services (DHS) is the county child welfare and juvenile justice agency. Their mission is to provide and promote safety, permanency, and well-being for children and youth at risk of abuse, neglect, and delinquency. Unbeknownst to me, our living situation definitely fell under their purview.

So… One day they just appeared… DHS was at my front door…

I had no comprehension of the concept, so I never imagined that I was “at-risk.”
I remember the DHS case workers making detailed observations of our living conditions… They literally looked in every crack and crevice of our family home. Everything was closely examined. Then, they conducted exhaustive interviews of my family members and came to a conclusion that would alter the trajectory of my life.

DHS concluded that our needs were not being adequately met. We had to be removed from the only home we ever knew.

What?!?! Foster care… Huh?

Now I knew my mother was struggling with some dependence and related mental health issues, but I never for a moment felt abused or neglected. I was just living day to day… But DHS determined otherwise. Citing a lack of structure and a paucity of resources in the household, they decided we had to leave our family home, for our own good.

Real life crept up on me real quick… My friends are worried about homework and playing Madden or NBA 2K on PlayStation… I’m just beginning my freshman year in high school and suddenly dealing with change and adversity of a magnitude I never imagine.

Honestly, at times, it was too much for me to bear…

Angry and frustrated, I had an immensely strained relationship with the family that DHS wanted me to move in with. It just wasn’t going to work. This I knew almost immediately.

I wanted to be with family… I wanted to be with people I love… I wanted to be with people I trust… DHS wanted me to live with total strangers.

I was scared… Then God intervened.

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Kobe Devine (foreground), Dayna Devine and Khalil Turner

He made it possible for me to live with my friend Kobe Devine and his parents Dayna and Barry Devine. Actually, there was no real plan. It kind of just happened. I would stay with the Devines when he had AAU basketball tournaments. Kobe’s Dad was my AAU coach and, logistically, it was just easier to be there than to have them worrying about picking me up and dropping me off. Eventually, I just decided to stay and not return to the “foster home” where the relations were strained.

Again… I thank God!

The Devine family members were angels sent from above in my time of need. This I am sure of. Nonetheless, it was initially awkward, while I loved the Devines they were not my “real” family. I was a young, insecure and scared boy. But this family was beyond patient and understanding with me. After a few months, the love and support overwhelmed me, Kobe became my “blood” brother and his parents became my parents as well. They made sure I felt welcomed. They were always asking me if I needed anything.

Before I knew it, I felt safe… Again. Now… It should be noted that this process wasn’t easy!

After moving into the Devine home, my life changed in so many ways. For the first time, I experienced unwavering family structure. There were limits, there were boundaries, there were rules… And, they were rigidly enforced. For the first time, I had to consistently deal with consequences of my actions and decisions.

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Khalil Turner and Dayna Devine

The first few months were rough because I had never really been subjected to discipline and structure. Immature and ignorant, I tried to balk and disagree when Kobe’s mom, Dayna, imposed the family structure on me. I didn’t want to hear it… I didn’t like being held accountable. I didn’t want to suffer the logical consequences of my actions. I would attempt to argue with her.

I was immature and unable to fully comprehend the blessing I was receiving.

Now, I fully understand how wrong and misguided I was.

Over time, I became increasingly respectful and considerate toward others because Kobe’s Mom and Dad were respectful and considerate toward me. I realized that they were preparing me to enter the world on my own.

Dayna Devine was my mentor, my teacher and my surrogate mother. The lessons and encouragement were non-stop. Several times a day, she would talk to me about the importance of respect, obedience and discipline. Within a few months, I began to internalize these values. She really led me through the process of becoming a more mature, responsible and accountable young man.

Every night, I would think to myself: how can I become a better man? How can I avoid the negative paths that so many of my neighbors, friends and family members have embarked upon? Every night, I would think about making my Mom and Kobe’s mom proud… I wanted to make sure they didn’t have to stress about paying for me to go to college.

After everything my family has endured, I still wanted to look out for my mother because I believe that family is still first. With the Devines in my life I am blessed to have an extended family added to the equation.

Since I began living with Kobe and the Devines, I had no choice other than to go hard in pursuit of my dreams and everything I love. I was determined to make my mother happy. I wanted to bring a smile to Dayna Devine’s face. I wanted an opportunity to continue my education and play college basketball at the Division 1 level.

Basketball is my love and I recognized that I could leverage my athletic ability to access college. As I progressed through high school, with the guidance of the Devines, I was able to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

I have tried to include Kobe every step of the way because he did not have to invite me into his family and his home. He is my brother and I love him. I thank him for helping me pursue my dreams and I will always stand with him as he pursues his dreams.

