It’s great time to be a hoop head in the Greater Philadelphia region. We are truly blessed with an abundance of basketball talent at all levels. A deep 76ers playoff run, featuring the supremely gifted future Hall of Famer Joel Embid, is well underway and there’s a sh#tload of really good high school basketball taking place in gyms all across the region.
Finally… After a long 16 months or so, basketball feels like it’s turning a corner. Things are turning to whatever the new “normal” consist of…
So far? So good for Philly area basketball fans.
The Philadelphia 76ers, number 1 seed in the east, are very well positioned… It looks good for the Sixers. They are making considerable noise and represent a strong candidate to take the World Championship. They are methodically working their way through the Eastern Conference playoffs. Most impressively, however, Joel Embid is demonstrating why he is a generational talent.. We really haven’t see his kind before… Embid is a unicorn.
He doesn’t get nearly the level of attention he deserves. When healthy, he’s one of the top 3-4 players on the planet. Yet, in most instances Embid is not the focal point of Sixer fan discussions.
The local obsession with Ben Simmons inability and/or reluctance to shoot the ball has captivated the fan’s attention. This focus on Simmons’ shooting woes has contributed to the greatness of Embid being underappreciated.
When considering great Sixers bigs, it’s Wilt, Moses and Embid. That’s the discussion going forward… I can’t really think of anyone else that warrants inclusion. Caldwell, Dawkins, Giminski, Mahorn, Ratliff, Motumbo… Embid has surpassed them.
I know… I know… Ben`can’t make his free throws…
Really… I know.
I’m just saying… Embid is a magnificent basketball player and the Sixers are right where they wanna be.
That said… let’s talk about the youngins. The number 1 and number 2 players in the Class of 2022 play for Team Final (Final). The number 1 and number 40 player in the Class of 2023 play for the NJ Scholars (EYBL) and Camden High. The Philadelphia Catholic League is resetting with another crop of Division 1 prospects. The PUB has some dudes.
The real energy is at the scholastic level.
This month its high schools and next month its AAU/Grassroots clubs.
This Friday, for the first time in 16 months, Division 1 basketball coaches will be evaluating high school prospects in person. The Philly Live event put together by Imhotep Head Coach, Brother Andre Noble, and Archbishop Wood Head Coach, John Mosco has emerged as the premiere event of it kind. In 2019, Noble and Mosco had over 200 D1 coaches in attendance each day of the live period. That translated into a slew on scholarship offers for Philly area kids.
The number of attending coaches Philly Live is likely to increase this year. Coaches from every NCAA conference have made arrangements to attend. Programs representing the Big 10, SEC, Big 12, PAC 12, ACC, AAC, A10, Mountain West, Ivy League, MEAC, MAAC, CAA and all others will be there.
Plainly stated, Noble and Mosco have established Philadelphia as the place to be during the High School Live Period for nearly every program in the nation.
Nicely done! Respect…
Facing live evaluation of their players, high school coaches are doing everything they can to get their guys ready. The pressure is immense for players that have yet to catch the attention of college coaches. Time to show and prove… High schoolers have not been in front of D1 coaches in a year and half.
That’s a long time… A lot changes in 16 months…
Some kids have grown 2-3 inches. Some have gained 15 or 20 pounds. Others have significantly improved various aspects of their game. One thing for sure, a lot of offers will come when coaches directly observe kids for the first time in 16 months. For example, Camden wing Cornelius “Boog” Robinson came to the Rider campus and played exactly one game in Coach Kevin Baggett’s Team camp. His toughness and willingness to defend immediately impressed the Rider coaches. Similarly, St. Frances forward Cortez Johnson exhibited a great deal of explosiveness and athletic ability. Finally, Archbishop Wood Point Guard Justin Moore displayed poise and patience while running the young Viking squad. All three were offered scholarships by Baggett on the spot.
This is what you can expect over the next two months. As soon as many of these Philly area prospects play in front of college coaches, the offers are going to start flying.
Area high school players and coaches fully understand… Hence, they are working extremely hard in preparation for the Philly Live. The plethora of exciting scrimmages/games result in a Philly hoop head nirvana. There are great matchups everywhere… A diligent hoop head, can find some contests featuring elite programs and some of top nationally ranked players. For instance, Post & Pivot is hosted a very strong slate of games at West Catholic this past weekend featuring Neumann-Goretti and Imhotep.
But by far, the finest event leading up to the HS live period has been “Baggett’s Court Vision” Team Camp on Saturday, June 12. Organized by Ben Kay, Rider’s Director of Player Development, the camp featured 70 or so high school programs, including nationally ranked Camden, Patrick School, Imhotep, St. Peter’s Prep, St. Frances and many others.
