Black Cager Fall Classic Returns in October

July 30, 2022

CAMDEN, NJ — The prestigious Black Cager Fall Classic will take place this October at two gymnasiums in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The previous five Fall Classic events ran from 2017 to 2021 at facilities located in the the Greater Philadelphia region. The event has attracted some of today’s top collegiate basketball players during their high school years, including Donta Scott (Maryland), Jay Heath (Georgetown), Ace Baldwin (VCU), Jalen Carey (Rhode Island), Hakim Hart (Maryland), Seth Lundy (Penn State), Eric Dixon (Villanova) and Rahsool Diggins (UMass).

The move to Allentown was facilitated by Jason Boggs and Marlon Thomas from the East Side Youth Center in conjunction with Toomey Anderson, Athletics and Activities Coordinator for ASD. The Fall Classic is one of the most eagerly anticipated pre-season scholastic showcase events on the East Coast.

Maryland Commit, Jahnathan Lamothe and Rutgers Freshman, Derek Simpson in 2021 Fall Classic

“The Black Cager Fall Classic has evolved into one of the premier high school events of the season, and while the event continues to grow year over year, we realize there’s more talent to be celebrated in other parts of the region, especially in Lehigh County where the popularity of high school basketball is extraordinary,” said Jason Boggs, East Side Youth Center. “By bringing the event to Allentown, more players from Berks and Lehigh counties will be afforded the opportunity to showcase their skills on the Black Cager stage, while the event can continue to grow in new communities.”

The Fall Classic, entering its 6th year with a history of sold-out crowds, will continue to serve as a preseason hub for some of the top east coast teams and national talent. Games are slated for October 8-9.

Ruben Rodriguez, Reading HS in 2021 Fall Classic

The event has showcased several NBA players over the years, including 2022 NBA lottery pick, Jalen Duren, Denver Nuggets rookie Collin Gillespie and Jordan Hall who was recently signed by the San Antonio Spurs.

Collin Gillespie, Denver Nuggets (NBA)

All Black Cager Fall Classic events will be played in accordance with health and safety regulations set forth by Lehigh County ordinances at the time of play.

About Black Cager Sports
Black Cager Sports Media, established in 2013, is one of the premier sports media outlets on the Eastern seaboard. Black Cager is a Black-owned and operated blog website and digital media company headquartered in Camden, New Jersey that produces content on collegiate and scholastic sports and pop culture. Founded by Delgreco Wilson, it began as a sports blog in 2013 and began live-streaming sports talk shows and live games in 2018. Black Cager was instrumental in the founding of the Philadelphia Black Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017. The publishing division was launched in 2021 with publication of highly acclaimed WIRED DIFFERENTLY: My School Journey by Maryland basketball star, Donta Scott. The company has achieved consistent growth due to its unique, raw and engaging style of sports coverage.

For more information, please contact

A “Rational” Approach to College Basketball Recruiting in Philly

Everyday… there’s another one. Today it was UCLA… The storied Bruin program… The most venerated college basketball program in American history put it out there. UCLA wants Archbishop Wood’s Jalil Bethea, thus they offered him a basketball scholarship. Bethea has yet to see the inside of an 11th grade classroom and if he wants, he knows he can attend the same program that gave us Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Walt Hazzard, Andre McCarter, Bill Walton, Marques Johnson, Reggie Miller and Pooh Richardson.

Bethea is a smooth shooting guard who can flat out shoot the long ball. In one recent game at the Peach Jam, he dropped 33 points on only 13 shot attempts. While he shows some combo ability, he is already adept at spotting up or shooting off the dribble. He scores in bunches… He’s a decent ball handler who can create for himself and teammates. Bethea’s a BAD boy…

Jalil Bethea, Archbishop Wood/Team Final

Coaches across the nation have taken notice. In addition to UCLA, VCU and Mississippi State have made their intentions know… They all want Bethea…

He’s not alone ANC’s Elmarko Jackson ’23 holds offers from Louisville, Ohio State, UCLA, Michigan, Indiana, Texas and Kansas. Neumann-Goretti’s Robert Wright III has been targeted by Georgetown, Louisville, Mississippi State and Penn St. Isaiah Wong and Wooga Poplar are at Miami. Taquan Woodley and Rahsool Diggins are at UMass. Jalen Warley, Naheem McCleod and Jeremiah Bembry are Florida State Seminoles. Jalen Duren spent a year at Memphis where he collected his first million or so in exchange for rebounding, blocking shots and dunking on every living soul in the American Athletic Conference. Imhotep’s Justin Edwards committed to, his dream school, Kentucky today.

