When Black folk say they’re “doing it for the culture,” let’s be very clear, they mean Black culture. The phrase is a linguistic representation of an internalized Black self-defense mechanism. Black folk are always trying to preserve a culture that has been constantly co-opted by the same people who have historically oppressed us. Throughout American history, Blackness, and by extension, Black culture, has constantly been under siege. From the moment, more than 2 centuries ago, when they forbade Blacks from learning to read and write… White America, for the most part, has not wanted Black culture to exist.
Doing it for the culture is a way in which Black folk ensure they have something to pass on to future generations. Even if it’s something as simple as a basketball game. That game proves that we exist, that we existed.
Three years ago, Roman Catholic and Camden did it for the culture. This highly anticipated game was played at Cherry Hill East HS. It was a game for the ages. Camden was led by 6’9” Lance Ware and 6’8” TaQuan Woodley, both of whom committed to SEC programs upon leaving the Castle of the Hill. Also on this team was, 6’7” Jerome Brewer, another Division 1 prospect who ended up at Texas A&M Commerce. But, by far the most recognizable and intriguing player on that star-studded Camden roster was a precocious 6’3’ freshman named D.J. Wagner. Wagner is a 3rd generation high school All-American destined to play in the McDonald’s All-American game just like his Pop, Dajuan Wagner and Grandpop, Milt Wagner.
It should be noted that Coach Matt Griffin and Roman Catholic came across the bridge loaded for bear. On the block stood 6’9” man-child Jalen Duren who become an NBA lottery pick after leaving high school early and making a brief pit stop in Memphis to play 30 or so games for Penny Hardaway. On the wing, the Cahillites featured a 6’4” future SEC commit, Justice Williams. Two future St. Joseph’s Hawks made up the backcourt, 6’2” Lynn Greer III and 6’1” Xzayvier Brown.
This was a tremendous scholastic basketball game. Roman eked out a hard fought come from behind victory over a Camden squad that would not lose another game over the next two years.
It’s difficult to convey the tremendous thirst for this game at the time. The building was beyond sold-out… The overflowing crowd obliterated the Fire Marshall’s stated building capacity. Once they stopped admitting patrons through the front gate, they continued to pour in through broken windows, back doors, side doors, A/C ducts, sewer drains, etc…
I swear I saw a few dudes just appear out of thin air…
No bull shit… one dude that reeked of the strongest ganja known to mankind had some type of Star Trek transportation machine in his pocket. One after the other, he was converting Camden fans into an energy pattern, then somehow beaming them court side. I’m not making this up, the transporter device conveyed scores of Camden supporters from long lines extending deep into the parking lot to court side seats without the need for time-consuming stints in the elongated cue.
That’s my story… And, I’m sticking with it…
Muthafuckas were NOT going to be denied an opportunity to witness this game.
Camden and Roman Catholic did it for the culture!
Raw Sports’ exceptionally well-done YouTube video of the game (see above) has garnered over 102,000 views. The sheer number of views for this video demonstrates the immense interest in highly competitive basketball in the Greater Philadelphia/Camden region.
Hoopheads across the region, myself included, were deeply appreciative of the fact that these two Nationally prominent programs, located about 4 miles apart, found a way to make this game happen.
It had to happen… They had to do it for the culture…
Well… today, there’s an even bigger matchup on the horizon. Three years later, Camden remains an unquestioned regional powerhouse. However, another highly qualified challenger has, once again, forced it’s way onto the national scene.
Imhotep Charter School is in the midst of a historic run through the vaunted Philadelphia Public League. Whereas Camden re-emerged on the National scene three years ago with the arrival of young Wagner and Rick Brunson as the Head Coach, Imhotep is on an epic 15 year run of excellence.
Imhotep Head Coach, Andre Noble has more Public League Championships under his belt than the legendary Gratz coach Bill Elerbee. Think about this for a second… Noble has more Public League Championships than Joey Goldenberg (West Philadelphia) and Ken Hamilton (Ben Franklin) combined. For the past decade and a half, the Philadelphia Public League has essentially consisted of Imhotep and everyone else.
Noble and Imhotep definitely understand the importance of culture. Noble is a graduate of, The Lincoln University, the first degree granting Black College in the United States. Moreover, Imhotep is named after an Egyptian chancellor to the Pharaoh Djoser. Egyptologists credit Imhotep with the design and construction of the Pyramid of Djoser built in the 3rd Dynasty.
Basketball historians will credit Noble with the design and construction of, perhaps, the greatest dynasty in the history of the Philadelphia Public League.
While Wagner has spent the past few years firmly entrenched as the number 1 prospect in the class of 2023 national rankings, Imhotep’s magnificent 6’7” wing Justin Edwards has steadily climbed to the number 2 spot according to ESPN. A supremely gifted offensive talent, Edwards has already committed to John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats. Playing alongside Edwards, is 6’2” Ahmad Nowell a quintessential Philly point guard who is currently ranked #31 in the class of 2024 according to ESPN. Lightning quick 6’0” guard Rahmir Barno rounds out the big 3 for Imhotep. Barno recently committed to play for Florida Gulf Coast University and Head Coach Pat Chambers.
