The Star-Ledger (www.nj.com) is the largest New Jersey Daily Newspaper by circulation. As such, NJ.com serves as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general NJ populace. Despite claims of journalistic objectivity and impartiality, NJ.com’s sports columnists have not been calling balls and strikes fairly. This is especially observable when one examines recent coverage of the mighty Camden High School Panther basketball club.
One could argue, NJ.com’s function is to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate NJ sports fans with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger New Jersey society. Specifically, North Jersey basketball is good… South Jersey basketball is bad… In a world of concentrated basketball talent and major conflicts of interest between North Jersey and South Jersey, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda.
Over a 4 day period spanning 06/21 to 06/24 NJ.com rolled out three stories with headlines intended to disparage Camden High’s basketball program… We are witnessing an orchestrated smear campaign…
Kevin Armstrong and NJ.com have been more than up to the task of smearing the Camden program and the Wagner family. How else are they going to deal with Camden’s rapid ascension? Camden has lost on the court to exactly ONE (1) NJ opponent in 3 years. This was an upsetting turn of events for some… North Jersey had become accustomed to having an excess of basketball talent when compared to South Jersey. DJ Wagner, Aaron Bradshaw, Rasheer Fleming, Cornelius Robinson and Cian Medley have flipped the script. Camden has become the disruptive force on NJ’s scholastic basketball landscape.
The North Jersey bias and assumption of basketball superiority has had a multilevel effect on mass-media interests and choices. Powerful North Jersey stakeholders have been able to filter out the news fit to print, marginalize dissent, and allow the NJSIAA and dominant North Jersey private school programs to get their messages across to the NJ public at large.
Countering these bullshit narratives is the core of the Black Cager mission.
What do we know?
Let’s take a look at some of the “findings of the six-month investigation of the Camden High School basketball program conducted by Kevin Armstrong under the auspices of New Jersey Advance Media and NJ.com.
Armstrong uncovered the following:
1) Camden has “boarded-up houses” and “derelict brick edifices scheduled for demolition” within the city limits.
2) “Five of Camden’s top six scorers do not reside in the city of 73,000 people… and are the only out-of-district students in the school.”
3) Colleen Maguire, Executive Director of the NJ State Interscholastic Athletic Association, “said she will begin a review to determine whether rules have been broken.”
4) Dajuan Wagner was involved in a fight as a teenager 21 years ago.
5) William Wesley took Wagner to a strip club after he scored 100 points in a game, also 21 years ago.
6) Dajuan Wagner’s stepfather Leonard Paulk “was convicted and sentenced to life in prison” 18 years ago.
7) “In 2014, [Former Camden High Coach Rick Brunson] was accused of sexual abuse but was acquitted.”
9) John Mirenda, CEO of Greentree Mortgage is “listed as treasurer and financial director for Scholars Elite.”Right after Dajaun was drafted and signed a $7.4 million dollar rookie contract Greentree provided him with a $258,000 mortgage for a West Deptford house for his mother.
10) “On a Tuesday in May. Two schoolchildren dribbled until their yellow bus picked them up around 8 am. Soon after, Bradshaw walked out of Juanny’s house and Perkins followed him. They got in a red Chrysler, which Perkins drove to school.”
Six months… these are the findings of the “Special Report”
Major outlets like NJ.com dominate New Jersey media. Marginalization of South Jersey programs, like Camden High, results from deeply ingrained, yet unacknowledged, biases. The propaganda filters function so naturally that seasoned media news people like Kevin Armstrong, can convince themselves that they are operating with complete integrity and goodwill. In this way a hired “hitman” is able to convince himself that he chooses and interprets the news “objectively” and on the basis of professional news values.
Nonetheless, if one exercises even a modicum of discernment, it becomes obvious that the recent barrage of negative and defamatory headlines emanating from the North Jersey-based media outlet are part of a well conceived propaganda campaign. The raw material of the most recent high school basketball season, was passed through successive journalistic and editorial filters, leaving only the cleansed residue fit to print.
Armstrong and NJ.com made choices… Real consequential choices… Over the course of six long months, they attempted to fix the premises of discourse and interpretation, and define what was newsworthy in the first place.
Thus, readers were informed about fisticuffs and strip club excursions that took place while George W. Bush and Dick Cheyney ran the White House in 2002. Armstrong and NJ.com let readers know that upon becoming a multimillionaire 20 years ago, Dajuan Wagner bought a suburban home for his mother. This is what passes as relevant information in the NJ.com newsroom.
What don’t we know?
Within the limits of the constraints established when given the assignment in January, Armstrong would surely claim that his “special report” is objective. However, the fact remains that the North Jersey constraints are so powerful, and are built into the system in such a fundamental way, that alternative bases of news choices are hardly imaginable.
Armstrong looked at everything but the prevailing rules…
The readers of the special report resulting from a six-month investigation were never informed that according to “RULE AMENDMENTS” NJSIAA Bylaws, Article V [Eligibility of Athletes], Section 4(K) [Transfers]… The parents and coaches of the Camden High School Basketball players didn’t do a damn thing that was wrong…
Somehow, these Amendments modifying the governing rules and regulations were overlooked by the investigative “journalist” during the six months he spent on the Camden “case.” That, it should be noted, is a generous assessment of Armstrong’s work. A far more sinister account would assume that the “hitman” knew about these amendments and purposely chose to exclude them from the context in which he chose to discuss parental educational choices.
Maybe he will respond… It would be very interesting to know why Armstrong chose to discuss “boarded up buildings” and ancient arrests but not amendments to NJSIAA “transfer rules” while conducting a six-month investigation of transfers to Camden City schools…
Until they are considered and applied to the individual transfers to Camden City charter schools, these facts truly FUCK UP the carefully crafted narrative that Camden somehow “cheated.”
For the 2020-2021 season, each NJ student-athlete was permitted one “free transfer.” For that free transfer, the amendment clearly stated “there SHALL NOT be a requirement that the parent or guardian move with the student-athlete…”
As you can, see the transfer rules were relaxed considerably. Talented young people chose to take advantage of the temporary rule modifications and enroll in Camden Charter High Schools.
How do you highlight the fact that “Five of Camden’s top six scorers do not reside in the city of 73,000 people… and are the only out-of-district students in the school” while avoiding a discussion of the rule modifications that made some of these transfers possible and LEGAL?
One could convincingly contend that Armstrong and NJ.com did not set out in search of truth. The aim, as best I can tell, was to further inculcate NJ sports fans with the belief that North Jersey scholastic basketball is superior to that played in South Jersey. Moreover and more importantly, the goal was to reinforce a codes of behavior where it is unimaginable to leave North Jersey private schools to pursue an education in Camden, New Jersey.
Camden folk are smarter than Kevin Armstrong and NJ.com think they are… Camden High has a really, really good basketball team. The adults, the parents, coaches and administrators reviewed the rules closely and very carefully.
Apparently, they looked closer than the guy paid to spend six-months trying to besmirch and sully the good name of the Panther program.
Sports was a primary means of socialization for many Black boys coming of age in urban and suburban environments in the 1970s. I was blessed and privileged to live in Darby Township and be educated in the Southeast Delco School District. My parents moved from West Philly and enrolled me in Darby Township Elementary School for the 1971-1972 school year. Perfect timing… In the 2nd grade, I left Heston Elementary in West Philadelphia and was dropped into Darby Township, a nurturing, small-knit sports crazed small town of about 3,000 abutting the southwest border of Philadelphia.
It was largely through sports that young Black boys in Darby Township became familiar with and adapted themselves to the interpersonal relationships of their social world in Delaware County. Plainly stated, most of the time, we beat the shit down the legs of our county opponents, this was especially the case on the hardwood. Through athletic competition, Darby Township boys developed ideas about themselves and about those in the surrounding areas with whom they interacted. We understood that they had better facilities and more resources, we knew we had better players.
