The HS Hoops Experience: Philly vs Baltimore

There is a huge demand for high quality basketball… Hoopheads want to watch talented players in tightly contested games… On one hand, elite high school programs throughout the mid-Atlantic region are delivering… On the other hand, College programs? Not so much…

In recent weeks, Black Cager Sports has covered some of the finest scholastic basketball America has to offer. We were courtside for Camden vs Roman Catholic, Neumann-Goretti vs Roman Catholic, Reading vs Wilson West Lawn, Archbishop Wood vs Roman Catholic, Neumann-Goretti vs Archbishop Wood, Camden vs Roselle Catholic and Poly (MD) vs St. Frances (MD).

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Rahsool Diggins defended by Hysier Miller. Photo Credit: Mark Jordan, Raw Sports

These were wonderful games featuring highly ranked players. Nearly every contest featured a few HIGH major Division 1 prospects and, in some cases, as many as 10 or 11 low to mid-major D1 prospects were on the floor at the same time.

The strong thirst for high level basketball is evidenced by the insatiable demand for tickets to these games. There was, literally speaking, not any empty seat available for any of these contests. The Camden/Roman game, Reading/Wilson game and Philadelphia Catholic League games were sold out within hours of the tickets being made available.

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Hakim Bryd defended by Jaylen Stinson. Photo Credit: Mark Jordan, Raw Sports

The fact that tickets were NOT available only served as a slight deterrent to dedicated and determined Philadelphia area hoopheads. It merely added an element of creativity to the mission… They showed up anyway looking for a side door, a window, a heating duct… Any possible means of ingress. When all else fails, some deploy a high powered ‘blitz’ that hasn’t been seen round these parts since the departure of legendary Eagles coach Buddy Ryan.

Shit is that serious… Tickets to elite HS school basketball tickets move like Popeye’s chicken sandwiches when they first return to the menu.

I absolutely love packed gyms, highly ranked teams, intense rivalries and good players. This is basketball as it was meant to be played. The high schools have it in abundance.

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Anthony Hoggard seated courtside for Camden vs Roselle Catholic at Neumann University

Philadelphia area colleges, for the most part, are not delivering a product of similar quality. The Big 5 has become almost an afterthought to all but the most dedicated alums. There is one exception of course, Villanova exists on a separate planet. The Wildcats have watched their blood change from red to blue over the last ten years or so. Thier ascent has been accompanied by an ever expanding cadre of front runners joinging the Main Line movement.

The rest are struggling mightily… After a solid start, Temple is 10-9 (2-5) and sit in 10th place in American Athletic Conference. La Salle also had a decent non-conference run and came back to earth once league play began. The Explorers are also 10-9 (1-6) and currently in 13th place in the A10. Last year’s Big 5 champion Penn Quakers are floundering at 8-7 (0-2 in the Ivy League). After seven league games, St. Joseph’s finds itself 7 games out of first place in the A10. The Hawks are 4-16 (0-7) on the season.

Outside of Villanova, the college basketball landscape in Philly barren…

Predictably, fans have been avoiding the Liacouris, Gola and Hagan arenas in droves. Even the fabled Palestra is more than half empty most nights. Meanwhile, true hoopheads have been climbing on top of one another for an opportunity to watch the finest high school teams in the area. As I noted earlier, people really want to see good competitive basketball game between strong and familiar teams featuring good players.

While high school basketball is very popular throughout the mid-Atlantic region, there are some significant and noticeable regional differences worth mentioning. It’s all good, but there are some decidedly different flavors…

Here, I’ll touch on a few variations that exist between elite high school basketball in Baltimore, Maryland and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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Rodney Veney, Philly Pride Co-Director at Wood vs Neumann-Goretti

First up, the venues… In Philadelphia, games featuring 10-12 D1 prospects are often played in HS gyms with a maximum capacity of 600-800 spectators. To their credit, school administrators usually turn a blind eyes to those maximum capacity certificates hanging on the walls. As much as humanly possible, they try to accommodate the hungry and thirsty fanbase. They sell tickets til it just not possible to fit more human beings into the gyms. As a result, in most games, there is not a single free square foot of space in the gym that is NOT dedicated to the actual game.

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Neumann-Goretti fans along the baseline during the Roman Catholic game

Referees are constantly tasked with gently reminding overzealous and passionate throngs to give the kids just a lil’ space so they can inbounds the ball along the baseline. Fully engaged fans can be found breathing down the necks of the players who can literally discern what fans had for lunch or whether they smoked ‘loud’ or ‘Reggie’ in the parking lot.

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Lynn Greer, III along baseline during warmups at Archbishop Wood

It’s an intense atmosphere for sure… For a lil’ over two hours on game days, Roman, Wood and Neumann-Goretti gyms are packed tighter than slave ships traversing the Atlantic in the early 1800’s. The sheer number of excited, energetic and highly emotional humans easily overwhelms the climate control systems in these decades old facilities.

They get HOT as shit. By the 4th quarter, they feel like an oven set on ”HELL!”

Loyal fans happily endure the momentary discomfort… What are they gonna do? Where are the alternatives? Are they gonna go watch college games featuring losing teams with players from countries, counties and towns they can’t pronounce?

Naaaaah… Philly hoopheads wanna see Philly Ballers!

In Baltimore, big HS games are played in Division 1 facilities. Last year, big games were played in Towson’s SECU Arena which seats 5,200. Yesterday, I attended the St. Frances v Poly game at the 4,000 seat Talmadge L. Hill Field House on the campus of Morgan State University

 

 

 

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St. Frances Academy supporters

They have it figured out…

In Philadelphia, one constantly hears that you cannot play high school games in Division 1 facilities. In Baltimore, One can constantly attend high school games played in Division 1 facilities.

