By: James Nelson Stewart-“Suburban Guru”
Events like this don’t happen often, so when you encounter these types of events the feeling sticks with you for a very long time. My father was a boxer during his youth, so the first sport I was introduced to was boxing. When I was 6 years old, I vividly remember being excited for a boxing match the was considered the BEST vs BEST. There was an excitement I had leading up to that event that forever made me a fan of the sport. Even in my early ages, I was an avid reader of newspapers (especially the Philadelphia Daily News) and magazines (Ring Magazine was my favorite). This event was so built up that it couldn’t deliver. It delivered and then some!!! That event was Leonard vs Hearns I!!! The generation before me had an event that was even bigger than that called “THE FIGHT OF THE CENTURY” Frazier vs Ali I. These events shaped a generation and this game much like those mega-events of the past has a chance to shape the new generations of athletes that will come after them.
I know that people are going to say Boxing and Basketball are 2 different sports. I know of course but this matchup is different!!! In Black and Red corner, you have Imhotep Charter, who is coached by Andre Noble. Imhotep Charter, much like Joe Frazier, is the gritty Philadelphia Team who plays the game with the proverbial “Chip on their Shoulder”. Imhotep, who has dominated the Legendary Philadelphia Public League for over a decade, is always battling for National Recognition. A team that went to Montverde and beat them on their home court in previous years still doesn’t feel like they don’t get enough National “Respect”. In our region we count on Imhotep EVERY year to win the Pub and the State titles and Coach Noble has exceeded that expectation and more.
To say that he is a Hall of Fame Coach would be to shortchange what this man has accomplished. With a Title log over 20, when counting Pub, City and State Championship, he is STAMPED as one of the Philly Coaching GOATS. Respect due!!!
Then in the Purple and Gold corner, you have Camden High aka “THE HIGH”. In this matchup, I would consider Camden to be more like Muhammad Ali because of the National profile this team has. People flock to see “THE HIGH”, in large part due to their best player and his family lineage of greatness through 3 generations. Expectations have crushed many souls but when a person meet or exceeds such expectations, they become larger than life. “THE HIGH” has a deep basketball history as much as any program in our parts. The tradition of Camden High Basketball may only be matched in these parts by Chester High and is known throughout the nation for having that kind of basketball reputation. Players like Billy Thompson, Nate Johnson, Vic Carstarphen, Arthur Barclay and numerous others have graced the Camden courts and established excellence. But no name is synonymous with Camden Basketball as the last name Wagner. Milt Wagner, Dejuan Wagner and now D.J. Wagner are 3 generations of stars at “THE HIGH”.
Milt (Class of 1981) started this off by becoming one of the Nation’s best guards in earning a McDonald’s All-American birth, then Dejuan (Class of 2001) came in and became one of the best guards in New Jersey history by scoring over 3,000 points and 100 points in a game and also earning a McDonald’s All-American bid and now D.J.
So now I will give you 5 reasons that this may be the BIGGEST GAME EVER LOCALLY
Never has there been a game where the #1 player and #2 player in the country has matched up in a local game. Imhotep’s Justin Edwards (#1 ESPN 2023) and Camden’s duo of D.J. Wagner (#2 in 2023) plus Aaron Bradshaw (#4 in 2023) will matchup in this game. We have 3 Top 5 players nationally on the same court locally. Some people point out the Gene Banks/Lew Lloyd matchup, others have pointed to the Kobe Bryant/Rip Hamilton matchup or Kobe Bryant/Donnie Carr matchup and even more recently the Eddie Griffin/Dejuan Wagner matchup as reference points but neither of those matchups were 1 vs 2 in the same class and the same year. Edwards and Wagner have both held that #1 spot at some point this year. Both competitors want to show their supporters who is #1. Next year, all 3 will be teammates sporting that Kentucky Blue. Bragging rights anyone!!!
Hall of Fame Philly Coach vs Rookie Coach from Philly. This adds to the allure of this matchup. I have already talked about the accolades of Coach Noble but what a feather in the cap Coach Maalik “Smack” Wayns, the Head Coach of Camden. Wayns, has been a Philly staple for years with his McDonald All-American career at Roman and his collegiate career in the Big 5 at Villanova plus his NBA stints including the Sixers. Camden’s staff also has another Philly playing legend Ramone Moore from Southern and Temple fame.
The social media angle. New age, new trends. This game will be followed by basketball fans all over the world. Nike, who has an NIL deal with D.J. Wagner, sponsors both teams. Drake has done advertising with Wagner and others adds to the popularity of this game. Everyone is picking sides of the Bridge on this game.
The Matchups are flat out impressive on both sides. We have Ra Barno (FGC Commit City of Palms MVP) and Nationally Ranked 2024 Ahmad Nowell from Imhotep Charter going against Cian Medley (St. Louis Commit) and Wagner. Then you have the frontcourts Edwards, 2024 6-8 Makye Taylor, 2023 6-4 Yahmir Satterfield and 2024 6-6 Jeremiah White from Imhotep going up against Camden’s front line of the 7-footer Bradshaw, 2023 6-5 Cornelius “Boog” Robinson (Albany Commit), Nationally Ranked 2024 6-6 Billy Richmond, 6-8 Dasear Haskins. Star Fr 2026 Guard R.J Davis (Imhotep) and Star multi-sport athlete Jaylen Hornsby (Camden) will add to the star power on the court.
The AAU Battle. Imhotep which has players that are on the established Nike sponsored Team Final are battling the other local Nike Sponsored team New Jersey Scholars. These teams usually start battling for players before they even hit high school. This game will give each respective program the bragging rights at least for a year. The balance of power will be on the line in this contest.
January 28th 2PM @St Joseph’s Hagen Arena is where this game is going down. As the great Amauro Austin wrote in his article. WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO BE??? Game is SOLD OUT and not streamed. Players like Edwards and Wagner rarely now play for their hoods anymore. The High School game is big business now and the public schools are the biggest victims to the business. 2 Nationally Ranked Public-School teams in 1 area are like a dinosaur. This game is the Tyrannosaurus Rex!!! I’ll be there and can’t wait!!! Events like this never fail to live up to their hype!!! Thank you to both communities Imhotep and Camden for making this event happen!!! Good Luck to both teams!!! Events like these never have LOSERS!!!