It’s Levels (D1, D2 & D3) to This Thing!

by Eric Dixon

April 25, 2020

We live in challenging times with respect to the market. There is a lot of uncertainty and a lack of reliable information out there. Some people at the top are outright lying while people who should know don’t and people who know aren’t always being honest for their own selfish reasons. And I’m not even talking about stocks, bonds, 401Ks or mutual funds. The various levels of college basketball recruitment and talent are fraught with misinformation, mismanagement and immaturity.


So many kids have D1 aspirations, but their market offerings are well below that. How do you know if you are a D1 player? There is a simple answer and there is a complex answer and the truth is somewhere in the middle. The simple answer is what does the market say? You are the level of your offers and serious interest. The complex response is “it’s a combination of things,” says Aaron Dread, former D2 player and father of Penn State guard Myles Dread.

“There’s the athletic component, the IQ component, and the component of being special at something. Then there’s the maturity to understand where you are,”  he added. The former Millersville University guard went on to explain that he “had a strong inclination in 8th grade” that Myles was going to be a Division 1 player “based on how he was tracking against other kids his age.” Even though Myles was doing well against other players, he said, “I just didn’t know athletically and size-wise.”


Myles Dread, Penn State

Dread had the advantage of his own experience playing to rely on when trying to determine what level was best for his son, who committed to PSU following a stand out performance at Peach Jam before his junior year. “Playing (myself) helped tremendously because I played against D1 guys and eventual NBA players and I know what it looks like.” So what do you do if you don’t have that advantage of personal experience and, as Brandon Williams put it- its your “first time at the rodeo,” as it is for most parents? Or even if you did play, how do you stay grounded enough to make sound decisions about your child’s potential and goal assessment?

“Be realistic and keep things in perspective,” says Isaac Mitchell, father of former North Penn standout, AJ Mitchell. The elder Mitchell has a modicum of experience having played just one year on the freshman team at Chicago powerhouse, Whitney Young High School. He explained that some parents get caught up in seeing only the best performances of their children as the barometer of their potential. “You can’t use their best game to determine how good they really are,” said Mitchell, who watched his son, a 5-11 point guard, notch 27 points in a summer league win over Shipley, then led by the outstanding Sam Sessoms. “Sessoms, who scored 20-something, was kind of cruising, while AJ was playing his heart out,” says Mitchell, who’s son is now a freshman at Widener University.


Sam Sessoms, Jr., Recently transferred to Penn State from Binghamton

This sentiment was echoed by Williams, a coach for the Philly Pride AAU program. “Consistency is the key to being D1 or D2,” said the former Abington Friends and Chestnut Hill guard, adding that “consistency” on and off the court went a long way to determining what level a kid belongs on. . . Physical metrics and instincts are products of talent, but how consistent a player is means a lot.”

He went on to mention that the consistency of the message a player was getting from the various influencers around him also could play a major part in a child’s progression to level as well. “Consistency of mentors is important,” he explained, adding that “you have to be slow in setting expectations with parents… It avoids switching and backpedaling later.” The problem is a lot of parents aren’t trying to hear it. “If you tell them something they don’t want to hear, then they’ll just go to someone else who will tell them what they want.”

Conflating this mixture of messages is the inability of college coaches to be effective talent evaluators. “You’d be surprised how many college coaches ask me what level I think a kid is after watching him play” said Duval Simmonds, a long time trainer from the DMV area. Simmonds, who has been training kids since 2001, lamented, “It’s hard for a player to know where he belongs if the guys recruiting him don’t even know.” This makes it difficult to allow the market to determine a player’s worth.


Duval Simmonds (left) and Georgetown Head Coach, Patrick Ewing

Look at the curious recruitment of the aforementioned Sessoms, who will take his considerable talents to the Penn State this fall. Coming out of high school no scouts thought he was ready for the Big Ten. He was a 2000 point scorer in high school, played for a premier AAU team and, by all accounts, did everything the right way. Still, just one Division 1 school, Binghamton University, deemed him good enough to play at that level. Many of us who actually saw him play were befuddled.

One possible explanation, according to one D1 coach unfamiliar with his recruitment, is his lack of height for the position and other physical metrics. It’s impossible to truly know now why at least local mid-majors didn’t see the potential in his impressive game but Simmonds offered one hypothesis.

“A lot of times coaches don’t know and like to wait to see who else offers,” he explained, adding that some coaches don’t “trust their eyes” if other programs don’t seem to see what they see.

Williams also touched on that saying coaches need to be “confident in their assessments”. He added that his confidence in his assessments makes it easier for him to have “real” conversations with parents and players about what level might be appropriate for them. However, he also said he doesn’t offer assessments and will only speak to a parent and player if asked. “Too easy to be seen as a ‘hater’”.

“I knew (my players) could play at the D1 level because I watched them play well against other players,” said Coach Charles Grasty, head coach at Abington High School, who saw all five of his starters from last year’s 28-2 District One championship squad receive the opportunity to play at the next level, ranging in level from D3 (Rosemont College) to D1 ( Univ. of Penn and Villanova). Grasty, a former college player himself, said he offers to contact schools and lobby for his players..


