“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.“ US Constition, 1st Amendment
The support and encouragement I receive from fans of high school and college basketball can be overwhelming sometimes. Walking into gyms in places like Reading, PA, Severna Park, MD and Piscataway, NJ, I am often greeted by people that find Black Cager Sports content informative and entertaining.
Just last week, one white woman who appeared to be in her 60s came up to me and said, “You’re Black Cager…”
“I read all of your stuff. It’s really good.”
“Thank you Ma’am. I really appreciate you taking the time to read my writing.”
“Your language can be a little ‘spicy’ sometimes, but I enjoy your stuff.”
“My Mom also tells me to cut back on the ‘spicy’ language… But I just write what I really feel at the time… I really do appreciate you.”
Over and over again, I meet and engage people that know of me as a result of reading or watching Black Cager Sports Media content.
For example, while covering the Wood game at Devon Prep, one of the Devon Prep students approached me and said, “Black Cager… you gotta show my man Lucas Orchard some love.”
You know what, he’s right… One of the top scorers in the Catholic League, Orchard deserves some coverage… It’s coming…
This happens almost every time I step into a gym. It’s really inspiring to know that people actually consume and place value on the content produced under the Black Cager banner.
Then there’s the other side…
On several occasions, some dear friends of mine have relayed concerning messages to me. On other occasions, people I considered friends have publicly attacked me.
It seems that some adult Black males are deeply offended and feel personally attacked when Black Cager Sports posts a final score, shares a boxscore or writes a recap about a game in which their team was on the losing end.
“Tell your man to stop coming after Player A.” “Why your man gotta post the boxscore when Player A had a bad game?”
“Something’s gonna happen to your man, if he keep writing about High School A.”
“AAU coach A don’t fuck with you because you posted when they lost.”
These are all very real instances… I couldn’t make this up if I wanted to.
Each and every time, it’s Black men directing their ire at Black Cager Sports. I often wonder if Adam Zagoria, Paul Biancardi, Jeff Goodman, Dave Telep, Steve Keller and all the other white guys covering the high school basketball receive similar messages. But… we all know they don’t.
On a political level, freedom of speech and freedom of the press were core rights granted to white male Americans when this nation was founded. These rights and a host of other civil and human rights were fought for by Blacks for nearly two centuries. Eventually, about 50 years ago these rights were formally extended to Black Americans.
In many ways, things have gotten worse since then…
Today, we are witnessing to dissolution of the very fabric that has held urban Black communities together. Black boys and young men have literally embarked on a genocidal campaign against the Black community. Everyday the bodies pile up in the morgue… the blood of Black people endlessly streams down the streets of cities like Philadelphia, Chicago and Baltimore.
Less than 5% of students attending many urban public schools are able to perform at proficient levels on reading, math and science exams. There is an organized effort to suppress the right to vote in many predominantly Black districts. Laws are being passed that will allow right wing whites to toss aside electoral outcomes that do not go their way.
Black people in America are losing… across the board.
It is within this context that some Black men seek to control or even silence the reporting of basketball game results. Small minded, petty and woefully insecure men seeking to exert power they do not possess. Please stop! Cut it out… We need more independent Black media voices in sports and beyond. Even those saying and writing things you don’t agree with.
On a personal level, I say to these men… “FUCK YOU… Lots of AAU, high school and college basketball scores, boxscores and game results coming!” Black Cager Sports is not now, nor will it ever be, in the ass kissing business.
Zion Stanford is a muthafucka… With him in the lineup early in the game against Roman Catholic, West Catholic was cruising and in control. Then with about 6:00 minutes left in the first half, Stanford picked up his 2nd personal foul. West Catholic Coach Miguel Bocachica decided to bench his star for remainder of the first half.
Over the course of the next six minutes, an eight point West Catholic lead evaporated and then became a five point halftime deficit.
Essentially… that was it…
Even when Stanford returned for the start of the second half, West Catholic was unable to regain control of the game. Cincinnati commit Daniel Skillings, Jr. demonstrated why some consider him the finest player in the City of Philadelphia. Skillings had 25 points, grabbed nine tough rebounds and blocked four shots in a magnificent performance against a very talented West Catholic squad.