This game needs to happen… Camden and Imhotep have to do it for the culture!
Just a few weeks ago, it was leaked that an informal agreement to play had been reached… I lost my mind. I was ecstatic… Truth be told, Black Cager Sports has a strained relationship with both programs… Some within the respective programs would probably describe the relationship as acrimonious…
So what… Doesn’t matter… I ran out and bought some new clothes just for this game… Gotta be fresh…
My love for the game supersedes whatever personal animosity continues to linger. There are things that are way more important than childish “basketball beefs”. I want to see the kids in these program flourish… I want to see the programs continue to win state championships… I want to see the kids go on to play in college and beyond…
But… First and foremost, I want to see Camden and Imhotep settle the debates once and for all on the court.
It seems, however, that the aforementioned informal agreement to play is hanging on by the thinnest of threads…
As always, the devil is in the details…
Who gets what, where, when and how?
Apparently, there was some misinformation complicating the process. Some involved in the negotiations were under the impression that the game could not be held on the campus of an NCAA Division 1 program. That is simply not the case. In recent years, I have personally attended and watched a SOLD OUT game between St. Frances (MD) and Baltimore Poly (MD) on the campus of Morgan State University and another SOLD OUT game between St. Frances (MD) and Oak Hill (VA) on the campus of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).
I sought guidance on this matter from Jill Bodensteiner, Vice President and Director of Athletics at Saint Joseph’s University. Ms. Bodenstiner provided the “Faculty Usage Chart” listed below. As you can see, It is permissible to host scholastic basketball events on campus at Division 1 institutions during the Academic year. It is NOT permissible to host scholastic camps/clinics on D1 campuses during the academic year.
This opens up the possibility of playing a Camden/Imhotep game at the Palestra on the campus the University of Pennsylvania, the Liacouras Center on the campus of Temple University or the Finneran Pavilion on the campus of Villanova University. With seating capacities ranging from 6,500 to 10,000, these facilities will alleviate the need for Camden fans to bring their transportation machines to gain entry. They can just purchase a ticket and stroll through the front door.
Some other venues that may make sense include Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City which has a seating capacity of 10,500, the PPL Center in Allentown (8,500 seats) and Cure Arena in Trenton (8,600).
Each of these venues would jump at the opportunity to host a slate of competitive high school games with Camden/Imhotep as the headliners.
Finding an appropriate venue isn’t a real barrier.
Perhaps, the REAL issue is the “purse split”…
What is an appropriate split for a Camden/Imhotep matchup?
Black Cager Sports reached out to six (6) knowledgeable high school basketball guys and asked that very question. No one thought a 50/50 split was in order.
While they all expressed nothing but the highest level of respect for the Imhotep program and their ability to compete at the highest level, they noted that Imhotep just doesn’t draw well and they don’t travel well.
They attribute the lack of drawing power to the fact that Imhotep is still a very young school and they don’t have generations of alums to draw upon. Moreover, Imhotep is a charter school and as such it does not really represent a specific neighborhood or geographic region.
Camden, on the other hand, has fielded a highly competitive basketball program for more than seven (7) decades. Camden can sell 2,000 tickets to games where they are favored by forty (40) or more. As tough as Edwards is, Wagner and Aaron Bradshaw are bigger draws.
The suggested splits ranged from 80/20 to 60/40. They all felt 60/40 would be generous on Camden’s behalf.
Would Imhotep be willing to accept anything less than a 50/50 split? I don’t know…
I do know Ali got $3,000,000 and Frazier got $1,500,000 for the “Thrilla in Manilla”…
Camden = Ali and Imhotep = Frazier.
If the game was played at the Liacouras Center and properly marketed, I am convinced it would sell out.
10,000 tickets @ $15 each = $150,000
I understand that the kids want to play on ESPN, but that would be tantamount to signing a record deal. Camden and Imhotep could stream the game on pay-per-view. Properly marketed, especially in the state of Kentucky, such a PPV event should draw at least 8,000 viewers.
8,000 views @ $10 each – $80,000
Let’s conservatively set game day expenses at $50,000… Set aside $10,000 for streaming expenses…
$230,000 – $60,000 = $170,000
25% of $170,000 = $42,500
Anything in that ball park would be a nice payday for any Philadelphia Public League HS program, especially with no real travel, hotel, meal costs involved.
The “problem” is the other guys would see around $127,500…
Joe Frazier didn’t mind… He did it for the culture… (and $1.5 million)
A less feasible alternative put forth by a reliable source close to the Camden program is to play the game for free. Identify sponsors to cover venue costs and let fans in for free. Neither program makes any money.
Play for strictly for pride and the name on the front of the jersey.
Would Imhotep be willing to play if neither program makes any money? I don’t know…
Maybe Neumann-Goretti would…