Often… Much better players…
Guys like the recently deceased Russell Hamm and Alton McCollough made guys like Geoff Arnold, David Crawford, Robert Carter, Carl Robinson and Roger Johnson believe that they could play against and beat best teams in Delaware County and beyond. Seriously… In the the mid to late 1970’s, Darby Township High School punched way above it’s weight class on Delaware County’s courts and fields.
So what… we were the last school in the region to play with metal fan shaped backboards and slightly bent rims… That was our shit… check rock…
Very rarely… However, did the opponents have better players… Almost never…
A year before we moved to Darby Township, my brother from another mother was the only athlete in Darby Township’s illustrious history to be named 1st-team All-Delco in both football and basketball. However, at that time, I didn’t have a clue about Chris Arnold… I didn’t know Darby Township existed… I hadn’t begun to pay attention to sports…
While Chris was crushing ’em, I was five years old in 1st grade at Heston Elementary in West Philly, rushing home to see Ultra Man and play with spinning tops. When I arrived in Darby Township a year later, Chris was gone, he was pursuing a CIAA Hall of Fame Football Career at Virginia State University.
Soon as I met my new next door neighbor Dean Jackson, sports became the center of my child hood existence. His older brother Jerome “Coke” Jackson was obsessed with basketball and his brother Darryl played football Darby Township. His father, Mr. Jack was a knowledgeable NFL and NBA fan. Dean and I constantly played or watched sports.
By the time I was in the 4th grade, I was fully embraced by the Darby Township village. By then, my brotherhood had expanded to include Dean and Geoff Arnold… My mother accepted him and his mother and father accepted me. That year, Chris was selected in the 10th round of the NFL draft by the Oakland Raiders. Chris played Chris played two years in the WFL from 1974 to 1975 with some very good Birmingham teams. His rookie year, his Birmingham Americans defeated the Florida Blazers 22-21 in what was the World Football League’s first and last championship game before 32,376 fans at Legion Field.
For boys in Darby Township… Pro football was a reality… why not? Chris made it.
Back at the High School in fall of 1972, Russell Hamm was an electrifying dual threat Quarterback for the Eagles. During an era when there was a widespread belief that Blacks were incapable of playing the position, Russell was the very best QB in Delaware County.
Unfortuantely, I missed my chance to watch him play. I was eight years old and otherwise occupied… I heard of “Gap”… Russell’s nickname… The older guys in the neighborhood said “Gap is a bad boy.” I heard ‘em, but truth being told, I was with Dean and we way more concerned about jumping the creek, popping wheelies from pole to pole, playing “ruff and tumble” and “Utah” than watching high school football… It just hadn’t clicked for us yet. At least not at the high school level.
At that point, my football fandom was limited to religiously watching Monday night football for the halftime highlights, narrated by Howard Cosell. Week after week, O.J. would run over, through and around NFL defenders in rain, sleet and snow. I missed Gap’s exploits… ABC and Cosell made sure I saw O.J.’s. I would soon begin to pay closer attention.
When Darby Township boys moved from DTE to Studevan Middle school for the 5th grade there was, generally speaking, a shift from a “play stage” to a “game stage.” As we grew older, the boys shifted from noncompetitive games to athletic contests (such as footraces and basketball games). In the stage of competitive games, the boys encountered stricter rules and regulations. We learned how to play under the guidance and direction of caring and concerned adults. A middle school teacher, Mr. Kirkland, formed an ultra competitive Studevan intramural league… We played in the cafeteria on portable 9 foot baskets with fan backboards…
We kept stats… Accurate stats… I’m sure that helped us with basic math…
The Darby Township summer league “pee wee” Division also gave us an opportunity play and witness real structured basketball games. The Colts football club developed young football talent. By the time you hit Studevan Middle School, sports started getting real in Darby Township.
It’s 1975, I’m in the 5th grade and Darby Township HS wins it’s 2nd State Basketball Championship in seven years. This gets my full attention…. wait a minute… the whole town is getting on buses to go to basketball games… the girls are paying extra attention to the players… the newspapers are covering the games… Summer League is POPPIN’!
Fuck it… I’m a basketball player… I’m in… I’m gonna play at Darby Township High School too, I’m gonna make All-Delco and I’m gonna win a State Championship… Watch…
That was the plan… 5th grade… Why not?
Geoff’s other brother Pete Arnold, Mike Terrell and Richard McCollough led the Eagles as they knocked off Elk Lake, Forest City, Northwest Area and Rockwood in the state playoffs to capture the Class A title.
That’s what we did in Darby Township.
It’s 1977… I’m in the 7th grade and my last year at Studevan Middle. That year Darby Township HS coudn’t be beaten on the basketball court… led by a magnificently skilled junior All-Delco center, Alton McCollough, the Eagles ran the table… won every regular season game… Just stompin’ folk left and right…
I’m 12 years old… Mike Gale, Bill Johnson, Dan Terrell and Fred Lee started alongside McCollough as undefeated Darby Township entered a playoff matchup matchup with Elk Lake. This Single ‘A’ playoff game drew a record crowd of 5,100 fans to the Scranton CYC. In an incredibly physical contest, Elk Lake benefited immensely from many trips from the foul line. Darby Township’s imposing frontline (Alton McCoullough 6’9″, Billy Johnson 6’7″ and Mike Gale 6’6″) was effectively neutralized by the referees as Stevenson converted an incredible 26 of his 30 attempts at the free throw line in an Elk Lake win. Maaaaan… They got robbed… I couldn’t wait to get to high school.
The next year, I’m in the building… Darby Township High School… Finally… Here we go…
Soon as I get there, the varsity football team runs the table… undefeated… Champs…
Now I’m watching up close… Keep in mind, Darby Township HS only had about 400 students and 200 boys… We all knew each other and we all knew each other’s families. I think that helped make the competition fierce. If you were the best in Darby Township that truly meant something, you were one of the better players in Delaware County.
In 1977, Walter Payton ran for an NFL leading 1,852 yards that year. But from the perspective of a 12 year old Darby Township boy, Payton would have been a top 3 running back at Darby Township High School. We had Cardell Baskerville and Vincent Clark. The way I saw it, Payton would have to split time in the Eagle backfield. Baskerville was named the best high school football player in Delaware County. He was a physically imposing power runner with exceptional straight-line speed. Every time he touched the rock, there was a sense that he could take it to the house. I’m an 8th grader, watching him make one cut and go downhill, running through tackles and running over defensive backs. I don’t think I ever saw a defender successfully bring him down with an arm tackle. No shot… absolutely no shot… You had to physically confront Baskerville and very few high schoolers were up to that task.
Baskerville, Vincent Clark, Gary Gadsen and William McCollough were so good, that the 8th and 9th grade boys believed they were HIGH MAJOR high school stars. Baskerville and Clark were good enough to play at Penn State or Oklahoma.
We didn’t see anyone better than the guys from ’round the way… Honestly, it wasn’t really close.
We couldn’t wait for our turn to dominate, be named All-Delco and win state championships… As Darby Township boys, it was our birthright. We had no idea that we were the poor, little Black school…
Fuck U talkin’ bout… We beat the shit down the legs of everybody… across the board.
As the days became shorter and fall turned into winter, basketballs started bouncing in the gym. For the 1977-78 season, adjustments had to be made. Mike Gale and Billy Johnson were playing in college. The starting backcourt, Danny Terrell and Fred Lee, transferred out of Darby Township… they weren’t really from 2-5 anyway…
Only Alton remained from the previous team that trashed Delaware County going undefeated in the regular season… Alton was more than enough. His brother William “Blub” McCollough and Lee Taliaferro would replace the carpetbagging Terrell and Lee in the backcourt. Two sophomore forwards, Kevin Gale and Deric Loury and a senior wing, Mark Carter, would emerge to play key roles in the front court. Alton led the Eagles team on a steady march through the state playoffs, defeating Forest City, St. Clair and Northwest Area before falling to Father Geibel in the State Championship game.