Some of the credit for the point swing after Stanford’s second foul has to go to Roman Catholic’s new and old Head Coach Chris McNesby and his outstanding point guard Xzayvier Brown ’23. McNesby and Brown recognized that West Catholic was switching on the perimeter and on three consecutive possessions they waited until Brown was matched up with West Catholic big man Nasir Griffin trying to contain him at the top of the key.
Brown, a high major PG prospect, used a variety of step-back, in and out and crossover moves to create space and score. It was working and McNesby stuck with it. Also, in the third quarter, with Stanford on the floor, McNesby and the Cahillites went to rookie Shareef Jackson in the post and he was able draw a third foul on Stanford.
Saddled with foul trouble most of the night, Stanford was unable to play with his usual reckless abandon.
While he scored 12 points and had a spectacular blocked shot, Stanford was unable to really reimpose himself on the game. Adam “Bud” Clark tried to pick up the offensive slack while constantly probing the Roman Catholic defense on his way to scoring 20 points.
Maybe West Catholic will run into Roman Catholic again… Maybe next time Stanford can avoid foul trouble next time… Maybe things will be different… But, then again maybe not…
One thing for sure, Roman will have their own muthafucka in uniform by then. And, he used to play for West Catholic. Today, Anthony Finklea a 6’7” 220 lb power forward, ranked in the top 150 by Rivals, sat on the Roman bench in street clothes. Pretty soon, he will be on the floor. Already a tough out, when Roman adds Finklea’s skill, size, toughness and determination they will become the clear favorite to take yet another Catholic League title.
As it stands Archbishop Wood (5-0) is the lone unbeaten team in the Catholic League. Roman (6-1), West (5-1) and Archbishop Ryan (4-1) each have one loss. Neumann-Goretti (1-0) has only played one game. Ryan travels to Wood Monday night and Neumann-Goretti goes to West on Wednesday.
Ryan and West need to find a way to win these games. Roman, Neumann-Goretti and recently Wood have had a stranglehold on the Catholic League Championship. West and Ryan are the upstarts… They’ve been knocking on the door for a few years now…
Nobody is in a hurry to let them in…
It’s an exclusive club… Carl Arrigale, Chris McNesby and John Mosco are cardholding members. Miguel Boc and Joe Zeglinski are trying hard to get in… Membership requires that Ryan and West start beating Roman, Neumann-Goretti and Wood when it counts… Didn’t happen today… Joe gets a shot at John tomorrow and Boc gets a shot at Carl on Wednesday…
A masterpiece… How do we know when we witness one? Who determines? Who knows? Merrian-Webster defines a masterpiece as follows:
1 : a work done with extraordinary skill especially : a supreme intellectual or artistic achievement. 2 : a piece of work presented to a medieval guild as evidence of qualification for the rank of master.
Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is widely considered a masterpiece. I learned this primarily from cartoons where the painting would frequently be depicted and popular music references. I’ve never actually seen the Mona Lisa and I certainly wasn’t around in 1506 when da Vinci actually put oil to canvas. I guess it’s a masterpiece because everyone says so. Same thing with Vincent van Gogh’sStarry Night… Although I do have a print of this van Gogh masterpiece framed and hung in my kitchen, I have never seen the original and certainly wasn’t around in 1889 when this work was created. I would give anything to have been able to read the notes and have access to drafts of The Souls of Black Folk as W.E.B. DuBois crafted this masterpiece in 1903.
To be in the room when a masterpiece is created… A true privilege…
I often imagine what it must’ve been like to be on the set of the classic film Stormy Weather in 1943 when the Nicholas Brothers performed the greatest dance sequence ever captured on film. How cool would it have been to sit in the editing room with Francis Ford Coppola as he put the finishing touches on The Godfather in 1972? Suppose Stevie Wonder was my homie and I had advance copies of Songs in the Key of Life in 1976…
Imagine that shit…
Back in 1994, I was still wasting thousands of dollars on car stereos… What if I had access to demos of Illmatic before Nas released his masterpiece it to the general public?
Wouldn’t heave been able to tell me shit down the plateau!
