Eric Dixon on La Salle’s Victory at Neumann-Goretti

By Eric Dixon

January 22, 2019

The LaSalle High School Explorers entered the Neumann-Goretti Saints den last night prepared to defend their undefeated record against an energetic and determined, even if outsized, hostile host. The matchups were the talk of the afternoon. How would the shorter Saints deal with the size of LaSalle’s tall and skilled front line? Would Hakim Byrd continue his impressive play against one of the more underrated, but no less effective point guards in the PCL, Allen Powell?

After some scheduling mishaps, we finally got some answers to these questions and more on a chilly night in South Philly. Both teams were supported by vocal contingents that made their feelings known early and often throughout the contest.

As the game started it seemed as if the frigid conditions outside were affecting the marksmanship of both teams as both shot the ball poorly in the early going. N-G used a physical, energetic style of defense to get LaSalle rattled, creating a couple turnovers that lead to an early 8-4 lead for the Saints. The first quarter ended with the two normally high scoring teams combining for just 19 points with N-G up 10 to 9.

Coach Mike McKee, head coach of the Explorers, explained what he thought the early issues were related to. “(Neumann-Goretti) has a high talent level and you’re not going to be able to just dribble around them.” Once LaSalle started moving the ball with the pass they we were able to get better shots and were able to shake some the frost off their shots.

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La Salle HS Coach Mike McKee

The highlight of the first quarter was the play of Allen Powell and Hakim Byrd, the teams respective point guards who combined for 9 points. Powell showed off his impressive first step and improving jump shot while Byrd used his defensive prowess and finishing ability to stoke his team to a tenuous 1 point lead. In the second quarter the visitors made getting Konrad Kizska going a priority. The 6-7 Princeton commit opened the frame with a three and garnered 7 points in the quarter. Kahlil Diarrah came off the bench to bury two corner threes to expand the LaSalle lead.

The Saints continued to see normally reliable shots fall short or go in-and-out. This offensive ineffectiveness was highlighted by Chris Ings, a Rider University commit and explosive scorer who came in averaging over 19 ppg, totaling just one point in the half. N-G scored a poultry 5 points in the second quarter, to trail 25-15 at the half.

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Chris Ings, Neumann-Goretti, Senior Guard

The third quarter began with Ings and the Saints asserting themselves as they righted their struggling offense, netting more points in the stanza than they did the entire first half. Byrd, who scored 16 for the game, hit 2 threes. Still, with Powell, Titus Beard and Kiszka, who finished with 18 points, leading the effort, the Explorers were able to keep them at arm’s length as they entered the fourth with a comfortable 13 point cushion.

Neumann-Goretti again made an admirable run in the fourth with the charge being led by Ings and senior Ja’Cor Smith, who scored a team high 17 points in the game. However, the comeback was stymied by an untimely technical foul call that would have cut the Explorer’s advantage to 7 and provided some much needed momentum to the home team. Powell, who finished with 22 points, was sensational down the stretch from the line burying 7 of 9 in the quarter. He shot 10 of 12 from the charity stripe for the game.

Afterwards, Coach McKee was reticent in talking about his teams “ pleasantly surprising” 16-0 season thus far. “We are take them one game at a time. We been tested and were again tested tonight.” In his first year at LaSalle, is appreciative of the “veteran group” of players and the resiliency of his team throughout the impressive start.

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Carl Arrigale, Neumann-Goretti Head Coach

Carl Arrigale, the legendary coach with 40 years of experience, is appreciative of the fact that it’s still early enough in the season for his 9-4 team, which now has two league losses, to get back on track. The current PCL landscape with its high degree of parity and lack of a truly dominant team reminds him of his third or fourth season when they had some early struggles and were still able “win the league from 4th place.”

Going in Arrigale wanted to play an uptempo “high possession” type game but McKee’s team was resistant and managed to control the pace and play their game. Coach Arrigale also thought his team’s impatience contributed to first half offensive woes. “We wanted to get inside their length and play inside out, but… they were in a matchup zone, which you have to treat like a man to man, and we got a little confused and lost patience.”

