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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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..

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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.

About Last Night… WOOGA!

So I’m running a lil’ late… I have program that works with incarcerated teenage males in Vineland, New Jersey. These are my guys… They love to read, watch and talk about sports. We were finishing up a discussion on whether or not they could work for Temple University and convince vocal opponents of the proposed Football Stadium to accept it’s placement square in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

They understood the issue of gentrification, they understood displacement and empathized with the position of the long-time residents. They wouldn’t want the traffic, the tailgating, the partying in their neighborhood. The fully grasped the ethical and moral dimensions of the debate.

But, unanimously… For the right amount of money, they indicated that they would work relentlessly to help Temple change the minds of the stadium opponents…

Love my guys… They keep that shit REAL!

So, they tell me to hit the road, they want me to go cover the Public League Semifinals and it’s a 45-50 minute drive from Vineland to South Philly.

Off I go…

I get there a little after 6:00… Late but not too bad… I’ll only miss a couple of minutes of action. So I thought…

Amazingly, I see a car pulling out of the lot as I pull in… PERFECT! A parking spot in the school lot… Cool…

You can feel the energy in the air… Nisine Poplar (Wooga) is playing… as I approach the door, it becomes apparent that it’s gonna take a while to get in… The line is LONG… Well over 100 patrons waiting to catch the action.

So I settle in and inch toward the door… The line is moving slowly but steadily…

The familiar aroma of “loud” lingers in the air… It smells rather enticing I might add… Tempted to ask the youngins where they purchased that particular brand of cologne, I demur…

Not the right time or place…

Finally, my group of ten is prepped for passage through the metal detectors… I hand the school officer my keys and iPhone… I let the young woman with 5 kids go before me, then I walk through the machine… No beep! I’m good… I feel just a lil’ bit safer…

As I enter the gym, it’s PACKED!

It’s also beautiful… The School District of Philadelphia has polished the playing surface. The hardwood is glistening… You can hear the shoes squeaking as the players stop, cut and change directions… The lights are ALL functioning, (almost) no missing bulbs… The stands are fully extended and every available seat is occupied!

The PUB!

As it should be… It feels as though the School District actually cares about athletics… I’m impressed.

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Stacey Dandridge from Darby Township and Chillyock from South Philly

Then I look at the scoreboard… Imohtep is up 15 in the middle of the second quarter… I see my man Stacey Dandridge (Sta-Dan) from Darby Township… Like a lot of Darby Township guys, Sta-Dan has developed an affinity for South Philly and South Philly Basketball. It makes sense to see him sitting in the front row.  He tells me that Imhotep has employed a gimmick “Box and 1” defense against MCS. Wooga and his teammates were having some difficulty adjusting.

To my left, I see my Southside homies… Sam Wylie, Sr., Shon Minnis, Butter and Bunky… I settle in amongst them to watch this thing play out.

Sam, Sr. is watching Sam, Jr. play a GREAT game so we kinda leave him alone… He’s in a zone…

The rest of us watch MCS, claw, scrap and fight their way back into the game.

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Truth be told… It was the “other” guys that got MCS back into the game… Tvon Jones used his incredible athleticism and explosiveness to attack the rim, Naadhir Wood consistently caught the ball and finished when the team needed buckets, Zakee Fleming exhibited and very good understanding of basic basketball principles as he repeatedly got the better of bigger, faster and more athletic Imhotep front court players.

It was a real rumble…

Imhotep star, Elijah Taylor fouled out with Imhotep clinging to a 4 point lead with 1:20 remaining in the contest. Seemed like the Panthers would survive…

After all, Wooga had struggled throughout the game… The game plan was clear from the start… Imhotep Head Coach Andre Noble was going to make someone other that Wooga beat him. The Panthers face guarded Wooga anytime he was not in the locker room or on the bench… Relentlessly…

Still…

With Imhotep clinging to a 3 point lead, MCS had the ball and called timeout with about 11 seconds left in the game…

Everyone in the gym knew who was gonna take the shot… Mayor Kenney knew who was gonna take the shot… President Trump knew who was gonna take the shot… Marcus Garvey knew who was gonna take the shot… Harriet Tubman knew who was gonna take the shot…

Clark Kent had been mild-mannered for 31 minutes and 38 seconds…

If MCS was gonna pull this one out, they needed Superman to find a phone booth and put on his cape…

Well… Look up in the sky MUTHAFUCKA!