Elmarko Jackson, ANC/WER1

These young men have made or will have to make a decision whether or not to leave the region and play at a program in a high major conference with all the bells, whistles and muthafuckin’ money.

How do we best understand the predicament these young men face and the ensuing decisions they make? Well… I submit that rational choice theory provides a set of tools that are useful in attempting to answer this question. From a rational choice perspective, we assume that the young men use rational calculations to make rational choices and achieve outcomes that are aligned with their own personal objectives. These results are also associated with maximizing an individual’s self-interest. Perceived playing time and NLI compensation are two areas of interest for most players. More playing time and money is understood to be better than less playing time and money. The college decision is understood as an outcome that provides the young men with the greatest benefit and satisfaction, given the limited options they had available.

Today, in 2022, it seems fairly obvious that these young men should fully weigh all their options prior to making a college destination decision. Many in the Philadelphia community routinely celebrate offers from colleges and universities hundreds and even thousands of miles away. Today, the young men are allowed and encouraged to take up to 10 official visits to see, touch, smell and hear what each program has to offer.

Really solid, sound and practical advice… Gather as much information as possible and weigh your options.

Things were very different just 3 short years ago. Back then, there were many in the Philadelphia community attempting to fight market forces. However, market forces are always a tough opponent and suffer very few defeats. The strategy these guys adopted in their fight was to artificially impose a bounded rationality on the players. At the core of their approach was the idea that players should make decisions that are rational, but within the artificially imposed limits of the information available to them and their mental capabilities.

They would determine what information was made available to the players. They wanted to establish informational boundaries. According to them, the players did not need to know Power 5 schools flew private planes exclusively. The young men did not need to know how much money players received at each school. They did not need to see the practice facilities, training rooms and weight rooms at these programs. No need to visit the apartments.

As one coach explained to me, the player should make a rational decision in his best interest, but “he don’t need to see all that shit… it will only confuse him.”

These men wanted to treat players like mushrooms… “Keep ’em in the dark and feed ’em shit.”

They don’t see the players as ‘rational self-interested agents’ seeking to optimize the happiness created by college selection decision. Instead, they see players as satisficers — as people who choose the option that will satisfy their needs and wants without exerting a lot of effort into making sure they’ve considering every single possibility.

I disagreed. I felt very strongly that adults should help youth gather as much information as possible and help them process the information. Players and parents I have encountered all want as much information as possible. Players and families routinely process information and make informed decisions.

Looking back, this disagreement resulted in some rigid lines being drawn in the sand. Black Cager Sports was ostracized in some local circles.

Another coach put it in the starkest possible terms, “If you don’t tell (Player 1) that coach A and Coach B are bad men, then you need to stay away from my program.”

I respected his directness. I have stayed away. I couldn’t say things I did not believe.

I took the kids on those visits… Perhaps a little before my time, I have always felt strongly that the young men absolutely need to see all that shit. So much so, that I often drove them there to take a close look. Coaches calling/texting kids everyday for months and sometimes even years deserve an opportunity to live or die based on their work.

I believe in markets… I’m an American… Let ’em sell their program…

Young basketball prospects and their parents should gather and process as much information as possible. They should know the full range of their options. They should lean on their knowledgeable advisors. They should compare academic programs, living arrangements, travel accommodations and of course financial compensation.

I think every program that wants the kids should have an opportunity to shoot their shot… Every coach should get a chance to make a pitch… Zooms make things a lot easier… I look around today and I see the young men weighing their options and making informed decisions.

I’m impressed.

The recruitment process is about what’s best for the player. They should gather as much information as possible and make informed decisions.