Unfortunately, I missed every opportunity to witness the creation of the aforementioned masterpieces. However, I did have the good fortune of witnessing one particular masterpiece come to fruition on a cold Thursday evening in January 2017. That night, in a virtuoso performance, Collin Gillespie scored 42 points grabbed nine rebounds and dished out six assists to lead Archbishop Wood to a an 82-73 victory over Neumann-Goretti in a highly anticipated battle for 1st place in the Philadelphia Catholic League. It was a magnificent performance featuring shot-making, play-making and decision-making of the highest order.
Simply stated… “GILLESPIE TRULY BUSSED DEY ASS!”
That game has since been etched in stone as a masterpiece. Ask anyone that was there…
It happened again yesterday… On Martin L. King, Jr. Day at Archbishop Spalding High School, I had the distinct pleasure watching and recording Imhotep junior forward Justin Edwards’ masterful performance against St. Frances Academy (MD). Edwards scored 29 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, had 3 key steals and blocked a shot while willing Imhotep to a tough victory. St. Frances entered the game ranked 20th in the nation by ESPN. Imhotep was unranked.
But… Imhotep had Edwards…
On this night, Edwards lived up to… No… FUCK THAT… He exceeded his #16 ranking in the class of 2023. His performance against a tenacious St. Frances squad in their backyard certified Edwards status as one to the top high major prospects in the mid-Atlantic region for 2023.
Shit… He may very well be the best prospect.
Edwards high major potential begins with his prototypical physical profile for an elite high major/NBA wing player. He comes in at 6-8, with a wingspan that appears to be 6-10 or more. While he is slender, he has an excellent frame that will fill out over time with broad shoulders and great hip mobility for his size.
As you will see in the highlight video, Edwards is a graceful and fluid athlete with long strides in the open court and the ability to cover a lot of ground. He gives Imhotep an exceptional advantage with his ability to grab defensive rebounds and push the ball up the court effortlessly in transition. He is also very effective on the fast break off the ball, as he understands how to fill lanes correctly and get himself an easy finish at the rim.
Edwards’ most appealing selling point, at this stage in his development, is his highly advanced offensive skill set in the half court, and his high major ready scoring ability. He is an exceptionally polished scorer for a high school junior. Edwards consistently exhibits an ability to operate from all three levels. He is at his best in the mid-range area where he can create space and shoot over the top of the defense with a high release point on his jumper. He also has very precise footwork and is never too sped up by the defense.
Edwards is especially effective working out of the mid-post area where he has a variety of moves in his arsenal to beat his man. He is a capable threat from deep, especially off the drive and kick. He has steady and repeatable shooting stroke and should be a terrific free-throw shooter. At the high school level, he is also a good pick and pop threat when needed to play the four. He does a tremendous job of attacking hard closeouts with superb footwork. Edwards is undoubtedly the best isolation scorer in the mid-Atlantic region.
He has a lot of tools in his bag. Edwards utilizes a variety of hesitation pull-ups, jab steps, step backs, crossovers, spins, etc., and he can stop on a dime with ease to get into his shot. He was an absolute nightmare for the St. Frances defenders.
Keeping it all the way real, EDWARDS BUSSED DEY ASS!
He also has the tools to hold his own on the defensive end at the high major level, in large part due to his size and length. When motivated, he slides his feet very well and can cover a lot of ground when closing out on shooters. Against St. Frances, he repeatedly demonstrated the ability to stay calm in pressure situations and come up big in crunch time. His game will fit well a the high major level, and he should be an immediate impact scorer in a league like the Big East for example.
On the defensive end, at times, he seems to just go through the motions. This was the case in a game against Reading High School earlier in the season. He didn’t demonstrate the competitive desire to lock his man down. Currently, he is not physical enough to handle bigger players down low, and he needs to add some muscle, especially if he’s considering SEC and Big 10 college destinations.
At his best, I haven’t seen a better player in the class of 2023. It was truly a pleasure watching Edwards play against St. Frances. I was in the room as he delivered a masterpiece performance against a tough nationally ranked opponent on their home turf.