It’s a bird, it’s a plane…

On cue, Wooga ran his man off a Naadhir Wood screen, Marcus Middleton got him the ball… the Imhotep defenders were there… They challenged the shot… It wasn’t a good shot… I was a tough well-defended off balance 3-point attempt…

SPLASH bitches!

Superman is in the building…

Tie game… The overtime was a mere formality after Wooga’s heroics. With that, MCS finally vanquished the mighty Imhotep Panthers.

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MCS Coaching Staff after win over Imhotep

Congratulations to Head Coach Lonnie Diggs and his hardworking staff. Can’t wait til Saturday… The defending PIAA AA State Champions will have their hands full with a well-coached Simon Gratz Bulldog squad.

The PUB!

 

 

The Cahillites Capture South Jersey!

The sun still hasn’t set on the Roman Empire…

The Cahillites traveled about 20 minutes from Center City Philadelphia to meet the upstart Camden Panthers in a contest played in the supposedly neutral Cherry Hill East Gymnasium. Camden came into the game with a HEAVY reputation. Their main piece is, Lance Ware, a versatile 6’9” senior power forward headed to play for John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats. Alongside Ware is the incredibly strong and determined, TaQuan Woodley, a junior 6’8” 230 lb power forward that relentlessly rebounds and protects the rim. Woodley is a high major prospect with South Carolina, Temple, Saint Joseph’s and Penn State in hot pursuit. On the wing, the Panthers feature Jerome Brewer an athletic 6’7” wing with a sweet shooting stroke from 3 point range.

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DJ Wagner, Camden’s Freshman Guard

In the backcourt, DJ Wagner has arrived. Heir to the throne of Camden basketball, Wagner is the son of DuJaun Wagner and Grandson of Milt Wagner. He has already been anointed the messiah for the proud Camden High basketball program. Rounding out the rotation are 4 or 5 highly talented freshmen that display skill and athleticism that will one day result in college basketball scholarships at some level.

This group of uber-talented scholastic players is led by a former McDonald’s All-American and 9 year NBA Veteran point guard. Rick Brunson is a disciple of Temple’s legendary John Chaney and this matchup with mighty Roman Catholic was his first BIG game at the helm of the Camden High basketball program.

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Rick Brunson, Camden Head Coach

In preparation for this matchup, the Panthers have been plundering and pillaging small communities in New Jersey. They had piled up 4 victories with final margins ranging from 20 to 37.

But this would be different… This was HIGH MAJOR HS basketball... Coaches from Auburn, Temple, Penn State and several other high major programs were present. Saint Joseph’s brought their entire staff out to see the match up. Several former NBA players were present. Well over 2,000 spectators crammed into the hot gym designed to hold about 1,500. There were fans in every nook and cranny of the space not used for the actual contest itself. Jeremy Treatman, once again, put together a Play-by-Play Classics event that hoop heads could not resist.

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Pat Chambers, Penn State Head Coach & Hansel Canon, Black Cager Sports

Roman Catholic, on the other hand, is trying to find an identity. The Cahillites suffered massive losses of key warriors… Seth Lundy and Hakim Hart have moved on the the Big 10 playing for nationally ranked Penn State and Maryland, respectively. Louis Wild a key member of Roman’s last two Catholic League Championship squads is prepping at Olympus.

Throughout the summer and fall, the Cahillites have struggled to find a new way to win big games. The road has been filled with potholes. They have looked really bad in several performances against elite competition.

Not the last two games…

Facing the very best the Public League and South Jersey has to offer, Roman Catholic has found a new path to victory… They have convincingly vanquished two of the strongest teams (Imhotep Charter and Camden High) in the region.