Coach McKee, a well-traveled former college assistant and NBA advance scout, was able to get his team to play with a even temperament and maintain control, even as N-G employed a frenetic, physical style of defense. This style caused the Explorers to enter the bonus before the 5 minute mark of the fourth quarter, when the officials seemed to tighten and penalize both teams for physicality or chippiness.

The star of the game was Allen Powell. He was humble after game, mirroring the even temperament that his team played within the close confines of the crowded gym. Powell noted that he didn’t vary his routine to prepare for his bally-hooed matchup with Ings and Byrd.

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Allen Powell, La Salle Senior Point Guard

“I didn’t do anything (special). I prepare for every game the same,” he said.

Powell is one of the more heralded prospects in the area, but he said that is starting to change. He mentioned that his recruitment is starting to pick up. Although no offers have been extended just yet, he said schools such as Hofstra and California State Bakersfield have been in frequent contact.

“Allen has an impressive first step. Schools are missing out on him,” according to Coach McKee.

A lot of people seem to have overlooked Powell and his LaSalle High School teammates. That’s definitely starting to change.

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Lynn Greer and Hakim Byrd: Philly Guards

The ‘Philly Guard’ is a thing…

Throughout the basketball world, especially at the AAU/Grassroots, scholastic, collegiate and professional levels there is a common understanding about what it means to be a ‘Philly Guard.’ Nasty, tough, persistent and willing do whatever it takes to win a basketball contest.

This ‘Philly Guard’ concept has been around for more than 6 decades. John Chaney (Ben Franklin), Tee Parham (Northeast HS), Guy Rodgers (Northeast HS), Wali Jones (Overbrook HS), Walt Hazzard (Overbrook HS), Andre McCarter (Overbrook HS) and Mo Howard (St. Joseph’s Prep) embodied the concept. Among hard core Philly hoop heads of a certain age, these are some of the names that immediately come to mind when thinking about ‘Philly Guards.’

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Maurice ‘Mo’ Howard (center) at University of Maryland practice

Across the country, Earl Monroe (Bartram), Pooh Richardson (Ben Franklin) were probably the best known ‘Philly Guards’ until Kyle Lowry (Cardinal Dougherty) embarked upon his own Hall of Fame level career.

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Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors

The Philly Guard tree is a gift that keeps on giving. On Friday, January 18, 2019 about 1,500 Philly Hoop Heads were treated to phenomenal performances by two of the youngest fruit to fall off the tree.

Lynn Greer, III led his Roman Catholic Cahillites into battle against the Neumann-Goretti Saints, led by Hakim Byrd. As always, this was a BIG FUCKIN’ GAME! These two powerhouse programs have dominated the Catholic League over the past two decades.

Of the two, Greer is the far better known and more highly regarded commodity. He was literally born into it… His grandfather Lynn Greer, played on Edison High’s 1969 city championship team, which featured stars Romie Thomas and Reggie Kitchen. He then went on to play for Virginia State in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the oldest Black college sports conference in the nation. Greer was a four-year starter, the team captain (1971-73), an honorable mention All-State (1972), an all-conference standout (1972 and 1973), and a second-team All-State honoree (1973). He was drafted by the American Basketball Association’s (ABA) Carolina Cougars and by the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.

Greer’s father, Lynn Greer, Jr. was a flat-out superstar performer for Temple from 1997 through 2002. Greer left the Owls as the program’s second all-time leading scorer with 2,099 points.  Greer had one of the finest offensive seasons in Big 5 history as a senior. In 2001-02, he averaged 23.2 points, piling up 719 points, while earning first team all-conference, all-district and Philadelphia Big 5 Most Valuable Player honors.

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Lynn Greer, Jr., Temple and Big 5 Hall of Famer

A Philadelphia Public League product (Engineering and Science HS), like his father before him, Greer also set still-standing school records for single-season three-point accuracy (.472) and career free throw percentage (.852).  He is Temple’s all-time leader in games played (137) and was a member of four NCAA Tournament teams, including two Elite Eight trips (1999, 2001), and one NIT Final Four (2002) in his career.  Upon graduation, he played one season in the NBA and went on to a 12-year professional career overseas.

