With Nanna Njoku (Sanford/Villanova), Jordan Longino (Germantown Academy/Villanova), Rahsool Diggins (Wood/UConn), Stevie Mitchell (Wilson West Lawn/Marquette) and TaQuan Woodley (Camden/Penn State) off the board, high major college coaches searching the shelves in Philadelphia’s class of 2021 are starting to focus on Neumann-Goretti’s tough hard-nosed PG Hysier Miller.
To some, Miller’s rise to prominence may seem meteoric. In actuality, it’s been a long slow, steady grind on the independent grassroot circuits and in Philadelphia’s Public League. For years, Miller toiled in relative obscurity with some of the best youth basketball coaches/instructors/mentors in the region. Jason Young and Harold Mackey Boswell developed a fine HS player. Sean Colson and Carl Arrigale have produced a high major “Philly” guard.
I first met Hysier when he was about 3 years old. His older brother, Mark, was one of my favorite participants in a youth program and we became very good friends. While there was about 30 years separating us, we shared a love for the game of basketball. Mark, like thousands of young Black boys in Philadelphia, was struggling behaviorally in school. My initial goal was to help Mark comply with school rules and expectations.
Once I became aware of his love for hoops, I used the game to help Mark learn to navigate educational and professional settings in a socially acceptable manner. We attended scores of college basketball games. Temple, St. Joseph’s, La Salle and especially Drexel. Mark became a huge Dragon fan. Then Dragon Head Coach Bruiser Flint and Assistant Coach Geoffrey Arnold took a liking to Mark. Mark had complete run of the program. He attended Bruiser’s summer camps. He befriended Samme Givens, Frank Elgar, Chaz Crawford and his favorite player Bobby Jordan.
Never, not one time, did Mark exhibit behaviors that would raise an eyebrow or be a cause for concern while he was in a college basketball setting. But, unfortunately, I couldn’t keep him on campus 24 hours a day. When Mark was in his neighborhood proximate to the Wilson Park public housing development, he assumed another identity.
As the young people say, Mark was about that life… Eventually, he would have run-ins with law enforcement. No longer enrolled in the program, Mark remained my friend. We ran the gamut… Juvenile court hearings, probation, Youth Study Center, Glen Mills… I have stood by Mark as he worked his way through the juvenile and subsequently adult justice system.
I love Mark, he’s like my little brother.
His late grandmother, mother, aunts and adult sisters all accepted me as part of the family. They are “my people.”
All this time, Mark would tell me about his lil’ brother Hysier “Fabb” Miller and how good he was in basketball. I knew Hysier as the kid too young to tag along when Mark and I would go to games. Nonetheless, I really liked Hysier. He was always unfailingly polite, respectful humble. Just a very nice boy.
Once he got to middle school, his mother Juanita would always say, “Mr. Wilson you gotta go see Fabb play, he’s my basketball star.” I hear this so often, I really didn’t take her seriously initially. I was, however, very happy to know that he was involved with organized youth basketball.
Engagement in organized basketball activities almost always leads to positive school outcomes like fewer suspensions and increased graduation rates. If we had been able to get Mark involved in youth basketball, I truly believe his path would have been much different.
Juanita also raved about his coach, Mackey. I didn’t know Mackey at the time, but the respect and appreciation Juanita had for Mackey spoke volumes. He would take care of Hysier for days at a time as they traveled up and down the east coast playing in tournaments. While I didn’t see Hysier play in middle school, I did begin to ask him about his game. He was always focused. He worked relentlessly… He would work out everyday on his own. Hysier was a true Philly “hoop head” in the making. I respected his grind.
As he neared completion of the 8th grade, he told me that he was going to attend Martin L. King HS. I was elated… One thing for sure, if Fabb had any real basketball talent, King Head Coach, Sean Colson would develop it, polish it, refine it and give the city a true college ready Philly guard. I’ve seen him do it over and over again.
With Hysier coming from Wilson Park in South Philly all the way to Stenton Avenue, in Germantown, every day, I was a little worried. That’s a very long commute for a 15-16 year old. But Hysier really appreciated the attention from Colson and he wanted to get better. It worked… Over the next two years, Colson molded Hysier into one of the best guards in Philadelphia.
The texts would inevitably come before “BIG” games… “Mr. Wilson, can you come to my game tommorrow?”
I made it out to a few games and I could see the potential to play at the D1 level. He was competing relentlessly… He was one of the better defensive guards in the city as a freshman. Offensively, Hysier more than held his own every time he stepped on the court. As a sophomore, he was the unquestioned leader of the Martin L. King squad.
However, the notoriety wasn’t there. No one really noticed.
Hysier decided he wanted to play on the biggest scholastic stage in the region. He transferred to Neumann-Goretti to play his last two seasons in Philadelphia Catholic League.
Soon as we talked about the transfer, Hysier told me he was gonna get to the Palestra and win the Catholic League Championship.
Straight up… First thing out of his mouth…
At the start of his junior campaign, Hysier had ZERO (0) scholarship offers. I felt he was as good or better than kids in his class with 10 or more offers. I told him I would make sure he had offers commensurate with his playing ability by the end of the season.
In October, I take Hysier and his Aunt Linda to visit Head Coach Zack Spiker and Drexel University. Now all along, Mark is calling me 2-3 times a week from prison and I’m keeping him updated on Hysier’s progress. He wants to know how he’s playing, does he have any scholarship offers, can they win the Catholic League.
I let Mark know I’m taking Hysier to visit his favorite program. Mark’s excited. He still likes Drexel. It was a very nice visit. Spiker is a very affable and personable man. He makes Hysier and his Aunt feel at ease. Drexel has updated the facilities, the locker room is very nice and the gym has been modernized. The apartments are top notch. I could tell Hysier liked University City. It’s a vibrant and diverse learning community within walking distance of Center City.