Rahsool Diggins is gone… He’s on the UConn roster. Marcus Randolph is gone… He’s on the Richmond roster… Daeshon Shepherd is gone… He’s on the La Salle roster… Jaylen Stinson is gone… He’s on the James Madison roster…
These guys formed the core of the Archbishop Wood basketball program over the past three years. Diggins had one of the all-time great Philadelphia schoolboy careers. He ended up a consensus top 100 prospect and landed in the highly regarded Big East Conference, Randolph, a southpaw sniper, could always be counted on for a big bucket in a crucial moment. A big shooting guard, he plies his trade in the Atlantic 10. Shepherd was one of the most explosive leapers in recent years. He seemed to effortlessly sail through the air in Wood’s Warminster gym and violently deposit the ball through the rim. Like Randolph, he now competes in the Atlantic 10. Stinson was a defensive stopper. A tenacious on ball defender, he took great pleasure in disrupting the best laid game plans of opposing coaches and point guards. He’s continuing his career in Colonial Athletic Association.
All of those guys, four (4) NCAA Division 1 scholarship recipients, played for John Mosco’s Catholic League Champion Vikings last season. All of them are gone…
But wait… There’s more…
The consulate glue guy, Muneer Newton, is contributing to the success of the William Penn University NAIA basketball program. William Penn is currently 15-1 and ranked 2nd in the latest National NAIA poll. Newton has played in all 16 games.
Rob Jackson, another stalwart for Mosco’s program over the past few years accepted a football scholarship to the University of Cincinnati. The Bearcats won the American Athletic Conference championship while going undefeated through the regular season. Jackson and the Bearcats lost to top-ranked Alabama 27-6 in the College Football Playoff.
I say all of that to say two things… One, Mosco and his staff have done an amazing job developing young men into college ready student-athletes. Many of the the young men coming through the Wood program, since Mosco became coach, have gone on to college. More importantly, for the most part, the parents have not received a single bill for room, board, tuition, fees and books.
That’s just GOOD SHIT!
The other reason, I outlined all of that recent success was because I thought Mosco and Wood would fall off.
What program could lose 4,000+ points all at once and remain at the top of the heap? Surely, this would be a rebuilding year at Wood… Right?
Further complicating things for the Vikings was the departure of Mosco’s long-time consigliere, Chris Roantree. Roantree served as an assistant Mosco for the eight seasons. He helped lead the Vikings to the 2017 & 2021 PCL titles, the 2017 PIAA Championship and state runner-up finishes in both 2019 & 2021.
Six full scholarship athletes and his top assistant… Gone… all at once.
Mosco is vulnerable… This is the year the tables will turn and he’s gonna take his lumps in th Catholic League… Right?
Wrong… I was fuckin’ wrong!
I failed to adequately account for the impact of Justin Moore’s arrival in Warminster. After McDevitt joined St. James, North Catholic, Cardinal Dougherty and Hallahan on scrap heap of Catholic League history, Philly’s finest point guard became an unrestricted free agent. Committed to play for Zach Spiker and his McDevitt Head Coach Will Chavis at Drexel University, Moore decided spend his senior season playing point guard for the Vikings.
Following in the footsteps of Tommy Funk, Collin Gillespie and Rahsool Diggins, Moore is vying for a seat in the BIG chair. He may very well be the best Philly guard this year.
Deploying a different cast of characters, while reading from the same script it looks John Mosco may be headed toward a familiar ending. Moore may lead Wood to yet another Palestra appearance in pursuit of third Catholic League title and a subsequent deep run in the state playoffs.
Tonight, I ventured out to the Main Line to watch Mosco and the Vikings take on Devon Prep led by Head Coach Jason Fisher. Now in their fourth season as a member of the Catholic League, Devon Prep has established itself as a formidable and highly competitive basketball program.
The tiny Devon Prep gym looks like it holds maybe 300-400 people, if the fire Marshall looks the other way. It’s about the size of the Roman Catholic gym with an actual regulation high school basketball court in place.
This was my initial visit to Devon Prep, it quickly became apparent that they have a very real home court advantage. The game was completely sold-out. Their relatively small student section competed well above it’s weight class. Maybe 100 or so students were EXTREMELY loud, energetic, boisterous and fully engaged to the final buzzer.
I was impressed.
