Eric Dixon on Robeson Star Walter Hester!

By Eric Dixon

PHILADELPHIA, PennsylvaniaWalter Hester of Paul Robeson High School (Philadelphia, Pa.) is a “bucket”. The 5-11 combo guard can “flat out score the ball” as was evidenced in a recent win over Eastern University Academy where he scored an impressive 47 points to help get his team into tonight’s Class A championship game against Sankofa Academy.

Hester has started all but a handful of games in a four year varsity career that has seen him amass more than 1500 points from all three levels. The senior is averaging 27 ppg game, which represents a 8 point improvement over his junior season scoring average. He attributes the increase to a number of factors, including his ability to improve his pull up jump shot and “be more aggressive going to the rim” to draw fouls at a higher rate than in previous years.

It didn’t take long for the staff at Robeson to see Hester was special. He began his freshman year on the bench the first 3 or 4 games before one of the starters was slowed by an injury. “We tried it in practice it in practice and then they just kept it like that,” according to Hester.

His ascent to neighborhood folk and family hero began in middle school, says Joslyn Hester-Parham. “I wasn’t too into at first. I mean knew he played ball, but I didn’t know he play play.” She went on to say how it was around his eighth grade year when people from their southwest Philadelphia community would come up to her and tell “your brother play ball real nice.”


Joslyn Hester-Parham and Walter Hester

Unfortunately, it’s taken college scouts a little longer to recognize his worth as his recruitment has been “slower than you might expect for a guy with his numbers,” says Robeson’s head coach, Robert Powlen. He insists if given the opportunity “Walt”, as he is affectionately known by family and friends, would be a great addition to a college program.

“On the next level, he can play either guard position and will continue to get stronger and will adjust to the college game. I truly expect him to have a great college career. His character, talent and will to win will never let him down” says Powlen.


Coach Powlen and Walter Hester

Hester, a Philadelphia All public performer who is the 6th of 9 siblings, credits his brothers Khalil, Tyrefe, Nigel and Julius with helping him hone his game at the playground at 51st and Kingsessing. Hester is not being very tall in scholastic basketball terms but for pick up games he grew up having a to “play down low” and guard bigger players. The experience has helped him develop confidence in playing against taller players. Other influences are his mentor and trainer Rafiq Strand.

The Achieve More AAU basketball program allowed Hester to do just that by taking him to out of state tournaments and giving him free rein to explore and develop his creative shot making abilities against unfamiliar competition. “It was a good experience, they gave me more freedom. I didn’t do any thinking, I just played my game.”

Tonight against Sankofa, Hester will look to continue to do just that. He’s going to give it all he’s got, as he always does. “We are going to take what they give us. We are going to be scrappy and get the 50-50 balls and just go after it.” Sounds like something he’s used to doing.

James Nelson Stewart Interviews Pennridge Coach Dean Behrens!

By James Nelson Stewart

Q. How long have you been at Pennridge Coach Behrens?
A. 21 years

Q. What would you like people to know about Pennridge Basketball?
A. Since 2015, Pennridge Basketball has qualified for the states 3 times and the players from the past are very excited about the current team and the 1st Final Four appearance in school’s history. One the program past stars, Tim Abruzzo, who is serving our country in Libya after a college career at the Naval Academy, sent me an email congratulating our guys accomplishment and very excited about how the program is performing. Another member of the Pennridge Family, who is a pilot serving our country in Kuwait, sent his well wishes to the Pennridge team.


Coach Dean Behrens observe his team on offense

Q. Let’s talk about the recent history of the Pennridge Rams
A. Since 2011, Pennridge has won 5 Division Titles. Since 2012 Pennridge has had 4 1,000 point scorers in Tim Abruzzo, Zach Muredda, Danny Long and Newly All-time Leading Scorer Sean Yoder. A 5th Player went over 1,000 (Max Wagner-Kutztown) but he started playing at another school before coming home to Pennridge. The 2015 Pennridge team knocked Reading (led by Lonnie Walker-Spurs) out of the state playoffs. 2018 Pennridge lost by 2 points to the eventually champions Roman Catholic in the 1st round of states. We have been on a nice run over the past few years.