That was also the case in 2019, some of the locals just got off track for brief moment.

They are back on the right side… I think…

Donta Scott Visits St. Frances Basketball Camp & Donates Copies of Wired Differently: My School Journey

The collegiate sports landscape is much different than it was just a few years ago… UCLA and USC are in the Big 10… Huh? You gotta be kiddin’… Who woulda thunk it?

Some college football and basketball players are making north of $1,000,000 through NIL deals. Some have Lamborghini car deals… F150’s are commonplace…

These previously unthinkable changes have come at breakneck speed.

So much so that, many of the key stakeholders in college sports – coaches, administrators, presidents – have yet to fully grasp their significance. One can only imagine the challenges unsophisticated high school students and their parents are facing as they navigate this highly competitive and constantly shifting landscape. Surely, they could use some good practical advice.

Donta Scott autographs his book for young St. Frances camp participant.

University of Maryland star forward, Donta Scott, has witnessed these momentous shifts first hand. Scott and the other athletes that came in 2019 with him are the “new” college ballers.

Today’s price is not yesterday’s price… Things are very different…

These new ballers have access to pure free agency. If they don’t like their role in a college basketball program, they can enter free agency through the transfer portal. This process is frictionless, an email to the compliance officer or the athletic director and, within 48 hours or so, the player is a completely unfettered free agent eligible to play immediately on another campus.

Maryland commit, Jahnathan Lamothe and Donta Scott

This is completely new and unprecedented… “Old” ballers could not even begin to conceive of the level of freedom afforded to today’s players.

Having navigated the NCAA eligibility process and remained on-track to graduate this year, Scott has decided to share his story in a book titled Wired Differently: My School Journey. Drawing from the lessons in his book, he shared some practical and timeless advice to 50 or so middle school students at the St. Frances Academy basketball camp.

The core of Scott’s message was clear, “If you know you are struggling to understand, get some help.”

Scott explained that he used to grapple with why he learned differently than his peers. Scott told the youth, “The journey that I had on the way up before basketball was just rough… I wasn’t in a good educational placement and it was a lot of up and down moments with my family moving a lot and just a lot of negativity in the area I lived in. There was gun violence and some of my friends were hanging around the wrong crowd. I knew I needed help in school to reach my goals. So, I asked for help.”

Right before entering high school, Donta identified a strong supporting cast that would stand by his side. The key figures were his mother, Sandra Campbell, and his AAU basketball coach, Howard Hudson. “I got in a really good high school [Imhotep Charter] with a lot of people around me, a lot of good mentors and a lot of people who tried to help me with my school and academics.” said Scott.”

Scott gave all the excited campers an autographed copy of his book. Recent Maryland commit Jahnathan Lamothe ’23 came to the book talk in support of Scott’s appearance at St. Frances Academy. The highly regarded Lamothe will join another St. Frances alum Julian Reese on the Terrapin roster in 2023. A St. Frances to Maryland pipeline seems to be emerging.

Scott was excited to meet the kids and give them a copy of Wired Differently: My School Journey. Dr. Abby Baker, a renowned Philadelphia-based psychologist and assessment expert, notes that Scott’s book is a valuable resource that “helps parents and students understand and support their children’s learning issues and behaviors by providing concrete strategies to help children reach their full potential.”

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a sector of the U.S. Department of Education, 84 percent of Black students lack proficiency in mathematics and 85 percent of Black students lack proficiency in reading skills. Scott wants these under-performing kids to seek help.

While his message was center primarily on academic issues, it is very applicable to the myriad of issues related surrounding NIL deals and the transfer portal.

“If you know you are struggling to understand, get some help.”

North Jersey’s Propaganda Machine & The Campaign Against Camden High

The Star-Ledger ( is the largest New Jersey Daily Newspaper by circulation. As such, serves as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general NJ populace. Despite claims of journalistic objectivity and impartiality,’s sports columnists have not been calling balls and strikes fairly. This is especially observable when one examines recent coverage of the mighty Camden High School Panther basketball club.