Lynn Greer III, or LG3 as he is affectionately known, was expected to be very good. It’s in his DNA. He was handed the ball immediately upon arriving at Broad and Vine. He had a rock solid freshman season. He turned in a very memorable performance against another highly regarded Philly Guard when he battled McDonald’s All-American Quade Green head-to-head at Holy Family University. But the ‘man’ among Philly Guards that season, by any reasonable measure was yet another Philly Guard, Archbishop Wood’s Collin Gillespie. The rookie Greer, however, would go on to average 11.4 ppg as a freshman while being named 3rd team All-Catholic.

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Lynn Greer, III, Roman Catholic High School

He made huge strides as a sophomore when he averaged 16.8 mpg and helped lead Roman to Catholic League and PIAA State Championships. Over that stretch, Greer’s name became nationally known. He was ranked in the top 100 by most Scouting Services and named to the USA National team. He briefly transferred to a National Prep powerhouse, Oak Hill Academy, for the start of his senior season.

Like Greer III, Binghamton University’s Samuel Sessoms, Austin Peay University’s Antwuan ‘Booty” Butler, Olympus Prep’s Yazid Powell and Archbishop Wood’s Jalen Stinson, Neuman-Goretti’s Hakim Byrd spent hundreds of hours in the hot, sweaty nondiscript crucible that is the James L. Wright Recreation Center while in the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th grades. Greer and Byrd were backcourt mates in the Bottom Ballers grassroots program and they teamed up to terrorize middle school programs for the better part of three years.

On Friday, they were opponents, starting point guards in the premier programs in the esteemed Philadelphia Catholic League.  However, one should note that Byrd’s path to gaining control of the point guard position was much rockier than Greer’s. Whereas Greer was named the Roman point guard when the homeroom bell sounded the first day of school freshman year, Byrd had to rumble his way in over 24 months.

So, the Bottom Baller teammates traveled far different routes to their confrontation Friday night. Byrd played JV as a freshman. Coming back from injury as sophomore, he made the decision to split time between JV and varsity.

Seated next to Byrd’s father, Ronald, at one JV game, I asked why was Hakim playing when he was clearly far more skilled than 99.99999% of JV players. His Dad said that he and his son decided that they needed game reps. While he was playing in every varsity game, his minutes were sporadic and he wanted stay sharp especially after missing time with an injury.

Imagine that… No talk of transferring… No sulking… No bitching…

Hakim Byrd and his father wanted to play in games! They were NOT worried about appearances. They didn’t give FUCK what anyone had to say… They were NOT worried about points. They just wanted to stay sharp and get better. That’s the Bottom Baller way! It has paid off handsomely… This year, Byrd has taken control of the reigns for the Saints. He is the Neumann-Goretti point guard deftly running the show.

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Hakim Bryd, Neumann-Goretti point guard

The show came to CCP on Friday evening. There was a palpable buzz in the air surrounding the matchup. After all, Roman has 3 of the last 4 Catholic League Championships and 31 overall. Neumann-Goretti has 20 titles.

But, what many wanted to see was the game within the game. I, for one, eagerly looked forward to the point guard matchup between the two Bottom Baller alums. They did not disappoint. Greer played one of his finest games. His handle was flawless. His jumpshot was locked in. His decision-making was crisp. He put the Cahillites on his back early as they jumped out to a 22-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Then Hakim Byrd turned it on, He exploded for 14 points in the second quarter as Neumann-Goretti came back to take a 38-37 halftime lead. Boy… was it fun to watch. Byrd showed everybody why he needs to be considered for the the title as the best point guard in the Philly. He is lightning quick and it’s damn near impossible to stay in front of him. He can consistently get to the rim despite his lack of height. While he doesn’t have an imposing frame, he compensates with BIG FUCKIN’ BALLS, great heart and athleticism. Byrd plays bigger than he is. One of the best passers in the Philly. He is also an outstanding scorer when its needed. He is capable of starting and finishing the break and taking his man one-on-one. Byrd has improved his jump shot dramatically since his freshman season. He forces defenders to respect his three point shot, a key to his development. He is becoming a very consistent catch and shoot guy. But he makes a killing off the dribble. This kid is extremely efficient in general offensively.