Q. To what would you attribute to the success that Pennridge has had over the last decade?
A. Just trying to make it a program and not just a team. We are constantly at it, whether it open gyms, Spring Camps, Summer Leagues. We take very little time off. We take time off time off in August and a little bit of time after the season. We had success with Multi-Sport athletes where we haven’t in the past. Guys like Danny Long (Baseball) and one of my current players Jonathan Post (Football) help the program so much and we need those multi-sport guys to compete at the top levels. Kids like that just “LOVE TO COMPETE”.

Q. A lot of people have already heard of Sean Yoder (Navy Commit) and Jonathan Post, tell me about some of the other players that will play tonight
A. Jon Dominic (Senior Guard)-great story of a kid who just “Wanted It So Much”. Played JV last year and started this year coming off our bench. But by the 8th game of the season, he was a starter and now I can’t take him off the floor. Has been averaging close to 12 points a game since inserting him in the lineup and had an incredible 37 point game against North Penn this year. Trent Fisher (Junior Big Man)-Also a JV Player last year, grew about 3 inches this year to get to 6-6. Probably still growing. He has long arms and a soft touch. Worked hard especially with the help of Jonathan Post and is a great team player. Luke Yoder (Sophomore Guard)-Younger brother of Sean, and he is super athletic, sometimes too much so. He can jump out of the gym. He is a great offensive rebounder. Great Future!!!


Navy Commit, Pennridge’s Sean Yoder splits the defense


Q. What should people expect against Abington, even though they have beaten you twice this year?
A. We are confident, we know what to expect from Abington. They have the best player we played this year in Eric Dixon and another special player in Lucas Monroe. Their “Role” players have definitely stepped up to the plate and they are coached very well. Abington also played in a very tough league with teams like Cheltenham, PW and others. But we are coming to compete and play hard every minute of the game and see where that takes us. We are very excited to be here and we know that Abington has been here before being the 2 time defending District Champs. So the experience may make a difference. But let’s see how the 1st 4 minutes play out and we will take it from there.

Q. Thank you for your time Coach Behrens, Good Luck Tonight
A. Thank you Black Cager for reaching out about Pennridge Basketball.

Suburban Hoops: James Nelson Stewart on District 1

By James Nelson Stewart

District 1 6A playoffs are heating up. The quarterfinals have 4 interesting games.

#5 Norristown (19-5) at #4 Pennridge(22-3)– 2 teams without a lot of size. Very well coached teams . Navy Commit 6-3 Sr Sean Yoder is the headliner for Pennridge but 6-5 Sr Jonathan Post provides help for Pennridge. Norristown is led by Sr quartet (Mikeel Allen, Tyler Lyons, Marcus Sanford and Xavier Edwards) and 3 Sophomores (Nizer Kinney, Aaron Reddish and Willie Anderson Jr.).


Sean Yoder, Navy Commit

#6 Chester(18-4) at #3 Lower Merion(22-2) – historically two of the Top teams in District 1. This year is no different. Chester is led by 6-4 Sophomore Double-Double Machine Karell Watkins and 5-11 Sr G Man-Man Smith and they are hot at the right time with a 14 game winning streak. Lower Merion is led by 6-6 Sr Columbia Commit Jack Forrest and 6-2 Sr G Steve Payne.


Michael Smith, Chester (left)


#7 Methacton(21-5) at #2 Coatesville(24-1) – this has a chance to be a classic!!! Methacton, which has already beaten Neumann-Goretti this year is led by 6-3 Sr Dave Duda and 6-9 Jr Jeff Woodward. 5-11 Sr Brett Eberly and 6-4 Jr Erik Timko provides additional shooting for Methacton. Coatesville is led by 5-8 Jr. dynamo Jhamirr Brickus, one of the most electrifying players in the area. But riding along side of him is 5-8 Jr 2 sport MONSTER Dupree Bryant, who is rounding into basketball shape at the right time. Seniors Dymere Miller, Tione Holmes and Aaron Young provide shooting, toughness and defense for Coatesville