Tough loss, but we figured we’d be back again real soon…
More importantly, college coaches were beginning to make their way 801 West Ashland Avenue… I’m 13 and I see Alton commit to Temple University. Alton introduces a generation of Darby Township boys to Big 5 basketball. He went on to have a strong career at Temple, scoring over 1,000 points and pulling down 673 rebounds.
It’s hard to convey what Alton’s accomplishments meant to the boys coming behind him at Darby Township High School.
Alton… Slim… from down the Center… from the projects… He made it…
His Owl teammates became regular fixtures down the Center Court next to the projects. Neal Robinson and Kevin Broadnax, Temple Owls… Down the Center… Playing with and against Darby Township boys… All the time.
College and college sports became a very real pathway for Darby Township boys like me…
Alton McCollough indelibly stamped that into the minds of young middle and junior high school boys from Darby Township. For that, we are eternally grateful.
Soon, flowers began to bloom in Conway Park and the track and field season got underway. It should be noted that we did not have neither a track nor a field at Darby Township High School. Our track athletes ran the halls of the school, the community streets and occasionally borrowed the track facilities of neighboring schools to hone their craft.
It’s not that Darby Township High School had poor track and field facilities… We had NO track and field facilities.
Despite this substantial obstacle, Darby Township found itself competing in the 1978 State Class AA Track Championship meet. No track… No field… No long jump pit… No nothing… Nonetheless, Darby Township expected to win…
How? Why? Make it make sense… How was Darby Township, a school with neither track nor field, in position to win a state track and field championship?
Darby Township won because our very best like athletes like Chris Arnold, Russell Hamm, Cardell Baskerville and Alton McCollough could compete nationally. That being the case, we were definitely competitive in all Delaware County, district and state matchups.
In track and field, Darby Township was the the best because we had Ward Crump and the other schools didn’t. They had the nice weight room facilities and modern rubber tracks, but Township had Crump. The Eagle’s finest sprinter Ward Crump and running back Vincent Clark would be featured in Sports Illustrated a couple months apart from one another. About Crump, they wrote “As a senior, in 1978 Crump became the first athlete to win four gold medals at the state Class AA track meet. He won the 100-yard dash in 9.7, the 220 in 21.8 and anchored the winning 400-meter and mile relay teams.”
I repeat… Darby Township had no track and no field…
What Darby Township had was a bunch of really fast dudes and a really respected coach guiding the way. Speaking to reporters about Crump, a year earlier, in May 1977, Darby Township Track and Field Coach Alonzo Covert said, ”The beautiful thing about Ward is that he takes it all in stride… Everybody else is going bananas and other kids may have a tendency to get over-inflated, but not Ward. And he never once complained about what we asked him to do.”
As a junior, Crump won the District 100-yard dash (10.01), with teammate Ed “Sputnik” Bishop second, then, took the 220-yard dash (23.05), with Bishop fourth.
Ok… I’m 12 and my neighbors are running 10 flat 100s…
Covert had debated putting Crump in the 440, but decided to let him run with the two relay teams (880 and mile) – and he helped both to victory. “In the district meet, you go with your best and give it your best shot.”
Covert said, ”My assistant and the people I know told me we had a shot (for the district title) but not too many others around the district figured we could do it.”
Why would they? Darby Township had no track and no field, it was the poor little Black school.
Media reports noted that Darby Township suffered an early setback when – Sylvester Blandford, one of the favorites in the 330-yard intermediate hurdles, was disqualified for running out of his lane. But Blandford, a standout junior, came back to take second place in the 120-yard high hurdles and helped both the 880 and mile relay teams to victory. Leon Stiles, who qualified in both the 440 and 880, was in the unseeded heat of the 440.
“I talked it over and everybody agreed we should put him in the half-mile,” Covert said. “So, I said fine, he’ll run the quarter. He drew the first lane, ran a 50.8 by himself and that was good enough to win it.” Stiles later came back to help DT’s mile relay” team get home a winner. Vincent Clark, a sophomore, also ran with both winning relay teams.
As you can see, my ol’ heads set the bar incredibly high.
The 1970s was the golden age of Darby Township sports. Chris Arnold jumped out and dominated in football, basketball and track. Russell Hamm emerged as an All-Delco dual threat QB about 40 years before his time. Cardell Baskerville was one of greatest running backs of his era. Alton McCollough dominated Delaware County basketball for two seasons. Ward Crump literally won a state track and field championship by himself.
All of them are now gone… My neighborhood heroes are no longer with us…
Their legacy lives on. They showed us Darby Township boys are good as and probably better than anyone else. They were our athletic shining princes exemplifying the Golden Era of Darby Township sports.
As a young boy, Donta Scott realized that he learned differently than his peers. Now, the University of Maryland basketball star is opening up about educational experiences and path to the University of Maryland and the Big 10 Conference in a book he authored, WIRED DIFFERENTLY: My School Journey — and he’s sharing his story with high school student-athletes through a book tour.
On Monday, Scott announced his six-event tour which begins in July. Each hour-long conversation promises to be candid, inspiring, and full of practical advice from one of the best players in the Big 10 Conference. Scott was one of the Terps’ best players last year, averaging 12.6 points and 6.2 rebounds a game. He’s expected to play a leading role as the UMD men’s basketball program transitions from the Mark Turgeon era to the beginning of the Kevin Willard era.
Scott was hit by a car as a toddler and hospitalized with a head injury that he believes has made academics an uphill climb for most of his life, and he was later diagnosed with a learning disorder. “I was late coming to things,” he said. “(With basketball) I started clicking and seeing the bigger picture.”
Scott wants the book to offer hope to young athletes who have learning disabilities and other academic struggles, and help them overcome the fear of asking for help. The youngest of nine, Scott is the first of his siblings to attend a four-year-college and wants to use his platform to offer concrete guidance on how to meet admission standards and qualify for scholarships as well be a role model for anyone who may not have one at home.
“Even if you don’t see it, there are kids who look up to you,” he said.
The book was written and published by Black Cager Press with Delgreco Wilson, a fixture of the Philadelphia basketball community who mentors students through the college recruiting process. A friend of Scott’s youth basketball coach, Wilson said Scott was often labeled a “bad kid” because his anger with schoolwork would boil over.
“Young Black guys struggle, and there’s a stigma attached to learning difficulty,” he said. “Instead of just saying, ‘I don’t understand,’ or ‘I need extra help,’ they act out. They are just trying to keep people off the fact they don’t know how to do the work.”
Scott was recruited by schools including Temple, Georgetown, Seton Hall and South Carolina, but it was his comfort with UMD’s academic support staff that made the difference, Wilson said. “He has absolutely just taken control over that aspect of his life,” he said. “Donta takes his time and learns. Once he grasps something, he really has got it.”
Scott acknowledges it took some time to find his groove in college, but an emphasis on scheduling and time management has made the difference.
The conversations on the book tour will be centered around important themes in WIRED DIFFERENTLY: My School Journey. Scott and Wilson have partnered with different high schools throughout the mid-Atlantic region to promote the book, which was published by Black Cager Press. (Student-athletes in attendance will get a copy of the book)
The book tour stops include:
1) St. Frances Academy (MD) – A perennial Baltimore Catholic League powerhouse and the alma mater of current Maryland forward Julian Reese and the home of Maryland commit Jahnathan Lamothe.
2) Imhotep Charter HS (PA) – A perennial Philadelphia Public powerhouse and the alma mater of Donta Scott. Imhotep is the home of of current Maryland target and ESPN Class of 2023 #4 prospect Justin Edwards and ESPN Class of 2024 #44 Ahmad Nowell.