Charles Grasty, Abington HS Head Coach

“I bring them in my office and tell them to give me at least five schools they want me to call, 3 solid prospects and 2 reaches,” he explained. Referring to the “reaches” he said,  “Why not? The most they can tell me is ‘no’,” he dead-panned. This year he was able to help a deep reserve on last year’s team, who played a slightly bigger role this year, get a chance at Penn State-Scranton.

He also said he didn’t think it was solely his responsibility to get players next level opportunities, however, he cares about them and wants to help. One way he helps is by scheduling competitive games where they can gain exposure. He prides himself in including rigor in his non-conference schedule. “It helps the players be seen and it helps the team get ready for conference play.”

Much of the responsibility of garnering next level opportunities lies with the player and his/her family. Part of that responsibility is making sure they are academically prepared to take advantage of any opportunities that may arise.  Several players with D1 talent have had to take a different path because of academic issues.  “We can’t do much with them if they have a 1.9,” lamented one coach. Ball without books is empty.

In conclusion, there is a gamut of reasons why players’ stock may rise and fall in determining their college level. Chief among them are physical metrics like natural talent, height, body type, athleticism, speed and an above-average skillset. These along with a mental toughness, basketball IQ, maturity and attitude that affords them the ability to perform consistently go a long way to figuring out where a player is a best fit. As usual, honesty is the best policy and most of all being honest with oneself may be the most difficult, yet important aspect of realistic goal setting.

Rysheed Jordan Debuts with the Camden Monarchs!

It’s January 2013 and across the nation there are some great scholastic basketball players performing in packed houses and with college coaches salivating all over their Nike, Adidas and Under Armour golf shirts. The athletic departments’ private jets were burning an ungodly amount of fuel that winter. Some of the best known prospects at the time were Andrew Wiggins (Huntington Prep, Huntington, West Virginia), Jabari Parker (Simeon HS, Chicago, Illinois), Julius Randle (Prestonwood Christian Academy, MicKinney, Texas), Aaron Gordon (Archbishop Mitty High School, San Jose, California) and some big kid named Joel Embid (The Rock School, Gainesville, Florida).

Duke, Kansas, Arizona, Kentucky and the other college basketball blue bloods were like sharks in the water. This was truly a great year for high school basketball and Philly was well represented. Steve Vasturia (St. Joseph’s Prep), Brandon Austin (Imhotep) and JaQuan Newton (Neumann-Goretti) were skilfully plying their trade.

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Rysheed Jordan, Camden Monarchs


But for the common folk, there can be no doubt, the Prince of ‘Norf’ Philly reigned supreme… UCLA, St. John’s and Temple basketball coaches were regular visitors to neighborhood of North Philadelphia known as Sharswood. They were stalking Rysheed Jordan… Members of college basketball’s royalty were frequently roaming on and about the grounds of the Norman Blumberg Apartments. Middle-aged wealthy white millionaires didn’t make their way though Sharswood too often. The poverty and crime rates at Blumberg were double the rest of the city’s. At the time, Blumberg was considered PHA’s “most distressed” public housing complex. So much so that three years later, they hit the detonation button and blew it up, reducing it to pile of rubble.

But in 2013, Sharswood was the place to be… Especially if you were a hoophead seeking out the very best action or a high major college basketball coach looking for a player with the potential to lead you to a Final Four or even a National Championship.

Rysheed Jordan and Robert Vaux High School were vying for Philadelphia basketball supremacy. Keep in mind, Vaux had never been a factor before the Phoenix-like rise of Jordan. Indeed, Vaux was literally on it’s last legs. In March, 2013, The School District of Philadelphia voted to close Vaux and 22 other district-run schools at the end of the school year.

Rasheed Jordan, unlike most of the other high profile prospects of his era, played with his childhood friends at an under-performing neighborhood public high school.

What? This just doesn’t happen… The lure of “national” schedules and ESPN games typically overrides any commitment to family and friends at the neighborhood school…

But, Jordan was different… Very different!

Ranked #17 in the nation by ESPN, Jordan could have easily fled to one of the national basketball academies like Huntington Prep, IMG, Montverde or Findlay Prep… He didn’t…

He could have chosen to suit up for one of the Catholic League powerhouse programs like Roman Catholic, Neumann-Goretti of Archbishop Caroll… He didn’t…

He resisted the lure of prominent Charter programs like Imhotep, Math, Civics and Sciences (MCS), and Boy’s Latin

Sheed stayed ‘round da way… He rose to national prominence playing for his neighborhood high school… He played basketball with the same guys he ate free lunches with in 3rd grade… He played in front of passionate and frenzied crowds with the scent of ‘loud’ wafting through the air…

Undying loyalty to his friends, his teammates, his coaches and his ‘hood’ made Sheed’s journey special… The love and affection was returned 100-fold!

His friends, his teammates, his coaches and his ‘hood’ supported the Prince in a manner impossible to explain to people from outside of Philadelphia.

These muthafuckas rode unbelievably HARD for Sheed!

As a result, he didn’t need the basketball academies… He didn’t need the Catholic or Independent schools… He didn’t need the Charters… He didn’t need the EYBL…

Sharswood, Vaux and Philly Pride stood behind and beside Jordan as he embarked on one of the greatest scholastic careers Philadelphia has witnessed over the past 2 decades. The fact that he did it with the same dudes that he cut that hard ass government cheese with made it sooooooo special.

