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.’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…