What gives? We’ll try to clear up the discrepancy and report back to you…

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St Frances Coach, Nick Myles, paces the sideline in front of overflowing capacity crowd

Every single seat was filled well before tip-off at the Hill Field House yesterday. Indeed, there were still hundreds in a line to purchase tickets that wrapped around the arena 15 minutes before tip-off. Just like in Philadelphia, the authorities didn’t pay close attention to that pesky maximum capacity certificate hanging in plain view.

Get this… The price of admission was $20 for a boys and girls doubleheader. Using “old” math skills I learned in the early 1970s, 4,000 times $20 equals a gate of about $80,000. In contrast, Camden High School home games cost $3. If Camden attract 1,000 fans to Woodrow Wilson HS the game will generate $3,000.

Maybe that why high schools in Maryland are able to afford shot clocks…

That’s another major difference between the brand of basketball played in Baltimore and that played in Philadelphia.

The presence of the 30 second shot clock changes the game.

Coaches are forced to really coach down the stretch.

Good defense is immediately rewarded.

Perhaps, most importantly, players learn to play under conditions they will face for the rest of their playing careers.

Indeed, I haven’t seen a persuasive argument AGAINST shot clocks in basketball… Ever…

There’s one more difference between HS hoops in the Philly and Baltimore that’s worthy of discussion. The cultural feel varies considerably…

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Neumann-Goretti Senior Star PG Hakim Byrd. Photo Credit: Mark Jordan, Raw Sports

The very best Philadelphia High School games have an old-school Big 5 feel to them. The hard-core hoophead alums of Roman, Wood and Neumann-Goretti for the most part are middle-aged white males. These guys are fervent supporters of the young men  currently playing for their alma maters. It’s a wonderful thing to see diverse crowds coming together to share a scholastic basketball experience.

High quality Catholic League basketball games are, arguably, the most diverse regularly scheduled gatherings in Philadelphia.

It’s a beautiful thing and it portends well for the role that sports can have in building and maintaining a semblance of unity in a city of racially stratified neighborhoods. Catholic League basketball in Philadelphia is truly a multicultural and multiracial phenomena.

The very best high school basketball in Baltimore is much different…

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A section of fans at the Poly vs St, Frances game on Saturday

Games featuring the top teams and players have a decidedly HBCU homecoming feel to them. The alums, are Black, the fans are Black, the cheerleaders are Black, the ticket takers are Black, the security guards are Black, the athletic Directors are Black, the coaches are Black, the vendors are Black… Yesterday, there were well over 4,000 people in the Hill Field House and I might have seen a total of 10-12 white people.

 

It’s a wonderful thing to see Black people coming together to share a scholastic basketball experience. The manner in which people greet one another… The chants… The cheers… The food at concession stands… Everything is different when it’s done by Blacks for Blacks.

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Angel Reese, St Frances Academy (MD), 2020 McDonald’s All-American

Every so often, I would sneak glance at the door… I was waiting for Avon, Slim Charles, Bodie Broadus and Wee Bey... How would they get past the metal detectors? Then I remembered Wee Bey is still upstate with Chris Partlow’s homicidal ass and Bodie is dead. So, I just watched a helluva high school basketball game.

St. Frances, led by their outstanding senior point guard, Ace Baldwin (VCU commit) 13 points, 8 assists and 5 steals, defeated No. 1 and nationally ranked Poly, 57-53.  Senior forward Jamal West (South Alabama commit) contributed 15 points and 11 rebounds in the victory over Poly, which was led by Marquette commit Justin Lewis (18 points) and Brandon Murray (15 points).

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St. Frances Coach Nick Myles and Team Melo Director Julian Brown in Hill Field House

As usual, the hospitality shown to Black Cager Sports was beyond reproach. Team Melo Directors Bay Frazier, Julian Brown (pictured, above right) and St. Frances Academy Head Coach, Nick Myles always make sure Black Cager Sports feels right at home in the Charm City. The Baltimore HS basketball experience is not necessarily better than that of Philadelphia, but it certainly is different, very different.

Man… If we can get these colleges back on track…

 

Hysier Miller Leads Neumann-Goretti to Win Over Wood!

“I’m gonna bust his ass ALL night!”

“Bum ass nigga!”

That was the chatter on the court in the first quarter of the matchup between the two BEST teams in the BEST scholastic high school league in America.

Lots of disrespectful shit was said… Especially among the guards… I LOVE it!

Philly ain’t for everybody… I had to park damn near at the navy Yard… the gym was on broil… seats were unavailable… the ONLY way to get tickets was to see my man and ’em outside in the parking lot and pay well above face value…

I keep saying it… I don’t know if people are truly appreciating what we have here… This is the Golden Age… In ten years, we will be talking about the games being played this year.

Tonight’s game between the visiting Archbishop Wood Vikings and Neumann-Goretti Saints featured 10 starting players that will ALL receive Division 1 basketball scholarships. It was, in effect, a D1 game in that overcrowded HOT ass lil’ gym on 10th street. The quality of play was exceedingly high. Especially among the Philly guards…

It’s no secret, the Philadelphia Catholic League features some of the finest backcourt players in America. The coaches face a unique challenge every game. Last week, for example, Neumann-Goretti faced Roman Catholic and Head Coach Carl Arrigale had to devise a plan for dealing with one such HIGH major prospect, namely, Lynn Greer, III.

