Shon Minnis is my guy… Now… Shon was a damn good player in his own right back in the day. He was a starting guard for Southern’s 1988 and 1989 Public League semifinalists. He is what you would call a basketball lifer… He is most likely to be found in a high school gym on any given day sitting quietly in the corner observing and assessing the quality of play and the talent level of the players.
I met Shon about 12 years ago. His son, Deshon “Biggie” Minnis was one to the top prospects in the region, but he was having some eligibility issues. Several knowledgeable people told Shon that Biggie was an academic “non-qualifier” at the NCAA Division 1 level. They even suggested that Biggie and Shon consider the D2 or even the JUCO route. Shon came to my office seeking advice on becoming eligible. We combed over Biggie’s transcripts and SAT scores with a fine tooth comb.
“I see why they think he’s a non-qualifier Shon,” I said. “He’s below the threshold right now.”
But, the window was still cracked. I explained to Shon that it was “possible” to meet the the D1 eligibility criteria. Biggie would have to cross every “t”, dot every “I” and walk around about 87 mulberry bushes. If he jumped over the river and wrestled 11 alligators we “could” make it.
No one else had even held out the possibility of getting it done. Shon was visibly excited.
I explained that Shon and Biggie’s Mom, Chandra Myers, would have to make sure he stayed focused and stuck to the plan. “FUCK ALL THAT SHIT everyone else is telling you… Stick with the plan and MAYBE we can get there.”
Fast forward a few months, Biggie made it and accepted a full ride to attend and play at Texas Tech University for Billy Gillespie late in the Spring of 2011.
I’ve talked to Shon damn near everyday since. Like I said, Shon is my guy…
Over the past decade, we’ve traversed the I-95 corridor countless times in search of good basketball games. Shon is always ready to ride out.
About 3 years ago, he told me he was getting involved in grassroots basketball in South Philadelphia. He wanted to help South Philly kids learn to play the game the “right” way. He was focused on middle school kids.
Around that time, he started to talk about his prodigy, “Flash.” His government name is Aasim Burton, but everyone calls the boy Flash.
Shon was sold early, “Del… I got one… I’m telling you, Flash is gonna be good… rally good.”
I’ve heard this from 12,386 middle school coaches. They all think their kid is gonna go D1. But Shon is different.
He kept saying things like, “I’m gonna make him a mid-range killer… We not dribbling around a bunch of cones… We playing basketball. Flash plays the right way. He doesn’t turn it over… he makes the right pass… He’s unselfish.”
I don’t get out to see much middle school basketball. In fact, I don’t see any… So all I had to go by was Shon’s pronouncements.
Eventually, Flash enrolled at Math, Civics & Sciences Charter School where he played in one of the finest Public League programs for Head Coach Lonnie Diggs. Flash was a good role player during his two year stint with the Mighty Elephants.
But, the lure of the Catholic League was strong, both academically and athletically. First and foremost, Flash is an outstanding student and his mother and Shon wanted to place him in a more rigorous and competitive academic setting. Of equal importance was an opportunity to “get to the Palestra” for the Philadelphia Catholic League Final Four.
This has become the Holy Grail for many high school ballers in the the Greater Philadelphia region.
Shon did his research… He and Flash narrowed their target destinations down to 3 or 4 schools. Shon had seen all of the school play on multiple occasions. He knew what the basketball was like in each program.
But he didn’t know the people and he didn’t have a firm grasp of the academic offerings at the schools. He asked if I knew the coaches and the principals at these schools.
I asked if Flash and his Mom were sure they wanted to leave MCS. Shon and Flash assured me that they were “out” and told me they had informed Coach Diggs of their decision.
I introduced Shon and Flash to principals and coaches at several schools. Eventually, Flash and his Mom chose O’Hara.
My decision to assist Shon and the family with researching his school options led to the end of what had been a very good relationship with the MCS basketball program. I had worked with MCS alums Jeremiah “Lump” Worthem, Mike Watkins and Samir Doughty… each ended up eligible to accept a scholarship and played Division 1 basketball… It was all good…
Until it wasn’t…
Flash decided to transfer and Shon is my guy…
Cardinal O’Hara High School in Springfield, Delaware County is Flash’s new home. The boy from the “P” plays in da county these days.
