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…

 

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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.

Phil Martelli: Still Standing Strong!

It was December 7, 2013… I remember it like it was last night…

Jay Wright brought his undefeated and 14th ranked Wildcats down Lancaster Ave. for a “Holy War” matchup with the Saint Joseph’s University Hawks. For the first 20 minutes, it was a fairly even game. Villanova entered the locker room at halftime leading 39-35. I looked forward to a typically tight Big 5 finish.

Then it happened… Whoaaaa… I have no idea what Wright said to his troops during the intermission. But… Daaaaaaaymn it worked!

I have always imagined it had to be something along the lines of Ray Rhodes’ legendary motivational speech to his Eagles team. If you are an Eagles fan of a certain age, you know the speech, Rhodes told his squad to think of the other team as burglars coming into their homes to beat their kids and rape their wives.

Had to be something along those lines… I was a witness…

Nova came out of the locker room, the buzzer sounded…

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James Bell, 25 points and 14 rebounds on 12/07/2013

 

The Wildcats made the Hawks go into the bushes and get a switch. “And… you betta NOT bring back a lil’ one…” Then they told ‘em to take off their pants. They proceeded to whoop dat ass UNMERCIFULLY for 20 minutes straight. It was the kind of whoopin’ that left huge welts on the upper thigh and gluteus maximus for days… If you from ’round da way, it was an “extension cord” type of ass whoopin’…

Final score Villanova 98, St. Joseph’s 68… Drubbed by thirty! JayVaughn Pinkston had 27 and 8. James Bell finished with 25 and 14. It was UGLY! In front of a standing room only packed Hagan Arena…

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JayVaughn Pinkston, 27 points and 8 rebounds on 12/07/2013

The air was thick with tension, disappointment and frustration as the lashes were administered… Whoop… Whoop… Whoop… They NEVER let up…

Remember how you felt sorry for your homie as you sat outside the window and listened to his Momma whoop dat ass for the dumb shit y’all did… That’s how it felt for 4,200 Hawk fans that night…

One young man, however, decided to take it a step further… He crossed a line… He came over to the family section directly behind the St. Joseph’s bench and proceeded to belt out a rhythmic chant at the top of his lungs…

“FIRE PHIL… FIRE PHIL… FIRE PHIL… FIRE PHIL… FIRE PHIL… FIRE PHIL…”

This went on for 1 minute, then 2 minutes, then 4 minutes…

It became apparent that this young man was not going to cease.

Finally, Phil’s lovely wife Judy, grandchild in her arms decided to stand about 3 feet directly in front of this young man and stare through his soul. If looks could kill, this young man died a thousand deaths.

I truly feared she might revert to her Immaculata playing days and elbow the young man in his orbital socket…

Awkward, uncomfortable, vexatious, exasperating… I cannot find the words to describe the feeling I had standing proximate to these two die hard Hawk supporters…

In some ways, I understood the positions of both parties… The fan was humiliated… The Hawks did not put up a fight… As Buddy Ryan would say, they “lifted their skirt.” For the first time in my three decades of following St. Joseph’s basketball, the Hawk, while not dead, was on life support.

I had high hopes for that particular Hawk squad. Langston Galloway, Ronald Roberts and Halil Kanacevic were All-League level players and DeAndre Bembry was the ultimate glue guy as a freshman. I too was EXTREMELY disappointed…

But, to relentlessly call for a man to be fired within a few feet of his wife, daughter, father and grandchildren was bit much for me…

I needed to talk with someone… Someone that could provide some perspective…

What the FUCK was goin’ on?

The next day, I called Rashid Bey… Phil’s first truly great player at St. Joseph’s, Bey is a 2-time Big 5 MVP Award winner and Big Hall of Famer. He led the Hawks to a Sweet 16 appearance in the 1997 NCAA Tournament.

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Rashid Bey, Big 5 Hall of Famer

“What up Sheed?”

I described what I had witnessed the night before… In great detail, I spelled out the ass whoopin’… I complained about the tactless display by the understandably frustrated fan… I sympathized with Judy enduring a relentless call for her husband’s termination…

“What the FUCK Rashid?”

In response, he very calmly said to me… “I think Phil is gonna go on a run with this team… watch.”

I thought… “Huh? Sheed is bugging”

Fast forward to March 16, 2014, I was at the team hotel with Langston, Ron, Halil and Phil… I was in the room when their name was called and they found out they would play UConn in the NCAA tournament. Just as his former player predicted, Phil went on a run with that team and they won the A-10 Championship a couple hours earlier at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, NY.