D.J. Wagner, ’23 Camden High School

One could argue,’s function is to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate NJ sports fans with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger New Jersey society. Specifically, North Jersey basketball is good… South Jersey basketball is bad… In a world of concentrated basketball talent and major conflicts of interest between North Jersey and South Jersey, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda.

Over a 4 day period spanning 06/21 to 06/24 rolled out three stories with headlines intended to disparage Camden High’s basketball program… We are witnessing an orchestrated smear campaign…

Kevin Armstrong and have been more than up to the task of smearing the Camden program and the Wagner family. How else are they going to deal with Camden’s rapid ascension? Camden has lost on the court to exactly ONE (1) NJ opponent in 3 years. This was an upsetting turn of events for some… North Jersey had become accustomed to having an excess of basketball talent when compared to South Jersey. DJ Wagner, Aaron Bradshaw, Rasheer Fleming, Cornelius Robinson and Cian Medley have flipped the script. Camden has become the disruptive force on NJ’s scholastic basketball landscape.

The North Jersey bias and assumption of basketball superiority has had a multilevel effect on mass-media interests and choices. Powerful North Jersey stakeholders have been able to filter out the news fit to print, marginalize dissent, and allow the NJSIAA and dominant North Jersey private school programs to get their messages across to the NJ public at large.

Countering these bullshit narratives is the core of the Black Cager mission.

What do we know?

Let’s take a look at some of the “findings of the six-month investigation of the Camden High School basketball program conducted by Kevin Armstrong under the auspices of New Jersey Advance Media and

Armstrong uncovered the following:

1) Camden has “boarded-up houses” and “derelict brick edifices scheduled for demolition” within the city limits.

2) “Five of Camden’s top six scorers do not reside in the city of 73,000 people… and are the only out-of-district students in the school.”

3) Colleen Maguire, Executive Director of the NJ State Interscholastic Athletic Association, “said she will begin a review to determine whether rules have been broken.”

4) Dajuan Wagner was involved in a fight as a teenager 21 years ago.

5) William Wesley took Wagner to a strip club after he scored 100 points in a game, also 21 years ago.

6) Dajuan Wagner’s stepfather Leonard Paulk “was convicted and sentenced to life in prison” 18 years ago.

7) “In 2014, [Former Camden High Coach Rick Brunson] was accused of sexual abuse but was acquitted.”

8) NJ Scholars Administrator Pervis Ellison “fundraised aggressively.”

9) John Mirenda, CEO of Greentree Mortgage is “listed as treasurer and financial director for Scholars Elite.”Right after Dajaun was drafted and signed a $7.4 million dollar rookie contract Greentree provided him with a $258,000 mortgage for a West Deptford house for his mother.

10) “On a Tuesday in May. Two schoolchildren dribbled until their yellow bus picked them up around 8 am. Soon after, Bradshaw walked out of Juanny’s house and Perkins followed him. They got in a red Chrysler, which Perkins drove to school.”

Six months… these are the findings of the “Special Report”

Major outlets like dominate New Jersey media. Marginalization of South Jersey programs, like Camden High, results from deeply ingrained, yet unacknowledged, biases. The propaganda filters function so naturally that seasoned media news people like Kevin Armstrong, can convince themselves that they are operating with complete integrity and goodwill. In this way a hired “hitman” is able to convince himself that he chooses and interprets the news “objectively” and on the basis of professional news values.

Nonetheless, if one exercises even a modicum of discernment, it becomes obvious that the recent barrage of negative and defamatory headlines emanating from the North Jersey-based media outlet are part of a well conceived propaganda campaign. The raw material of the most recent high school basketball season, was passed through successive journalistic and editorial filters, leaving only the cleansed residue fit to print.

Armstrong and made choices… Real consequential choices… Over the course of six long months, they attempted to fix the premises of discourse and interpretation, and define what was newsworthy in the first place.

Thus, readers were informed about fisticuffs and strip club excursions that took place while George W. Bush and Dick Cheyney ran the White House in 2002. Armstrong and let readers know that upon becoming a multimillionaire 20 years ago, Dajuan Wagner bought a suburban home for his mother. This is what passes as relevant information in the newsroom.

What don’t we know?