How are they getting it done?

Of course, there’s the fact that they have the most athletic, most explosive, most powerful big man in the nation. Jalen Duren’s game really defies adequate description. Some shit you just have to see first hand to grasp. But… I will try…

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Jalen Duren

He dunks ON you! He dunks OVER you! He dunks THROUGH you! He dunks AROUND you!

On this night he had no fewer than 9 or 10 dunks… while these plays only resulted in 2 points each on the scoreboard, everyone in the gym will attest to the fact that they were worth at least 4 points each!

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Jalen Duren

His dunks are like the body shot that Bernard Hopkins landed to end his fight with Oscar De La Hoya. The contest literally STOPS for a standing 8 count after each dunk. These are not regular high school dunks… These are FUCK YOU… FUCK your family dunks…. These are FUCK YOU give me your lunch dunks…

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Rysheed Jordan, PUB Legend and Stan Laws, Head Coach of Camden Monarchs

Yeah… Yeah… His offensive repertoire is limited… He continues to take ill-advised jump shots… He really hasn’t developed a picture perfect turnaround jumper like former Cahillite Marc Jackson… He doesn’t have a feathery touch like Roman legend Eddie Griffin… So what?

That’s like complaining that a prime Mike Tyson lacked Ali’s lateral movement… Right now, he don’t need none of that shit. Why? Because…

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Jalen Duren

He dunks ON you! He dunks OVER you! He dunks THROUGH you! He dunks AROUND you!

But… we all knew that… and on many nights, we all know that will be enough for the Cahillites to eek out victories… But what about when they face the big boys? Will the other guys show up?

Well… For the second BIG GAME in a row Lynn Greer, III has displayed the leadership, poise, judgement and selflessness that one would expect from a HIGH MAJOR point guard prospect. His handle is beyond tight… LG3 has the ball on a string… He puts in front of defenders and yanks it back with precision… He’s able to go wherever he wants with the ball… He is big enough and strong enough to challenge BIGS at the rim… He finishes through contact… Most importantly, he has become very, very good at choosing the right time to impose himself of the game.

While Jalen Duren is an NBA athlete playing high school basketball, there is no doubt that this is Lynn Greer’s team. He has become an exceptional leader… Greer’s play is allowing the incredibly gifted Justice Williams to show his ASS this year. Lynn sets up the offense and gets guys in position. He gives it to Williams on the wing and Williams is doing things that other 10th graders simply cannot do. He was deep in his bag tonight. His in and out moves… His crossovers… His hesitations were simply majestic.

Camden was right there… They played solid defense, and on many occasions Justice’s offense was just better… If you want to know what a HIGH MAJOR wing looks like, watch the soon to be released Raw Sports video of this contest and focus on Justice Williams offensive performance tonight.

But… as noted in Isaiah 11:6 “a little child shall lead them.”

When Woodley was able to wrestle, bump and push Duren away from the rim… When Brewer’s and Ware’s length was giving Greer problems… When the Roman offense was stalling… It was the pubescent Xzayvier Brown that made big shot after big shot. Brown is very slight in stature… One can easily envision him sitting at middle school lunch table just a few short months ago… Then… The game begins and he is ALWAYS among the calmest, coolest and most collected players on the court. This kid has BIG BALLS!

Brown never gets sped up… He has a profound understanding of floor spacing… He makes himself available to Greer and Williams for skip passes… He gives them a clear target… And, when the pass is made, he is ready to squeeze! A freshman… A FUCKIN freshman is already one of the most reliable knock-down jump shooters in the Greater Philadelphia region. If his feet are set and he catches and shoots in rhythm… Count that shit! Put three on the board for Roman.

Brown is going to be a problem for four years down at Broad and Vine.

Another key piece for Roman is Nasir Lett. Like Brown, Lett understands floor spacing and he understands his role. If he is open, “Lett it fly!” Rarely does Lett catch rim… far more often than not… splash!

Impressive… Very impressive… It took a while for these guys to identify and GROW into their respective roles. One has to credit Head Coach Matt Griffin for switching defenses at key moments and constantly instilling a high level of confidence in this version of the Cahillites.