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2014 A10 Champions, St. Joseph’s University Hawks

I say all of that to say…There’s something about the connection Martelli has with really good players he coaches. It was there with Bey and Myers… It was there with O’Connor and Crenshaw… It was there with Nelson, West and Carroll… Bey had premonition that it would emerge with Galloway.

He was right…

It would emerge two years later with Bembry and Miles… Another run… Another A-10 Championship…

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2016 A10 Champions, St. Joseph’s University Hawks

Martelli has a gift… He is able to get really good players to believe in themselves… Over and over we have seen his guys become enormously confident in themselves and lift their teammates…

Once they reach this point, Phil is a master at knowing when to step aside and let them go. Typically, these players are highly skilled guards and wings. Once they are on the same page, Phil truly gets out of their way. It becomes and absolute pleasure to watch them play the right way without him riding them day in and day out.

Oh… He will always FORCEFULLY redirect the supporting players that miss an assignment or give less than full effort. But when St. Joseph’s is really good, Martelli has really talented guys he can trust… These 2 or 3 guys rarely miss an assignment and they always give maximum effort. They lead by example.

It’s a joy to watch Martelli at this point in his coaching career. He has led Saint Joseph’s to seven NCAA Tournaments and six NITs.  He has been named Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year 4 times (1997, 2001, 2004, 2005). He was Naismith College Coach of the Year (2004) and Associated Press Coach of the Year (2004). But, that’s not the stuff most remember…

He came in rumbling Steve Lappas, Speedy Morris and John Chaney. He’s squared off against their successors. His friendly rivalry with Bruiser spanned Flint’s tenure with UMass and Drexel. He’s seen Billy Hahn, Glen Miller, Jerome Allen and John Giannini come and go.

This will be the final year he faces his dear friend Fran Dunphy.

This past off season, the pages of Big 5 history were turned yet again. Ashley Howard took the reigns at La Salle and Aaron McKie was formally installed as the Head Coach in Waiting at Temple.

These changes sparked a lot of discussion about the recruiting landscape in Philadelphia. Martelli heard the whispers. Those Coach of the year Trophies really didn’t seem to matter that much…

“Could he still relate to the high school kids? Could he compete with Aaron and Ashley in the living rooms of recruits?”

Martelli grabbed his smartphone and let everybody know exactly how he felt… “I’m still the O.G! I’m still here!”

While he was congratulatory toward McKie and Howard, he called every AAU and High School coach in the area and let them know he intended to continue competing aggressively in his hometown. He was yielding no ground…

That call made me smile…

A few months later, Ryan Daly (Archbishop Carroll) is on his roster. Hakim Hart (Roman Catholic) and Jameer Nelson (Haverford) have committed to attend SJU.

On the floor, silky-smooth, super shooting wing Charlie Brown (George Washington) and point guard Fresh Kimble (Neumann-Goretti) are combining with the uber-cerebral forward Pierfrancesco Oliva to lead the way for the 2018-2019 Hawks.

They played their first game last night. A good win over a tough, experienced, athletic Old Dominion team. I know it’s only one game… BUT… It’s pretty obvious Fresh, Charlie and Oliva are good players beginning to believe in themselves… All three have missed a season due to injury. They are hungry… They want to win…

Oh… I saw Martelli carrying two of his precious grandchildren last night… The mood in the room was just a tad lighter than that dreadful night 5 years ago…

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Martelli and 5 of his grandchildren after win over ODU

I’m bout to call Rashid… Tell you what he says…

The Traci Carter Show

I love Traci Carter… So should you!

He is a quintessential Philly point guard. Yet, Philly has only had fleeting glances of his game… That is about to change in a MAJOR way.

Why has he rarely appeared on the Philly stage? Well is a long story…

Like hundreds of great, very good and even some not so good South Philadelphia ballers that came before him, Carter studied under the “Guru.” That is where I met him in the summer of 2010. He was on the court with about a dozen or so other kids being “coached” by the legendary Philadelphia Black Basketball Hall of Famer, Claude Gross.

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Claude Gross, Philadelphia Black Basketball Hall of Famer

At the behest of Claude and 2-time Big 5 MVP, Rashid Bey, I stopped by the Marian Anderson Recreation Center to watch the South Philly contingent in the Sonny Hill Future League practice. Both were convinced they had a “special” player on that squad.

For the uninitiated, let me explain what a Claude Gross practice entailed… Claude would talk and talk and talk and then talk some more. Every so often, he would run a drill or let the players scrimmage and then he would see an error or a miscalculation… The ball would STOP and Claude would talk some more… Now agitated, his vocabulary became forceful and profanity laden to put it mildly.