God had been incredibly good to me… Although I didn’t have a stable father in my life, I kept meeting men that were a positive and strong influence on me. Many men in the Philadelphia basketball community embraced me and helped cultivate my talent.

Then it happened…

I picked up my first Division 1 basketball scholarship offer from Hartford University. With this offer, it became tangible… It became real…

I could use basketball to attend college for free. There would be another offer… and another offer… and another offer…

No Sankofa student had ever received a Division 1 scholarship. This was huge for my school, my family, my friends and for me. More than anything else, it inspired me to work even harder. Receiving that first scholarship offer made me think that’s anything is possible. It also made me think about the support and protection I would need once I graduate from Sankofa. I chose Rider University because I know the Kevin Baggett (Head Coach), Dino Presley (Assistant Coach) and the other coaches will be there for me for the rest of my life.

As months and years went by, the drama of the DHS ordeal began to recede from the forefront of my thoughts. I began to truly believe that I was going to be something special in life. I was experiencing a great deal of success in the classroom and on the basketball court.

But, beneath the surface, the pain still lingers…

 

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Between his two mothers, Turner signs a Letter of Intent to attend Rider University

I recently signed a Letter of Intent to attend and play at Rider. After graduation from Sankofa, I will spend four years living, learning and playing on campus in Lawrenceville, NJ. But today I am still not living with my mother. Regrettably, she has not addressed or resolved her mental health and dependence issues to the satisfaction of DHS.

I love my mother, but I can’t focus on that right now I just have to keep working hard. I know she loves me and I pray she gets better soon. However, I am intensely focused on making both my biological and my extended families proud. These past few years have changed me. It was very hard at the beginning and has become a little easier everyday. I am happy that I have my good friend and brother, Kobe, in my life. I truly do not know where I would be at this moment if Kobe and the Devines did not accept me into their family. I know I wouldn’t have the protection and love that a family is supposed to provide.

I know I would not feel safe.

Philly Ballers… Why NOT Rider?

Over the past decade or so, the Rider University basketball program led by Tommy Dempsey and subsequently Kevin Baggett has been very successful in landing local prospects. Arguably, the Rider coaches have recruited the Greater Philadelphia region more effectively than any other staff. At minimum, the Broncs have outperformed expectations on the recruiting trail.

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Mike Ringgold, Roman Catholic HS and Rider University

On the face of it, this makes no sense… Rider shouldn’t be able to get so many good local players. After all, there are some things just assumed to be true…

For example, it is expected that the frequency of top student-athlete commitments increases with higher Cost of Attendance stipends and other cash considerations. In other words, more money spent results in more frequent and higher ranked recruit commitments. While Rider offers a modest stipend to basketball players, Rider is NOT a High Major program and does not even field a football team. Financially, Rider cannot compete with big boys.

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Novar Gadson, John Bartram HS and Rider University

It is also assumed that the frequency of top student-athlete athlete commitments increase with better living arrangements. Private apartment style housing with single bedrooms and private bathrooms are preferred to traditional dormitory-style housing. Rider does NOT offer such luxurious accommodations.

The frequency of top student-athlete commitments increases with participation in a High Major or Power Conference (ACC, Big 12, Big 10, SEC, PAC 12 and Big East). Rider plays in the decidedly mid-major MAAC Conference.

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Danny Stewart, Neumann-Goretti and Rider University

The frequency of elite student-athlete commitments increases with higher numbers of NBA players from the college program. Rider has had one player, Jason Thompson, go on to play in the NBA.

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Jason Thompson, Lenape HS, Rider University and the NBA

Lastly, the frequency of top student-athlete commitments are supposed to increase with higher numbers of NCAA tournament appearances. Dempsey and Baggett have ZERO (0) NCAA tournament appearances. Baggett did win the regular season MAAC title and play in the NIT last season.

Despite their inherent disadvantages, Rider basketball coaches have convinced more than 25 area players to commit to playing for the Broncs in recent years.

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Junior Fortunat, Roman Catholic HS and Rider University

How? Why? What gives?

Based on my personal observations of their recruiting strategy over the past decade, I’ve come to some conclusions about the way Rider goes about the business of  recruiting.

They aren’t intimidated by bigger programs from bigger conferences. Rather than assuming kids will go with the biggest name, Rider coaches view student-athletes as satisficers — as young people who choose the option that will satisfy their needs and wants without putting too much emphasis on making sure they access every possible benefit and potential amenity.