It’s worth detailing some of the important moments for the uninitiated…

Seven years ago, in January 2013, the boys from Norf Philly went Uptown and spanked Imhotep Charter and Brandon Austin in one the toughest gyms in the State of Pennsylvania. Led by Jordan, Vaux went on a 21-2 fourth-quarter run to hand Imhotep its worst ever home loss.


Vaux and Imhotep would finish the regular season tied for second behind a loaded MCS squad. In the first round of the the playoffs, Jordan dropped 21 to lead Vaux to an easy 24 point victory over GAMP. In the round of 16, he scored 21 points to support Sammy Foreman’s 24 as Vaux rolled over Sankofa by 22 points, 87-65.

Then… Shit got real interesting in the Quarterfinals… Vaux faced the #1 team in the City, regular season Division A Champions MCS. MCS entered the game with a gaudy 23-1 record. In front of a packed house, Jordan put on his cape and poured in 29 points to go along with seven rebounds, five assists and four steals. With 10.7 seconds remaining in the game, after a 5-minute delay to control the ‘hood’ that was spilling onto the court, Jordan calmly sank two free throws to tie the game 61-61. Then Jordan knocked down the second of two free throws with one-tenth of a second remaining after he was fouled attempting to finish a full court sprint with the ball that began with 4.7 on the clock.

Legendary shit… The Prince of Norf, playing against the top ranked team, for the hood school in an overfilled South Philly high school gym with everything on the line…

Next up, a rematch with mighty Imhotep and their star Brandon Austin at the Liacouras Center on the campus of Temple University. This time, Vaux fell short… Imhotep won (67-66) their fourth Public League Championship in five years and avenged the 22-point, home-court spanking Vaux laid on them in January. However, legendary status of Jordan was cemented in the loss. Jordan exploded for 45 points, breaking Wilt Chamberlain’s record (40) for the most ever scored in any version of a High School Championship game.

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Rysheed Jordan (center), following state championship victory

A couple weeks later, Jordan score 32 points to lead Vaux to the PIAA Class A State Championship with a 20 point 83-63 victory over Johnsonburg HS at the Giant Center in Hershey, PA. Take a step back… Let’s think about this… Sheed Jordan led his troubled neighborhood high school to its first and only state title about 12 weeks before the City would shut it down.

Legendary shit…

Three weeks later, the Prince of Norf would commit to Steve Lavin and St. John’s University of the Big East Conference. Eschewing offers from UCLA and hometown Temple University, Sheed chose the bright lights of New York City and Madison Square Garden.


Rysheed Jordan, St. John’s University

As a freshman, Jordan lived up to expectations… He averaged 10 ppg, 3.1 rpg and 3.0 apg and was named to the All-Rookie team in the Big East. He upped his scoring to 14.1 ppg as a sophomore while grabbing 3.7 rpg and dishing 3.1 apg.

At the conclusion of his sophomore campaign, St. John’s fired Steve Lavin and hired Chris Mullin as head coach. Jordan would never play for Mullin…

The Prince of Norf had a nice 2-year run at Madison Square Garden… Then it ended abruptly…

In the first week of June 2015… the divorce was finalized.

“Playing professional basketball has always been a goal of mine,” Jordan said in a statement released by St. John’s. “I believe I am ready to take the next step in my basketball career and plan to work hard to achieve my dream of playing in the NBA . . . This decision was made with my family’s best interests in mind.”

Chris Mullin said “We support Rysheed and wish him well in his professional endeavors.”

The timing of the divorce, however,  was very problematic… Jordan was ineligible for the 2015 NBA draft because he missed the early-entry deadline. His college career over, Jordan could not play in the NBA until 2016 at the earliest.


This would prove to be a very costly paperwork snafu… A really, really bad fumble… Things never really got on track from there.


Rysheed Jordan, Delaware 87ers

Jordan would play in the D-League for the Delaware 87ers in 2015-16, averaging just over eight points per contest in 11 games. Eventually, he kinda just disappeared from the basketball scene altogether and retreated to his beloved ‘hood.’

Then… on June 1, 2016, almost exactly one year after separating from St. John’s University, Jordan was arrested and charged with multiple offenses stemming from two separate incidents over the preceding week.

Both incidents, per information provided by the Philadelphia Police Department, occurred in North Philadelphia. Jordan was charged with attempted murder, robbery, criminal conspiracy and simple assault.

Police alleged that Jordan shot a man in the arm.

According to police, the 23-year-old victim of the shooting and his companion, the witness, had gone to the area around 1400 North 26th street to purchase marijuana. They left their vehicle and approached a gold sedan, but the meet went sideways. Jordan’s group got out of the car with guns, and one of them ordered, “Give us your money and your phones.”

The victim and witness ran back to their vehicle, but Jordan’s group allegedly fired. The victim was hit in the right arm but managed to make it in the car. The witness began to back up, and the two were able to escape despite the fact that one of the offenders tried to reach inside the car window and turn off the ignition in addition to firing several shots.

The victim and witness found a policeman at 33rd and Girard and were brought to Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where the victim underwent surgery.
Jordan was captured by Temple police early Wednesday morning after an unrelated incident. At 2:03 a.m., police tracked a green Jaguar that had run a red light. After the vehicle allegedly tried to evade police, Jordan got out and fled. He was pursued by officers on foot and threw away his gun before being captured and placed into custody. Recovered by police, the gun had five live rounds and an obliterated serial number.