Byrd is, unquestionably, a Division 1 point guard prospect.

So we have two real Philly guards. One with a long family legacy and big reputation. The other a scrappy, feisty, fast, determined, very talented and virtually unknown finally taking control of the ball this year.

It’s only right that they both finished with exactly 27 points. Their high level of play made the game extraordinarily enjoyable to watch. It was a very ‘clean’ game. Very few silly mistakes and blown assignments. The guard play was first rate.

If anyone is unclear what it means to be a ‘Philly guard’, send them a link to this game.

These two, trained in those fierce Bottom Baller practices, are carrying the long proud tradition forward.

Lynn Greer is a national prospect. He’s long been considered one of the best point guards in the nation and deservedly so. You knew that…

Hakim Byrd is right on his ass… Now you know that…

Roman Catholic vs Camden High: Preview

Why Roman Catholic SHOULD win their matchup with Camden High School tonight…

Let’s look at the matchups…

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Lance Ware, Camden’s Junior Power Forward

Lance Ware vs Seth Lundy – Ware is a highly skilled 6’9” PF. He is a very capable rebounder, ball-handler, shot blocker and shooter. Lundy is a 6’6” SF/PF that plays with a great deal of intensity. Lundy is a tenacious rebounder with range that extends well beyond the the high school 3 point line. EVEN

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Seth Lundy, Roman Catholic SF/PF

Taquan Woodley vs Jalen Duren – This is a matchup between the two most talented underclassmen in the region. Both rely heavily upon intimidation and athleticism. Both are excellent rebounders and shot blockers. Duren at 6’9” is a tad longer than Woodley who comes in at 6’7.” Right now, it appears that Woodley may be one of the strongest players in the region regardless of class. The X factor here could be composure. Woodley has demonstrated a tendency to allow his emotions to get the best of him. He has to remain even keeled for Camden to have a real chance. They need Woodley’s presence on the block. EVEN

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Taquan Woodley, Camden High School

Jerome Brewer vs Hakim Hart – Brewer has emerged as one of finest underclassmen in the region. He is a very long sophomore, standing 6’7.” He has a nice jump shot that extends beyond the 3 point line and he is a very capable rebounder. Hart is one of the best player in the area. Along with Isaiah Wong, he is a leading contender for the Catholic League MVP honor. He plays a very nuanced and subtle game. He rebounds, he passes, defends in the post and he SHOOTS. His shot is extremely soft and his range extends beyond the NBA 3 point line. Hart is one of the most cerebral players you will see… He very rarely makes poor decisions. ADVANTAGE HART.

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St. Joseph’s commit Hakim Hart, Roman Catholic

Ethan Tarte, Orlando Hildago and Nasir Lett vs Louis Wild, Lynn Greer and Justice Williams – The Camden backcourt is solid. Tarte is a big-bodied combo guard. He is effective attacking the defense off the bounce and capable of finishing through contact. Hildago is a good ball-handler and a fierce competitor. Let just doesn’t make mistakes. He is like an extension of Coach Vic Carstarphen on the floor. He consistently works to get his teammates involved and makes winning plays. The Roman Catholic backcourt features 2 high major prospects and a warrior. Louis Wild is a jack of all trades for Roman Catholic. He’s a very good shooter, strong rebounder and tough defender 1 through 4. Williams is a supremely gifted freshman combo guard and one of the top 100 players in the nation in his class. Greer is very well-rounded high major point guard prospect and also one of the top 100 players in his class. ADVANTAGE ROMAN.

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Ethan Tarte, Camden’s Senior Combo Guard

In what is sure to be an exciting action-packed contest, Roman Catholic’s advantage in the backcourt should give them a slight edge over a tough but young Camden squad.

 

Eric Dixon on Archbishop Carroll Basketball

01/13/2018

By Eric Dixon

Archbishop Carroll is long. Both literally and figuratively. The 13-man roster has just one player standing under 6’0. They have 6 players measuring in at 6’4” of better. The Patriots are also long on tradition. Coach Francis Bowe, in his first season at the Radnor, PA high school, is leading the program out of the lengthy shadow of his predecessor, Paul Romanczuk.