The Rider coaches know their program is “good enough” and they make sure the kids and their people understand that fact.

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Nurideen Lindsey, Overbrook HS, St. John’s University and Rider University

This is a significant point for Rider basketball coaches. More specifically, Rider coaches have strong and trusting relationships with multiple AAU/grassroots programs and most area high school coaches. This allows the Rider staff to enlist these stakeholders to ensure complete unfettered access is granted during the recruitment process. This is especially helpful if competing programs offer significantly higher COA stipends and other cash considerations, upgraded living accommodations, play in a high major conference or has a much higher number of NBA players. Rider coaches rely, almost exclusively, on relationship building.

Although the Broncs have considerably upgraded the basketball facilities, Rider coaches still sell their family environment and commitment to graduating kids. When competing against Big 5, Atlantic 10 and CAA programs, they identify targets early in the process (10th and 11th grade), establish relationships with key stakeholders (parents, mentors, AAU/grassroots coaches and HS coaches) and enlist them to facilitate the informational flow to the targeted student-athlete. Then the focus becomes gaining widespread understanding and acceptance of the fact that Rider Basketball will satisfy their desire to get a college education and prepare them to play professional basketball.

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Tyere Marshall, Martin L. King HS and Rider University

Additionally, Rider coaches have incorporated an understanding of “frustrated behavior” into their pitch to the family and stakeholders. The list of area student-athletes that returned to Philadelphia after experiencing failure and frustration at Power 5 schools is extensive. Jaylen Bond struggled at Texas (Big 12) before he returned home to rebuild his career at Temple. Devin Coleman barely played at Clemson (ACC) before becoming a key member of some strong Owl squads. Likewise, Dalton Pepper was a deep reserve at West Virginia (Big 12) before emerging as a star at Temple.

City-wide the list long. Tyrone Garland started at Virginia Tech (ACC) before returning home to La Salle. BJ Johnson spent 2 seasons at Syracuse (ACC) before piling up more than a 1,000 points in 2 years at La Salle. Tasheed Carr was at Iowa State (Big 12) before returning play point guard at Saint Joseph’s.

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Anthony Durham, Abington HS and Rider University

In most cases, the stakeholders around a student-athlete are from the same low-income environment. They likely have similar uncertainties and fears. Rider coaches explicitly acknowledge the pattern. They note that for decades a significant number of Philly kids have chosen to attend high major programs only to return to Rider, La Salle, Temple and other local schools.

Rider coaches establish among the families, stakeholders and the student-athlete a firm understanding of the precarious nature of signing with high major programs in distant cities. The coaches at those high major programs do not necessarily have to come back to the Philadelphia area for additional players. If they do not give the targeted student-athlete a fair opportunity, there is no natural consequence for the program. If the student-athlete leaves out of frustration, the coaching staff does not have to answer to members of the community in the player’s hometown. Indeed, if there is competition for playing time between the targeted player and a player from the area where the college is located, the local player will likely win out.

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Stevie Jordan, Conwell-Egan and Rider University

The question becomes: Why take chance on a program with an unproven record of developing and educating players from Philadelphia?

Located in the leafy, safe and low-stress suburban enclave of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, Rider provides a nearby alternative to the urban setting of some area colleges. Moreover, with over 100 victories and 3 post-season appearances in 6 years, Kevin Baggett has built a highly competitive basketball program.

Rider coaches work diligently to ensure that student-athletes and stakeholders visit campus regularly to become familiar with life in the Rider program. They make sure the message is conveyed that all the needs of Rider student-athletes are met while at Rider and beyond.

Philly kids have been listening closely… See current freshman, Ajiri Johnson (Bonner/WeRone Hoops) and 2019 commit Chris Ings (Neumann-Goretti/K-Low Elite)… I strongly suspect they will continue to do so…

 

Fresh Kimble, St. Joseph’s Point Guard

The list is long… Some really good names…

Bob McNeill ’60, Jimmy Lynam ’63, Matt Goukas ’66, Jim O’Brien ’74, Jeff Clark ’82, Bryan Warrick ’82, Maurice Martin ’86, Geoffrey Arnold ’86, Wayne Williams ’86, Bruiser Flint ’87, Rap Curry ’94, Bernard Blunt ’95, Mark Bass ’96, Terrell Myers ’97, Na’im Crenshaw ’02, Marvin O’Connor ’02, Jameer Nelson ’04, Delonte West ’04, Tyrone Barley ’04, Pat Carroll ’06, Tasheed Carr ’09, Carl Jones ’13, Langston Galloway ’14, Shavar Newkirk ’17

Where will Fresh Kimble end up? Will he be just another good St. Joseph’s guard? Or, will he be an all-time great on Hawk Hill?