A little over a month later, on June 16 defense lawyer Brad V. Shuttleworth asked Municipal Court Judge Marvin L. Williams to lower bail to $100,000, so Jordan could post the usual 10 percent (i.e., $10,000) and walk free pending trial, wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet. Judge Williams refused, however, saying that Jordan has proved he will run from the law and that he’s a danger to the community.

Jordan would remain in custody until December 1, 2019. He a did a 3.5 year bid. He emerged remorseful and eager to make a difference in the lives of the young men finding their way through his ‘hood’.

As soon as he was released, Jordan made his way to local gyms… Not to play…

He had to share what he learned the hard way… He had to talk to young Black men about his poor choices…

It’s his calling. Jordan is at peace with himself, he has paid a heavy toll for his actions. A spiritual man, he seeks to uplift those willing to listen and learn.

Fully cognizant of the heavy sway he still holds over the City of Philadelphia, especially young men on the Norf side, Jordan tells cautionary tales these days. He is man that has done everything society has asked of him.

Young enough to fully relate to what young impressionable inner-city Black males experience on a daily basis, he is able to capture their undivided attention.

His fame and status hasn’t waned… He’s still the Prince of Norf… Older, wiser and thankful for an opportunity to make a difference.

Jordan is repentant… He lost his beloved mother while he was away… He is determined to fulfill his responsibilities as the head of his family…

While working out with his younger brother and the team at MCS, the urge to play competitively began to slowly creep back in…

Jordan had a basketball itch he needed to scratch.

Enter the Reverend, Stan Laws and the Camden Monarchs.


Reverend Stan Laws, Camden Monarchs Head Coach

Laws is a stalwart in the Philadelphia Basketball community and long-time Norfside resident. He’s also the Head Coach of the Camden Monarchs. Laws and his boss, General Manager Joseph Richmond have given Jordan an opportunity to compete at the professional level without uprooting him from his family and the supports he has in place.


Joseph Richmond (left), Camden Monarchs General Manager

The Monarchs fittingly play their home games in the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center. This is the prefect location for the resurrection of Jordan’s playing career. Laws and Richmond are spiritual men committed to using basketball as a tool for deliverance from sin and its consequences.

Every day, they try to live their life in accordance with the word of God. Ephesians 4:31-32 – Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.

So on January 11, three and half years removed from the date he went away, Rasheed Jordan played basketball in front of a crowd with the lights on. Now… it wasn’t the 19,738 capacity crowd he entertained at Madison Square Garden. But the 400+ people that shoehorned themselves into the Kroc Center came with one goal in mind, to lift up the Prince of Norf.

The level of competition on this night was probably somewhere between NCAA Division 2 and Division 3. Laws did not start Jordan… Upon entering the game, one could sense that Jordan just wanted to be a teammate… He wanted to play the right way… He was playing very conservatively and unselfishly…

His timing was off… He would beat his man and the floater would fall short… Way short… He would blow by the initial defender, see the help defender coming but his reflexes just aren’t there yet… They were able to get their hands on the ball and prevent him from finishing…

“Just play Sheed… Just play…”

His supporters could feel him working his way into the game… He was supportive of his teammates and trying to find ways to make winning plays…

Forced to gauge him against at his very best… Jordan was about 50%… He was visibly winded at times and he was a half second slow…

He’e been away 3 and half years…

That said, Jordan at 50% finished the game with 28 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. His team went into the locker room down at the half… Laws started Jordan in the second half… Camden ended up winning 116-82.

It’s all still there… The bounce… The sweet pull-up… The handle… The will to win…

Like a musician that had to put his saxophone away for 40 months, it’s gonna take a little time to get it all back… But he can still play music you want to hear.


Lewis Leonard and family


Supportive Philly hoop heads came out to see the first show… Lewis Leonard, Mookie Laws, Randy Miller, Mike Terry, Rodney Veney, Maurice Watson, Sr. and Dallas Comegys were just a few Philadelphia hoopheads that made their way across the bridge.


Rysheed Jordan, after his first game with the Camden Monarchs

There will be many more… The Prince of Norf is playing in East Camden… I’ll see you at the next Camden Monarchs home game.

St. Joseph’s… I know a guy…

I know a guy… You’re looking for a basketball coach… right now… You play in the A10…

My guy coached in the A10 from 1996 to 2001… His record in the A10 was 52-28… His last year, he was 11-5 in the A10 and his Athletic Director turned down an NIT Invitation. Overall, my guy won 65% of his A10 games.


Bruiser Flint, St. Joseph’s Alum


From there, my guy went to the CAA… There he won 56% of his games… One year, his team beat St. Joseph’s, Temple, Villanova, Syracuse and Creighton ALL on the road…

Four times, he was CAA Coach of the Year…

For his career, he’s won 331 college basketball games and lost 289 (53.4%).

Please note that my guy has graduated 100% of his four year players and one of his players, Damion Lee, is in the NBA.

My guy is currently an assistant in one of the top 6-7 programs in college basketball… (Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Villanova, Indiana, Michigan St.)