As we walked back to the car to head out, Hysier asked “Did he offer me?”
“Naaaah… you will know when a coach offers you.”
I call Coach Spiker and tell him that Hysier liked the visit and was looking for an offer… Coach Spiker said, “we want to continue evaluating him while he plays for Neumann-Goretti in the Catholic League.”
“Coach… Once he starts playing the fields gonna be pretty crowded.”
Couple of weeks later, Hysier and wake up early and drive to visit Mark’s favorite college player Bobby Jordan who’s an assistant at Wagner College. We watch practice and tour the campus, Head Coach Bashir Mason and Jordan are wonderful hosts. As the visit winds down, Mason tells Hysier, “I want to come see you play at Neumann-Goretti before I offer a scholarship.”
“Coach… Once he starts playing the fields gonna be pretty crowded.”
December rolls around and they start playing basketball games. First up, Westtown and Jalen Warley ranked #36 in nation by ESPN and #21 by Rivals. In his debut with Neumann-Goretti, Hysier steals the ball from Warley 3 times in open court while leading his team to a convincing wire to wire 64-59 victory over the much bigger Westtown squad.
Another one of Mark’s friends, Rider Assistant, Geoff Arnold watched the Westtown game. Impressed with Hysier, Arnold said he will bring the other Rider coaches to watch Hysier. They subsequently watch Hysier go against the highly regarded Lynn Greer III and Roman Catholic. Hysier is matched up with Greer and he does well as Neumann-Goretti wins 77-69 in double overtime.
Rider Head Coach Kevin Baggett has seen enough… He offers Hysier a full basketball scholarship.
Next up is Archbishop Wood led by Rashool Diggins ranked #69 by ESPN and #41 by Rivals. Miller scores 24 points and leads Neumann-Goretti to a 66-55 win over Wood. Diggins managed a hard-fought 14 points.
Wagner Head Coach Bashir Mason is in attendance at that game. Literally, within 3 minutes of the first quarter, he says “I’m offering him a scholarship.”
Things start to pick up for Miller, Hofstra offers him a scholarship. Eventually, Drexel extends an offer.
Just like he said he would, Miller helps lead Neumann-Goretti to the Catholic League Championship as they defeat Lynn Greer III, Jalen Duren and Justice Williams for the second time with everything on the line.
Talking to Mark several times a week, I let him know we are just beginning. With the state playoffs and the April “Live Period” I expected Hysier to pick up no fewer than 8-10 high major offers over the spring.
Then coronavirus struck…
Everything was shut down… No playoffs… No live period… No opportunity for Hysier to demonstrate his progress for coaches.
Fortunately, earlier in the year I had told my friend Michael Starling from Raw Sports that I expected Hysier to be the breakout star in in the Catholic League this year. Always looking to highlight deserving players, Michael made sure to focus his lens on Hysier during several of the biggest games of the year. Also, Charles Jones from BornLeader Sports decided to break down his game films and compile an outstanding highlight video for Hysier.
Armed with links to these videos, I pushed Hysier hard. First up Pat Chambers and Keith Urgo at Penn State. Knowing how much the Nittany Lions appreciate Philly toughness, I sent those guys the links. They contacted Hysier immediately after viewing the videos. Within 2 days, Chambers offers Hysier a Big 10 Basketball scholarship.
I also had conversations with VCU, Seton Hall and SMU. Everyone was interested, but they were all very deep in the recruitment process with other guards and reluctant to offer players they could not watch live.
Coronavirus was fucking up the process…
I continued to lean on my friends… I pressed Ashley Howard… But he had a freshman starter and was locking down the magnificent 2020 PG Jhamir Brickus from Coatesville HS. I figured Chris Clark at Temple would listen. Chris was a Catholic League product and I know he would see how much Hysier’s no-nonsense approach to the game mirrored that of his boss, Templ great, Aaron Mckie.
Chris immediately got it… But the Owls were also in deep with other PG prospects. Chris would not let up, he maintained contact with Hysier and the Neumann-Goretti coaches. Forced to recruit through ZOOM conference calls, McKie and the rest of the Temple staff got to know Hysier.
Eventually, in early July, Coach McKie extended an offer.
Last week, Joe Dooley, the head coach at East Carolina reached out. Joe and I go waaaay back to when he successfully recruited the Morris twins out of Prep Charter while he was an Assistant at Kansas.
Dooley said, “I need some toughness… I need kids that aren’t gonna back down.”
I sent him the Raw Sports and Born Leader Sports videos and he offered Hysier a scholarship within a few minutes of viewing them.
St. Joseph’s, Seton Hall, Virginia Tech and VCU have expressed interest.
However, it’s almost August, there will be no live periods… there will be no NCAA camps… there will be no NBA top 100 camps…
It looks like Division 1 coaches will be tethered to their respective campuses throughout the fall.
I am encouraging young boys and girls with real offers on the table to weigh their options and take one of those offers. Division 1 scholarships are valued anywhere from $200,000 to $320,000.
My man Mark should be home this fall, just in time for the Catholic League Basketball season.
All things considered, North Broad Street seems like it makes a lot of sense. Hysier’s rather large and boisterous extended family can attend every game. Temple pays a cost of attendance stipend. They have state of the art facilities, including luxury apartments for student-athletes. The academic support is first rate. And, most importantly, I trust Aaron McKie and Chris Clark with the social, emotional and basketball development of a young man I love.
In the midst of one of the wildest years in recent memory, some shit just makes sense… We’ll see if Hysier agrees…