As I watched the teams warm-up, I noticed that Wood looked like a really good high school team. They were long, lean and athletic. Junior PF Carson Howard stands about 6’8.” Senior wing Mike Knouse comes in at about 6’4” and a sturdy 210 lbs. Junior PG Bahsil Laster is a lean and athletic 6’4”. Super smooth sophomore SG Jahlil Bethea is also 6’4”. Senior wing Tyson Allen is a powerfully built 6’3”. The smallest of the bunch is yet another NCAA Division 1 scholarship recipient. The aforementioned Moore is 6’2”, super quick and very athletic.
Devon Prep, on the other hand, looked like a group of high school students that happened to be playing basketball. They aren’t very long… They aren’t extraordinarily athletic…
But… I’ve come to learn that looks can be very deceiving. I’ve seen Jason Fisher’s team rout Archbishop Ryan in Ryan’s gym. I’ve also witnessed their takedown of a nationally ranked St. Frances (MD) program during a fall event.
Devon Prep can play and they have some very good players. Junior forward Lucas Orchard (19.3 ppg) is one of the leading scorers in the Catholic League. Senior guard IV Petit (13.2 ppg) is a skilled and tough competitor. Senior point guard Allen Cieslak (13.3) is hard-nosed and Junior forward Jacen Holloway (12.1) is strong rebounder capable to stepping out and knocking down 3-point shots with ease.
They are a tough out…
Devon Prep runs an offense that appears to have no set “pattern” per se (such as the flex offense). Instead, Coach Fisher’s way of playing offense uses principles that require offensive players to read the defense. For the most part, Devon Prep runs an unstructured free-lance offense that uses screens and cuts, with players reading and reacting to the defense.
The Devon Prep offense is very deliberate and patient, often featuring many passes each possession. This tends to slow the game down, controlling the tempo, usually resulting in lower game scores. Opponents have to be committed to staying attached to their man. Devon Prep thrives on mental lapses and over aggression.
John Mosco had his Wood Vikings ready for this challenge.
Wood jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead with 5:03 left in the first quarter. At the 2:25 mark Wood was up 10-2. After one quarter of play, Wood held a 15-2 lead. They extended that lead to 20-2 with 5:19 left in the first half. At halftime Wood was up 12, 27-15.
The lead would hover around the 8-12 point range for the remainder of the game until Devon Prep was able to close the gap to 4, 59-63 with 1:04 remaining in the game. From there, Devon Prep was forced to foul to stop the clock and extend the game. Wood players calmly converted the free throws and escaped with a 10 point, 71-61 road victory.
Justin Moore demonstrated why he is considered the best point guard in the city by many observers. He did an outstanding job defending IV Petit while picking spots to assert himself offensively. Carson Howard was dominant on the boards finishing with 16 rebounds. Senior forward Mike Knouse was a steadying force throughout the contest.
Wood is still Wood… Johnny Mosco hasn’t fallen off.
As of January 15, Wood sits atop the Catholic League Standings, along with West Catholic. The Vikings have 3 league wins and 0 losses. Roman Catholic, Archbishop Ryan and Devon Prep each have 1 loss. Neumann-Goretti has only played 1 league game.
Faced with the challenge of replacing over 90% of the production from last years team without his top lieutenant, Mosco has Wood right where they were last year… At the top of the standings…
Maybe… Just maybe… John Mosco actually knows what hell he is doing.
Camden, NJ (January 13, 2022) For the past three years, Camden High has dominated the local scholastic hoops basketball scene. The Panthers had lost exactly one (1) game in three seasons. Since the start of this season, Camden had beaten nationally ranked Roselle Catholic (67-64) in a tough season opener in the new Camden High gymnasium, blown out the reigning Philly Catholic League Champions Archbishop Wood (73-41) on a neutral court and knocked off South Jersey contender Lenape (76-64) at home. On paper, these were three tough local opponents. Once they got their legs under them, the Panthers started to consistently open up BIG CANS of “whoop ass” on regional opponents.
