There’s a lineage of unappreciated, underfunded and unrecognized basketball savants in the City of Brotherly Love. As often described by first ballot Philadelphia Black Basketball Hall of Famer, Claude Gross, these guys consistently made “chicken salad out of chicken shit.”
To those truly familiar with Philadelphia’s grassroots basketball, the names are as recognizable as Calipari, Krzyzewski, Calhoun, Hurley and Wooten.
Gross, John Hardnett, Paul Gripper and the recently deceased Darryl Schofield are basketball giants in the Delaware Valley. If you played at the highest level in high school, if you competed in college, if you recruited Philly players for a Division 1 program you knew exactly who these guys were.
Gross along with Sonny Hill, Tee Shields and the rest of the Baker League brain trust ruled Philadelphia summers in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Hardnett formed a basketball laboratory at Gustine Lake Rec Center that was a crucible from which countless high major college and NBA players were forged. Gripper cajoled, motivated and passionately pushed a generation of middle school kids to heights they couldn’t even imagine.
Schofield, armed with little more than grit and determination, took on the establishment and whupped dey muthafuckin’ asses up and down the east coast.
In the late ‘90s, Schofield began to gather a group of “no stars” from the Philadelphia Public League and take them on the road to compete in AAU and grassroots basketball events. Many of these kids came from single parents homes, some had no home at all. More than few literally came to Schofield straight from the corner where they had been engaged in hand-to-hand pharmaceutical marketing. Several had open juvenile cases. Posession with intent to sell, assault and battery, robbery… Shit like that…
These were the kids that nobody wanted… Schofield’s gift was his ability to transform these castoffs into high powered, fiercely competitive and dominant prep school teams.
It all started with a program called Philadelphia Christian. Scho was still learning the ropes with this crew. Administrative functions were never his strong suit. There were times when opposing players and coaches would speculate as to whether Philadelphia Christian would show up for their scheduled games. But when the van pulled up, the outcome was predictable. Philadelphia Christian relying on exceptional athleticism and a straight “dog” mentality would just whup dey muthafuckin’ asses.
Eventually, Philadelphia Christian was disbanded. Scho was refining his model. A new and improved program would emerge in its place.
The result was Philadelphia Lutheran… Scho had it figured out… Philadelphia Lutheran and subsequently Lutheran Christian Academy beat the shit down the legs of the established New England Prep Schools on a regular and consistent basis.
Along the way, Scho took on the kids that had been overlooked and forsaken by Division programs 1 up and down the east coast and provided them with an opportunity to prove themselves on the court and and become academically eligible for Division I scholarships.
Plainly stated, Scho was the muthafuckin man!
Over a five year period spanning 2003 to 2007, Schofield sent scores of previously overlooked and academically unqualified student-athletes to mid and high major D1 programs across the country. Scho’s guys landed at places like UTEP, East Carolina, Xavier, Temple, La Salle and Mississippi State. Fresh off breaking Wilt Chamberlain’s high school scoring record, Maureece Rice, played for Scho. Stefon Jackson, left Lutheran and went on to become the second all-time leading scorer in the history of CUSA at UTEP.
Try to wrap your mind around this fact… in 2004–05, twenty-seven kids who played at Lutheran that year alone, spread across A and B teams, moved on to D1 schools. Twenty-seven poor, academically struggling, largely ignored young men from one program went D1.
Indeed, Scho was TOO good… The New England Blue Bloods grew increasingly tired of scrubbing and washing off the shit that Scho beat down their legs. They were envious of this little broke program attracting 30, 40 or even 50 college coaches to every practice.
They eventually got him… His naysayers and haters organized and supported a New York Times investigation and concurrent NCAA colonoscopy. Determined to isolate and marginalize Scho and Lutheran, they steadfastly clung to a few minor violations and ended the program. After they were done, Scho was left with no program, no players, and a highly prominent role as a scapegoat for a fucked up NCAA eligibility system.
Looking back on his experience with the NCAA, Scho lamented, “That’s how it goes… If you don’t play the political game or do favors for certain people, all of the sudden they’re at your doorstep to shut you down.”
Fuck the NCAA and Fuck those bull shit eligibility rules. Most of which, have since been cast aside anyway. Scho breathed life into basketball careers that were considered dead.
For a decade or so, Scho determined who got a shot at a better life, not the NCAA. For that, he had to be shut down…
But not before he BEAT THE SHIT DOWN DEY MUTHAFUCKIN’ LEGS!
I respected School more than just about anyone else I have encountered in 30+ plus years of dealing with scholastic and collegiate basketball… Real shit.
A great article on a great guy. Was just in it for the kids. I was fortunate that he influenced a few to come my way at Polk State. RIP my friend. You have left a legacy of living trophies.
Scho will be truly missed.