Within the limits of the constraints established when given the assignment in January, Armstrong would surely claim that his “special report” is objective. However, the fact remains that the North Jersey constraints are so powerful, and are built into the system in such a fundamental way, that alternative bases of news choices are hardly imaginable.

Armstrong looked at everything but the prevailing rules…

The readers of the special report resulting from a six-month investigation were never informed that according to “RULE AMENDMENTS” NJSIAA Bylaws, Article V [Eligibility of Athletes], Section 4(K) [Transfers]… The parents and coaches of the Camden High School Basketball players didn’t do a damn thing that was wrong…

Somehow, these Amendments modifying the governing rules and regulations were overlooked by the investigative “journalist” during the six months he spent on the Camden “case.” That, it should be noted, is a generous assessment of Armstrong’s work. A far more sinister account would assume that the “hitman” knew about these amendments and purposely chose to exclude them from the context in which he chose to discuss parental educational choices.

Maybe he will respond… It would be very interesting to know why Armstrong chose to discuss “boarded up buildings” and ancient arrests but not amendments to NJSIAA “transfer rules” while conducting a six-month investigation of transfers to Camden City schools…

Until they are considered and applied to the individual transfers to Camden City charter schools, these facts truly FUCK UP the carefully crafted narrative that Camden somehow “cheated.”

For the 2020-2021 season, each NJ student-athlete was permitted one “free transfer.” For that free transfer, the amendment clearly stated “there SHALL NOT be a requirement that the parent or guardian move with the student-athlete…”

As you can, see the transfer rules were relaxed considerably. Talented young people chose to take advantage of the temporary rule modifications and enroll in Camden Charter High Schools.

How do you highlight the fact that “Five of Camden’s top six scorers do not reside in the city of 73,000 people… and are the only out-of-district students in the school” while avoiding a discussion of the rule modifications that made some of these transfers possible and LEGAL?

One could convincingly contend that Armstrong and did not set out in search of truth. The aim, as best I can tell, was to further inculcate NJ sports fans with the belief that North Jersey scholastic basketball is superior to that played in South Jersey. Moreover and more importantly, the goal was to reinforce a codes of behavior where it is unimaginable to leave North Jersey private schools to pursue an education in Camden, New Jersey.

Camden folk are smarter than Kevin Armstrong and think they are… Camden High has a really, really good basketball team. The adults, the parents, coaches and administrators reviewed the rules closely and very carefully.

Apparently, they looked closer than the guy paid to spend six-months trying to besmirch and sully the good name of the Panther program.

Russell Hamm, Alton McCollough and the Golden Age of Darby Township Sports

Sports was a primary means of socialization for many Black boys coming of age in urban and suburban environments in the 1970s. I was blessed and privileged to live in Darby Township and be educated in the Southeast Delco School District. My parents moved from West Philly and enrolled me in Darby Township Elementary School for the 1971-1972 school year. Perfect timing… In the 2nd grade, I left Heston Elementary in West Philadelphia and was dropped into Darby Township, a nurturing, small-knit sports crazed small town of about 3,000 abutting the southwest border of Philadelphia.

It was largely through sports that young Black boys in Darby Township became familiar with and adapted themselves to the interpersonal relationships of their social world in Delaware County. Plainly stated, most of the time, we beat the shit down the legs of our county opponents, this was especially the case on the hardwood. Through athletic competition, Darby Township boys developed ideas about themselves and about those in the surrounding areas with whom they interacted. We understood that they had better facilities and more resources, we knew we had better players.

Often… Much better players…

Guys like the recently deceased Russell Hamm and Alton McCollough made guys like Geoff Arnold, David Crawford, Robert Carter, Carl Robinson and Roger Johnson believe that they could play against and beat best teams in Delaware County and beyond. Seriously… In the the mid to late 1970’s, Darby Township High School punched way above it’s weight class on Delaware County’s courts and fields.