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Francis Bowe, Archbishop Carroll Head Coach

Coach Romanczuk helmed the program the past 16 seasons after being an assistant for four years. His passionate, detail-oriented leadership spurred the program to 10 consecutive 20 win seasons and 9 berths in the Philadelphia Catholic League final four at the iconic Palestra. In short, Coach Bowe, an 8th grade math teacher, has some long shoes to fill.

“I’ve been talking to Paul and he’s been an open book”, says Coach Bowe, after a recent road win at Cheltenham HS. He went on to describe how Romanczuk has been invaluable in helping him learn the ins and outs of managing the team. He is also grateful for inheriting a “great nucleus of kids.” Coach Bowe adds, “the cupboard wasn’t bare.”

The main contributors so far this season are senior Luke House, junior Tairi Ketner and newcomer, sophomore John Camden. The team also has burgeoning talents sophomore Anquan Hill, a wiry strong interior player, sharpshooting junior Amiri Stewart and guards senior Kiyl Mack and junior Ny’Mire Little.

House’s perimeter abilities were well known to Coach Bowe from day 1, but he was pleasantly surprised by the senior’s leadership skills and has dubbed him his “coach on the floor”. He has also invested time in improving his body. His rebounding and overall strength have improved as one of the more underrated wings in the PCL looks to draw more attention to his game.

House, 6-4, has certainly helped with rebounding (he collected an impressive 13 against Cheltenham) but he isn’t the only Patriot roughing opponents up inside. Junior Tairi Ketner, 6-7, son of the late Lari Ketner, a Philadelphia native and former UMass standout, brings quite a bit of physicality to the team.

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Tairi Ketner defends against Cheltenham star Zahree Harrison

“My job is to bring toughness and get us extra possessions,” says the burly Ketner. He made several nice power post moves against the Panthers. He was also able to wall up and make life difficult for Cheltenham in the paint on the defensive end. Ketner said he is currently being recruited by several D2 programs, most notably Georgian Court University (NJ) and Caldwell University (NJ), who offered Ketner a scholarship following the Cheltenham win.

Anquan Hill, 6-8, is another Patriot that has contributed a strong interior presence. Surprisingly strong given his slight frame, Hill showed a penchant for blocking or altering shots and garnering some tough rebounds.

“I love defense,” says Coach Bowe, who noted that that is what he hung his hat on when he led Valley Forge Military Academy to the best 5 year stretch in the school’s history. His love of defense is being imparted to his Carroll players. That was evident during a 5 minute stretch that spanned the 1st and 2nd qtrs of the game that saw 10 straight Panther possessions end in miss shots or turnovers. The first quarter ended with Carroll having surrendered a mere 3 points to their hosts.

Adding to the talent and length of the team is Westtown transfer, 6-7 John Camden. He is an athletic, talented shooter who is adept at making shots off the catch and bounce. His arsenal also includes an impressive mid range fade.  Camden is currently a 3-star prospect according to 247Sports who holds offers from Miami (Fl), Penn State, Xavier, Temple and Syracuse, amongst others.

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John Camden recently transferred from Westtown to Archbishop Carroll

Camden, who only recently transferred to Carroll last month, has been impressed with the “big school feel” on the Montgomery county campus. That was one of the non-basketball influences on his decision to change schools. As far as basketball, the allure of playing in the vaunted PCL was the biggest reason he’s rapidly become a Patriot.. “It was a quick turn around, like two days,” says the easy-going wing forward.

Coach Bowe’s squad is 6-5 and has used the lessons learned during a challenging non-conference schedule, that included a close loss to Wildwood Catholic and a game versus Boys Latin of Baltimore (MD), to run to a 4-1 record in the PCL.

“We want to look at the record and judge it based on the level of the competition,” according to Coach Bowe. “Who did we play?” Well, they will be playing some tough teams over the next few weeks and we will see how far their length can carry them.