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Lynn Greer, III, Roman Catholic PG

Some coaches spend countless hours reviewing film, scheming, planning, plotting and designing special contingencies for containing high major players like Greer.  Arrigale takes a decidedly different approach. Greer came into the game with a heavy rep… He has played exclusively on the EYBL… He participated in USA Basketball… He has been offered scholarships by Nebraska (Big 10), Georgia (SEC), Wake Forest (ACC), Miami (ACC), Iowa (Big 10), Marquette (Big East), UNLV (Mountain West), Florida (SEC) St. Joseph’s (A10), Penn State (Big 10) and Temple (AAC) among others.

A very capable offensive player, Greer is capable of dropping 30 or even 40 on a given night. He is able to score from all three levels. He gets to the rim, he pulls up for mid-range jumpers and he knocks down threes… So what was Arrigale’s strategy? How would Neumann-Goretti deal with Greer?

“Fabe… you got him.”

That’s good fucking coaching right there! No double teams… No traps… No zones…

“Fabe… you got him.”

It worked as Miller (16 points) more than held his own against Greer (17 points) and Neumann-Goretti escaped with a 77-69 win in double overtime.

Tonight Neumann-Goretti faced yet another high major guard… Rahsool Diggins is the MAN right now. In a city known for producing high quality point guards, Diggins has assumed the throne. In a game against Roman Catholic last weekend, Matt Griffin exhibited a tremendous amount of respect for Diggins. Whenever, he crossed half court with his dribble still alive, Roman ran a second defender at him. Indeed, they double teamed Diggins throughout much of the game.

Deploying this strategy, Roman ‘held’ Diggins to 28 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists in a one point, 94-93 loss to Wood.

Diggins is a bona fide HIGH MAJOR prospect. An EYBL stalwart, he holds offers from Seton Hall (Big East), Miami (ACC), UConn (Big East), Wake Forest (ACC), St. Louis (A10), Florida (SEC), UMass (A10), Xavier (A10), Virginia Tech (ACC) and La Salle (A10) are just some of his suitors. Earlier this season, he lit up Duke’s 5 star PG commit Jeremy Roach for 26 in a 7 OT loss.

Lil’ Sool is a fuckin’ problem… He gives opponents fits… He’s exceptional in clear out situations where he creates space with wicked crossovers and in and out moves… He’s perhaps the best in the city at running pick and rolls… He often finds Daeshon Shepard and/or Muneer Newton for easy alley oop scoring opportunities… He’s deadly from three, especially in crunch time… So what was Arrigale’s strategy? How would Neumann-Goretti deal with Lil’ Sool?

“Fabe… you got him.”

That’s good fucking coaching right there! No double teams… No traps… No zones…

“Fabe… you got him.”

So… Who is Fabe? Standing a chiseled 6’2” Hysier “Fabe” Miller is a defensive specialist with a strong and varied offensive repertoire. He transferred from Martin L. King, Jr. Neumann-Goretti this past summer. He has spent the first month and half of the current season firmly establishing himself as one of the premier guards in the Catholic League and the Greater Philadelphia region.

It should, however, be noted that Fabe’s not new to this… for the past few years, Miller has honed his skills playing for Harold Mackey Boswell and WER1 in the summer and Sean Colson and Martin L. King, Jr. HS in the Public League. He put in work far away from glaring spotlight. While Greer and Diggins were entrenching themselves as HIGH MAJOR prospects on the EYBL and in Catholic League, Miller toiled away on the UAA and in the PUB.

Every night, he trudged back home to Wilson Park.

A highly productive guard for Colson, Miller was not on the radar screen of Division 1 coaches until very recently. Since the onset of the new year, Rider University (MAAC) and Wagner College (NEC) have offered him scholarships. These are his first two Division 1 offers. It’s safe to assume that he will garner much more attention going forward. After his performance tonight, one of the Big 5 programs made it clear that they would love to have him.

Rather than spoil the moment for Miller, we won’t reveal the school until they are able to tell him in person.

The coach said he needs to get ‘tougher guards’ and Miller fits the bill.

That’s good fucking coaching… Fabe from Wilson Park is ‘tough’ and highly skilled!

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Hysier Miller speaks with Michael Starling, Raw Sports after win over Wood

Tonight, he played the very best point guard in the city head up and held him to 15 while scoring 24. As the clock ran out and the final buzzer sounded, Miller forcefully pounded to the ball into the ground sending it bouncing high into the rafters, signaling satisfaction with both his performance and the important Catholic League win.

That was his understated way of talkin’ shit! I heard it loud and clear… I LOVE it!

The HIGH major boys haven’t discovered the kid from Wilson Park yet… But, Big 5 programs have started to take notice.

Miller has squarely situated himself in any discussion of the best guards in the area. To their credit, Mackey Boswell and Sean Colson have been saying for more than a year now.

The ULTIMATE Snub! Diamond Johnson Excluded from the McDonald’s AA Game

Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining…

The McDonald’s All-American game is the premier HS all-star game. The game itself has been around since 1977. In the inaugural game, a group of All-Americans played in a game against a group of high school stars from the Washington, D.C. area. The following year, an East vs. West format was adopted. The McDonald’s All-American designation is 43 years old this year. In 2002, a girls game was added and the current girl-game/boy-game doubleheader format began.

It is well established that the McDonald’s All-American Team is the best-known of the American high-school basketball All-American teams. It’s really not even a close call…Designation as a McDonald’s All-American instantly brands a player as one of the top high-school players in the United States or Canada

It was forgone conclusion the Philadelphia would have a representative in the 2020 McDonald’s All-American game. The whole city was just waiting on the announcement.