David Duda, East Stroudsburg Commit

#8 Perk Valley(20-6) at #1 Abington(24-1) -2 very different styles in this matchup. Perk Valley who is led by 6-4 Sr Shooter/Baseball Star Tyler Strechay, 5-11 Sr G Zach Krause and 6-3 Sophomore Kameron Parks. They are disciplined and their zone defense can cause many problems. But they have a HUGE task ahead of them. The 2 time defending District champions await them. 6-8 Sr Villanova Signee Eric Dixon and 6-6 Sr Penn Signee Lucas Monroe have both taken their games to the NEXT level. Dixon is the All Time Leading Scorer at Abington and is having a season for the ages. While the Swiss Army Knife Lucas Monroe has just went over 1,000 points for his HS career. But they aren’t alone, Abington’s unheralded Support players have come up Huge in big moments. Sr Darious Brown, Sr Maurice Henry, Sr Derek Sussman and Jr Manir Waller have provided timely shooting and solid defense.


Eric Dixon, Villanova Commit


I see 3 very close Pick-um type games with Abington being the only team that I would say has a clear advantage over the visiting team.

Love to hear people’s thoughts and predictions on these games.

Delaware State University: HBCUlife!

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret…

There is nothing like attending a historically black college or university, or HBCUs as they are commonly called. There is no substitute… There’s something deeply ingrained in the core beliefs and creeds of these institutions.  Emerging after the end of American slavery, they are committed the belief that everyone deserves access to a college education. The Higher Education Act of 1965 defines an HBCU as “any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans.” There are more than 100 HBCUs in the United States, including public and private institutions and law and medical schools.


HBCUlife is special… There is no substitute…

You become part of an extended family when you matriculate at an HBCU. It never leaves you… I know first hand from my experience at Lincoln University.

Let me me tell you what happened yesterday to illustrate this for the uninitiated.

Robert Vanderhost, an all-time great Delaware State Hornet, was inducted into the Philadelphia Black Basketball Hall of Fame. A great player… Vanderhost suited up for the Hornets from 1967 to ’70. He enrolled at (then) Delaware State College in 1967.  He was offered a full scholarship to play basketball in the middle of the 1967-68 season.  Entrenched as a starter for the next two seasons, Vanderhost finished his career as a member of Delaware State’s 1000-point club. He was twice named All-CIAA selections. He dropped over 17 points-per-game over his career with the Hornets. In 1970, Vanderhost was selected as the team’s Most Outstanding Player. After finishing his playing career at Delaware State, he served as an assistant coach with the Hornets during the 1970-1971 season.

Fast forward to February 2019…

Nearly half a century since he played a game for the Hornets, the Delaware State “family” learned he was being inducted into the Philadelphia Black Basketball Hall of Fame. They did what real families do.

They came out in full force.


Dr. Scott Gines, DSU Athletic Director and Roderick Milstead, DSU Football Coach

On a Sunday in February, a caravan of Delaware State administrators and alums made their way from Dover, Delaware to the HERO Center in the Tioga Section of North Philadelphia.

Delaware State was thick in the house. Nearly fifty years after Mr. Vanderhost scored his last bucket, his “family” was there… A half an hour early!

Young students and student-athletes making college decisions would be wise to understand the special nature of HBCUlife.  Fifty years after you stop playing will the AD, VP, Head Football Coach and other administrators give up their Sunday, drive and hour and a half to your old neighborhood to support you as you are honored?

That’s a fair question… That’s how they play at Delaware State University.