While the entire slate was highly competitive, Kay slipped a bona fide classic NJ battle in for the hoop heads in attendance. Positioned discretely on a schedule featuring 71 other games, at 10:00 am in the Rider Basketball Practice Gym, Camden High played the Patrick School.
That is truly as good as it gets locally. Thanks Ben Kay… #RealShit
This was a low key affair. Only hoop heads and few parents were in attendance. Maybe 150 people saw some of the finest prospects in the nation compete and lay everything on the line. There were ten (10) D1 kids on the floor throughout most of the action and they played with the intensity of a state playoff game.
Sorry… You had to be there… There’s no video.
Indeed, those in attendance had to agree to not publicize the game beforehand. There was an explicit effort to keep attendance artificially low. Camden High’s team is the hottest ticket in the region. When they show up, so does their loyal, passionate and knowledgeable fan base… in droves.
Through word of mouth a Camden/Patrick School matchup will attract an easy 500-1000 fans anywhere and anytime. With 71 other games going on, Rider wasn’t equipped to deal with the full thrust of Camden and Patrick School supporters. The fire marshall would have had to shut it down… Real Shit!
But… The game itself, was a homage to the basketball gods.
This was one for the culture. In case, you haven’t paid close attention through the coronavirus crisis, Camden High School basketball reigns supreme. The paradigm has shifted, Camden is the epicenter of the high school basketball universe in the Greater Philadelphia region.
With a lineup featuring two projected NBA players, Camden is the undisputed top dog. DJ Wagner is the number 1 player in the class of 2023 and Aaron Bradshaw can’t be more than a couple slots below him. At the current historical juncture, the Camden High School basketball program is beyond what folks typically describe as elite. It may very well be the finest traditional public high school program in the nation.
Shit… The point guard is the Mayor and his backcourt mate is the School Board President…
On the basketball court, Camden High has lost exactly one game over the past two years. That isolated loss to Roman Catholic, led by Jalen Duren and Justin Williams, is the only blemish on Rick Brunson’s record.
Fortuitous circumstances have resulted in 2 lost opportunities to win highly coveted state championships. In March 2020, the Panthers were literally minutes away from a playoff game when the season was cancelled due to the coronavirus. This past season they were limited to 15 local games with no playoffs. Almost all of these games were lopsided victories.
In the grand scheme of things, there are only two questions that matter to the Camden Basketball program.
1) Will the Panthers win two consecutive state championships?
2) Will the Panthers lose a game?
Those are the questions…
Queries like: What is the best team in the Greater Philadelphia/South Jersey area are settled…
Camden is the top high school team in the region… Period.
This winter, Camden High basketball moves into a brand new state of the art gymnasium holding a raucous 2,000 Panther faithful.
It’s about to be crazy…
But that’s the not ’til the winter… Let’s get back to this past Saturday morning, Ben Kay gave us an elite scholatic basketball matchup, Camden vs Patrick School.
We wish we could share some highlights… However, unlike the other 71 games played that day, video recording was prohibited. This prohibition was rigidly enforced.
Camden won a tight contest 60-55 after trailing for much of the game. But when the game was on the line, Wagner and Bradshaw came through with big plays.
DJ Wagner 18 pts, 4 reb, 5 ast, 1 stl
Boog Robinson 13 pts, 11 reb, 7 off reb, 1 stl
Aaron Bradshaw 6 pts, 5 reb
Cian Medley 12 pts, 4 reb, 1 ast
Zion Cruz 17 pts, 4 reb
Chance Westry 14 pts, 2 reb, 4 ast
James Moore 10 pts, 6 rebs, 3 off reb, 3 blk
Beginning Friday, Division 1 college coaches will be evaluating high school players face to face for the first time in a year and a half. They want to see games like the one Ben Kay gave us Saturday morning.
Noble and Mosco are providing just what college coaches are are looking for…
For the month of June, Philadelphia is the epicenter of college basketball recruiting.
It really is a great time to be a hoop head in Philadelphia.
Embiid also freakishly smart, another one of those very few guys (LeBron, Durant, maybe Steve Kerr and, for old heads, Bill Bradley, to name a few in basketball) you look at and wonder how they got it all. Joel is so effortless in all aspects of the game that it’s hard to fully appreciate in the moment… and then he has something 34 and 12 and it’s only the third quarter. And that he’s doing it while 7 feet tall and 280. Some of his passes in the game 4 loss were unreal.