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Diamond Johnson, Neumann-Goretti, Senior Point Guard. Photo Credit: South Philly Review

Shit was a lock! Neumann-Goretti’s Diamond Johnson had a better chance of being a McDonald’s All-American than Derek Jeter had of being inducted in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

I had her at 99.999999% in…

The resume is impeccable… Johnson is the reigning 2018-19 Gatorade Pennsylvania Girls Basketball Player of the Year. The Gatorade award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguished Johnson as Pennsylvania’s best high school girls basketball player. The 5-foot-6 junior guard led the Saints to an 18-8 record and a berth in the Class 3A state tournament. She averaged 28.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 4.0 steals through 26 games.

Plainly stated, Johnson is a bad, bad muthafucka on a basketball court… I watched her drop 54 points in an 88-79 win over Imhotep Charter in the 3A city championship game. She would start for 90-95 percent of the boys basketball teams in the Greater Philadelphia region. I first saw her about 4 years ago giving bigger boys the business on a scorching hot ‘Norf’ Philly asphalt court in Little Vaughn’s summer league. Johnson was also named MVP of the Woman’s Slam HS Summer Finale.

Basically… She is relentless and super talented… She is a problem… A real FUCKIN problem!

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The MVP of the Philadelphia Catholic League as a Junior, she is currently ranked as the nation’s No. 6 HS prospect recruit in the Class of 2020 by ESPN. The ESPN rankings are widely considered the most respected… She’s number 6… Number 6 in the whole country!

A model citizen, Johnson has donated her time as a mentor for young children and has volunteered locally on behalf of the Christopher’s Footprints Child Care Center. An outstanding student, Johnson has maintained a 3.57 GPA in the classroom.

This young woman is truly an elite scholar-athlete. Johnson is the VERY best basketball player Philadelphia has to offer to the world in 2020.

Yet, somehow the McDonald’s All-American selection committee concluded that the 6th ranked prospect in the United States of America, with a 3.5+ GPA was NOT worthy of inclusion among the 24 McDonalds All-Americans.

There it is… That’s the yellow, filthy, smelly piss running down my leg…

The voting process for the McDonald’s All American Games Teams involves the McDonald’s All American Games Selection Committee. The Selection Committee is comprised of some of the nation’s (supposedly) most knowledgeable high school analysts, prep scouts, high school newspaper reporters and prestigious basketball coaches. There are 34 Boys Selection Committee members and 23 Girls Selection Committee members.

Putatively, selection takes place through a series of balloting system votes that are submitted by the Selection Committee.

‣  Votes are confidential.
‣ Committee members are instructed not to discuss any of the balloting results or nominees outside of the internal committee.
‣ At no time should any Committee member solicit information or opinions pertaining to any nominee’s athletic talent or basketball career.
‣ Each member submits his or her individual votes via a confidential and closed balloting system.

The results are tabulated from all voters and the top 24 vote getters compromise the McDonald’s All-American Teams.

That right there is where they tell me it’s raining…

There’s absolutely no way a young lady that was named MVP on the most prestigious summer circuit (Nike EYBL) while being ranked number 6 in the nation was left of the roster without the committee members discussing nominees outside of the internal committee. Her exclusion was deliberate and intentional. Somebody was butt hurt and sought vengeance against a 17 year old girl.

This was done to send a signal. But why? What could possible be the reasons?

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Diamond Johnson, MVP of Slam Summer Finale

Well… Johnson played AAU/Grassroots ball for Boo Williams out of Virginia. She did not play for the dominant Philadelphia area club.

And… She ultimately decided to commit to the team that the late racist/white supremacist, Don Imus, derogatorily referred to as the “nappy headed hoes.” Johnson chose Rutgers University. She turned down Notre Dame… She turned her back on Tennessee.

In short, she made the most significant decisions related to her career on her own. She did what she felt was best for Diamond Johnson. She refused to accept or follow the guidance of those controlling the power structure of girls basketball in Philadelphia.

For being independent… for choosing to play for Boo Williams and Vivian Stringer… Diamond Johnson was denied the ultimate recognition bestowed on High School players.

Fuck ‘em!

She is the best… They know she’s the best… You know she’s the best… I am proud of her independent streak. There’s always been a heavy cost associated with defying the ‘mainstream’ powers that be.

Can’t wait to see her crush some of preferred girls next year!

It’s Miller Time! Neumann Knocks Off Roman!

Hysier “Fabe” Miller has been one of the best guards in Philadelphia for three years… For the first two, he was a key cog for Martin L. King Jr. coach Sean Colson in the Public League. A great PUB and college guard that fought his way to the NBA, Colson has developed a well-earned reputation as one of the premier basketball trainers in the nation. When he’s not coaching MLK or Philly Pride, he can be found at the Steph Curry’s camp, the Under Armour Top 100 camp or in the gym with NBA players like Atlanta Hawk teammates DeAndre Hunter and Charlie Brown. Miller is the latest high level player to refine and polish his skills under the guidance of Colson. But that’s just part of his lineage… The boy is from the Southside…

Nate Blackwell, Jeff Myers, Lou Myers, Rashid Bey, Donnie Carr, Scoop Jardine, Lamin Fulton, Biggie Minnis and Hysier Miller…

He is the latest in a long line of super competitive, no-nonsense South Philly guards.

After rising early in the morning to travel from the southern end of the the city to the far Northwest to attend Martin L. King, Jr. HS for two years, Miller has found a basketball home in his beloved South Philly. He has joined a loaded Neumann-Goretti squad picked by many, including, the Black Cager as the #1 team in the region before the season started. Some wondered how Miller would adapt to his new role after being the ‘man’ for MLK last year. Would he be able to adjust to playing off the ball? How would he handle not being the man? All those questions have been cast aside.