So what… we were the last school in the region to play with metal fan shaped backboards and slightly bent rims… That was our shit… check rock…

Very rarely… However, did the opponents have better players… Almost never…

A year before we moved to Darby Township, my brother from another mother was the only athlete in Darby Township’s illustrious history to be named 1st-team All-Delco in both football and basketball. However, at that time, I didn’t have a clue about Chris Arnold… I didn’t know Darby Township existed… I hadn’t begun to pay attention to sports…

While Chris was crushing ’em, I was five years old in 1st grade at Heston Elementary in West Philly, rushing home to see Ultra Man and play with spinning tops. When I arrived in Darby Township a year later, Chris was gone, he was pursuing a CIAA Hall of Fame Football Career at Virginia State University.

Soon as I met my new next door neighbor Dean Jackson, sports became the center of my child hood existence. His older brother Jerome “Coke” Jackson was obsessed with basketball and his brother Darryl played football Darby Township. His father, Mr. Jack was a knowledgeable NFL and NBA fan. Dean and I constantly played or watched sports.

By the time I was in the 4th grade, I was fully embraced by the Darby Township village. By then, my brotherhood had expanded to include Dean and Geoff Arnold… My mother accepted him and his mother and father accepted me. That year, Chris was selected in the 10th round of the NFL draft by the Oakland Raiders. Chris played Chris played two years in the WFL from 1974 to 1975 with some very good Birmingham teams. His rookie year, his Birmingham Americans defeated the Florida Blazers 22-21 in what was the World Football League’s first and last championship game before 32,376 fans at Legion Field.

For boys in Darby Township… Pro football was a reality… why not? Chris made it.

Back at the High School in fall of 1972, Russell Hamm was an electrifying dual threat Quarterback for the Eagles. During an era when there was a widespread belief that Blacks were incapable of playing the position, Russell was the very best QB in Delaware County.

Russell Hamm, Darby Township, All-Delco QB

Unfortuantely, I missed my chance to watch him play. I was eight years old and otherwise occupied… I heard of “Gap”… Russell’s nickname… The older guys in the neighborhood said “Gap is a bad boy.” I heard ‘em, but truth being told, I was with Dean and we way more concerned about jumping the creek, popping wheelies from pole to pole, playing “ruff and tumble” and “Utah” than watching high school football… It just hadn’t clicked for us yet. At least not at the high school level.

At that point, my football fandom was limited to religiously watching Monday night football for the halftime highlights, narrated by Howard Cosell. Week after week, O.J. would run over, through and around NFL defenders in rain, sleet and snow. I missed Gap’s exploits… ABC and Cosell made sure I saw O.J.’s. I would soon begin to pay closer attention.

When Darby Township boys moved from DTE to Studevan Middle school for the 5th grade there was, generally speaking, a shift from a “play stage” to a “game stage.” As we grew older, the boys shifted from noncompetitive games to athletic contests (such as footraces and basketball games). In the stage of competitive games, the boys encountered stricter rules and regulations. We learned how to play under the guidance and direction of caring and concerned adults. A middle school teacher, Mr. Kirkland, formed an ultra competitive Studevan intramural league… We played in the cafeteria on portable 9 foot baskets with fan backboards…

We kept stats… Accurate stats… I’m sure that helped us with basic math…

The Darby Township summer league “pee wee” Division also gave us an opportunity play and witness real structured basketball games. The Colts football club developed young football talent. By the time you hit Studevan Middle School, sports started getting real in Darby Township.

It’s 1975, I’m in the 5th grade and Darby Township HS wins it’s 2nd State Basketball Championship in seven years. This gets my full attention…. wait a minute… the whole town is getting on buses to go to basketball games… the girls are paying extra attention to the players… the newspapers are covering the games… Summer League is POPPIN’!

Fuck it… I’m a basketball player… I’m in… I’m gonna play at Darby Township High School too, I’m gonna make All-Delco and I’m gonna win a State Championship… Watch…

That was the plan… 5th grade… Why not?

Geoff’s other brother Pete Arnold, Mike Terrell and Richard McCollough led the Eagles as they knocked off Elk Lake, Forest City, Northwest Area and Rockwood in the state playoffs to capture the Class A title.

That’s what we did in Darby Township.