3) National Christian Academy (MD) – A perennial PG County basketball powerhouse and the home of current Maryland target and ESPN Class of 2023 #42 prospect Isaiah Coleman.
4) Camden HS (NJ) – One of the top public high school basketball programs in the nation. Home of the current Class of 2023 ESPN #1, DJ Wagner and 2023 ESPN #20 Aaron Bradshaw.
5) West Catholic (PA) – The Philadelphia Catholic League runner-up in 2022. West Catholic’s roster features several young Division 1 basketball prospects.
6) Constitution HS (PA) – A perennial Philadelphia Public League power. Constitution consistently challenges for PIAA state championships and produces scholarship level prospects.
Colloquialisms survive for a reason. We all are familiar with words or phrase that are not formal or literary, typically, colloquialisms are employed in ordinary informal conversation. In the era of the transfer portal, it’s easy to convey meaning through use of colloquialisms. For example, with 500 D1 players left in the portal last year and another 800 currently parked there, the meaning behind the phrase “a bird in the hand is better than 2 in a bush” is easily grasped.
Still… the lesson is lost on so many…
Another, basketball specific, colloquialism has never been more apropos.
All ballers and hoopheads have heard it countless times…
“Bring your game not your name.”
Whether it’s made explicit or left implied, the sentiment underpinning the phrase is ALWAYS in place in Philly. The Philly Live 2022 Basketball Event at at Jefferson University (formerly Philadelphia University) in East Falls is no exception.
Apparently, the Roselle Catholic basketball program did not receive the memo.
When we last saw the Lions, North Carolina pledge Simeon Wilcher ’23 led the way with a team-high 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists in a victory over mighty Camden High as Roselle Catholic (29-2) won the final installment of New Jersey’s Tournament of Champions. The victory represented Roselle’s fourth title in four attempts, capturing the state’s highest honor previously in 2013, 2015 and 2018.
Since then, the top team in New Jersey, has added 6-7 Duke commit, Mackenzie Mgbako ’23. He is currently ranked 3rd in the 2023 class by ESPN. Roselle Catholic is loaded. Top notch matchups including Roselle are usually must see TV. Hence, a sizable contingent of coaches and hoopheads trekked to the Jefferson University campus in East Falls to witness Roselle Catholic take on Philly powers Roman Catholic and Imhotep.
Unfortunately, the Lions came down the Jersey turnpike and across the Ben Franklin Bridge shorthanded. The trip would not end well…
They came to Philly Live, to square up with the Cahillites and the Panthers without the 3rd and 10th ranked players in the nation.
Roselle Catholic brought their name and not their game.
They took two L’s as result.
The first game, however, was hard fought and competitive. Indeed, Roselle led for much of the contest. But in the end, they just couldn’t do anything to slow down Xzayvier Brown ’23. With Wilcher absent, The Lions had no one capable of matching Brown’s basketball I.Q. They were unable to control him in any way, shape or form. He did whatever he wanted and went where he wanted to go. As he has for 3 years, Brown demonstrated that he is a natural born leader and excels under pressure. Throughout the game, Brown took and made big shots. He’s used to the big stage, he’s been holding down the point guard spot for the Cahillites from the very first time walked through the door at Broad & Vine. He knows how to control the tempo of the game and displays some sneaky athleticism and good length that helps him blow by opponents and make athletic finishes. Brown is a very solid mid to high major point guard prospect.
I wish the future Tar Heel, Wilcher was there to offer some resistance… Without Wilcher, Roselle had no answer for Brown as he led Roman to a come from behind victory with scores of college coaches watching every play.
Nonetheless, Roselle Catholic nearly held off the Cahillites in an exciting evenly matched game. However, In their next game, the Lions paid an extremely high price and heavy tax for showing up shorthanded.
Nearly everyone in the building was focused on this matchup. I settled along the baseline, under the Roselle Catholic basket, next to my man Rudy Davis.
If this game were played in Boston, say, around 1966, Imhotep’s Coach for this game Kevin Stewart would have lit a nice big victory stogie when the ref tossed the ball in the air for the jump ball. That’s because, beginning to end, this was an ol’ fashioned extension cord whoopin’… welts and all…
Imhotep jumped out to a 12-3 lead… For Roselle, things went downhill from there.
Plainly stated, Imhotep beat the shit down the legs of the Roselle Catholic. If it were wrestling, both shoulders were pinned early and the ref could’ve counted, rather slowly, to 30.
When the score reached 12-3, I said to Rudy, “They are not going to score 25 points.”
At the other end, elated Imhotep players dunked and dunked and dunked. Justin Edwards, the magnificent senior leader of this incredibly talented Panther squad, exhibited the combination of skills, toughness and athleticism that will, surely, land him in the 2023 McDonald’s All-American game. When he was not scoring with absolute impunity, he was aggressively battering Lion field goal attempts off the backboard or walls.
If it were a boxing match, the score would be 120-108 on all cards.
As the game approached HALFTIME, the “mercy rule” was in effect. The lead was north of 30 and the clock never stopped running again.
If it were a football game, Imhotep would have been taking a knee for all four downs late in the first half.
Before the halftime buzzer sounded, former St. Joe’s point guard, Tasheed Carr ambled over to baseline where I was seated. Disappointed and frustrated, Sheed expressed his feelings about Roselle Catholic being there in name only.
That’s a problem in Philly… Especially, against Edwards, Nowell and the rest of the Panthers.
Sheed shouted, “What is this? Where is Wilcher and Mackenzie?”
“Who are these guys?”
“Get these guys outta here…”
Eliciting laughter from the locals, Sheed’s comments stung the small, but previously vocal, Roselle contingent seated to my right. I’m pretty sure that was the intention. It also had to sting the Roselle players on the floor as well. They were well within hearing distance.
Truth be told though, Sheed had a point… As Omar Little would say, “When you come at the King, you best not miss.”
Roselle didn’t even bring a full clip… They’re gonna have to run that back with Wilcher and Mgbako on the floor. It’s a must at this point… They HAVE to run that back… somewhere, somehow…
From the outset, players wearing Roselle Catholic uniforms were brought under immediate domination and control in all aspects of basketball by the Imhotep defense.
I think it was 45-12 when I left at the half… I asked Rudy to text me the final score. Before I arrived home, he hit me…
They HAVE to run that back… I wanna see Imhotep play a fully represented Roselle and Camden. I’m tryin’ to see sumthin…
A free and independent press is a necessary condition for the intellectual freedom and democracy that supposedly exists in the United States. In America, we supposedly have access to a wide range of competing news sources. In reality, we have a press that is far from free and unbiased. Control of mass media outlets is concentrated in a few privileged hands with clear agendas. How we perceive the world is largely determined by those who control the means of mass communication and their agendas can often be easily revealed with just a few scratches on the surface of their spurious arguments.
Take for example the recent intentional, premeditated effort to undermine the reputation, credibility, and character of the coaches, parents and players in the Camden High School basketball program. New Jersey Advance Media conducted a six-month investigation of the Panther high school basketball program. The finished product, a so-called “Special Report” was published on June 21 at 10:00 am with the following headline: “Camden celebrates a hoops rebirth. But critics wonder: Did they cheat their way to a championship?”Kevin Armstrong is the investigative reporter responsible for the malicious piece.
According NJ.com, Armstrong joined the NJ Advance Media staff in January. His arrival coincided with the onset of the six-month investigation. Seems like, maybe, he was hired specifically to perform the task of taking down Camden High basketball.
The special report reads like a smear campaign targeting Dajuan Wagner, the Wagner family, Camden school district administrators, basketball coaches, players and parents. Supposedly the free press matters because it uncovers the truth. Investigative journalists are trained to analyze and explain complicated issues. They play an important role. Without mass media outlets such as newspapers, radio shows, blogs, etc, the average American would have little to no knowledge of what’s going on around them. Most people lack the time and resources to investigate issues and stories that affect them and impact their communities. In theory, that’s where journalists come in.