A quiet, confident and highly intelligent young man, Miller has embraced the opportunity to play in front of capacity crowds against some of the best teams in the nation. Grateful for the opportunity to play in the Catholic League for the legendary Carl Arrigale, he has gladly come off the bench and he has served as a starter while the Saints have navigated an extremely tough early portion of their schedule. Miller has added considerable value to Neumann-Goretti. In a matchup with Westtown in December, Miller exhibited exceptional lateral movement and a willingness to play ‘chest first’ on-ball defense against the best opposing guards. He frustrated the highly regarded Jalen Warley and forced him commit several turnovers in the middle of the court as  Neumann-Goretti ran away with the game.

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Boo Farmer & Kev Sanchez, Front Row/Center Court

Tonight he was matched up with another highly regarded high major prospect, Lynn Greer, III. Greer is an established star in the Catholic League. He is capable of scoring in bunches. Greer doesn’t need screens or much help at all. He’s able to create space off the bounce utilizing excellent crossover and hesitation moves. In most games, Greer is a problem.

Tonight, Arrigale was able to leave Miller on Greer for extended periods by himself with no help. It was a great guard matchup… Greer played an excellent floor game. He played within himself, made very few mistakes and did not force the issue.

Overall, Miller and Greer were a push. They essentially cancelled each other out. For those who haven’t followed Martin L. King. Jr. over the past couple of seasons, that may come as a surprise. Throughout much of his High School career, Greer has been a top 100 player… He has participated in USA basketball and played on the EYBL circuit with Team Final and Team Takeover.

Miller, on the other hand, is just a hard nosed, hard playing tough kid from the Wilson Park projects. He’s hungry… He NEEDS a scholarship! There’s no college without a scholarship. He’s earning his keep the hard way… Game by Game… The folk that matter are noticing, as soon as he emerged from the locker room after the win tonight, Wagner Head Coach Bashir Mason offered him a scholarship.

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Hysier Miller moments after Wagner Head Coach Bashir Mason (r) offered him a scholarship

A great culmination to a great evening of high school basketball for Miller.

He helped Neumann-Goretti withstand a barrage of breath-taking, gravity-defying, FUCK yo Momma’s Momma, NBA quality dunks from Jalen Duren. It’s simply ridiculous to think Duren is just a sophomore. He is beyond physically dominant in one of toughest high school basketball leagues in the United States of America and he’s not even half way through his high school career.

I don’t know how to adequately describe the manner in which he attacks the rim. Duren dunks on your ancestors… HARD as shit! Big Momma and Pop Pop are begging their grandsons to do something… anything… make it stop!

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Jalen Duren, Roman Catholic at the free thrown line

But… when forced to make basketball plays away from the rim, he’s just ok. He’s not an adequate shooter and he has yet to develop reliable go to moves and counter moves. Moreover, going to him down the stretch is a questionable strategy because he’s yet to prove himself a capable free throw shooter.

Fouling Duren in one and one or bonus situations can be equivalent to forcing a turnover. He missed 3 out of 4 crucial free throws down the stretch. For the game he was a 1 out of 5 from the free throw line. Greer was 3 for 7.

In a game that close, between two evenly matched teams, the margin for error is razor thin… Neumann-Goretti capitalized…

I’m just gonna put out there… If you don’t like Jordan Hall and Hak Byrd, you don’t like basketball!

Hall is simply a magnificent high school basketball player. On a team with two kids that will be Division 1 point guards, Hall is the unquestioned primary ball-handler. At 6’8” he towers over opposing guards and wings. Until he shoots, one would think that he is a southpaw or ambidextrous. The ball is on a string… He teases opponents by dangling it out in front of them only to yank it back and explode by them when they reach time and time again.

Hall plays downhill, attacking the defense aggressively while keeping his head on a swivel. He’s constantly looking for the help defense, he’s forcing the double team and whenever it comes the ball is abruptly delivered to the player left open for a clean look at the basket. Neumann-Goretti plays good, solid basketball. Carl Arrigale has these super talented kids playing unselfishly at the high school level. He has almost too many weapons at his disposal.

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Hakim Byrd, Neumann-Goretti

Teams have problems dealing with Hakim Byrd’s combination of speed and skill. In the open court, it’s almost unfair. In most instances, Byrd is gonna lay it up… One way or another… If not, he’s gonna pull up for a three or a mid-range jumper that’s damn near as reliable as a layup. The most aggressive scorer on this year’s version of the Saints, Byrd is playing at an extremely high level. He spells Hall from time to time as a playmaker, but for the most part Byrd is looking to get buckets… And… He does his job exceedingly well!

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Hysier Miller, Neumann-Goretti. Photo Credit: Flawless Focus

Rahsool Diggins (Archbishop Wood), Stevie Mitchell (Wilson West Lawn), Jhamir Brickus (Coatesville), Lynn Greer, III, Jaylen Stinson (Archbishop Wood), DJ Wagner (Camden), Tazir Cantey (Lindenwold), Hakim Byrd and Hysier Miller… There’s a plethora of talented and tenacious guards playing in the region right now. This, my friends, is the Golden Era…

Y’all just not recognizing!

 

Eric Dixon on La Salle’s Victory at Neumann-Goretti

By Eric Dixon

January 22, 2019

The LaSalle High School Explorers entered the Neumann-Goretti Saints den last night prepared to defend their undefeated record against an energetic and determined, even if outsized, hostile host. The matchups were the talk of the afternoon. How would the shorter Saints deal with the size of LaSalle’s tall and skilled front line? Would Hakim Byrd continue his impressive play against one of the more underrated, but no less effective point guards in the PCL, Allen Powell?

After some scheduling mishaps, we finally got some answers to these questions and more on a chilly night in South Philly. Both teams were supported by vocal contingents that made their feelings known early and often throughout the contest.