Based of this resume, my guy would be, arguably,  the most qualified alum ever to apply for the basketball coach position at St. Joseph’s…

Jimmy Lynam was 93-90 at Fairfield and American when their alma mater hired him. Jim Boyle took over after Lynam.

Boyle was a St. Joseph’s player, assistant coach and head coach. Boyle had a connection with all of the SJU coaches over the past five, Boyle played for Hall of Famer Dr. Jack Ramsay and served as an assistant coach on the staffs of Jack McKinney, Harry Booth and Jim Lynam. Boyle also worked with John Griffin, when they were assistants to Lynam. Then during his tenure as head coach, Boyle hired Phil Martelli as an assistant coach.

Boyle also recruited my guy… My guy played for Boyle…

My guy would seem like a worthy candidate… His Hawk bonafides are in order…

But, one has to wonder how the National Search Firm weighs Hawk bonafides when ranking candidates? Indeed, one has to question if they matter at all… I don’t think they are part of the equation anymore…

The St. Joseph’s AD is from Notre Dame… Not Drexel Hill…

There was a distinct Hawk way of doing things… Local relationships mattered… Status as alum mattered… If you were gonna terminate the employment of a loyal, highly respected 35 year employee you would put significant thought into exactly how you would carry it out…

Increasingly, basketball at all levels has become a business first and foremost… This is especially the case at the NCAA Division 1 level. Administrators, presidents and athletic directors, have tough decisions to make. The other day St. Joseph’s AD made such a tough decision when she decided to move on from legendary Coach Martelli.

How the AD and the President carried out the decision raises the question is there still “a way of doing things”?

Phil Martelli deserved a far more dignified and respectful separation from the University. More forethought could have been applied. Just doesn’t look right… Maybe that doesn’t matter anymore…


Phil Martelli, Winningest Coach in SJU History

The Hawk community at St. Joseph’s has always been like a family. Clearly, decisions have been made to take a “National” approach to the business of college basketball. I’m sure many are all too happy to discard what they consider “Mom and Pop” approaches.

But… Keep in mind… Ramsay, Lynam, Boyle and Martelli would NOT have made the national search firm short list at the time of their hiring. My guy’s resume is stronger than all of theirs at the time of their hiring and he probably won’t be considered.

Oh well…

All I ask is that you give him full and fair consideration… Don’t act like you can’t see that Hawk standing right there looking all “experienced and qualified.”

Come on with the bullshit… Treat him right during this “process.”


Understanding New Rules: The End of “One-and-Done”

Black Cager Sports Media takes pride in our ability to disseminate important information to the youth, high school and collegiate basketball communities in the Mid-Atlantic Region. We are starting a new series of essays, “Understanding New Rules.” The aim, as always, is to help parents, student-athletes, coaches and other stakeholders make better informed decisions regarding their educational futures.

In the first essay, we delve into one of the most widely publicized aspects of the “New Rules” outlined in the Rice Commission Report submitted to the NCAA.

End of One-and-Done
“Elite high school players with NBA prospects and no interest in a college degree should not be “forced” to attend college, often for less than a year. These uniquely talented players are the focus of agents, apparel companies, investment advisors, college coaches and other seeking to profit from their skills and offering them cash and other benefits in hope of future gain. If they are allowed to turn professional, some of the pressure on the collegiate model will be reduced.”

Rice Commission Report

Those of us of a certain age can understand what the Rice Commission means by “the pressures on the collegiate model.” Like elsewhere, in college basketball, money is at the root of all evil.

What’s important to note is that this ain’t no new shit! The NCAA has been aware of this “pressure” for decades…

This particular “New Rule” only impacts “uniquely talented” players… Not good HS players… Not great HS players… Just “uniquely talented” players…

The jump from scholastic basketball to the NBA is HUGE… Only a select few over the past six decades or so have been able to make the jump successfully…

In the greater Philadelphia area, we tend to produce one of these players every 5-10 years… Wilt Chamberlain, Gene Banks, Rasheed Wallace, Kobe Bryant, Eddie Griffin and Cam Reddish immediately come to mind as guys that would have been high NBA draft picks right after prom. That’s a pretty short list…


Gene Banks, #1 HS Player in the Nation at West Philadelphia HS

But when such a talent emerges, “the pressures” as the NCAA euphemistically calls them are well documented.

Forty-four years ago, “uniquely talented” young man from Petersburg, Virginia put ENORMOUS pressure on the collegiate model.

Shit was out of control!


Moses Malone at Peterburg HS

After his junior year, Moses Malone made the trek to Howard Garfinkel’s Five-Star camp where he dominated… Garfinkel gave Malone 5 full stars and stated that his potential was to “infinity.” As a senior Malone was recruited by more than 200 colleges. Envelopes addressed to his uncle containing $1,000 were commonplace. One day a brand new Chrysler Imperial magically appeared with the keys in from of the Malone home.


1974 Chrysler Imperial

Never really a serious student, Malone received straight A’s as a senior and managed to barley meet the minimum requirements for accepting an athletic scholarship.

Moses put real “pressure” on the collegiate model!

It was commonly understood that Malone required $200 to even consider making a visit to any college campus.

An assistant coach from New Mexico lived at the Petersburg Howard Johnson’s for more than two months while stalking Malone. Maryland’s tab at the Petersburg Holiday Inn surpassed $20,000.