So exactly what was the issue affecting New Jersey residents and impacting New Jersey communities that Armstrong spent six-months investigating?
After reading his piece several times, I have concluded that the core issue is as follows:
How has a HS basketball team hailing from what Armstrong describes as “a city of violent crimes and vacant lots after decades of factory abandonment, economic stagnation, corruption, white flight and arson” beat the shit the down the legs of NJ opponents for 3 straight years?
For some, the excellence and dominance Camden High has displayed on the hardwood the past three years is a problem that must be resolved.
Armstrong’s detailed descriptions of Camden City paint what can only be described as a decidedly dreary and gloomy picture. In his special report, he highlights “boarded-up houses” and “derelict brick edifices scheduled for demolition.” He seems to be preparing his readers for the question at the core of his report: Why would elite HS basketball players from six towns spread across five counties venture to Camden to play high school basketball for the Panthers?
For Armstrong, these decisions are not rational. Indeed, he goes so far as to openly question if these transfers were legal. It’s a two-fold assault… On one level, he’s arguing the parents are neglectful. By emphasizing the deteriorated state of some of Camden’s infrastructure, Armstrong implies parents are sacrificing their child’s educational development and, perhaps, placing their physical safety at risk. Moreover, and more importantly, he is unfairly labeling everyone associated with the meteoric rise of the Camden basketball program over the past three years a cheater.
So, exactly, how does he formulate his assertion that Camden cheated? Armstrong argues that “school officials seemingly made sports-driven enrollment decisions en route to the championship.” The “evidence” he provided included the fact that “five of Camden’s top six scorers do not reside in the city of 73,000 people… and are the only out-of-district students in the school.” Now, at first glance, these may appear to be unconventional and unique circumstances. But, the plain and simple fact is they are neither unconventional nor unique.
Indeed, the NJ Department of Education (NJDOE) sponsors an “Interdistrict Public School Choice Program.” According to the NJDOE website, “New Jersey’s Interdistrict Public School Choice Program enables approved choice districts to enroll K-12th grade students who do not reside within their districts without cost to their parents. The program increases educational opportunities for students and their families by providing students with school options outside of their district of residence and giving parents the power to select a school program that best serves their child’s individual needs.”
So… Every year, the state of New Jersey provides students with out of district school options and gives parents the power to select a school that best serves their child’s individual needs. That’s good stuff… Really good stuff… No one objects out of district placements unless the students happen to be elite Black basketball athletes and their parents happen to determine that Camden public schools best serve their child’s needs. If that happens… It’s a BIG fuckin’ deal… So much so that a huge media outlet, like NJ.com which had an average of 12.1 million unique monthly visitors consuming a total of 70 million page views per month in 2018, must identify and retain the services of a journalistic “hitman” like Kevin Armstrong and provide him with the resources necessary to conduct and exhaustive six-month investigation.
Fuck outta here…
According to the NJDOE, “The Public School Choice Program benefits students and parents, as well as the choice districts. Choice programs might have smaller class sizes, increased instructional time, and a school culture more conducive to a student’s success in school. Many choice districts have established specialized and innovative programs and courses that focus on areas such as the arts, math and technology, and are open to students who meet the eligibility requirements of the special programs. Opening enrollment to students outside the district can bring in more students interested in taking advantage of these special programs and courses, allowing both the programs and students to grow and flourish.”
I agree with the NJDOE. I am a staunch supporter of school choice… While the Camden School District is not part of the DOE program, I assume the logic underlying the decisions of the parents of young men on the Camden basketball program is the same as that underlying the decision of parents taking advantage of the school choice program.
However, Armstrong, NJ Advance Media and NJ.com made very different assumptions when assessing the decision-making of Camden basketball parents. Instead of assuming the out of district transfers “benefit [Camden basketball] students and parents, as well as choice districts” like the thousands of other students exercising similar options, Armstrong presented this information to Colleen Maguire, Executive Director of the NJ State Interscholastic Athletic Association. Upon receiving Armstrong’s report, Maguire “said she will begin a review to determine whether rules have been broken.”
Here comes the bullshit…
From my perspective, Armstrong appears to be a “hitman” hired to use the byzantine set of NJSIAA rules to have the Camden High State Championship vacated and prevent the Panthers from an almost inevitable repeat next year. Camden has lost exactly one (1) game to a New Jersey opponent over the past three years. As noted by Armstrong, they beat NJ public school opponents by an average of nearly 40 points per game.
They can’t take it anymore. They are tired of getting the shit beat down their legs.
They can’t do anything about it on the court. So, they have resorted to smear campaigns disguised as special reports and NJSIAA investigations.
Powerful voices have chimed in and publicly sullied the name and reputation of Camden’s administrators, players, coaches and parents. Armstrong cites a quote from former NJ governor and youth sports advocate Richard Codey where he emphatically states, “All the adults are cheating, everybody knows it and nobody seems to care.”
After getting the shit beat down his legs by 41 points (93-52) in the Group 2 state final, Central High coach Shawn McCray exclaimed, “Are there really rules? You find the loopholes and get it done. That’s too much work for me.”
Armed with a rather weak case in their effort to eliminate Camden from NJSIAA competition, the hitman mades a concerted effort to besmirch the reputation of Dajuan Wagner and the Wagner family. There can be no other logical reason for including a recap of fight Dajuan was involved in 21 years ago. It seems Armstrong wants his readers to internalize and adopt a perception of Dajuan as violent and menacing. This depiction is a far cry from the quiet, unassuming and gentle man known to everyone in Camden.
The hitman also chose to refer to a night 22 years ago when William Wesley took Wagner to a strip club after he scored 100 points in a game. Again, this incident took place 21 years ago. What is the relevance to the 2022 state champions? There is none… But, the goal is create a distorted perception about Dajuan and his family… Sucka shit… That’s what it’s called ’round my way.
Cognizant of the fact that many will remain ambivalent and some will view teenage fights and a visit to a strip club as a something akin to a right of passage, Armstrong decided to include references to the trial and conviction of Dajuan Wagner’s stepfather Leonard Paulk. The hitman noted that “Paulk was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.” What he failed to do, however, was to explain how the legal troubles of Wagner’s stepfather from 18 years ago are related to the 2022 Camden High School basketball team.
Paulk’s arrest and conviction are included as part of the hitman’s sustained effort to shape and reinforce a decidedly negative perception of Dajuan and the Wagner family… Period.
After attempting to painstakingly disparage Wagner and his family, the hitman set his sites on Rick Brunson, coach of the Panthers for the past three seasons. The hitman wrote that, “In 2014, [Brunson] was accused of sexual abuse but was acquitted.” Why… What purpose does the inclusion of this allegation serve? Judge James Booras ruled the state was “unable to meet the burden of proof required” to convict Brunson for the April 2014 incident. Furthermore, during the trial Brunson’s defense team questioned why the woman waited 10 days before contacting police and claimed the woman was seen on video laughing with Brunson after leaving the massage room.
He beat the case… In America, you are innocent til proven guilty. Right? Brunson is innocent… Period. This incident is a non-incident and is included as a salacious sidebar.
Nonetheless, the hitman understood that inclusion of this allegation could further his effort to characterize the Panthers as a lawless program.
Next up on the hitman’s list was Pervis Ellison. His “crime”? Pervis “fundraised aggressively” according to the hitman. The hitman also took quick shots at William Wesley and John Mirenda, CEO of Greentree Mortgage. Mirenda is called into question because he’s “listed as treasurer and financial director for Scholars Elite.” Why is that problematic for the hitman? Because right after Dajaun was drafted and signed a $7.4 million dollar rookie contract Greentree provided him with a $258,000 mortgage for a West Deptford house for his mother.
