Diamond Johnson Invited to Play in Iverson Showcase!

By Eric Dixon

March 5, 2020

Allen Iverson’s career personified perseverance, creativity and courage. He played all 722 games in a Sixers uniform as if it were his last. For that he is beloved and iconic in Philly. Another reason is that he just gets us. He understands the culture. He understands how emotional and heartfelt our commitment to our basketball community is and nothing showed that more than when he extended a groundbreaking invitation to one of the areas biggest high school stars, Diamond Johnson. She will be the first female player to be given such a platform in a national-level showcase when she suits up to take part in the 24K Showcase event on Wednesday, April 22. Through that she will be given an opportunity to earn a spot in the later game featuring talents from around the country to be held Friday, April 24th. The significance of it was not lost on Iverson or his camp.


Diamond Johnson (Rutgers Commit) and Rutgers Coach Vivian Stringer

It’s huge. But he didn’t do it to be “huge”. He did it because he felt it was right. He did it because he felt she deserved it. He did it to bring a smile to a young player who has worked her tail off to be one of the very best our city has ever seen and after seeing the egregious snub she received from another All Star panel.

Johnson, who scored 2741 points in HS and ranked as high as the number 6 prospect in her class (2020) by ESPN expected to be invited to participate in the girls high school McDonald’s All-American game. It didn’t happen. Now, it doesn’t matter. Especially after this past Monday afternoon when she received a Facetime call from one of her heroes, whose number she wears partly in homage to him, to personally invite her to play in his event. Against the boys. This is historic and courageous. But it also feels right and typical of Iverson and his team.


During his 14 year NBA playing career he routinely displayed the brazen, brave and rebellious part of his nature on and off the court. We can all remember him driving relentlessly into the paint amongst the trees and somehow, despite his relatively diminutive frame, he emerged successful. He would do what others couldn’t or wouldn’t.

Although the two had never met, there are connections between them that are appreciated. Johnson, who was born in Philadelphia, moved to Hampton, Virginia as a middle schooler and began her illustrious high school career at Phoebus High School where she established herself as a young phenom, averaging 33 ppg as a sophomore. She played for the legendary Boo Williams, the same program Iverson ran with. Perhaps that is where her affinity for number three took root.

Bobby Bates, Iverson’s business partner, ironically received the call about losing Kobe Bryant just as he was speaking with another partner about the details of possibly including Diamond in the game. The call changed his life. The emotion he felt at that moment led to changes in the format of the game and the event. What didn’t change was the desire to include Diamond.

There are many layers to how she was incorporated. She was intentionally named the 24th player to give her a chance to be celebrated separately from her male counterparts due to the significance of her being the first female invited to such a stage. Her inclusion honors Giana “Gigi” Bryant, a budding female hoop star whose life was cut short with her legendary father’s. None of this has been lost on Iverson, his team or Diamond and her coach.


As we peel back the layers of her inclusion we see a side of Iverson that is rarely discussed or even acknowledged. He is empathetic and authentic. He loves the communities he calls home and feels an obligation to manifest that love in ways that are part of his unique legacy. That legacy just got a little bigger and gained more substance. We know he is still a part of Philadelphia. We now know he still feels like we are a part of him. He still gets us.


The POWER of Pennsylvania Basketball

By James Nelson-Stewart

March 5, 2020

In a year where one of the Top shows on Television is called Power, the 50 Cent produced show on the STARZ network, we have our own version of Power that is tearing up the Suburban Philadelphia Basketball Scene. Now instead of Ghost, Angela, Tommy, Tariq and Tasha being the main characters of this show, the characters of this show on the area basketball courts are named Andrew Carr, Jeff Woodward, Erik Timko, Omar Nichols, Evin Timochenko and Brett Eberly. The producers of this show are named Jason Fisher and Kevin Carroll, coaches of the East Coast Power AAU program and the coaches of a Philadelphia Catholic League team called Devon Prep. The Power show on our area basketball courts has produced the same roaring results as the Television show.


East Coast Power

Let me introduce you to the East Coast Power AAU Basketball program. The program is based out of the Suburban Philadelphia region, King of Prussia to be exact. The program also has a basketball facility that they can call its own called Competitive Edge, a 5-court gym located in King of Prussia that holds many events such as Basketball tournaments, Volleyball tournaments, Basketball camps, and houses the Level 40 training center.

Back to the East Coast Power program and its increasingly growing profile on the Philadelphia AAU Basketball scene. When people think of the Philadelphia AAU scene it largely starts with the 4 sneaker sponsored teams Team Final (Nike), Philly Pride (Under Armour), WeR1 (Under Armour) and K-Low Elite (Adidas). Each of them excellent programs that have had extended success on their respective circuits and are known to produce Division 1 basketball players at a very high rate. Well quickly the East Coast Power Organization is producing Division 1 players and competing with the big boys without the Sneaker Circuit advantage.


Justin Jaworski, Lehigh University

Over the past few years, East Coast Power has produced such players as Justin Jaworski (Lafayette, Academic POY in Patriot Conference this year), Matt Faw (Holy Cross), Jon Bol Ajak (Syracuse), Sean Yoder (Navy) and others. Some are saying that they should be the 5th Philadelphia area Sneaker Circuit team with their sustained success at building successful players and extremely competitive teams. That all has led up to this year where the East Coast Power players are leading their teams to lofty heights and for some of the team’s heights that had never been achieved by their respective schools.