In an extremely poor neighborhood of homes with no paint, no grass on the lawns… The Malones had a new floor model television, new carpeting and new furniture. They were also the only home in the area with an air conditioner in the window.


Moses Malone as an ABA Rookie

Very rare are boys that can play with the best men in the world… Like mythological unicorns…

The NCAA has openly acknowledged that the collegiate model isn’t built to withstand the pressures surrounding these young men.

Darryl Dawkins, Bill Willoughby, Shawn Kemp, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal, Tracy McGrady, Amare Stoudemire, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Sebastian Telfair, J.R. Smith, Monta Ellis and Louis Williams were “uniquely talented.”

While Philly produces an abundance of college basketball prospects, straight to the NBA prospects are seldom seen…

Truth be told… Philly-based AAU/Grassroots Coaches/Directors tend to wage intense, friendship testing battles over low to mid-major D1 prospects…

But just in case another unicorn appears on the horizon, the basketball community should be well-versed in the rules…

The end of the “One-and-Done” era is fast approaching…

How will we know when another unicorn appears? Just look for the sports agents, NBA scouts, apparel companies, investment advisors and HIGH-MAJOR college coaches… They will ALL be at the games…

Putting PRESSURE on the young man and his family…






AlwaysLive/Black Cager Youth Hoop Tip Off! March 3-4!!

We are excited to announce the ALWAYSLIVE/Black Cager partnership. We want to help mid-Atlantic area AAU/Grassroots programs get their season off to a STRONG start. The best way to do that is to provide a platform for STRONG competition. Come play two REALLY good games with us against strong competition.

We will work with you to ensure that you coaches, players and parents have a positive early season experience.

Play two tough games in three hours. No sitting around, no long waits. Play a game, rest a game then play a game. Select games will be live-streamed.

The ALWAYSLIVE/Black Cager Youth Hoop Tipoff 8U-14U (DOUBLE PLAY)  event will showcase the area’s best talent in the 8U – 14U divisions. ALWAYSLIVE maximizes recruiting exposure by gathering complete game video, advanced statistics and, player data for recruitable (14U-17U) prospects. An ALWAYSLIVE event also provides enhanced player profiles for each participant which will be shareable with recruiters, coaches, and fans.


Register here for ALWAYSLIVE/BlackCager Youth Tipoff



See You There!!

The Rise of $$$ and the Erosion of Boundaries in Youth Basketball

“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
Timothy 6:10

Because money has become central to youth sports at an elite level, grown men involved with the game today are unwilling to say “no” to kids… men are unwilling to establish boundaries with kids for fear that they will leave the programs…

Because money has become central to youth sports, men encourage kids to lie, deceive and be disloyal…

The centrality of money negatively impacts the culture of youth sports, especially basketball…

To argue that Philadelphia’s basketball culture has not deteriorated or that the deterioration is not related to the increased presence of money in nonsensical… Indeed, I would argue the respect for boundaries and money are inversely correlated… The more money involved, the less respect for boundaries.


Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, the erosion of boundaries within Philadelphia’s Black basketball community has emerged as a social problem. Most of us have cringed after reading a kid described as a “bum, trash, hoagie or even a pussy” by grown men on facebook or twitter. It is not uncommon to hear parents, friends or ol’ heads ruthlessly attack referees and coaches during games. Doesn’t matter the venue… Collegiate, scholastic, grassroots or youth levels it happens everywhere the game is played these days.

Adult males text and “slide in the DMs” of 13-14 year old boys on a regular basis… Sometimes they contact these boys multiple times a day, everyday for months at a time…


Many may think of these blatant boundary crossing incidents as the actions of a few isolated rogue individuals. In this way, these behaviors are attributed to some personal fault or pathology in the adult or the kid and the parents, or all of them. In other words, if the parents “want the attention” then the issue is a personal problem affecting only a few “abnormal” situations.

However, those immersed in Philadelphia’s basketball community know full well that these are not isolated incidents. These behaviors have emerged as the new norm. Boundary crossing behaviors occurs so frequently… SHIT HAPPENS SO MUCH… it is no longer a private matter, but rather a public issue. It has also become much more difficult to attribute its causes to the personal defects of a few bad apples in the basketball community. So why is this happening?

The causes grow out of important shifts in the structure and resulting culture of the basketball community itself. Understanding the proliferation of boundary crossing behaviors, requires an assessment of how personal experiences are shaped by social factors built into the basketball community in which we all operate.

The past 15 years or so have witnessed the ascent of elite travel grassroots basketball clubs with the Philadelphia basketball community. Guys like Lonnie Lowry (K-Low Elite), Kamal Yard (Philly Pride), Terrell Myers (WeRone Hoops), Rob Brown (Team Final) and Paul Gripper (Team Phenom) have at various times assembled groups of highly talented youngsters and barnstormed across the country with varying degrees of success. The opportunity to play in very nice venues against the top players in the country is, understandably, very attractive to youngsters and their parents.


There are many positive aspects to the travel team experience. More than ever, Philadelphia kids get an opportunity to been seen by coaches from different parts of the country. In one weekend, a young man can play in front of 300-500 Division 1 coaches. In recent, years several Philadelphia area players have completed their senior HS season with no Division 1 and picked up 15 or more offers in April-May based solely on their performance in AAU/Grassroots events. There is undeniably a lot of good!