What da fuck does a 20 year old mortgage deal for an NBA lottery pick have to do with the 2021-2022 Camden HS basketball team?
Nothing… Absolutely nothing…
The hitman was just throwing a whole lotta shit on the wall and hoping some of it sticks.
Hitmen are noted for their persistence and Armstrong is no different. He carefully stalked his prey. He described what he witnessed while on a stakeout, “on a Tuesday in May. Two schoolchildren dribbled until their yellow bus picked them up around 8 am. Soon after, Bradshaw walked out of Juanny’s house and Perkins followed him. They got in a red Chrysler, which Perkins drove to school.”
Da’ fuck? The hitman’s staking out the homes of HS basketball players…
His six-month detail completed, the hitman submitted his special report, NJ.com published it.
The investigation has commenced…
Unable to beat ‘em on the court. Governor Codey and a few competing coaches have retained the services of NJ Advance Media and NJ.com to knock the mighty Camden Panther program out of contention. Armstrong’s defamatory piece was just the first public salvo in what will surely be a relentless campaign to prevent the Black kids from the poor, but exceedingly, proud city of Camden from beating the shit down the legs of their New Jersey opponents.
I can’t wait to see next season’s versions of the mighty Panthers…
U want Da High?
“Hell no” is apparently the response from some influential folk in NJ scholastic athletics.
Contact: Black Cager Press Office, (856) 366-0992, email@example.com
Camden City Mayor Victor Carstaphen and Camden School Board President Wasim Muhammad are highlighting and addressing the issue of student-athlete academic eligibility for college scholarships and trade school opportunities. Mayor Carstarphen and School Board President Muhammad are working to facilitate strong and effective relationships between schools, coaches, counselors, parents, students and college coaches. Athletics has long been a means of accessing higher education for Camden youth. Camden City kids are currently playing at places like Texas A&M, Kentucky, South Carolina, Massachusetts, South Carolina State, Michigan and Temple among others.
Mayor Carstarphen was a legendary schoolboy player at Camden High. He is currently 4th on Camden High School all time scoring list with 2,136 points. Carstarphen was the starting point guard on the 1986 USA Today #1 High School basketball Team in the country. He played 4 years of varsity basketball, 3 times he was names All South Jersey and 2 times he was a first team All State selection. At Temple University, he enjoyed a stellar collegiate basketball career as a 3 year starter under Hall of Fame Coach John Chaney. Carstarphen was captain for 2 years and helped team advance to 2 NCAA Elite Eight games in 1991and 1993.
“Our children have proven that they can compete at the regional, state and national levels in many sports. We want to provide the information and tools they need to successfully transition from high school to trade school, college or competitive employment.” said Mayor Carstarphen. “We will ensure that parents and student-athletes have accurate information regarding the NCAA eligibility process.”
School Board President Wasim Muhammad
School Board President Muhammad was also a starter on the the undefeated 1986 team. He was able to leverage his athletic ability and earn a scholarship to the University of New Mexico. He has pledged to identify constructive ways to help parents and student-athletes engage early as freshmen and sophomores. “Parents provide critical perspective, and they should always have a seat at the table whenever decisions are made that impact their children.” said Muhammad. “Like Mayor Carstarphen, I used athletics to access higher education. We want to make sure our talented Camden kids can continue to access higher education through sports.”
“Black Cager Sports congratulates Mayor Carstarphen and Board President Muhammad for focusing attention on the transition process for student-athletes,” said Delgreco Wilson. “As former college student-athletes, Carstarphen and Muhammad understand the importance of a solid foundation. The athletic talent in Camden is phenomenal. Because of the efforts of Carstarphen and Muhammad more Camden kids will go to college for free.”
In the coming weeks, NCAA eligibility information will be disseminated to all high school athletic directors and coaches. Over the summer, educational consultants will hold local listening sessions with parents, student-athletes, principals, and school community members to better understand the needs of student-athletes as they start the 2022-23 school year.
He won 94.81% of his games… Let that sink in… 94.81%…
Rick Brunson’s brief, but magnificent high school coaching career officially came to an end Thursday with the announcement that he was resigning his post. The former Temple Owl is finalizing a contract to become an assistant coach for the NY Knicks on Head Coach Tom Thibodeau’s staff. Brunson has extensive NBA experience having played nine years and served as an assistant coach under Thibodeau with the Bulls and Timberwolves.
Anyone that has watched the development of his son Jalen Brunson (NBA) and Camden High’s DJ Wagner understands that Brunson is gifted in the area of player development. Brunson and Wagner, while considerably different physically and athletically, share an intensely focused and business-like approach to the game. These guys come to win… every night.
Some nights the shots may not fall… Some games the offense is just not there… But their effort and determination to will their teams to win cannot be questioned… period. That can be largely attributed to the extensive time they have spent under Brunson’s tutelage.
Plainly stated, the man is an outstanding coach, player developer and he was the perfect person to assume the helm at Camden three years ago. Wagner’s enrollment at Camden unleashed a flurry of outsized expectations. His grandfather, Milt Wagner, and his father, DaJuan Wagner set the bar beyond the reach of mere mortals at Camden High. Beyond legends, these guys are, literally, basketball royalty in Camden. When they played at “Da High”, Camden was the epicenter of the scholastic basketball universe.
For the past two decades, the proud Panther program, while always competitive, was unable to return to the rarafied heights routinely attained under Milt and Juanny. The people of Camden desperately wanted their program to return to center stage. You could cut the anticipation with a knife when DJ was in the 7th and 8th grade.
Another Messiah was coming…
The selection of Brunson to conduct the orchestra was a perfect choice. Having been a highly recruited McDonald’s All-American, Brunson’s been there and done that. More recently, he walked his son through the recruiting gauntlet and help him evolve into and two-time National Champion, NCAA All-American and one of the finest young guards in the NBA.
Possessing a brusque public persona and a razor sharp wit, Brunson was ready, willing and able to become the focal point of the media’s attention while allowing the uber-talented young men in his program for concentrate on developing into college ready basketball players.
So where do we place Brunson’s run as a HS coach? For the past three years, he’s been almost unbeatable. He won 73 out of 77 games… DAMN!
He lost two games to regional high schools. In his first year at the helm, Roman Catholic beat him in one of the most exhilarating high school contests I’ve ever witnessed. Jalen Duren (NBA), Justice Williams (LSU) and Xzayvier Brown (uncommitted) led Roman to a comeback victory in a hot, overcrowded, boisterous gym in Cherry Hill. Camden also lost the final game in history of the NJ Tournament of Champions to Roselle Catholic this year.
That’s it… No other traditional high schools have been able conquer the mighty Panthers with Brunson at the helm. His other two losses came at the hands of nationally prominent basketball academies. National powerhouse Montverde and Calvary Christian were also able to knock off Camden earlier this year.
Other than that… Brunson lined ‘em up and knocked ‘em down in impressive fashion.
During his reign, Camden won 2 South Jersey Championships, a long-awaited and high anticipated State Championship and they were Tournament of Champions Runner Up. But perhaps, most impressively, Brunson helped restore a level of pride in and around the Camden basketball program that had been absent for 2 decades.
Lance Ware (Kentucky), Taquan Woodley (South Carolina/UMass), Jerome Brewer (Texas A&M-Commerce), Rasheer Fleming (St. Joseph’s), DJ Wagner (undecided), Aaron Bradshaw (undecided), Cian Medley (undecided), Cornelius “Boog” Robinson (undecided) and Dasear Haskins (undecided) developed into solid Division 1 basketball prospects under the watchful eye of Brunson.
Rick got shit done… #Respeck
Moreover, he hired my young friend Nelly Perry, a highly accomplished player in her own right as an assistant coach and gave her the freshman boys team and Camden High… This is just good stuff… The magnitude of such a hire will become obvious as more women are afforded an opportunity to coach on the boys/mens side.