For those determined to learn… For those desiring to improve… the fussing and cussing was just the price of admission – tuition, if you will – to get to the inevitable lesson. Mo Howard, Andre McCarter, Geoffrey Arnold, Nate Blackwell, Lionel Simmons and Donnie Carr are just a few of the ballers that matriculated through Basketball 101 taught by the Guru.

Traci Carter was one of the last really good players to take the class while Claude was still roaming the sidelines.

Physically, he did not stand out… In fact, while they were patiently listening to Claude’s lecture, I could not tell which one was Traci. He was skinny and very nondescript.

Then Claude let ‘em play a lil’ bit… One time up the court and it was clear which one I was supposed to be watching. His floor game was advanced. Even as a middle schooler, Carter was a dynamic and tough lead guard. He was all business… He took the game very seriously. While very slight, he already possessed the tools to be a factor on both ends of the floor. Actually, he reminded me of Bey at St. Joseph’s. His handle was VERY tight, he made good decisions and he was capable of making open threes and pull-ups alike. Perhaps, most impressive was his lightning quick first step is quick and his ability to change pace with the ball.

That day, Claude and Rashid told Traci “this is Del, he’s gonna make sure you are ok academically… Do what he tells you.”

Traci’s been my youngin from that very moment.

I eagerly awaited his high school debut. Traci enrolled at Prep Charter and I was sure he would set the Pub on fire… Then it happened… Fucking knee injury and subsequent surgery.

Shit!

He missed his entire freshman year. Given an assignment by Claude, I dared not perform my assigned duties. I kept in touch with Traci. I was impressed with his maturity and the way he was able to handle a serious injury at such a young age. He spirits remained high and he kept his grades together.

He decided to transfer to Roman Catholic for his sophomore year. Running the point on a team that featured Shep Garner, Rashann London and Manny Taylor, Traci helped Cahillites go 13-1 in the Catholic League before bowing out to Steve Vasturia, Mile Overton and St. Joseph’s Prep in the Catholic League semi-finals.

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Traci Carter at Roman Catholic

Making 3rd team All-Catholic as a sophomore, the future seemed exceedingly bright for Carter and the Cahillites.

Then he stumbled… This time off the court… A few too many youthful indiscretions resulted in another transfer.

This time, Traci relied on Donnie Carr to help guide his decision-making. I suggested that they consider Life Center Academy in Burlington.

Donnie, Traci and I met with Pastor Dave Boudwin and explained he was a good kid in need of a change of scenery and the support of the church. Pervis Ellison agreed to take on the role of coach/mentor for Traci.

Life Center Academy embraced Traci. He flourished in small class settings, regularly attended all religious gatherings, went on missions overseas and matured a great deal.

Like everyone else that fell under direction of Claude Gross, Traci followed orders. Every time he would receive his report card, he would text a picture and ask me to calculate where he stood. He took no chances.

Truth be told, Traci was a pain in the ass! Donnie Carr wasn’t a walk in the park either.

I found myself on several occasions, driving to Burlington to walk Traci through his core course GPA calculations. There was no way we would allow Traci to fall through the cracks.

On the court, he flourished. Traci earned the 90th spot in the national rankings for the class of 2015 by rivals.com. He was Rated as the 18th best point guard in the class by FOXSports.com. He averaged 16.0 points, 7.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 steals per game in 2014-15 and was tabbed first team all-independent. He was also a McDonald’s All-American Game nominee and was named Life Center’s most valuable player. Traci led Life Center Academy to over 40 victories in his two seasons and the team claimed the top ranking among independent teams within the state of New Jersey. He concluded his prep career with over 1,000 points and was tabbed the top player in the Hoop Hall Classic.

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Traci Carter at Life Center Academy

But all of this took place in Burlington, New Jersey. Philly didn’t get to see his rise to scholastic prominence. He was off the radar screen.

College recruiters knew where to find him though… Xavier, Boston College, Pittsburgh, UConn, Creighton and a host of other high major programs were hot on his heels throughout his senior year. Traci eventually chose Marquette.

As a freshman, he did very well. Traci appeared in all 33 games and started 19. A true Philly point guard he averaged 4.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game while scoring 5.4 points in a very tough Big East Conference.

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Traci Carter at Marquette

At the start of his sophomore campaign, he began to express a little but of frustration. Nonetheless, he started 4 of the first 8 games. He was still averaging nearly 4 assists per game.

But there was pensiveness and sense of unease in our conversations that had not been there before. I encouraged him to tough it out… “Make it to the end of the school year,” I said…

Within a few days, it was all over the internet… “Carter leaves Marquette…”

John Giannini was there with open arms… He welcomed Traci… Then he also took Donnie Carr…

God is good! Thank you La Salle University!