But what are some of the social costs associated with rise of elite travel ball in our community?

The erosion of boundaries within the Philadelphia basketball community has accompanied the shift away from recreation center-based, neighborhood focused youth basketball programs.

Everyone is scrambling for a spot on a sponsored team…

Elite travel basketball at the highest levels is fully funded by major athletic shoe companies (Nike, Adidas and Under Armour). These public traded multi-billion dollar companies have each established separate summer “circuits” where their teams compete against one another.

The sponsored clubs typically have have 2 or 3 teams that are “fully sponsored.” The shoe companies pay the costs associated with travel, lodging, feeding and clothing these clubs as they traverse from city to city playing in front of college coaches eager to evaluate and gain access to the finest players.

As evidenced by the high profile scandals involving NBA Agents, financial advisors and coaches at Louisville, Arizona, Auburn and South Carolina… Shit gets tricky when thousands of dollars are involved.

The budgets for sponsored teams can range anywhere from $75,000 to $200,000+ for team loaded with potential NBA players.

The insertion of money has resulted in a massive change in the culture. The mere existence of an opportunity to profit has resulted in men violating and regularly trampling boundaries that were once firmly established.

Shit done changed…

At the core of it, one has to question the continued existence of the all important adult/child distinction… Organizations like the Sonny Hill Community Involvement League was run by a core of dedicated volunteers. Men like James Flint, Claude Gross, Tee Shields, Fred Douglas, Tee Parham and Vince Miller were former great high school players committed to developing young men into responsible adults. The teams were neighborhood-based and in most case you had to earn your way onto the team.

There was no money involved for the coaches… There were no flights across country to Los Angeles or Las Vegas… No all expenses paid trips to Chicago, Orlando or Atlanta.

Just a game against Germantown on North Broad Street at McGonigle.

These MEN were not going to compromise their values. For what? They were willing to confront disruptive parents… They were willing to dismiss unruly players…

“Get the fuck out of my gym with that bullshit” was a fairly common refrain amongst these guys…

The Philadelphia basketball community controlled the spaces dedicated to High School and youth basketball… This is no longer the case…

Fast forward to the contemporary era… the motivations are different… Money has negatively impacted the Philadelphia basketball culture…

Clubs, inevitably, feel pressure to attract the best collegiate prospects… Ultimately, the shoe companies want to sell shoes… The primary way they accomplish this is by having superstars wear their shoes… Kevin Durant (Nike), Lebron James (Nike), Steph Curry (Under Armour) and James Harden (Adidas) some of the biggest names.

The pressure to attract and keep talented players has resulted in a widespread compromising of values… Many in the basketball community excuse the inexcusable and forgive the unforgivable…

Times have changed for the worse…

It is impossible to imagine Claude Gross calling a 13-14 year old boy everyday begging him to play for South Philly… It’s also hard to imagine a mother and father in the 70s, 80s or 90s allowing a adult male stranger to call her son every single day for months trying to get him to play with a club…

“Leave my son the FUCK alone”… I can just imagine the responses during that era…

Today, it’s all good… Parents want their kids to play with sponsored teams so badly they allow unfettered access to boys with 8:00 pm bedtimes… WTF?

Parents want to be ranked and receive scholarship offers as early as the 9th and 10th grade… They apply incredible pressure on youth and high school coaches when they feel their child is not receiving the accolades due to him… Imagine a Dad sitting behind the bench cursing at Vince Miller about playing time for his son…

Trying to attract the best clubs and their registration fees, event promoters openly and brazenly seek to destroy business opportunities for other event organizers… Imagine Tee Parham trying to keep Fred Douglas from sponsoring a tournament…

Grassroots coaches encourage deceit, deception and disloyalty…”Fuck them, you should be over here… They ain’t taking care of you… You should leave them… Don’t tell nobody I talked to you…”

Imagine James Flint trying to steal a player from John Hardnett…

Adult fans make deeply hurtful negative public attacks on 15-18 year old boys… When kids play with another school or another grassroots program they become targets for senseless vilification… Imagine someone’s uncle writing that a kid is “bum” or “trash” in a newspaper 20 years ago…

Packs of young men and boys follow and support their friends in a socially unacceptable manner… Competition turns into strife… Crowds resort to violent assaults to resolve verbal disputes… Imagine fans at a Sonny Hill League game stomping the parent of one of the players…

Neighborhood beefs are resolved through murders at games… Imagine a man being shot on North Broad St after leaving a Sonny Hill or Baker League game…

Things have truly changed for the worse…

A few (40-60 kids) are better off… They travel across the country, play in great events against top competition… They are seen up close by college coaches eager to offer scholarships…

The vast majority, and the City as a whole, are much worse off because the recreation-based, neighborhood focused programs have been decimated in the process… The values and important boundaries that were once well established and consistently reinforced in these programs have been obliterated…

As a first step, we should work to strengthen and support organizations like the Ralph Brooks Community League, BAA League, Retroaction Sports and the Chosen League. We need these leagues and organizations to flourish… We need the values promoted within these groups to spread and once again become the norm in Philadelphia.