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Justice Williams, Roman Catholic, defends an inbounds pass

Yes… They have the BEST big man in the land… But they are much more than that… Greer has evolved into a maestro on the court. His tendency to play solos at inopportune moments is gone. He has clearly grasped the fact that he as to CONDUCT the orchestra. He’s allowing his young virtuosos to shine at precisely the right moments. Greer is a leader…

After finishing a tough layup, Brown took an ugly and violent spill. He thought he was hurt… I thought he was hurt… Everyone in the gym thought he was hurt… Greer knew he wasn’t injured! He made sure that Brown knew he wasn’t injured. After sitting one series, Brown immediately returned to the lineup and the Cahillites finished off the Panthers in front of about 2,000 despondent Camden fans.

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This is Lynn Greer’s team… They will go as far as he takes them… The car fully loaded with all the options… The tank is full of 93 octane and the GPS is set for the Palestra…

Can they be stopped?

The Roman Empire is seeking to capture their 5th Catholic League title in 6 years and 33rd overall… The Cahillites ended Neumann-Goretti’s string of six straight in 2015. Their recent run was interrupted by only Sir Colin Gillespie of Warminster’s incredible romp through the Catholic League in 2017. Other than that… It’s been all Roman for 5 years…

Well… I gotta go for now gotta get to work…  I owe Boo Farmer another Chicken Cheesesteak from Iskabibble’s!

I love this shit…

PYB Awards Zane Major Scholarships

By Eric Dixon
July 12, 2019
Zane C. Major, Sr., a former St. Joe’s great and pillar of the
community, showed many what could be done when passion meets purpose.
His love of basketball and photography along with a profound
understanding of the importance of  “paying it forward” and leading
the youth came together to help Major have a positive impact on the
youth in two needy communities, in Philadelphia and Reading.
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Zane Major, Saint Joseph’s University

His legacy of nurturing and guiding young people will be honored for
years to come through the Zane C. Major, Sr. Memorial Scholarship Fund
presented by the Philadelphia Youth Basketball organization. The
scholarships, four college scholarships and 2 paid high school
internships, were introduced to an audience of about 3 dozen
youngsters and staff attending the PYB basketball camp at St. Joseph’s
University’s Hagan Arena.
Cindy Major, sister of the honoree and his “first model”, shared her
perspective on Major’s early years behind a camera and on the court.
“He always had his camera ready to take a photo of family and
flowers.” His basketball games at Roman Catholic High School and St.
Joe’s were family events that were rarely missed.
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Cindy Major

She said his involvement with mentoring youngsters began with his days
running the Sonny Hill basketball clinic. This involvement would span
decades and impact many children and young adults. He wanted to help
them find their passion whether it was on the court or behind the
lens. Those in attendance appreciated the effect of his contribution
on Monday.
One such attendee was Laila, a bright 11 year old from Reading, and
her grandmother, Christine Tenney of Delaware. “I love the sport,”
gushed Tenney, a “dominant player” during her time at Reading High
School in the late 1970’s, as she explained why she was excited about
transporting her grand-daughter the hour or so drive from her former
hometown to the Hagan this week. “(Players) learn how to collaborate,
and the value of teamwork and respect” while playing basketball, added
the former coach.
These are ideals Major sought to instill in his teammates as a player
at St. Joes from 1975-79. Although he as a double figure scorer and
would end his illustrious career as a Hawk as a member of the
program’s 1000 point club, it was a his leadership, character and
passion that are the cornerstones of his legacy.
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Mo Howard

Mo Howard, a long time friend of Major also spoke encouraging the kids
to appreciate the memories they make as they play and grow in the
game. “Those memories will come together and become experiences and it
is those experiences that will help shape who you become,” he told the
young players seated on the Hagan Arena main floor.
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Crystal Golmore-Harris and PYB’s Zane Major Scholars

Crystal Gilmore-Harris, Major’s long time girlfriend and “soul mate”
also addressed the campers. She explained that he was “passionate
about everything he did.” According to Gilmore-Harris, he was only
able to help the youth in Reading for 3 years before his untimely
passing this past January, but in that short time he was able to help
many of the young people in the community.