Dr. Marcia Taylor, Executive Director, Alumni Relations (center)

Senior University and Athletic Department administrators supported their guy as much as humanly possible. They reserved 20 tickets. Then they showed up and showed out. Among those attending were the following:

Dr. Scott Gines, Athletic Director
Mr. Roderick Milstead, Head Football Coach
Dr. Marcia Taylor, Executive Director, Alumni Relations
Ms. Connie Hall, President Booster Club
Mr. Ned Brown, Alumnus
Dr. Aleta Brown, retired Professor
Mr. Howard “Skip” Sudler, President New Castle Alumni Chapter
April Taylor, Alumnae

RobertVanderhost_HOF-Ad-1 2

Vandershost’s family brought an energy and spirit that livened the induction ceremony.  Delaware State embraces, loves and supports it’s alums and students for life.

Any young student-athlete capable of playing at the Division 1 level would be wise to strongly consider becoming part of the Hornet family. They’ll be right by your side in 2079.



Academy of New Church: The Heart of a Lion!

By Rashim Iman Lancit
February 11, 2019


I want all scouts and media to recognize the Academy of New Church (ANC) Lions, a team perfectly named as their play shows the heart of a lion. Coach Kevin Givens, leader of this pride, and his staff have done a Phenomenal job turning their undersized, undermanned and underestimated team into perennial giant killers, coming away not only with respect, but some big wins! Having a roster full of sleepers who galvanize to stifle teams defensively, forcing teams used to playing in the 60s, to figure out how to win in the 40s. This pride of young lions have continually made every team work and prove their worth.

Their strategy seems simple. Defend every basket like our lives depend on it and run the ball down your throat every chance we get regardless of being undersized at every position. While 15-7 may not seem like the greatest record, when you look at their 8-1 Friend’s League record and some of the powerhouses this team gave fits, you better understand their heart. The belief began with a good showing in their 4th game against 22-0 Inter-Academic League and National Powerhouse, Haverford School. Losing 56-48 to a team that regularly destroys teams by 20+ said something about ANC. The respect given after that game by Haverford let everyone in the building know this may as well been the toughest game Haverford would play all season.


ANC would go on a 7 game win streak that involved what may be the most improbable upset of the season, beating mighty Westtown 48-47 on December 12th in a thriller at home. A true David and Goliath matchup pitting ANC with no starters over 6’4″ against Westtown’s frontline which at times has 3 players 6’8″ and above, and other size still on the bench! ANC’s band of unknowns versus the D1 prospects of Westtown led by D1 UConn commit Jalen Gaffney. The game went back and forth Westtown celebrated early only to watch ANC March right back into the game until it was ANC with the lead the majority of the game. In the first half it was 6’1″ junior Isaac Marshall tormenting the Westtown front court, and 6’2″ junior Glen Saab playing power forward on this night tormenting Westtown’s giants on the inside all second half.

Westtown looked confused and shocked much of game that this little team were able to not only hang all game, but return every big blow delivered and never stop fighting. For every supposed knock out punch Westtown delivered, ANC would return in a basketball version a Rocky Balboa, bloody and battered but intent on winning at all costs. ANC would keep coming forward without hesitation, and without pause chasing Westtown around the ring, or court all match, or game. The ANC approach is exhausting and you can see that look on many teams faces when they play ANC. And on this night Westtown was no different.

Later in the season earning more respect in a loss, ANC faced another powerhouse, 20-5 Shipley. ANC running out of gas late to lose 58-53, again showed the strategy confuse an opponent but Shipley’s tandem of 6’10” Ray Somerville and NBA star Billy Owen’s son 6’6″ Chaz Owen’s proved too much on the interior. ANC just couldn’t find the rebounds on a night of off shooting to stay close enough to make a run. But the game was tense and a wire to wire fight…respect earned!

ANC would March into the Friend’s League Semi-Final a double digit underdog against a Shipley team that was sailing on a 10 game win streak which saw them beating teams by 22+ points a game. Everyone believing that their first meeting with ANC was a fluke, there was no way ANC could hang again with the Shipley powerhouse looking ahead at a destiny date with Westtown in the Friend’s League Final. That’s the game everyone wants to see, right? A game full of D1 recruits and commits. Almost 7 foot frontlines battling for Friend’s League supremacy. Can’t miss college and NBA projected wings going head to head…that’s what the people want right? And with one of ANC’s only all season contributing size, 6’4″ undersized junior Kai Allen out with a season ending knee injury, there was no way ANC could even put up resistance right?