The transfer behind him, all summer Shon was talking heavy… “We goin’ to the Palestra.”
“Easy… Easy… Shon.”
Alas, Shon was not trying to hear my suggestion that he temper his expectations.
“We goin’ to the Palestra!”
On Friday, O’Hara was scheduled to travel to Reading for a HUGE road game against perennial Berks County power Reading High. I’m on a 3-way call with Shon and Rider Assistant Coach Geoff Arnold. I tell Shon to be prepared to watch a tough game. I explained that Reading is damn near impossible to beat in Reading.
Shon wasn’t trying to hear that shit…
“We gonna kick their ass…”
Mannnn listen… I wanted to go that that game. But I was scheduled to cover the Neumann-Goretti/Constitution game and I wouldn’t be able to make it.
I told Shon, I thought Reading would win the game because their press defense would force a lot of turnovers. I’ve seen Reading do that to so many good teams in recent years.
“Flash doesn’t turn the ball over Del…”
“I’ll bet you $10 that they turn Flash over at least 3 times.”
“Let’s bet $20…”
“Naaaah… I’m not a gambler but I’ll bet the $10.”
Low and behold, a few minutes after making the wager, Pat Sorrentino, a Nuemann-Goretti Assistant informs me that the Constitution game has been postponed. The Saints were playing for state Championship in football and the whole school planned on going to support the squad.
I hang up from Pat and immediately call Shon, “What time you leaving? I’m riding out with you”
“5:30… Meet me at 23rd and Federal… down the P.”
Traffic is fucked up… We arrive at the massive Geigle Complex just before the tip off.
I scramble to set up my camera.
First play of the game… Flash had the ball out top… dribbled toward the baseline stopped took a step back and elevated for one of his trademark mid-range jump shots…
SPLASH! All net…
Flash made sure to let the Reading faithful seated along the baseline know that it was going to be a long night. He was talking major shit…
O’Hara came out and led with a series of right crosses. Reading, clearly, was expecting O’Hara to feel them out early with jabs. They were not ready. Right hooks and crushing body blows delivered by Flash and his running mate Izaiah Pasha ’23 (Iona commit) left Reading dazed and confused.
Like Mike Tyson jumping on a defenseless Mike Spinks, O’Hara jumped out to an early double-digit lead. Before you knew it the score was 9-2 and by the end of the first, the Lions led 23-12.
It was more of the same as the bell rung for the 2nd quarter, Flash kept the pressure on. Flash and Pasha were bussing Reading’s ass. In front of about 2,000 stunned Reading supporters. They combined for 22 of O’Hara’s 41 first-half points.
Never having ventured to Reading for a game before, Shon felt comfortable. He should have… O’Hara was having it their way.
Until they weren’t…
It’s hard to explain to Philadelphia hoopheads. These Reading muthafuckas just don’t know how to quit… It’s just not in ‘em.
They are gonna keep coming and coming.
Two years ago, the Reading knocked off Catholic League Champion Archbishop Wood in the State Championship game. Last year, they knocked off nationally ranked Imhotep in a highly entertaining contest.
This year? Down 19 at home to O’Hara? No problem…
Led by senior guard, Myles Grey’s 20 points, the Knights demonstrated their ability to engage in a relentless form of persistence hunting. Coach Perez’s boys stalked and chased O’Hara until they could no longer flee and succumbed to what seemed like an inevitable defeat.
While O’ Hara came up short in this battle, Flash played well in front of coaches from 2 MAAC programs. Rider Assistant, Dino Pressley and Fairfield Assistant, James Johns were there evaluating Shon’s prodigy.
The very next day, Fairfield offered Flash a scholarship. This served to brighten and otherwise disappointing night.
On the way home, we stopped at Appleby’s to grab a bite to eat. However, it was too crowded at the wait was over 30 minutes. We left and decided to just grab something from WaWa.
I ordered a Chicken Fajita Panini, grabbed a bag of chips and a Mango Iced Tea. When I got to the register, Shon boxed me out and paid for my meal.
Flash had 3 turnovers.
Shon Minnis is my guy…