College basketball recruiting has rapidly transformed… Nothing is the way it used to be… There is a full-blown NIL market in place. The NIL market is shaping a lot of the high major recruiting. Not surprisingly, Philly programs are lagging in the NIL space. Philadelphia, with 6 Division 1 programs, has always been a tough nut to crack…
Philly is different… Some programs seem to figure it out… Penn State came through and scooped up a lot of good players… Now, it looks like UMass and Frank Martin are making headway.
Penn State, under Pat Chambers and subsequently Micah Shrewsberry, has landed numerous Philly kids… D.J. Newbill, Lamar Stevens, Tony Carr, John Harrar, Shep Garner, Mike Watkins and most recently Andrew Funk and Jameel Brown have all committed to play for Penn State.
Penn State basketball? Pre-Chambers, that was not a thing in Philly…
Prior to Pat Chambers arrival in Happy Valley, one could not have even envisioned a Philly to Penn State basketball recruiting pipeline. After all, Philly is a hardcore hoops Mecca and Penn State is first and foremost, a football school. For the Nittany Lions, basketball is just a distraction, something to do ’til spring football gets underway… Right?
But it happened… Funk and Brown are the latest evidence of Shrewsberry’s maintenance of the pipeline. For me, the key was the first one… Newbill… He was an overlooked Philly guard… A high major talent that local programs undervalued. Drexel and Bruiser Flint made a HARD run at Newbill, none of the others were aggressively recruiting him… One day, Newbill pulled me aside and said, “Del, I know that’s your man and all… But I’m not going to Drexel.”
That was that… With little local interest, Newbill had to go out of town.
Georgetown, West Virginia and Marquette were the schools coming hardest for Newbill. He committed to Marquette and Buzz Williams, who proceeded to FUCK him over. He never even made it to the Marquette campus. Buzz ran Newbill off to make room for another kid. Newbill ended up playing one season at Southern Mississippi and making all-freshman in CUSA.
He transferred to Penn State. Chambers gave Newbill an opportunity to play high major basketball. Highly regarded and respected among his peers, Newbill’s arrival opened the floodgates from Philly.
New University of Massachusetts men’s basketball coach Frank Martin arrives in the A10 at at time when basketball recruiting is much different than it was when had his first head coaching job back at Kansas State. Martin seems to be running a play very similar to the one Chambers ran a decade ago.
“Recruiting has gotten really complicated because of the transfer portal,” the new UMass coach said. “It’s a complicated animal. At the end, whether it’s the transfer portal, or high school or junior college, you have to find people that fit. If they don’t fit, it don’t work.”
Like Chambers, Martin has staked out the Greater Philadelphia region as one of his primary recruiting grounds. Camden/Philly kids fit what Martin wants to do on the court. His first recruiting win at UMass came when former South Carolina power forward Ta’Quan Woodley (Camden) announced he was coming to UMass.
Like Newbill, Woodley is highly regarded and respected among his peers. From the moment he entered the scholastic scene as an athletic and rambunctious Neumann-Goretti freshman through his 3 year stint at Camden High, Woodley was one of the best players in the region. His teams very rarely lost. He was an elite post defender and rebounder with an exceptional basketball IQ. However, Woodley did exhibit some problematic social behaviors as a 14-15 year old. He tended to buck authority and confront peers early in his high school career.
However, by the time he was a senior, Woodley had emerged as a responsible, sage and mature team leader. Today, Woodley is a true gentleman scholar-athlete. Nonetheless, his reputation as a rabble rouser was hard to shake among locals. Rutgers, Seton Hall, Temple and St. Joe’s all passed on Woodley. Pat Chambers came to watch him go head up against Jalen Duren. Duren and Roman won that game, but Chambers offered Woodley a scholarship. Shortly threafter, Woodley committed to Penn State.
Then Chambers was gone… His racially insensitive comments to a player ultimately led to his dismissal. Woodley needed a basketball home.
As an SEC prospect, Woodley was considered undersized. His academics needed some improvement. He had a brush with the law. His daughter was on the way.
Frank Martin took Taquan Woodley sight unseen… Taquan never visited South Carolina. Frank never visited Quan. Frank understood that Taquan needed a basketball home.
“I’ll take care of him Del…”
Martin has taken care of him.
So much so that, after a productive freshman year at South Carolina, Woodley has decided to follow Martin to UMass… Days after committing, Woodley found out Sool Diggins was in the transfer portal. He immediately reached out to Sool.
Now… These guys know and respect one another… But it’s not like they weren’t best of friends in high school. Today, they are young men… They’ve been a lil’ bumped and bruised by the game. They have a better understanding of their personal situations. They have been through the recruiting process before. They are older much more experienced off the court.
Sool DIggins has dealt with Danny Hurley and UConn basketball for a year… He’s ready to lead a team… He’s THE PG, it’s his team… Sool told Quan…
“Ard ima hit you…”
Meanwhile, Frank quietly made his way into Philly and visited the Diggins family.
Couple weeks later…
College basketball recruiting is different. Taquan Woodley is a strong recruiter. He helped get this one done for Martin and UMass.
Respect Quan! Sool is an ESPN top 100 prospect.
Quan & Sool… #CamdenPhilly
Martin is demanding. Quan & Sool are gonna play big minutes.
“Is UMASS going to take over Philadelphia like The Minutemen did in the domination glory days from 1992-1999…? UMASS crushed Temple, St. Joe’s, La Salle, Villanova, Penn & Drexel in taking over Philly College Basketball. UMASS 19-2 over 8 seasons in a historic domination winning run through the City of Brotherly of Hoop Love”.