ANC had very different plans for this cold winter’s night. Friend’s League Semi-Final taking place at historic Philadelphia University (Now Jefferson University), home of national treasure Coach Herb MaGee known for his prowess in teaching wings how to manage games and shoot may have been prophetic. Just as in the season, ANC has contributions up and down the line up and on this night we saw three positions step forward that were clearly supposed to be a Shipley advantage. 5’10” junior point guard Devon Bryant would play nearly every minute in a flawless display of masterful court generalship. Single handedly destroying the Shipley press until they abandoned this strategy.


ANC Coach, Kevin Givens (center-hat) celebrates 300th win with team

Point guard Devon Bryant would find unlikely hero 6’2″ sophomore Jordy Dawkins on the wing exposing the extended Shipley defense all night. Jordy Dawkins would have a huge game on the wing, cutting, driving and slashing quicker than Shipley could react. And the biggest surprise of the season was 6’3″ freshman, yes true freshman, Anthony McCall completely shutting down the nearly 7 foot Shipley interior. Anthony McCall started the season as an unknown 14 year old, yes as I said true fresh man, from Cheltenham and the tiny personal training program iamBASKETBALL ( Throughout the season Coach Givens would see his extremely high IQ as a gift, as well as his ability to frustrate offensive players with his wiser than age defensive guile and 6’7″ wing span. On this night Shipley’s front line were no match for this one man child. He would frustrate, confuse and befuddle their bigs all night. Getting stops on the defense, and making plays on the offense. Remember the name Anthony McCall, there is an extremely bright future for this young man.

This game was weird! You can hear the doubt in the crowd almost all night. Even up 31-17 at the half, you could hear Shipley and ANC fans alike expressing worry about what the second half would bring. “Shipley will make a run!” “Shipley can’t lose this!” “Shipley, Shipley Shipley!” That second half run never happened. ANC would outscore Shipley 18-7 in the third quarter to start a masterful half that would see Shipley’s players heads fall and visibly concede the game at the start of the fourth quarter. Shipley’s coach would rapidly keep shuffling the lineup going up and down the bench looking for answers while a locked in ANC with their now 6 man rotation, due to injury, would simply keep pushing the pace rarely even using timeouts testing Shipley’s fitness which on this night was not up to the task. At the end of the game you could see the amazed looks on everyone’s eyes as the final score had the Shipley powerhouse losing 65-31 to the undersized, scrappy and hard nosed ANC Lions.

Checkers vs Chess! Coach Kevin Givens showed his gifts on this night. ANC were the better prepared team. This game was a kin to watching a Gregg Popovich basketball orchestra or Bill Bilichick master class using dusted off moving parts to beat the better collective in convincing and frustrating fashion. This little team couldn’t possible beat the vaulted Westtown again…could they?

The Friend’s League final was simply put a great game start to finish. On this night again, the 3 captains Isaac Marshall (2020), Devon Bryant (2020) and Glenn Sabb (2020) would lead the undersized and undermanned ANC Lion young army into battle. Several shakey and inexplicable calls on freshman Anthony McCall (2022) and sophomore Jordaine Dawkins (2021) early would change the entire game as ANC was still using just a 6 man rotation. Having to play more careful due to foul trouble, ANC were forced to hunker in and take advantage of every possession. However, it was weird watching Mighty Westtown depend on free throws and 50-50 balls to stay in the game…yes ANC would lead most of the first half. ANC headed into the break losing 24-25 with Westtown garnering the lions share of breaks, a very low score given the typically high scoring Westtown offense.