Many of the younger (30 and under) members of the basketball community grew up in this new era… They have no real frame of reference for an adequate comparison…


Sonny Hill League

They could not imagine Mr. Hill at 5’7” 150 lbs bringing an entire gym to halt and complete silence because a guys shirt was not tucked in… Everything stopped… No talking, no playing… No nothing until the shirt was tucked back in and Mr. Hill was finished talking…

We are much worse off as a result…

Basketball beefs are corny…

Black Cager Solutions: Recent Work for “Full Court Press on ALS”

Full Court Press on ALS is an non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization dedicated to increasing awareness about ALS and funding on-going research projects seeking a cure for this horrible disease.

Black Cager Solutions has partnered with Full Court Press of ALS to create digital content and evaluate the full spectrum of platforms (both traditional and emerging) to determine where target audiences may be underpriced to reach.

We have created a Youtube video that vividly captures the experience of a Full Court Press on ALS Game.


For another Full Court Press on ALS game we utilized the Vimeo platform.


Leading up to the Full Court Press on ALS games, we created digital “posters” that were distributed on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. These posters were widely viewed and shared by members of the Philadelphia basketball community.


During the event, we capture images and video and upload them to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat.



We create and disseminate Press Releases through a wide range of digital channels.



We look forward to working with you to help your Sports Organization gain attention. Black Cager Solutions is totally transparent throughout the process. We explain the our approach to all marketing tools. We provide clients with exact details of all media purchased. The resulting engagement and viewing data associated with those purchases are fully and openly shared with clients, including all rates paid, detailed performance metrics, and anything else the clients may need.


Black Cager Solutions                                                                              


ALWAYSLIVE and Black Cager announce strategic partnership to provide high-quality youth basketball events

Philadelphia and Paterson, NJ. — January 1, 2018 — ALWAYSLIVE and Black Cager Sports Media on Monday announced a strategic partnership to provide high-quality youth basketball events. The two innovative youth-basketball focused companies are teaming up to integrate their services and provide a series of highly competitive grassroots youth basketball events for boys and girls throughout the Mid-Atlantic region (NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD & DC).

With the rapid expansion of grassroots/AAU basketball, it has become increasingly important for club directors, coaches and parents to leverage participation and gain increased access to coaches offering scholarships. ALWAYSLIVE maximizes the recruiting exposure and visibility of student-athletes pursuing college scholarships and other athletic advancement opportunities. The name of the service describes its purpose of providing college coaches and recruiters year-round access to NCAA-compliant student-athlete profiles and game performance data. Why should players limit their advancement opportunities to the few periods a year the NCAA allows in-person viewing of games and personal contact when they can be ALWAYSLIVE?

“The ALWAYSLIVE platform takes recruiting exposure to the next level by combining cutting-edge technology with years of industry experience to connect players with college recruiters,” said Darryl Jacobs, Regional Director for ALWAYSLIVE. “We capture complete game video, statistics and player data… all of this is uploaded and assigned to player profiles. The resulting enhanced player profiles are made searchable by and shareable with recruiters, coaches, fans, and other players across major social media platforms enhancing player visibility.”

“We are committed to providing a platform for players to display their talents and introducing young people, especially minorities, to the business side of sports,” said Delgreco K. Wilson, Executive Director of Black Cager Sports Media. “Our partnership with ALWAYSLIVE will make it easier than ever to help kids get attention from college recruiters and provide entry-level jobs as well as internships for minority youth interested in Sports and Event Management as a career.


Participants in ALWAYSLIVE/Black Cager events can do the following:

1. create their own player profile (FREE) and manage any related data already in the
system, including setting public/private options for total control of profile data.

2. enhance their profile by providing additional information about themselves such as
awards and recognitions earned, upcoming event and tournament schedule, academic
information (i.e., GPA and SAT/ACT scores) and contact information (i.e., email, social
media handles, etc.).

3. Players will also be able to upload and associate additional content with their player
profile, including photos and links to existing online videos and social media mentions.

4. The ALWAYSLIVE platform allows the player to share any or all content from their profile via email, text or major social media platforms.

Through the ALWAYSLIVE platform, College Coaches can access:

1. our collection of student-athlete player profiles. These profiles include complete game videos, advanced stats and enhanced player information available in NCAA-compliant formats.

2. Recruiters can search for players by any number of biological, geographical, academic and performance data points to quickly identify the best recruits.

3. If a recruiter is interested in a player, they have the option to request contact through the platform. ALWAYSLIVE brokers all initial requests for contact between subscribers for privacy. Only if both parties agree will the contact proceed.

The schedule of ALWAYSLIVE/Black Cager events will be release in the next few weeks.

ALWAYSLIVE maximizes the recruiting exposure and visibility of student-athletes pursuing college scholarships and other athletic advancement opportunities. The name of the service describes its purpose of providing college coaches and recruiters year-round access to NCAA-compliant student-athlete profiles and game performance data.

About Black Cager Sports Media
Black Cager Sports Media is a minority owned, basketball focused media company. Black Cager produces content across a wide range of platforms including print, Blogs, taped studio shows and live-streaming scholastic/Grassroots events. Black Cager Sports Media is dedicated to increasing opportunities for minorities in the multi-billion dollar sports industry.


Press Contacts

Darryl Jacobs, Regional Director, ALWAYSLIVE –

Delgreco K. Wilson, Executive Director, Black Cager Sports Media –