Tough call… he’s right at the midway point in his career. Nonetheless, he’s climbing fast…

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Fresh Kimble, St. Joseph’s Redshirt Junior Point Guard

Statistically speaking, he’s on their asses!

Fresh has well over 600 points 2 games into his junior season. Conservatively estimating that he will score at a clip of 16 ppg and play another 60 games in a St. Joseph’s uniform, he will end up somewhere in the 1,500 point range. Likewise, it seems safe to project him somewhere in the 400-500 career assist range. Those numbers would make him one of the most productive point guards in the history of St. Joe’s. Focusing purely on statistical output, he would be somewhere near the top of the aforementioned list of names.

However, it must be emphasized that statistics are a mere small part of the rubric employed to evaluate and measure St. Joseph’s University guards. Simply stated, wins outweigh individual performance by a substantial margin once one traverses behind the stone walls surrounding Hawk Hill.

It’s the wins… The overabundance of victories that make Jameer Nelson the Gladys Knight of St. Joseph’s guards. Indeed, it’s truly difficult to imagine someone other than Nelson singing lead.

Fresh Kimble, nonetheless, is making a strong case for a spot as one of the Pips…

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Gladys Knight and the Pips

Since his last foot injury, Kimble has come back looking extremely svelte. He appears to be at least 15-20 pounds lighter. As a result, he’s quicker, bouncier and, early on, more effective.

A more effective Kimble is a problem for his A10 opponents. Last time we had an extended look at him he averaged an impressive 15.5 ppg, 4.5 apg, and 4.0 rpg from the point guard position for Head Coach Phil Martelli. Those numbers from the 2015-16 season were accumulated over the course of 24 games.

Coming out of the gate that year, Martelli appeared to have, once again, caught lightning in the bottle. Kimble teamed with Sharvar Newark (20.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg and 3.5 through 12 games) to form one of the most electrifying and productive backcourts in the nation. This pair of sub-six foot guards was rocking and rolling.

But it would not last… In game 12, all alone in the open court at Hagan Arena, Newkirk tore his ACL and went down for the season. Kimble would last another 12 games without his comrade, before a foot injury would end his campaign. What could have been?

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Neumann-Goretti PIAA State Champions

A product of Carl Arrigale’s nationally renown Neumann-Goretti Saints program, Kimble understands what it means to be a good teammate and a leader of a team. Named Captain as sophomore, he did not allow that fact that he wasn’t on the floor to impact his job performance as captain.

Leaders lead… Fresh Kimble is just a leader!

Neumann-Goretti and Nike Team Final (AAU) sent a college ready point guard to St. Joseph’s. He fervently and diligently worked to get back on the court. Mission accomplished, or so we all thought…

I was there for the return of Fresh… Opening night of the 2017-2018 season… He was a little anxious and a little rusty… That was to be expected, but there he was… Competing like a pitbull as usual…

Then it happened again… Huh? You’ve got to be fuckin’ kidding!

He injured the foot again… As the crowd watched in disbelief, we saw him trying to disregard the all to familiar pain shooting violently through his lower extremity… Kimble knew what it was… He knew all too well and he tried to will his way through it… For a while, he refused to succumb… He stayed on the floor played a few possessions with a broken foot…

But, once he came off the floor, he knew he wasn’t going to return… In a rare display of emotion, he slammed his hand down on one of the chairs… Reality was settling in… Same shit all over again…

Again, he was exemplary in how he dealt with this adversity. Always present… Always accounted for… Always a gentleman… Always a scholar… Most importantly, ALWAYS the Captain…

Another year of tortuous rehabilitation… Another year of chomping at the bit… Another year of watching his teammates struggling on the court and knowing he would make a difference.

FUCK!

Nonetheless, time passes… Yet another season comes around… The Captain reappears.

This time he’s really ready… Slimmer… Faster… More explosive… More aggressive…

He returns to reshaped squad, Martelli went down to Washington D.C. and found Kimble a protege… Thus far, freshman guard Jared Bynum is capably filling the void created by Newkirk’s graduation.