So now that we have a beginning, a middle and an end of his scholastic coaching career, where do we place Brunson? How does he stack up against legends like Clarence Turner (Camden), Speedy Morris (Roman Catholic/Prep Charter/SJ Prep), Andre Noble (Imhotep Charter) and Carl Arrigale (Neumann-Goretti)?
For me, Brunson is the Gayle Sayers of local HS coaches. Although magnificent, he was on the scene for a very brief period of time. Think about it… Turner (Walter Payton) won over 700 games at Camden, Brunson won 73.
Like Sayers, Brunson flashed before the sporting public and his light radiated brighter than all others for a brief and highly productive 36 month period. Like Sayers at his best, Brunson was the best on the field while he was out there.
The crazy part, for me, is that his second team, led by Woodley, Brewer and Wagner was the best of his three great teams. Unfortunately, Covid cut their season short and we will never know how far they would have ventured.
His run was brief, but like grainy images of Sayers running around, through and away from helpless defenders, once you saw Brunson’s Panthers play you can never forget what you saw.
Camden High basketball, Camden’s basketball players and the spirit of Camden City are much better off today than they were the day Brunson started.
The transition from high school to division 1 basketball is tough. Some players take a little longer to adjust and contribute at the collegiate level. With the advent of the transfer portal, some Black Cager readers might find it difficult to track and follow some of their favorite high school stars in college. This listing attempts to rank approximately 80 of the D1 players that Black Cager covered while they were in high school. The majority are from the Greater Philadelphia region and South Jersey. I include a few alums of St Frances Academy (MD) program because, Black Cager Sports is an official sponsor of the highly regarded Panther basketball program. They are my youngbuls… There are also a few Delaware kids on the list.
Performance in college games is the primary variable considered. Performance in a high major program carries a lil’ more weight that performance in a mid-major program. High school performance and reputation was NOT considered except for the rookies who have no college performances to evaluate. At the end of the day, it’s a highly subjective ranking… The intention is to inform fans where their favorite players are and spark debate and dialogue…
1) Isaiah Wong, University of Miami, 4th year Wong has started 75 of 95 career games. He enters his 4th season with a career average of 17.7 ppg. With 1268 career points going into this season Wong should end up in the 1800-1900 point range. He was named 3rd team All-ACC in each of the last two seasons and 2nd team All-ACC Tournament in 2021. The Hurricanes reached the Elite 8 last season and Wong is back for more.
2) Samuel Sessoms, Coppin State University, 5th year Sessoms will play his 5th year at Coppin State University for coach Juan Dixon. One of the most prolific returning players in the nation, Sessoms enters his final season with 1707 points under his belt. Sessoms started 61 of the 62 games he played at Binghamton and 10 of the 55 he played at Penn State. Sessoms is expected to shoulder a heavy scoring load at Coppin. He’s an early favorite for MEAC POY.
3) Ace Baldwin, VCU, 3rd year Baldwin is the consummate pass-first, defensive oriented point guard. He spearheads the vaunted VCU full court pressure defensive scheme. Baldwin has started every one of the 50 college games he has played in. This past season, he averaged 11.4 ppg, 5.5 apg. 3.5 rpg and 2.5 spg. A year removed from a rupture Achilles tendon, look for Baldwin to emerge as one of the premier point guards in the nation.
4) Donta Scott, University of Maryland, 4th year Scott has started 79 of 94 career games. He enters his 4th season with career averages of 10.0 ppg and 5.2 rpg. With the departures of Eric Ayala and Fatts Russell as well as the transfer of Qudus Wahab, Scott is the unquestioned leader of the Terps under new coach Kevin Willard. Scott has demonstrated range extending well beyond the three point line. If Scott can get his deep ball back over the 40% mark, he will present a major problem for Big 10 defenses not season.
5) Seth Lundy, Penn State, 4th year Lundy has started 60 of 86 career games. He enters his 4th season with career averages of 9 ppg and 4 rpg. Lundy had his most productive season under 1st year coach Micah Shrewsberry last season. He will be expected to help fill the huge leadership gap left by John Harrar’s graduation. The Nittany Lions will need Lundy to play at an All-League level if they expect to play in the post-season next year.
6) Hakim Hart, Maryland, 4th year One of the most versatile players in the nation, Hart has played the 1 through 4 spots at various times for the Terps. A very savvy player, Hart very rarely turns the ball over. He has averaged less than 1 turnover per game for his entire career. Hart has started 50 of the 81 games he has played at Maryland. This past season, Hart shot an astounding 69% on 2 point FG attempts and a solid 33% on 3 point FG attempts. Maryland will need Hart to increase his 10 ppg average if they expect to contend for a Big 10 title next season.
7) AJ Hoggard, Michigan, 3rd year Hoggard is physically tough and strong point guard who excels at making plays for himself and his teammates. This past season he averaged 7.0 ppg and 5 apg while playing only 20 mpg. Look for Hoggard to assume the full-time point guard spot next season. Heading into his 3rd season in Tom Izzo’s system, Hoggard appears primed to emerge as one of the top point guards in the Big 10 conference.
8) Eric Dixon, Villanova, 4th year Dixon emerged as Villanova’s primary Big in Jay Wright’s final season. After redshirting as a freshman and playing sparingly as a sophomore, he capably held down the low post during Nova’s Final Four run. Dixon averaged 9.1 ppg and 6.4 rpg in his first year as a starter. Dixon has developed a beautiful 3 point stroke and shot an outstanding 48.6% from behind the 3 point line last season. Look for Dixon to emerge as primary focal point on offense going forward.
9) Julian Reese, Maryland, 2nd year Reese had a strong rookie campaign for a Maryland program that experienced a midseason coaching change. Reese averaged 5.7 ppg and 4.4 rpg. Thrown into the mix in the Big 10, Reese acquitted himself well in battles against Big 10 bigs like Hunter Dickinson, Kofi Cockburn, John Harrar and Trevion Williams. With Qudus Wahab transferring back to Georgetown, Reese becomes the main big on the Maryland roster. He will have to average a double-double for the Terps to compete for a Big 10 title.
10) Taquan Woodley, UMass, 2nd year Woodley worked his way into the South Carolina rotation as a freshman. He played an average of 12.2 mpg across 26 games for Frank Martin’s final Gamecock squad. Once Martin latched on with UMass, he immediately reunited with Woodley. An exceptional low post defender and rebounder, Woodley is expected to bring his toughness and high basketball acumen to the Minutemen.
11) Jack Clark, North Carolina State, 5th year Clark is entering his 5th year. A long multi skilled wing, Clark is capable of scoring from all three levels. Standing 6’9” he is able to defend on the low blocks as well as the perimeter. Clark was one of the most sought after transfers this year. Last season, he averaged 12 ppg and 5.8 rpg while playing 30.4 mpg for coach Ashley Howard and the Explorers. Finally approaching full strength, Clark will immediately become a key piece for a Wolfpack program seeking to capture an ACC crown.
12) Matthue Cotton, Yale, 4th year Cotton is entering his 4th year at Yale. Last season, he averaged 7.1 ppg and 3.6 rpg while playing 22.5 mpg for an NCAA Tournament team. He had surgery on his shoulder immediately after the season and should be ready to go for the start of next season.
13) Ed Croswell, Providence, 5th year Croswell enters his 5th season with 600+ points and 600+ rebounds. A classic back to the basket low-post big, he averaged 5.3 ppg and 4.7 rpg while playing 14.8 mpg for Coach Ed Cooley and the Friars. Ed’s production should increase subtantially as he becomes a starter nest season.