It’s 1977… I’m in the 7th grade and my last year at Studevan Middle. That year Darby Township HS coudn’t be beaten on the basketball court… led by a magnificently skilled junior All-Delco center, Alton McCollough, the Eagles ran the table… won every regular season game… Just stompin’ folk left and right…

Alton McCollough, (center) playing at Temple University

I’m 12 years old… Mike Gale, Bill Johnson, Dan Terrell and Fred Lee started alongside McCollough as undefeated Darby Township entered a playoff matchup matchup with Elk Lake. This Single ‘A’ playoff game drew a record crowd of 5,100 fans to the Scranton CYC. In an incredibly physical contest, Elk Lake benefited immensely from many trips from the foul line. Darby Township’s imposing frontline (Alton McCoullough 6’9″, Billy Johnson 6’7″ and Mike Gale 6’6″) was effectively neutralized by the referees as Stevenson converted an incredible 26 of his 30 attempts at the free throw line in an Elk Lake win. Maaaaan… They got robbed… I couldn’t wait to get to high school.

The next year, I’m in the building… Darby Township High School… Finally… Here we go…

Soon as I get there, the varsity football team runs the table… undefeated… Champs…

Now I’m watching up close… Keep in mind, Darby Township HS only had about 400 students and 200 boys… We all knew each other and we all knew each other’s families. I think that helped make the competition fierce. If you were the best in Darby Township that truly meant something, you were one of the better players in Delaware County.

In 1977, Walter Payton ran for an NFL leading 1,852 yards that year. But from the perspective of a 12 year old Darby Township boy, Payton would have been a top 3 running back at Darby Township High School. We had Cardell Baskerville and Vincent Clark. The way I saw it, Payton would have to split time in the Eagle backfield. Baskerville was named the best high school football player in Delaware County. He was a physically imposing power runner with exceptional straight-line speed. Every time he touched the rock, there was a sense that he could take it to the house. I’m an 8th grader, watching him make one cut and go downhill, running through tackles and running over defensive backs. I don’t think I ever saw a defender successfully bring him down with an arm tackle. No shot… absolutely no shot… You had to physically confront Baskerville and very few high schoolers were up to that task.

Baskerville, Vincent Clark, Gary Gadsen and William McCollough were so good, that the 8th and 9th grade boys believed they were HIGH MAJOR high school stars. Baskerville and Clark were good enough to play at Penn State or Oklahoma.

We didn’t see anyone better than the guys from ’round the way… Honestly, it wasn’t really close.

We couldn’t wait for our turn to dominate, be named All-Delco and win state championships… As Darby Township boys, it was our birthright. We had no idea that we were the poor, little Black school…

Fuck U talkin’ bout… We beat the shit down the legs of everybody… across the board.

As the days became shorter and fall turned into winter, basketballs started bouncing in the gym. For the 1977-78 season, adjustments had to be made. Mike Gale and Billy Johnson were playing in college. The starting backcourt, Danny Terrell and Fred Lee, transferred out of Darby Township… they weren’t really from 2-5 anyway…

Only Alton remained from the previous team that trashed Delaware County going undefeated in the regular season… Alton was more than enough. His brother William “Blub” McCollough and Lee Taliaferro would replace the carpetbagging Terrell and Lee in the backcourt. Two sophomore forwards, Kevin Gale and Deric Loury and a senior wing, Mark Carter, would emerge to play key roles in the front court. Alton led the Eagles team on a steady march through the state playoffs, defeating Forest City, St. Clair and Northwest Area before falling to Father Geibel in the State Championship game.

Tough loss, but we figured we’d be back again real soon…

More importantly, college coaches were beginning to make their way 801 West Ashland Avenue… I’m 13 and I see Alton commit to Temple University. Alton introduces a generation of Darby Township boys to Big 5 basketball. He went on to have a strong career at Temple, scoring over 1,000 points and pulling down 673 rebounds.

It’s hard to convey what Alton’s accomplishments meant to the boys coming behind him at Darby Township High School.

Alton… Slim… from down the Center… from the projects… He made it…

His Owl teammates became regular fixtures down the Center Court next to the projects. Neal Robinson and Kevin Broadnax, Temple Owls… Down the Center… Playing with and against Darby Township boys… All the time.