As the game started it seemed as if the frigid conditions outside were affecting the marksmanship of both teams as both shot the ball poorly in the early going. N-G used a physical, energetic style of defense to get LaSalle rattled, creating a couple turnovers that lead to an early 8-4 lead for the Saints. The first quarter ended with the two normally high scoring teams combining for just 19 points with N-G up 10 to 9.

Coach Mike McKee, head coach of the Explorers, explained what he thought the early issues were related to. “(Neumann-Goretti) has a high talent level and you’re not going to be able to just dribble around them.” Once LaSalle started moving the ball with the pass they we were able to get better shots and were able to shake some the frost off their shots.

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La Salle HS Coach Mike McKee

The highlight of the first quarter was the play of Allen Powell and Hakim Byrd, the teams respective point guards who combined for 9 points. Powell showed off his impressive first step and improving jump shot while Byrd used his defensive prowess and finishing ability to stoke his team to a tenuous 1 point lead. In the second quarter the visitors made getting Konrad Kizska going a priority. The 6-7 Princeton commit opened the frame with a three and garnered 7 points in the quarter. Kahlil Diarrah came off the bench to bury two corner threes to expand the LaSalle lead.

The Saints continued to see normally reliable shots fall short or go in-and-out. This offensive ineffectiveness was highlighted by Chris Ings, a Rider University commit and explosive scorer who came in averaging over 19 ppg, totaling just one point in the half. N-G scored a poultry 5 points in the second quarter, to trail 25-15 at the half.

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Chris Ings, Neumann-Goretti, Senior Guard

The third quarter began with Ings and the Saints asserting themselves as they righted their struggling offense, netting more points in the stanza than they did the entire first half. Byrd, who scored 16 for the game, hit 2 threes. Still, with Powell, Titus Beard and Kiszka, who finished with 18 points, leading the effort, the Explorers were able to keep them at arm’s length as they entered the fourth with a comfortable 13 point cushion.

Neumann-Goretti again made an admirable run in the fourth with the charge being led by Ings and senior Ja’Cor Smith, who scored a team high 17 points in the game. However, the comeback was stymied by an untimely technical foul call that would have cut the Explorer’s advantage to 7 and provided some much needed momentum to the home team. Powell, who finished with 22 points, was sensational down the stretch from the line burying 7 of 9 in the quarter. He shot 10 of 12 from the charity stripe for the game.

Afterwards, Coach McKee was reticent in talking about his teams “ pleasantly surprising” 16-0 season thus far. “We are take them one game at a time. We been tested and were again tested tonight.” In his first year at LaSalle, is appreciative of the “veteran group” of players and the resiliency of his team throughout the impressive start.

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Carl Arrigale, Neumann-Goretti Head Coach

Carl Arrigale, the legendary coach with 40 years of experience, is appreciative of the fact that it’s still early enough in the season for his 9-4 team, which now has two league losses, to get back on track. The current PCL landscape with its high degree of parity and lack of a truly dominant team reminds him of his third or fourth season when they had some early struggles and were still able “win the league from 4th place.”

Going in Arrigale wanted to play an uptempo “high possession” type game but McKee’s team was resistant and managed to control the pace and play their game. Coach Arrigale also thought his team’s impatience contributed to first half offensive woes. “We wanted to get inside their length and play inside out, but… they were in a matchup zone, which you have to treat like a man to man, and we got a little confused and lost patience.”

Coach McKee, a well-traveled former college assistant and NBA advance scout, was able to get his team to play with a even temperament and maintain control, even as N-G employed a frenetic, physical style of defense. This style caused the Explorers to enter the bonus before the 5 minute mark of the fourth quarter, when the officials seemed to tighten and penalize both teams for physicality or chippiness.

The star of the game was Allen Powell. He was humble after game, mirroring the even temperament that his team played within the close confines of the crowded gym. Powell noted that he didn’t vary his routine to prepare for his bally-hooed matchup with Ings and Byrd.

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Allen Powell, La Salle Senior Point Guard

“I didn’t do anything (special). I prepare for every game the same,” he said.

Powell is one of the more heralded prospects in the area, but he said that is starting to change. He mentioned that his recruitment is starting to pick up. Although no offers have been extended just yet, he said schools such as Hofstra and California State Bakersfield have been in frequent contact.

“Allen has an impressive first step. Schools are missing out on him,” according to Coach McKee.

A lot of people seem to have overlooked Powell and his LaSalle High School teammates. That’s definitely starting to change.

Lynn Greer and Hakim Byrd: Philly Guards

The ‘Philly Guard’ is a thing…

Throughout the basketball world, especially at the AAU/Grassroots, scholastic, collegiate and professional levels there is a common understanding about what it means to be a ‘Philly Guard.’ Nasty, tough, persistent and willing do whatever it takes to win a basketball contest.

This ‘Philly Guard’ concept has been around for more than 6 decades. John Chaney (Ben Franklin), Tee Parham (Northeast HS), Guy Rodgers (Northeast HS), Wali Jones (Overbrook HS), Walt Hazzard (Overbrook HS), Andre McCarter (Overbrook HS) and Mo Howard (St. Joseph’s Prep) embodied the concept. Among hard core Philly hoop heads of a certain age, these are some of the names that immediately come to mind when thinking about ‘Philly Guards.’

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Maurice ‘Mo’ Howard (center) at University of Maryland practice

Across the country, Earl Monroe (Bartram), Pooh Richardson (Ben Franklin) were probably the best known ‘Philly Guards’ until Kyle Lowry (Cardinal Dougherty) embarked upon his own Hall of Fame level career.

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Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors

The Philly Guard tree is a gift that keeps on giving. On Friday, January 18, 2019 about 1,500 Philly Hoop Heads were treated to phenomenal performances by two of the youngest fruit to fall off the tree.