Bishop Eustace fell by 19 (66-47), then they slaughtered Winslow Township by 54 and in their most recent game the Panthers decimated Eastern by 61 points. Camden High is by far the best and most dominant local team. Every local ranking has Camden sitting in the #1 spot and it has been that way for quite a while. Indeed, Camden entered their game tonight riding the crest of a 44 game winning streak.
Simply stated, since DJ Wagner arrived and Rick Brunson assumed the reins, none of the locals can fuck with Camden.
Well… almost none of them…
There was that one December night in 2019 at Cherry Hill East HS when Roman Catholic, featuring 2022 NBA lottery Pick Jalen Duren, current LSU Tiger Justice Williams, recent St. Joseph’s transfer Lynn Greer and current Cahillite star Xzayvier Brown came across the Ben Franklin bridge and knocked off the Panthers 70-59 in front of an overflowing, boisterous, raucous and decidedly Camden crowd.
Other than that one night, Brunson and the Panthers have run the table.
Indeed, the Panthers have been so dominant that it’s difficult to imagine a local high school basketball team beating them for the remainder of this year and through next year. Unquestionably, Camden High is head and shoulders above the local competition.
The problem is… Montverde ain’t from ‘round here…
Those boys are different.
While Camden has at least 8 eight Division 1 basketball prospects, including 2 high major targets (Wagner and Aaron Bradshaw), Montverde’s roster is filled with high major prospects top to bottom.
Take a moment and think about the fact that Kwame Evans, ESPN #3 in the class of 2023, and Derek Queen, ESPN #2 in the class of 2024, do NOT start and play sparingly for this Montverde team.
Dariq Whitehead, ESPN #5 in the Class of 2022 (Duke Commit) is the leader of this talented bunch. He finished with an exhilarating 18 points in front of about 30 of his supporters who drove down from Newark to see his matchup with Wagner, ESPN #1 in the class of 2023. Whitehead did not disappoint… He dunked, made threes and even did a little Globetrotter inspired behind the back euro-step layup.
Dillon Mitchell, ESPN #18 in the Class of 2022 (Texas Commit) chipped in with 13 points. For Camden, Aaron Bradshaw, ESPN #22 in the Class of 2023, showed why he is so highly ranked. He was the lone Panther able to match the length and explosiveness of Montverde. He was aggressive attacking the basket and made several spectacular blocks. Bradshaw led Camden with 17 points and Wagner chipped in 4.
Those of us of a certain age will remember the tremendous anticipation accompanying the build up to an early Mike Tyson defense of his heavyweight title. That’s what this week was like… How would Camden fare against national competition? Some openly wondered if Montverde could hang with the Panthers.
Then… the bell rung… And, Montverde landed a hard right cross squarely on Camden’s jaw… For all intents and purposes, the fight was over in the first round.
Montverde jumped out to a quick 14-2 lead with 5 thunderous dunks. By the end of the first quarter, the score was 22-4 Montverde.
Camden needed a standing 8 count. For the uninitiated, A standing eight count, also known as a protection count, is a boxing judgment call made by a referee during a bout. When invoked, the referee stops the action and counts to eight. … Standing eight counts by the referee are scored the same as a knockdown, whether the boxer was knocked down or not…
1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… 7… 8… Okay… Let me wipe your gloves…
Eventually, Brunson went into a 2-3 zone and forced Montverde to shoot from the perimeter. This lessened the frequency of the aggravated assaults on the rim.
As the game progressed through the second, third and fourth quarters, Brunson was essentially a “cut man.” He liberally applied grease to his players eye area, ears and forehead to prevent Montverde’s leather boxing gloves from tearing and cutting the skin. When it looked like their eyes were getting puffy, Brunson applied an ice-cold steel bar to the skin to prevent swelling. The Camden coaches used a cotton swab to push clotting powder into the cut that did appear. In this way, they were able to stop further bleeding that might have deterred their player’s attention and focus during the game.
Camden lost a decisive unanimous decision. They did not win a round… 120-108 on all three cards…
But Camden did live to fight another day… Four of their next seven games are against more teams that ain’t from ‘round here. Hopefully, tonight’s loss will serve an learning opportunity. Camden may want to study that Floyd Mayweather shoulder roll tomorrow. Money Mayweather always protects his chin AND gets that bag.