With two years of eligibility remaining, Philly will finally get to see what I saw 8 years ago in that sweltering Marion Anderson gym. An authentic Philly point guard running a Philly team.

Local Hoopheads have been blessed… We have an overabundance of tough Philly point guards suiting up this year… Collin Gillespie is playing for Jay Wright, Stevie Jordan and Kimar Williams are at Rider, Shizz Alston sets the table at Temple, Fresh Kimble is Martelli’s coach on the floor…

But you’ve seen all these guys recently…

Physically mature and hungry to establish himself as the premier point guard in the Big 5 and the A10, my youngin is about to bring you sumthin’ a lil’ different…

The show debuts Tuesday evening at 7:30 pm at the Liacouras Center, 1776 North Broad Street.

Don’t be late… The Guru is watching…

Tired of NIGGA SHIT!

Last week, Gregory Bush, a 51 year old white man walked up to the door of the First Baptist Church in Jeffersontown, Kentucky. Filled with venom and hate and fueled by the relentless drumbeat of racist/white supremacist messages emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Bush was hunting Black people. Following a blueprint laid down in Charleston by Dylan Roof, another white supremacist convicted mass murderer 3 years earlier, Bush was intent on slaughtering Black people in their house of worship.

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Racist/white supremacist murderer, Gregory Bush

First Baptist Church officials confirmed that surveillance video recorded Mr. Bush’s unsuccessful attempt to enter the building. Billy Williams, the church administrator, said eight to 10 people were inside the church when Bush arrived after a midweek service. A church member in the parking lot grew alarmed when she saw him aggressively pulling on the historic church’s front doors. Mr. Bush drove away after less than 10 minutes.

“There were 70 people here at our weekly meeting service just an hour before he came by,” said Mr. Williams, who was among them. “I’m just thankful that all of our doors and security was in place.”

Unfortunately, the supermarket was open…

After a short drive to Kroger, Bush entered the store just before 3 p.m. and fired multiple rounds at Mr. Maurice E. Stallard, a 69 year old Black father and grandfather. He then exited and fired at Ms. Vicki Lee Jones, a 67 year old Black mother and grandmother, striking her several times.

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Maurice Stallard (l) attends the Louisville Male High School 50th class reunion with daughter Kellie Watson and his wife, Charlotte

Both Mr. Stallard and Ms. Jones were declared dead at the scene.

A white man confronted Bush with a firearm, the murderer told the man “Whites don’t kill whites,” and moved on.

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Vickie Lee Jones is pictured here with her nephew, Kevin Gunn.

That same week, another racist/white supremacist Robert Bowers, 46, did make it past the threshold of a House of Worship. Once in this particular house of God, Bowers shouted “All Jews must die!”

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Racist/white supremacist mass murderer Robert Bowers

He proceeded to methodically execute 11 unarmed Jewish people congregating in their sanctuary, including a 97 year old mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
Bush, Roof, Bowers and Cesar Sayoc, Jr, charged with mailing more than a dozen explosive devices to critics of President Trump are real-life enemies of Black, Latino and Jewish people.

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Jewish victims

Too many Black males in Philadelphia fail to truly understand what the word “enemy” means, As a result it is misused and misapplied all to often. An enemy is a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something. 

Shit you hear Black Men say in Philadelphia…

“Why is he organizing a basketball game or event? He needs to stay in his lane… Fuck him, he’s my ENEMY!”

“Why is he taking that kid to talk to that college? He needs to stay in his lane… Fuck him, he’s my ENEMY!”

“Why did he take pictures of that AAU program? He needs to stay in his lane… Fuck him, he’s my enemy!”

“Why are you talking to him? I don’t like him, so YOU shouldn’t talk to him… Fuck you, you’re my enemy!”

“Why are you playing in his event? If you do, you’re my enemy!”

“Why don’t you write something positive about my son? If you don’t you’re my enemy!”

These are just few examples of the types of petty, inconsequential episodes that lead Black males in and around Philadelphia to declare other Black men to be their “enemies”…

Meanwhile…the real enemies are preventing Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans from voting across the country… The real enemies are sending American troops to confront a couple thousand penniless brown men, women and children trekking hundreds of miles toward the American border…

What amazes me is that Black men in Philly know full well that a majority of Black boys fail to graduate from high school in 4 years. They also know that too many of those that make it college struggle socially and emotionally.

In the past month, I have had a young man sent home for assaulting his girlfriend on campus, another arrested for fighting on campus and yet another two fail drug screenings.