Lynn Greer, III led his Roman Catholic Cahillites into battle against the Neumann-Goretti Saints, led by Hakim Byrd. As always, this was a BIG FUCKIN’ GAME! These two powerhouse programs have dominated the Catholic League over the past two decades.

Of the two, Greer is the far better known and more highly regarded commodity. He was literally born into it… His grandfather Lynn Greer, played on Edison High’s 1969 city championship team, which featured stars Romie Thomas and Reggie Kitchen. He then went on to play for Virginia State in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the oldest Black college sports conference in the nation. Greer was a four-year starter, the team captain (1971-73), an honorable mention All-State (1972), an all-conference standout (1972 and 1973), and a second-team All-State honoree (1973). He was drafted by the American Basketball Association’s (ABA) Carolina Cougars and by the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.

Greer’s father, Lynn Greer, Jr. was a flat-out superstar performer for Temple from 1997 through 2002. Greer left the Owls as the program’s second all-time leading scorer with 2,099 points.  Greer had one of the finest offensive seasons in Big 5 history as a senior. In 2001-02, he averaged 23.2 points, piling up 719 points, while earning first team all-conference, all-district and Philadelphia Big 5 Most Valuable Player honors.

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Lynn Greer, Jr., Temple and Big 5 Hall of Famer

A Philadelphia Public League product (Engineering and Science HS), like his father before him, Greer also set still-standing school records for single-season three-point accuracy (.472) and career free throw percentage (.852).  He is Temple’s all-time leader in games played (137) and was a member of four NCAA Tournament teams, including two Elite Eight trips (1999, 2001), and one NIT Final Four (2002) in his career.  Upon graduation, he played one season in the NBA and went on to a 12-year professional career overseas.

Lynn Greer III, or LG3 as he is affectionately known, was expected to be very good. It’s in his DNA. He was handed the ball immediately upon arriving at Broad and Vine. He had a rock solid freshman season. He turned in a very memorable performance against another highly regarded Philly Guard when he battled McDonald’s All-American Quade Green head-to-head at Holy Family University. But the ‘man’ among Philly Guards that season, by any reasonable measure was yet another Philly Guard, Archbishop Wood’s Collin Gillespie. The rookie Greer, however, would go on to average 11.4 ppg as a freshman while being named 3rd team All-Catholic.

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Lynn Greer, III, Roman Catholic High School

He made huge strides as a sophomore when he averaged 16.8 mpg and helped lead Roman to Catholic League and PIAA State Championships. Over that stretch, Greer’s name became nationally known. He was ranked in the top 100 by most Scouting Services and named to the USA National team. He briefly transferred to a National Prep powerhouse, Oak Hill Academy, for the start of his senior season.

Like Greer III, Binghamton University’s Samuel Sessoms, Austin Peay University’s Antwuan ‘Booty” Butler, Olympus Prep’s Yazid Powell and Archbishop Wood’s Jalen Stinson, Neuman-Goretti’s Hakim Byrd spent hundreds of hours in the hot, sweaty nondiscript crucible that is the James L. Wright Recreation Center while in the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th grades. Greer and Byrd were backcourt mates in the Bottom Ballers grassroots program and they teamed up to terrorize middle school programs for the better part of three years.

On Friday, they were opponents, starting point guards in the premier programs in the esteemed Philadelphia Catholic League.  However, one should note that Byrd’s path to gaining control of the point guard position was much rockier than Greer’s. Whereas Greer was named the Roman point guard when the homeroom bell sounded the first day of school freshman year, Byrd had to rumble his way in over 24 months.

So, the Bottom Baller teammates traveled far different routes to their confrontation Friday night. Byrd played JV as a freshman. Coming back from injury as sophomore, he made the decision to split time between JV and varsity.

Seated next to Byrd’s father, Ronald, at one JV game, I asked why was Hakim playing when he was clearly far more skilled than 99.99999% of JV players. His Dad said that he and his son decided that they needed game reps. While he was playing in every varsity game, his minutes were sporadic and he wanted stay sharp especially after missing time with an injury.

Imagine that… No talk of transferring… No sulking… No bitching…

Hakim Byrd and his father wanted to play in games! They were NOT worried about appearances. They didn’t give FUCK what anyone had to say… They were NOT worried about points. They just wanted to stay sharp and get better. That’s the Bottom Baller way! It has paid off handsomely… This year, Byrd has taken control of the reigns for the Saints. He is the Neumann-Goretti point guard deftly running the show.

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Hakim Bryd, Neumann-Goretti point guard

The show came to CCP on Friday evening. There was a palpable buzz in the air surrounding the matchup. After all, Roman has 3 of the last 4 Catholic League Championships and 31 overall. Neumann-Goretti has 20 titles.

But, what many wanted to see was the game within the game. I, for one, eagerly looked forward to the point guard matchup between the two Bottom Baller alums. They did not disappoint. Greer played one of his finest games. His handle was flawless. His jumpshot was locked in. His decision-making was crisp. He put the Cahillites on his back early as they jumped out to a 22-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Then Hakim Byrd turned it on, He exploded for 14 points in the second quarter as Neumann-Goretti came back to take a 38-37 halftime lead. Boy… was it fun to watch. Byrd showed everybody why he needs to be considered for the the title as the best point guard in the Philly. He is lightning quick and it’s damn near impossible to stay in front of him. He can consistently get to the rim despite his lack of height. While he doesn’t have an imposing frame, he compensates with BIG FUCKIN’ BALLS, great heart and athleticism. Byrd plays bigger than he is. One of the best passers in the Philly. He is also an outstanding scorer when its needed. He is capable of starting and finishing the break and taking his man one-on-one. Byrd has improved his jump shot dramatically since his freshman season. He forces defenders to respect his three point shot, a key to his development. He is becoming a very consistent catch and shoot guy. But he makes a killing off the dribble. This kid is extremely efficient in general offensively.