There’s really nothing new under the sun… Thirty years ago, long before the advent of the NCAA “Transfer Portal” one of my youngbucks, Reggie Townsend, wanted to roll out during his freshman year… I’m so glad he fought through adversity and became a really good player right here in the Big 5.
It’s early Fall 1992 and John Griffin is entering his 3rd season at helm of the Men’s Basketball program at his alma mater, St. Joseph’s University. His first two years were just ok… He went 13-17 year one and 13-15 year two.
But there was a palpable buzz around the Hawk program.
Bernard Blunt and Rap Curry were no longer underclassmen with high ceilings… There were certified studs… Both were legitimate NBA prospects entering their junior seasons. Carlin Warley was a walking double-double and Bernard Jones shot about 87% from inside 15ft. Demetrius Poles was a highly skilled utility knife (PF/C) that could do just about everything – pass, shoot, rebound – on the court.
These were my youngbucks… I had extremely high expectations for this bunch.
To this core, Griffin added three really good freshmen… Mark Bass, Will Johnson and Reggie Townsend. Bass was from Trenton, NJ, Johnson was from Philly and Townsend hailed from Saginaw, Michigan.
Griffin knew he had a good team on paper. With Bass and Townsend coming from out of town, Griffin asked me to mentor these kids to help them adjust to Philly and the social, emotional and academic demands of college life.
Several evenings a week, we met at the Fieldhouse or in the dorms. We had a a lot of fun… Of course, my guys handled their business academically. I viewed my role as that of a “translator”… I put the history, social science, English material in terms they would understand and contexts they could relate to. There were a LOT of cuss words and laughter… I demonstrated how a lot of the scholars they were reading were “lying muthafuckas”…
But after each session, I was very sure my guys understood the material and were able to appropriately explain any and all relevant concepts. They were solid students and used me to gain the confidence necessary to compete in the classroom. Of course, both hold degrees from St. Joe’s.
On the court, they had very different journeys. Bass, standing… maybe… 5’9” was ready for college basketball as freshman. He was able to identify and carve out an important role for himself playing off of Blunt and Curry. Bass was a tremendous athlete with an unusual level of grit, determination and self-confidence. Coach Griffin and the upperclassmen immediately embraced him. He started every game and averaged 10 ppg and 34.1 mpg while guarding some of best players in the nation.
Townsend, on the other hand, appeared in 22 games and only played 4.8 mpg when he did get on the floor. He averaged a minuscule 1.4 ppg.
Once they got deep into the season, the study sessions would get a little tense. Townsend was frustrated. Bass was cool… Shit Bass was starting and getting double figures most nights. Nonetheless, Bass ALWAYS supported and encouraged his friend and teammate.
One evening, Townsend declared… “I’m out Del!”
“Where the fuck you going Big Dog?”
“I think Imma go to Praire View…”
“Huh?.. Praire View? Fuckouttahere Bro… Naaaah.”
“Yeah they was on me hard… I’m tired of not playing.”
“Slow down Big Dog… Your time is gonna come… Carlin is good… BJ is good… Meat is good… Just be ready when your time comes.”
“Chill Big Dog… You gonna be alright.”
The next season, Townsend started 18 of 28 games and scored 7.6 ppg while playing 23.4 mpg.
Then the Big Dog took over...
Townsend started his last 61 games in a SJU uniform. He was damn near automatic on the low block. Think of a poor man’s Wayman Tisdale… His footwork was impeccable and he could easily step out to 18 feet with a sweet stroke. He averaged 15 ppg and 6 rpg as a junior and 15 ppg and 6.5 rpg as a senior.
Townsend finished his career with 1146 points, 484 rebounds and an appearance in the 1996 NIT finals at Madison Square Garden where the Hawks lost to Nebraska and a freshman PG named Tyronn Lue. Real Shit… When A.I. bussed Lue’s ass and disrespectfully stepped over him in the NBA finals, it felt like revenge for my youngins… Real Shit…
“Yeah… Fuck Dat Ni**a A.I.!”
More young players need to fight through adversity like the Big Dog.
Happy New Year to Reggie Townsend… The Big Dog from Saginaw… Luv U Bro!!