Our kids are struggling…

Scholarship kids gunned down in the streets…

Superstars convicted… Others begging for dollars to buy pills…

We all see it… We’ve seen surefire NBA prospects derailed because of highly questionable behavioral choices. Some of our finest prospects have never worn an NBA uniform for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with their basketball abilities.

Indeed, some of our guys in the NBA have had to deal with felony charges arising from poor decisions…

Over and over… Shit is on repeat…

Still… Black males somehow remain focused on keeping one another from advancing.

This is NIGGA SHIT!

As the larger society struggles to keep the racist/white supremacist pot from boiling over, Philly’s Black males, committed to crab-like behavior, pull one another back into the scolding water.

Last night a Black male executed another Black man… Yup… Although I have no idea who pulled the trigger, I am 99.999999% certain it was a Black male between 18-35.
He lurked in the shadows… He waited for an opportunity… He wanted to take a father from his kids… He wanted to take a coach from his players… He wanted to take an ol’ Head from his youngins…

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Coach Bok Green

Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!

Eleven (11) bullets entered his body… Piercing his skin… Crushing his bones… Dislodging internal organs… A river of blood ensued…

A life prematurely snuffed out!

Hundreds of young kids traumatized… Of the 200-250 he would have in a gym at a time, for at least 20-30, he was the tie, the connection to “civilian life”… Who will check on those kids now? Will they listen?

The Black male shooter is doing the work of racist/white supremacists like Bush, Roof, Bowers and Cesar Sayoc, Jr.

The Black male shooter is our enemy!

Miss me with the NIGGA SHIT!

Temple vs. La Salle: It’s Only Right!

It’s only right… Makes perfect sense…

The college basketball season begins with the Temple Owls hosting La Salle’s Explorers. Fran Dunphy, the winningest coach in the history of the Big 5 will match wits with Ashley Howard in his first game as Head Coach.

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La Salle Head Coach, Ashley Howard

Dunphy has 557 career wins… Howard is seeking his first…

Both programs are in the midst of massive transformations. While the memory remains fresh on the mind of every Philly hoophead, Tyrone Garland’s Southwest Philly floater kissed of the glass and slithered through the net six years ago. The Sweet 16 in 2013 is officially ancient Chinese History at 20th and Olney.

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Tyrone Garland, “SW Philly Floater”

Since then, the Explorers have finished 8th, 9th, 14th, T7th and T10th… Unacceptable…

The decision was made to go in another direction…

A nationwide search yielded a candidate that grew up about 3 subway stops from the La Salle campus. An integral part of the meteoric rise of the Villanova program, Howard was tapped to lead the Explorers back to prominence.

Young, energetic and extremely AGGRESSIVE on the recruiting trail, Howard leads his squad into the Liacouris Center to face the Owls on Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, Dunphy has been leading a Big 5 basketball program since 1989.

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Fran Dunphy, Temple Head Coach

He constructed an Ivy League powerhouse at the University of Pennsylvania. He went 310-163 with 9 NCAA appearances with the Quakers.

Upon taking the reigns from Hall of Fame Coach John Chaney, Dunphy proceeded to make 6 NCAA appearances in his first 7 years at the helm of the Owl program.

In 2013, however, Temple abandoned the Atlantic 10 (A10) Conference for the more competitive American Athletic Conference (AAC). Since making the jump, Temple has appeared in the NCAA tournament just once in 5 years. While the Owls have also made 2 NIT tournaments, including one NIT Semifinal, that’s just not enough to satisfy Owl alums and fans.

So… for just the 5th time since 1952, Temple will have a new basketball coach next season.

Harry Litwack (1952-1973), Don Casey (1973-1982), John Chaney (1982-2006), Fran Dunphy (2006-2019) will be succeeded by Aaron McKie (2019).

Two Philadelphia programs with justifiably proud traditions are taking different approaches in their attempts to return to glory.

La Salle reached onto the Villanova bench and snatched a young assistant known as a relentless recruiter and gave him the keys to the car. Howard’s been riding shotgun for the past 5 years as Jay Wright’s been conducting “drive-by” massacres of Temple, La Salle, St. Joseph’s and Pennsylvania on his way to cutting down the Final Four nets TWICE!

Now it’s his responsibility to stop the bleeding.

Dunphy is set to begin his final lap. He’s still pumped… He’s still eager to compete… He’s till working hard to prepare his troops for battle. Aaron McKie is serving an apprentice year, patiently waiting his turn.

Around 10:00 pm Tuesday evening, either Howard will have victory number 1 or Dunphy will have number 558…

Either way, hoopheads will get a first look at two historically GREAT programs in transition.

College Basketball is Back!

College basketball is back!