Bill Zeits: Donofrio Preview, Triple Threat vs Hunting Park Markieff

By Bill Zeits

April 15, 2019

Philadelphia, PA: Triple Threat is led by Donta Scott, Hakim Hart, Jamil Riggins and Jameer Nelson Jr. Scott is the do it on both ends of the floor franchise player from Imhotep. Hart is one of the most prolific scorers in the area and is due for a huge game. Riggins has been Triple Threats best offense player in the tournament… He hit 8 treys and grabbed 14 boards in the quarters win..

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Jamil Riggins attacks the basket

Nelson Jr is a super athletic and the point guard… He dunked with different hands on 2 straight possessions in the quarters. The 5th starter is Shipley freshman, Khalil Farmer who had 10 points and a couple huge buckets in the quarters. The only sub I remember is Gettysburg commit, Shane Scott who put up 8 in the quarters

Hunting Park is the team I’ve called “The Pub” throughout the tournament… The Pub is led by 2 Mastery North seniors, Jamir Reed and Lakeem Mcailey and 2 MCS kids Nisine Poplar and Jihad Squid Watson. Reed is a big, physical and tough Philly guard who can score and defend on the other end of the court. McAiley is a lefty who put on a show in the first half in the quarters. He was dominant offensively.

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Lakeem McAliley

 

Poplar is the sophomore who is getting better every game and sky is the limit the next 2 years. Watson is the veteran guard who scored big buckets in the 2nd half as Raw sports tried to rally .Watson either scored the bucket or got the assist to put the game away. The 5th starter is Dahmir Fowlkes. I dont know a lot about Fowlkes other than he showed great energy and the ability to finish on the break. He’s only a sophomore like Poplar. The bench of Hunting Park has been among the best in the tournament. The headliner has been Tyrone Williams. Williams had 13 7 5 in the quarters and was all over the court. The 2 remaining players I remember were Taj Campbell and Aaron Harrison. Both players had 6 points in quarters and showed great energy on both ends of floor.

This should be a good one…

Eric Dixon on Robeson Star Walter Hester!

By Eric Dixon

PHILADELPHIA, PennsylvaniaWalter Hester of Paul Robeson High School (Philadelphia, Pa.) is a “bucket”. The 5-11 combo guard can “flat out score the ball” as was evidenced in a recent win over Eastern University Academy where he scored an impressive 47 points to help get his team into tonight’s Class A championship game against Sankofa Academy.

Hester has started all but a handful of games in a four year varsity career that has seen him amass more than 1500 points from all three levels. The senior is averaging 27 ppg game, which represents a 8 point improvement over his junior season scoring average. He attributes the increase to a number of factors, including his ability to improve his pull up jump shot and “be more aggressive going to the rim” to draw fouls at a higher rate than in previous years.

It didn’t take long for the staff at Robeson to see Hester was special. He began his freshman year on the bench the first 3 or 4 games before one of the starters was slowed by an injury. “We tried it in practice it in practice and then they just kept it like that,” according to Hester.

His ascent to neighborhood folk and family hero began in middle school, says Joslyn Hester-Parham. “I wasn’t too into at first. I mean knew he played ball, but I didn’t know he play play.” She went on to say how it was around his eighth grade year when people from their southwest Philadelphia community would come up to her and tell “your brother play ball real nice.”

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Joslyn Hester-Parham and Walter Hester

Unfortunately, it’s taken college scouts a little longer to recognize his worth as his recruitment has been “slower than you might expect for a guy with his numbers,” says Robeson’s head coach, Robert Powlen. He insists if given the opportunity “Walt”, as he is affectionately known by family and friends, would be a great addition to a college program.

“On the next level, he can play either guard position and will continue to get stronger and will adjust to the college game. I truly expect him to have a great college career. His character, talent and will to win will never let him down” says Powlen.