College and college sports became a very real pathway for Darby Township boys like me…

Alton McCollough indelibly stamped that into the minds of young middle and junior high school boys from Darby Township. For that, we are eternally grateful.

Soon, flowers began to bloom in Conway Park and the track and field season got underway. It should be noted that we did not have neither a track nor a field at Darby Township High School. Our track athletes ran the halls of the school, the community streets and occasionally borrowed the track facilities of neighboring schools to hone their craft.

It’s not that Darby Township High School had poor track and field facilities… We had NO track and field facilities.

Despite this substantial obstacle, Darby Township found itself competing in the 1978 State Class AA Track Championship meet.
No track…
No field…
No long jump pit…
No nothing…
Nonetheless, Darby Township expected to win…

How? Why?
Make it make sense… How was Darby Township, a school with neither track nor field, in position to win a state track and field championship?

Darby Township won because our very best like athletes like Chris Arnold, Russell Hamm, Cardell Baskerville and Alton McCollough could compete nationally. That being the case, we were definitely competitive in all Delaware County, district and state matchups.

In track and field, Darby Township was the the best because we had Ward Crump and the other schools didn’t. They had the nice weight room facilities and modern rubber tracks, but Township had Crump. The Eagle’s finest sprinter Ward Crump and running back Vincent Clark would be featured in Sports Illustrated a couple months apart from one another. About Crump, they wrote “As a senior, in 1978 Crump became the first athlete to win four gold medals at the state Class AA track meet. He won the 100-yard dash in 9.7, the 220 in 21.8 and anchored the winning 400-meter and mile relay teams.”

I repeat… Darby Township had no track and no field…

What Darby Township had was a bunch of really fast dudes and a really respected coach guiding the way. Speaking to reporters about Crump, a year earlier, in May 1977, Darby Township Track and Field Coach Alonzo Covert said, ”The beautiful thing about Ward is that he takes it all in stride… Everybody else is going bananas and other kids may have a tendency to get over-inflated, but not Ward. And he never once complained about what we asked him to do.”

As a junior, Crump won the District 100-yard dash (10.01), with teammate Ed “Sputnik” Bishop second, then, took the 220-yard dash (23.05), with Bishop fourth.

Ok… I’m 12 and my neighbors are running 10 flat 100s…

Covert had debated putting Crump in the 440, but decided to let him run with the two relay teams (880 and mile) – and he helped both to victory. “In the district meet, you go with your best and give it your best shot.”

Covert said, ”My assistant and the people I know told me we had a shot (for the district title) but not too many others around the district figured we could do it.”

Why would they? Darby Township had no track and no field, it was the poor little Black school.

Media reports noted that Darby Township suffered an early setback when – Sylvester Blandford, one of the favorites in the 330-yard intermediate hurdles, was disqualified for running out of his lane. But Blandford, a standout junior, came back to take second place in the 120-yard high hurdles and helped both the 880 and mile relay teams to victory. Leon Stiles, who qualified in both the 440 and 880, was in the unseeded heat of the 440.

“I talked it over and everybody agreed we should put him in the half-mile,” Covert said. “So, I said fine, he’ll run the quarter. He drew the first lane, ran a 50.8 by himself and that was good enough to win it.” Stiles later came back to help DT’s mile relay” team get home a winner. Vincent Clark, a sophomore, also ran with both winning relay teams.

As you can see, my ol’ heads set the bar incredibly high.

The 1970s was the golden age of Darby Township sports. Chris Arnold jumped out and dominated in football, basketball and track. Russell Hamm emerged as an All-Delco dual threat QB about 40 years before his time. Cardell Baskerville was one of greatest running backs of his era. Alton McCollough dominated Delaware County basketball for two seasons. Ward Crump literally won a state track and field championship by himself.

Chris Arnold, Birmingham Americans (WFL)

All of them are now gone… My neighborhood heroes are no longer with us…

Their legacy lives on. They showed us Darby Township boys are good as and probably better than anyone else. They were our athletic shining princes exemplifying the Golden Era of Darby Township sports.