It’s a new day in Camden… There’s a Renaissance underway…
Massive construction projects are underway or recently finished completion. In the past few years, I’ve watched Mastery Charter Schools erect state of the art elementary school from the ruins of a desolate and barren field next to my office. Where there was once trash strewn about and acres of cracked and broken concrete, there are now hundreds of eager and energetic children learning and scores of them playing in manicured fields adjacent to the school building.
Across the street from the school, a gigantic manufacturing building is under currently construction. This building replaced a dilapidated tin roof monstrosity. Around the corner, a similar building is arising from the ashes of an old nasty concrete manufacturing plant and long ago abandoned brick buildings.
Just a few blocks from that site, one can find the brand new national headquarters of Subaru and it’s training facility. These are beautiful new multi-million dollar facilities adjacent to the modernized research and development headquarters of long-time Camden resident Campbell’s Soup.
A couple of minutes away, the new Rutgers-Camden Nursing and Science building adorns the reshaped skyline. Cooper Hospital has recently completed some impressive additions and undergone a facelift.
Everyday, Ben Simmons reports to work, and refuses to shoot 3-pointers, at the Sixers new state of the art practice facility and offices in downtown Camden.
It should be noted that they have torn down the Castle on the Hill. A modern, state of the art technology infused Camden High School is currently under construction.
It’s a new day in Camden…
While all of these recent developments are important and significant, the most talked about aspect of the Camden Renaissance on the streets of Camden is the resurgence of the mighty Camden High School basketball program. And… quite frankly, it ain’t close… Camden High Basketball is back…
Today marked the start of the 2019-2020 campaign. Camden High hosted Simon Gratz from the Philadelphia Public League at Woodrow Wilson HS.
Camden High’s basketball team is now led by an experienced no-nonsense taskmaster. Rick Brunson is a former McDonald’s All-American from Salem Massachusetts. Brunson replaced Camden High legend, Victor Carstarphen. Carstarphen, a dedicated life-long Camden resident, recently won election to Camden City Council and will be inaugurated in January. He passed the clipboard to his fellow Temple Owl.
Brunson and Carstaphen played collegiately for John Chaney, a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Brunson brings an approach that appears to be modeled after Chaney’s. In their first game against a talented Simon Gratz team led by yet another Chaney disciple, Lynard Stewart, Brunson was straightforward and heavy on accountability with his players. And… man does he have some players!
Camden is LOADED! They feature a Kentucky commit in 6’9” Senior PF Lance Ware. Another 6’8” PF Taquan Woodley who holds offers from Temple, La Salle, St. Joseph’s, Penn State, South Carolina and a host of mid to high major programs. Rounding out the front court is Jerome Brewer an 6’7” SF capable of scoring from all three levels. Brewer is being hotly pursued by Rider University. Camden High has a solid Division 1 college front court. These guys defend, they rebound, they pass and they communicate with one another. Without question, Camden has the best set of BIGS in the region.
The player that everyone shoehorned into the Woodrow Wilson High School to see was DJ Wagner. Wagner is a fresh faced freshman with straight A’s on his report card and impeccable manners. He is unfailingly polite and deferential off the court. A true gentleman and a young scholar, his parents are to be commended to raising such a fine young man.
Off the court
On the court, DJ Wagner is a Bad Muthafucka… His Daddy was a Bad Muthafucka… His Grandpop was a Bad Muthafucka…
DJ Wagner is already around 6’2’ – 6’3” with long arms, good speed, excellent lateral quickness and a solid and repeatable shooting stroke. He is capable of handling the ball with both hands and displays an innate ability to score in variety of ways. He does not rely on the jump shot. He’s equally adept going to his left and right. He’s able, as a freshman, to attack the rim and dunk on opponents.
Camden has been waiting for today for a LONG time. DJ Wagner’s career at Camden High has officially begun… Baby Wags is on the clock.
It’s almost a perfect scenario for him. He’s an important part of a very good team, but he won’t be expected to carry the load as a freshman. Lance Ware is the man for this team. Ware is a long, highly-skilled and Intelligent player. As the lone senior, playing major minutes, it’s legacy time for Ware. He’s already nationally ranked… He’s already committed to Kentucky…
Ware is playing to bring the Tournament of Champions trophy back to Camden… Period!
His running mate Woodley is the most unselfish mega-talent to come down the pike in a while. Woodley relishes in doing all the little things that win basketball games. Loose 50/50 balls? Woodley is getting 90% of those… Block shots? Woodley is gonna give you 6-8 of those on a good night… You want rebounds? Woodley will grab somewhere around 13-15 of those… Extra passes? Woodley seems to prefer setting his teammates up to scoring himself…
Casual fans may not immediately grasp the significance of Woodley’s game… But, he jumps out to real hoopheads, scouts and college coaches. They understand that his unselfishness and toughness are winning characteristics… They also love that he tries to bang that shit real hard on opponents whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Jerome Brewer can simply be counted on to find 14-18 points every game. He’s a confident shooter from distance and his presence, along with Wagner, spaces the floor and allows Ware and Woodley to operate more freely in the paint. Brewer is also an excellent and instinctive offensive rebounder. He gets a few put backs almost every game. Like Woodley, Brewer will also try to bang that shit whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Brunson is demonstrating that he is more than willing to insert the many freshmen role players into the fire. The youngsters played extensive minutes is key segments of the first game. This will only help this team down the road.
It’s tempting to encourage everyone to come out and see this group, but tickets are gonna be very hard to come by. The Camden Renaissance is underway. The people of Camden know and support good basketball… You can expect to see about 2,000 of them showing up wherever this team tips-off. If you plan on coming, arrive at least an hour before tip-off.
Ohhhhh… By the way, Camden defeated a tough Gratz team today. They led wire to wire. The lead crept up to 20 in the first half. Gratz fresh off a convincing over Imhotep Charter school earlier this week, was able to get it down to 10 when Brunson had 4 or 5 freshmen on the court. But once Ware, Woodley, Brewer and Wagner returned to the contest the lead would be extended once again.
Woodley snagged nine offensive rebounds and 15 total, Ware added 13 boards and Jerome Brewer grabbed six. Woodley played an excellent all around game. In addition to his 15 rebounds, he added 6 points and 4 spectacular blocked shot. Brewer had 13 points and Ware added 12.
Wagner led Camden in scoring with 15…
You sure “You Want da High?”