Coach Kevin Carroll and Coach Jason Fisher started building this group 5 years ago as this current group was in the 7th grade with the core of Omar Nichols (Friends Central) and Spencer Cochran (Malvern Prep) and the year after they added the duo of big man Jeffrey Woodward and PG Brett Eberly (both of Methacton) and from there they would add on to the nucleus to where it currently is now. The 2019 17U East Coast Power consisted of Nichols, Cochran, Woodward, Eberly, Andrew Carr (West Chester East), Erik Timko (Methacton), Evin Timochenko (Wilson), Zach Lezanic (Conestoga/Hill School), Jack d’Entremont (Radnor), Chris Arizin (St. Joes Prep) and Logan Shanahan (Unionville). This group has had incredible individual success along with teams that have won their league (Malvern Prep-Inter Ac, Wilson-Berks County, West Chester East-ChesMont and Methacton-Pioneer) and district titles (D1 5A West Chester East, D1 6A Methacton, D3 6A Wilson) respectively.

Now as we enter the PIAA State Tournament, a couple of the teams will have a chance to make a long run towards a state title. Cochran, Nichols and Lezanic competed in the PAISAA tournament where Cochran and his Malvern Prep team lost in the Championship game against powerful Westtown. This group has blazed a path for future East Coast Power players to follow.


Jeff Woodward, Colgate Commit

The headliners of this group are the 6-10 twin towers of Jeff Woodward and Andrew Carr. Both highly skilled big men are Division 1 signees Woodward (Colgate) and Carr (Delaware) and both have led their High School teams to heights that had never been reached before in their school’s history as both Methacton and West Chester East won their 1st District Title in the history of their schools. Their paths to get to these heights has been very different. Woodward was a 6-6 8th grader who became the centerpiece “big” for this East Coast Power team, while Carr only started playing AAU after his Sophomore season, when he grew from 6-0 as a freshman JV player to a 6-6 Sophomore Varsity basketball player.

Both players have been instrumental in building programs at their respective high school and will have some big-time basketball in front of them. The Philly basketball community knows plenty about these young men but may not know that Woodward was a big time Lacrosse player from 5th grade to 8th grade which shows why he is able to move on the court and that Carr ended up with 18 offers before choosing Delaware. Zach Lezanic (Conestoga/Hill School) is committed to D1 Army and Logan Shanahan (Unionville) is committed to D3 Emory University.

Erik Timko is a player that is blossoming in front of our eyes every game. This young man has led Methacton in scoring the last 2 years while scoring over 1,000 points in that span and this year joined the 50-40-90 club. The exclusive club is for players who shoot 50% or better from the field, 40% or better from the 3-pt. line and 90% and better from the free throw line. His teammate Woodward says he is shooting better than 60% from the field. Timko stated that he just started taking basketball more seriously the last 2 years and you see the results. At 6-3, Timko brings a smooth intelligent game and with those percentages, you see he plays a very efficient game.


Erik Timko, Methacton Senior Guard

As one of the Top Philadelphia-area Basketball Scouts and one of the Directors of the Great Philly Pride Program, Amauro Austin says Timko is AA-stamped as a Division 1 prospect. Joedy Johnson, assistant coach for Pioneer Conference Rival Norristown High School, agrees with Austin’s assessment and says Timko could “definitely” help a Division 1 program. Brett Eberly, the 3-year starting PG for Methacton and the engine of this team, is a very heady guard who presently is hearing from Division 3 teams such as Randolph Macon, Elizabethtown and Moravian. Eberly stated to me that he wants to be on the court in college and wants to play early. Eberly, Timko and Woodward have been playing together since the 4th grade. Evin Timochenko, a 6-6 PF/C for Wilson West Lawn High School, has finally gotten healthy his Sr season after missing much of his Jr season with injuries. He has played a huge part in Wilson’s 27-1 record along with Stevie Mitchell. Timochenko is getting looks from such schools as Cal U, East Stroudsburg, Sheppard and Kutztown (all Division 2 PSAC schools) along with Division 3 schools Lebanon Valley and Desales. These players will be on display during the state playoffs.

Omar Nichols and Spencer Cochran are the 2 players who started this process and they are still available players. Both are PGs and are high academic student athletes. Nichols played in the Friends League and Cochran played in the Inter Ac League. Nichols has been contacted by schools on all 3 levels and Cochran has been contacted by schools right now on the Division 3 level. Chris Arizin is also in the PIAA playoffs with St. Joes Prep from the strong Philadelphia Catholic League and he is getting Division 3 interest along with Jack d’Entremont (Radnor). Please contact Coach Kevin Carroll for any information on these players.

The Philadelphia Basketball Community feels that East Coast Power players have been slightly under recruited for years. Coach Kevin Carroll would not entertain that conversation and basically stated that all the coaches in the program had the mission of helping the children attain their goals whether no matter what level the players go. The core values of teamwork and unselfishness extends far beyond the basketball court for this group. The players are so happy for the success of all of the other players on the team and they share a genuine love that comes with years of working hard in the gym and battling some of the elite AAU programs across the country and beating teams such as the EYBL participants (NY Lightning and The Family from Michigan). So while the television show named POWER has come to an end, the (East Coast) POWER of Pennsylvania Basketball will continue to wild on basketball courts near you for many years to come.