Junior guard, Glen Sabb and his mother Wanda

This night would find Westtown coming out the victor, but I would assume the win wasn’t the way they expected or wanted. Late in the game a phantom foul call sending sophomore Jordaine Dawkins (2021) to the bench with his 5th foul, also sending ANC who were up into the penalty. At that time it was 7 fouls against ANC to 2 fouls against Westtown, yes 2 fouls called the entire half at that point? The remainder of the game was then anti-climactic after some grown man big time shots by 6’3″ senior UConn commit Jalen Gaffney pushed Westtown to a late lead. Already in the penalty, Westtown would close the game out on the free throw line as ANC scrambled to make attempts to get back in the game. The final 52-48 Westtown…probably the correct outcome but somehow seemed unfair to most in attendance, as ANC garnered surrogate fans left over from a very good Friend’s League Girls Final that occurred prior.

The ANC Lions return this core of players next year. The entire area high school basketball landscape need to take notice. Coaches, reach out to Coach Givens, schedule a game…I dare you. This team is a hard hat group with way more talent than they are given credit for having. I can see several of these players being big contributors on the collegiate level, D1, D2 or whatever. Put your D1 recruit in the gym with these young men, and trust me you will leave a believer. Scouts, take a trip to their Bryn Athyn campus for a game, it’s not that far. You will get to see true old school Philadelphia basketball in the suburbs. Defend and run…simple! And done with the heart of a lion!

RashimRashim Iman Lancit MS, CAS, EdS, NCSP
School Psychologist
Counseling Psychologist
Cognitive Behavioral Therapist
Basketball Coach / TraineriamBASKETBALL…
Intelligence+Aptitude&Mechanics…The foundation of GOOD basketball!

Check Rock… Dad

Andre Brown has a playoff game today… He leads his John Bartram Braves into battle with everything on the line… It’s do or die…


James Brown (far left) and Andre Brown (2nd from left)

His opponent… His Pops…

James Brown’s Science Leadership Academy at Beeber Rockets come in with a gaudy 18-4 record. To build upon his outstanding regular season, Coach Brown will have to knock off his son. The same son he introduced to the game.

Great Matchup

John Bartram HS

3:15 PM







Pops Martelli, My Ol’ Head

I’ve been blessed with some wonderful Ol’ Heads throughout my 5 plus decades on this planet. Yesterday… I learned that one of them is no longer with us…

Immediately, I thought of a day maybe 2 or 3 years ago… I got to Hagan Arena early for an evening St. Joseph’s game… Grabbed a pretzel and a coke and headed for the “friends and family” section directly behind the St. Joe’s bench… Figured I’d just chill for a while, maybe make a few calls…

Sitting there, as usual, was Pops Martelli… This was at least an hour or so before the game… He was there by himself. I always enjoyed talking St. Joe’s hoops with Pops, so I  sat down right beside him…he smiled and held out his hand…


Pops Martelli

“What up Pops?”

Usually, our discussions centered on the current St. Joe’s team… Unabashed SJU homers, we frequently bounced thoughts and ideas off one another… What could this kid do to improve? What do the next few games look like? Can we win tonight?

This time, however, I mentioned to Pops that I was working on a Philadelphia Black Basketball Hall of Fame project. His eyes lit up… For the next hour or so, he talked in depth about almost EVERY great player that came through Philadelphia’s scholastic and collegiate ranks… Ernie Beck, Tom Gola, John Chaney, Guy Rodgers, Ray Scott, Tee Parham, Hal Lear, Cliff Anderson and scores of others.

My Ol’ Head was very well-versed in Philly Hoops…

Pops shared how he used to go to the Palestra and “figure out” a way to gain entrance. Pops said he HAD to see the greats play. He saw Cousy, he saw Oscar, he saw Jerry, he saw Russell, he saw Wilt hundreds of times. He saw them all. Pops watched the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s and the 10’s.

For the last thirty years his view was right over the shoulder of his son… Pops watched Mark Bass chase an NIT in the Garden… He was right there when Rashid Bey led SJU into a Sweet 16 battle with Kentucky… Pops saw Jameer and Delonte beat EVERYONE… Highest of the highs and lowest of the lows…

Pops Marteli was there…

My Ol’ Head saw EVERY one of the greats. A TRUE Philly hoop head in the purest sense. Our basketball community is worse off today.

Gonna miss watching and talking Hoops with Pops…

The Hawk Will Never Die