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Jared Bynum, St. Joseph’s Freshman Guard

The backcourt guys look good… Really good… So good, it got me to thinking about where Fresh will end up in the pantheon St. Joseph’s guards. As noted earlier, we must concede that he could never be Gladys Knight. Jameer will forever be the lead singer. To state otherwise is denial of revealed truth among Hawk faithful. But, a healthy Kimble is about knock someone off for one of those Pip spots. Yup…

Now this is a touchy subject among the older Hawks. Truth be told, Geoff Arnold and Bruiser Flint, to this day, have never conceded that the ’04 Hawks would have defeated the ’86 Hawks. This despite the fact that the ’04 Hawks beat damn near everybody… Now don’t get me wrong, they love Nelson, West, Barley and Carroll. They just do NOT believe they were BETTER than Flint, Arnold, Wayne Williams and Maurice Martin.

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Fresh Kimble, St. Joseph’s Captain

I haven’t asked them about Fresh… yet.

I’m sure they think he’s still in their rear view mirror.

The fact of the matter is… Kimble has pulled up right beside them…

And… he’s got about 60 games left.

He’s trying to get to the station. Jameer’s waiting… There’s Midnight Train to Georgia…

Eric Dixon Previews Bishop McDevitt’s Boy’s Basketball

By Eric Dixon 11/12/2018

“Trust!”

It’s the foundation of many good things and is an extremely important part of any successful team.

McDevitt Boys basketball discovered its value last season when it posted a 15-13 W-L record, including 6-8 in the very tough PCL. The overall win total marked an 11 game improvement from the previous season.

What was the key to the team that some considered “ the corniest team in the league,” according to junior guard Amir Harris, garnering a top 3 seed in District 12-3A playoffs? The players and staff echo each others sentiments in giving credit to their ability to come together under first year coach, Will Chavis, and learning to bond and trust each other on and off the court.

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Will Chavis, Bishop McDevitt, Boy’s Basketball Head Coach

“We bonded” said sophomore forward Jamil Manigo. “We went places together, went out to eat together.” Manigo also said that the team was lacking that kind of camaraderie when he first came to the Wyncote, PA campus. The team engaged in several team building activities ranging from going bowling and to social outings to attending college basketball games at Arcadia and Villanova as a unit.

Harris, also cited “trusting one another” and developing an attitude where they would pick each other up if they were having a bad game instead of bickering as Manigo mentioned they had done in years past. This building of trust and fraternity within the team was one of the few expectations Coach Chavis brought into last season. “Last year we didn’t really have any expectations, per se” said Chavis, who is entering his second season at McDevitt. “Just tried to come in and establish rules, that we would play fundamentally sound and that we would try to play for each other and make the right play every time. That’s all we were trying to establish last year.”

A commitment to working hard became a common theme on the team. “Work,” was the response of Robert Smith, the team scoring leader at 15.6 ppg, when asked how the team was able to manufacture the turn around. According to the third team All-Catholic guard, “Working on what we did wrong and how to improve on it” was the focus of the team last year and also coming into the upcoming season. Coach Chavis mirrored those thoughts.
 “The work ethic of the kids,” contributed to the Lancers success said Chavis. “They started to buy in to what we were trying to teach and they started to learn how to become basketball players.”

Along with working hard and playing together together, Chavis and his assistants, Rashim Sims and Dan Greenberg, also wanted to instill a culture of accountability and constant development. “I just kept telling them to get the most out of their ability.” This message has resonated with Smith, who aspires to be a first team performer this season, who said “I work hard everyday on my craft to get the best (out of my ability).”

Another key factor in the team’s play was the willingness of the players to commit themselves to the defensive end and understanding and executing their roles. Smith’s backcourt mate, Harris, mentioned the team’s defense as a key factor in helping the team win. “We started to win games and make them tougher for everyone.”

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Playoff game against, eventual State Champion, Neumann-Goretti last March

Chavis expects contributions from several players beyond Smith and Harris this season. They include sharpshooter Seneca Willoughby and big men Cameron Gardner (6-5) and Gabe Harris (6-6). Gardner has taken to Coach Chavis’ “C.H.A.M.P.S.” an acronym, which stands for Character, Humility, Accountability, Mental Toughness, Progression and Service. “When we listen to coach, we do (well),” said Gardner, who worked this summer to improve his mid range shooting and quickness this summer. Gabe Harris, whose father played professionally overseas, will look to contribute to the team as a tough defender, rebounder and scorer. Other possible contributors include guard Shamir Mosely (6-1) and wing/forward Quin Guilyard (6-4).

Regular season games commence in early December.