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Coach Powlen and Walter Hester

Hester, a Philadelphia All public performer who is the 6th of 9 siblings, credits his brothers Khalil, Tyrefe, Nigel and Julius with helping him hone his game at the playground at 51st and Kingsessing. Hester is not being very tall in scholastic basketball terms but for pick up games he grew up having a to “play down low” and guard bigger players. The experience has helped him develop confidence in playing against taller players. Other influences are his mentor and trainer Rafiq Strand.

The Achieve More AAU basketball program allowed Hester to do just that by taking him to out of state tournaments and giving him free rein to explore and develop his creative shot making abilities against unfamiliar competition. “It was a good experience, they gave me more freedom. I didn’t do any thinking, I just played my game.”

Tonight against Sankofa, Hester will look to continue to do just that. He’s going to give it all he’s got, as he always does. “We are going to take what they give us. We are going to be scrappy and get the 50-50 balls and just go after it.” Sounds like something he’s used to doing.

James Nelson Stewart Interviews Pennridge Coach Dean Behrens!

By James Nelson Stewart

Q. How long have you been at Pennridge Coach Behrens?
A. 21 years

Q. What would you like people to know about Pennridge Basketball?
A. Since 2015, Pennridge Basketball has qualified for the states 3 times and the players from the past are very excited about the current team and the 1st Final Four appearance in school’s history. One the program past stars, Tim Abruzzo, who is serving our country in Libya after a college career at the Naval Academy, sent me an email congratulating our guys accomplishment and very excited about how the program is performing. Another member of the Pennridge Family, who is a pilot serving our country in Kuwait, sent his well wishes to the Pennridge team.

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Coach Dean Behrens observe his team on offense

Q. Let’s talk about the recent history of the Pennridge Rams
A. Since 2011, Pennridge has won 5 Division Titles. Since 2012 Pennridge has had 4 1,000 point scorers in Tim Abruzzo, Zach Muredda, Danny Long and Newly All-time Leading Scorer Sean Yoder. A 5th Player went over 1,000 (Max Wagner-Kutztown) but he started playing at another school before coming home to Pennridge. The 2015 Pennridge team knocked Reading (led by Lonnie Walker-Spurs) out of the state playoffs. 2018 Pennridge lost by 2 points to the eventually champions Roman Catholic in the 1st round of states. We have been on a nice run over the past few years.

Q. To what would you attribute to the success that Pennridge has had over the last decade?
A. Just trying to make it a program and not just a team. We are constantly at it, whether it open gyms, Spring Camps, Summer Leagues. We take very little time off. We take time off time off in August and a little bit of time after the season. We had success with Multi-Sport athletes where we haven’t in the past. Guys like Danny Long (Baseball) and one of my current players Jonathan Post (Football) help the program so much and we need those multi-sport guys to compete at the top levels. Kids like that just “LOVE TO COMPETE”.

Q. A lot of people have already heard of Sean Yoder (Navy Commit) and Jonathan Post, tell me about some of the other players that will play tonight
A. Jon Dominic (Senior Guard)-great story of a kid who just “Wanted It So Much”. Played JV last year and started this year coming off our bench. But by the 8th game of the season, he was a starter and now I can’t take him off the floor. Has been averaging close to 12 points a game since inserting him in the lineup and had an incredible 37 point game against North Penn this year. Trent Fisher (Junior Big Man)-Also a JV Player last year, grew about 3 inches this year to get to 6-6. Probably still growing. He has long arms and a soft touch. Worked hard especially with the help of Jonathan Post and is a great team player. Luke Yoder (Sophomore Guard)-Younger brother of Sean, and he is super athletic, sometimes too much so. He can jump out of the gym. He is a great offensive rebounder. Great Future!!!