Byrd is, unquestionably, a Division 1 point guard prospect.

So we have two real Philly guards. One with a long family legacy and big reputation. The other a scrappy, feisty, fast, determined, very talented and virtually unknown finally taking control of the ball this year.

It’s only right that they both finished with exactly 27 points. Their high level of play made the game extraordinarily enjoyable to watch. It was a very ‘clean’ game. Very few silly mistakes and blown assignments. The guard play was first rate.

If anyone is unclear what it means to be a ‘Philly guard’, send them a link to this game.

These two, trained in those fierce Bottom Baller practices, are carrying the long proud tradition forward.

Lynn Greer is a national prospect. He’s long been considered one of the best point guards in the nation and deservedly so. You knew that…

Hakim Byrd is right on his ass… Now you know that…

They Are Who We Thought They Were…

“Now if you want to crown them, then crown their ass! But they are who we thought they were!”

Dennis Green, Cardinals Head Coach 2006

With 43 points and 14 rebounds in the Gonzaga DC Championship Game Abington’s Senior Superstar, Eric Dixon (WeRone Hoops), officially put the PIAA on notice! Playing against a tough, deep and talented St. Frances Academy squad that is perennially ranked in the top 25 nationally, Dixon put on a performance for the ages. He scored in every way imaginable… jump hooks, fade aways, up and unders, turn around jumpers, face up 3s, etc. Eric was really digging deep into his bag… The DC crowd was in awe of his skill level. He was named tournament MVP despite losing to the Panthers in the title game. Dixon (Villanova commit) is now the all-time leading scorer in the history of Abington HS basketball with over 1700 points. He will likely end up in the 2400-2500 range when it’s all said and done.

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Eric Dixon, named MVP after scoring 43 points and pulling down 14 rebounds

Plymouth-Whitemarsh’s Senior All-American candidate, Naheem McLeod (PYO Hoops) kicked in the door for his senior season. Before a full house in a new gymnasium McLeod exploded for 41 points and 14 rebounds to lead P-W to close win over Norristown. The 7’3″ McLeod (Florida State commit) displayed a wide range of skills in this contest. He advanced the ball in transition, he pulled up and made jumpshots beyond 3 point range, there were a few no look passes and of course about a gazillion dunks! As a senior, McLeod clearly understands that this year’s team will only go as far as he can carry them. He appears more than ready to carry the load.

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McLeod in action against Norristown. (Photo Credit: Raw Sports)

Cheltenham’s Division 1 prospect, Zahree Harrison ’20, jump started the Cheltenham campaign with two outstanding performances. Harrison was named the MVP of the Tip Off Classic after filling the stat sheet with12 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 steals in the first contest and piling up 23 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 steals in the second game. He continues to garner interest from mid-major programs along the eastern seaboard.

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Harrison (center, holding MVP trophy) after title game

Constitution’s “Big 2” Keshaun “Champ” Hammonds and Jabari Merritt scored 21 and 17 points, respectively, as the Generals defeated Miguel Boc’s young and fiesty West Catholic Prep squad. Looking for extremely big things from Hammonds and Merritt this season. Both are being closely monitored by several mid-major programs.

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Keshaun “Champ” Hammonds, Division 1 combo guard prospect

La Salle’s Senior point guard Allen Powell is off to great start. He had 17 points and 7 assists in the first game of the season. The next game he put up 19 points and again dished 7 assists while earning the MVP in the Scholastic Play-by-Play Tip Off Classic! Led by Powell, La Salle is a real threat to make it to the Palestra this year. Several low to mid-major programs have been inquiring about this sharpshooting point guard.

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Allen Powell, La Salle Senior Point Guard

Neumann-Goretti sophomore Chris Evans, came out letting it fly! Lil’ Money connected on 6 out of 7 three point field goal attempts and earned an MVP award in the Scholastic Play-by-Play Tip Off Classic. His range and the green light Carl Arrigale and the Saints have given him will pose problems for opponents all season.

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Jeremy Treatman and Chris Evans, Neumann-Goretti sophomore

Yes… It’s early…

But, they are who we thought they were!

This week, Overbrook, led by the dynamic Division 1 PG prospect, Naim Walker ’21 and the prolific scorer Khalif Washington ’19, travels to O’Hara where they will face first year coach Ryan Nemetz’s squad. They will also host arch rival West Philadelphia on Thursday.

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Khalif Washington, center

Donta Scott (Maryland commit), Dahmir Bishop (Xavier commit), Chereef Knox (Undecided), Jamil Riggins (Binghamton commit) and Fatayn Wesley (undecided) lead nationally ranked Imhotep as they host Hammonds, Merritt and Constitution on Tuesday. On Saturday, Imhotep faces Delaware powerhouse Samford in the Diane Mosco Tournament at Archbishop Wood.

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Donta Scott, Imhotep Senior

Then on Sunday…

Roman Catholic attempts to hand Imhotep it’s first loss in Philly in three years. Scott, Bishop, Knox, Riggins and Wesley were freshmen the last time they tasted defeat in a local matchup. Seth Lundy (Penn State commit), Hakim Hart (St. Joseph’s commit), Louis Wild (undecided), Lynn Greer (ESPN top 100), Jalen Duren (ESPN top 5) and Justice Williams (ESPN top 100), more than any other local team in recent memory, possess the talent and athleticism to matchup with mighty Imhotep. The game could very well come down to a chess match between the Imhotep Head Coach and Roman’s Matt Griffin.

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Roman Catholic Star, Seth Lundy