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Navy Commit, Pennridge’s Sean Yoder splits the defense

 

Q. What should people expect against Abington, even though they have beaten you twice this year?
A. We are confident, we know what to expect from Abington. They have the best player we played this year in Eric Dixon and another special player in Lucas Monroe. Their “Role” players have definitely stepped up to the plate and they are coached very well. Abington also played in a very tough league with teams like Cheltenham, PW and others. But we are coming to compete and play hard every minute of the game and see where that takes us. We are very excited to be here and we know that Abington has been here before being the 2 time defending District Champs. So the experience may make a difference. But let’s see how the 1st 4 minutes play out and we will take it from there.

Q. Thank you for your time Coach Behrens, Good Luck Tonight
A. Thank you Black Cager for reaching out about Pennridge Basketball.

Suburban Hoops: James Nelson Stewart on District 1

By James Nelson Stewart

District 1 6A playoffs are heating up. The quarterfinals have 4 interesting games.

#5 Norristown (19-5) at #4 Pennridge(22-3)– 2 teams without a lot of size. Very well coached teams . Navy Commit 6-3 Sr Sean Yoder is the headliner for Pennridge but 6-5 Sr Jonathan Post provides help for Pennridge. Norristown is led by Sr quartet (Mikeel Allen, Tyler Lyons, Marcus Sanford and Xavier Edwards) and 3 Sophomores (Nizer Kinney, Aaron Reddish and Willie Anderson Jr.).

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Sean Yoder, Navy Commit

#6 Chester(18-4) at #3 Lower Merion(22-2) – historically two of the Top teams in District 1. This year is no different. Chester is led by 6-4 Sophomore Double-Double Machine Karell Watkins and 5-11 Sr G Man-Man Smith and they are hot at the right time with a 14 game winning streak. Lower Merion is led by 6-6 Sr Columbia Commit Jack Forrest and 6-2 Sr G Steve Payne.

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Michael Smith, Chester (left)

 

#7 Methacton(21-5) at #2 Coatesville(24-1) – this has a chance to be a classic!!! Methacton, which has already beaten Neumann-Goretti this year is led by 6-3 Sr Dave Duda and 6-9 Jr Jeff Woodward. 5-11 Sr Brett Eberly and 6-4 Jr Erik Timko provides additional shooting for Methacton. Coatesville is led by 5-8 Jr. dynamo Jhamirr Brickus, one of the most electrifying players in the area. But riding along side of him is 5-8 Jr 2 sport MONSTER Dupree Bryant, who is rounding into basketball shape at the right time. Seniors Dymere Miller, Tione Holmes and Aaron Young provide shooting, toughness and defense for Coatesville

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David Duda, East Stroudsburg Commit

#8 Perk Valley(20-6) at #1 Abington(24-1) -2 very different styles in this matchup. Perk Valley who is led by 6-4 Sr Shooter/Baseball Star Tyler Strechay, 5-11 Sr G Zach Krause and 6-3 Sophomore Kameron Parks. They are disciplined and their zone defense can cause many problems. But they have a HUGE task ahead of them. The 2 time defending District champions await them. 6-8 Sr Villanova Signee Eric Dixon and 6-6 Sr Penn Signee Lucas Monroe have both taken their games to the NEXT level. Dixon is the All Time Leading Scorer at Abington and is having a season for the ages. While the Swiss Army Knife Lucas Monroe has just went over 1,000 points for his HS career. But they aren’t alone, Abington’s unheralded Support players have come up Huge in big moments. Sr Darious Brown, Sr Maurice Henry, Sr Derek Sussman and Jr Manir Waller have provided timely shooting and solid defense.

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Eric Dixon, Villanova Commit

 

I see 3 very close Pick-um type games with Abington being the only team that I would say has a clear advantage over the visiting team.

Love to hear people’s thoughts and predictions on these games.

Check Rock… Dad

Andre Brown has a playoff game today… He leads his John Bartram Braves into battle with everything on the line… It’s do or die…

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James Brown (far left) and Andre Brown (2nd from left)

His opponent… His Pops…

James Brown’s Science Leadership Academy at Beeber Rockets come in with a gaudy 18-4 record. To build upon his outstanding regular season, Coach Brown will have to knock off his son. The same son he introduced to the game.

Great Matchup

John Bartram HS

3:15 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

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…