14) Andrew Funk, Penn State, 5th year Playing for Bucknell, Funk averaged a healthy 17.6 ppg last season. Having amassed over 1200 points already in college career, Funk has decided to play his 5th and final season for Micah Shrewsberry and the Penn State Nittany Lions. Coming in at 6’5” and 190 lbs, he is big enough to defend Big 10 wings. A confident and experienced Funk should provide a significant boost to the PSU perimeter attack.
15) Derek Lively, Duke, Rookie The #1 player in ESPN Class of 2022 rankings, Lively will help usher in the post-Coach K era in Duke basketball. Lively possesses a huge amazing wingspan to go along with exceptional athleticism. His coordination and ability to run the floor are well above average for a big man. Should anchor the Blue Devil defense from day one.
16) William McNair, Mississippi State, 4th year McNair is entering his 4th season. He spent his first three seasons at New Mexico State. Last year, McNair started 27 out of 34 games for an NCAA Tournament team. He averaged 6.6 ppg and 5.0 rpg while playing 22.9 minutes per game.
17) Aaron Estrada, Hofstra, 4th year Estrada exploded onto the national scene after spending a year as a dip reserve at Oregon. After playing in only 9 games and starting none at Oregon, Estrada started all 32 games for Speedy Claxton and Hofstra. He rarely left the floor, averaging 35.2 mpg. The 2021-22 CAA Player of the Year, Estrada averaged 18.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg and 5.0 apg. I expect his production levels to increase across the board his second time through the CAA.
18) Zack Hicks, Temple, 2nd year Hicks was named to the 2021-22 AAC All-Freshman team after averaging 8.3 ppg and 4.1 rpg. Playing 21.4 mpg over the course of 28 games, the 6’9” Hicks shot 37.4% from behind the 3-point line. As he improves his ball handling and mid-range game, Hicks will emerge as one of the premier players in the AAC.
19) Jahlil White, Temple, 2nd year White was named to the 2021-22 AAC All-Freshman team after averaging 7.4 ppg and 6.0 rpg. White logged 26.1 mpg in his first season playing for Aaron McKie. An outstanding athlete, White possesses the strength and lateral quickness to defend 1-4 in the AAC.
20) Hysier Miller, Temple, 2nd year Miller ended his freshman campaign entrenched as the starter at point guard for the Owls. Miller started 8 of the 23 games in which he played as a rookie. He averaged 4.9 ppg and 1.7 apg while logging 18.8 mpg. With Jeremiah Williams and Tai Strickland transferring, Miller will have to carry the full load at point next season. After a complete lap around the league, look for Miller to improve his 2FG and 3FG percentages and reduce his turnovers.
21) Stevie Mitchell, Marquette, 2nd year Mitchell came off the bench in 32 games as a rookie. He averaged 2.4 ppg, 1.4 rpg and 0.9 apg Phil playing 10.8 mpg. Mitchell was on the floor in several key closing moments last season. An exceptional student, Mitchell has received straight A’s in all of his classes. Mitchell is expected to play a much bigger role for Head Coach Shaka Smart next season.
t22) Jamir Watkins, VCU, 3rd year Two years ago, Watkins had a strong rookie season. He averaged 7.2 ppg and 2.6 rpg for VCU. An outstanding athlete with good length, Watkins stands 6’7″ and can defend 1-4 depending on matchups. He missed all of last season while rehabbing a serious knee injury. If healthy, Watkins will be expected to play a big role next season.
t22) Jordan Longino, Villanova, 2nd year Longino played in 26 games as freshmen on a Final Four Wildcat team. He averaged 1.8 ppg, 0.8 rpg and 0.4 apg. Look for Longino to assume added responsibilities next season. He should emerge as a key component for new Coach Kyle Neptune.
23) Jameer Nelson, Jr, Delaware, 4th year Nelson is thriving under Martin Inglesby. He averaged career highs in points (13.6) and rebounds (4.9) while also dishing 2.2 apg. Nelson shot over 50% on 2 point field goal attempts and over 36% on 3 pointers. A supremely gifted athlete, he is refining his ball handling and decision-making. Look for Nelson to continue his rapid improvement in all areas of the game.
24) Allen Powell, Rider, 4th year Powell started 32 out of 33 games he played last season. Entering his 4th year at Rider Powell has emerged as deep ball threat. He averaged 12.1 ppg while shooting 36% from behind the 3 point line. Look for Powell to assume more of leadership role with the big and talented roster Rider will field next season.
25) Myles Thompson, St. Francis (PA), 5th year Thompson has started 83 of the 106 games he has played at St. Francis. Last season, he averaged 11.2 ppg and 3.6 rpg. Currently sitting on 948 career points, he will eclipse 1000 early next season.
t26) Tyree Corbett, Denver, 5th year Corbett had an outstanding season at Coppin State last season. He averaged 13.0 ppg and 8.8 rpg. He will spend his 5th year as a grad transfer Denver. A very crafty veteran, Corbett has sneaky athleticism and will finish aggressively at the rim.
t26) Jyare Davis, Delaware, 3rd year After redshirting his first year at Providence, Davis transferred to Delaware. Davis had a fantastic second half of his rookie season. He was named to to 2021 CAA All-Freshman team and named CAA ROY. He also made 2022 All-CAA Tournament and was named the CAA Tournament MVP. With the departure of Andrew Carr and Dylan Painter, Davis will be expected to increase his productivity significantly
27) Wooga Poplar, Miami, 2nd year Poplar appeared in 34 games as a rookie. He scored 2.3 ppg and grabbed 1.4 rpg in an average of 8.6 minutes of playing time. By the end of the season, Poplar was a key reserve for an Elite 8 Hurricane squad.
28) Jahmir Brickus, Transfer Portal, 3rd year Brickus has started 46 of 53 games at La Salle. Last season, he averaged 8.9 ppg and 3.3 apg for Ashley Howard and the Explorers. A very capable scorer despite his small stature, Brickus remains undecided where he will play next season.
29) Andrew Carr, Wake Forest, 3rd year Carr has transferred to Wake Forest after two solid seasons with Delaware. Last season, Carr averaged 10.1 ppg and 5.1 rpg. He is a good athlete. He will be able to beat most opposing bigs up and down the floor with his quickness. He will need to improve his lower body strength and toughness to compete against ACC bigs.
30) Ajiri Ogemuno-Johnson, Rider Ogemuno-Johnson has started 55 of his 109 career games at Rider. Last season he averaged 8.6 ppg and 7 rpg. An outstanding student, Johnson is completing the requirements for a Masters degree.
31) Christian Ray, Delaware, 4th year After playing 3 years at La Salle, Ray will suit up for Martin Inglesby and the Delaware Blue Hens next season. Ray started exactly half of the 84 games he played at La Salle. Last season he averaged 5.0 ppg and a stout 6.9 rpg. Ray should blend in nicely with the experienced Blue Hen squad.
32) Allen Betrand, Rider, 4th year Betrand has transferred to Rider. The Broncs are the third team in Betrand’s college career. He averaged 4.7 ppg and 1.5 rpg for Rhode Island, before tearing his ACL in 2020-21. He missed this past season while rehabbing his injury.
33) Justice Williams, LSU, 2nd year Williams started 1 out of 20 games he played as a freshman. He averaged 1.7 ppg, 0.8 rpg and 0.7 apg while playing 10.6 minutes per game.
34) Rahsool Diggins, UMass, 2nd year Diggins transferred to UMass following a freshman season in which he appeared in 9 games off the bench. He averaged 0.8 ppg and 0.3 apg while playing only 5.1 minutes. Diggins has enrolled at UMass and will bring his considerable offensive skills to bear for Frank Martin as he takes control of the Minuteman program.
35) Lynn Greer, III, Saint Joseph’s, 2nd year Greer appeared in 10 games as a freshman for Dayton before deciding to transfer to Saint Joseph’s. Greer averaged 2.7 ppg, 1.4 rpg and 1.3 apg while playing 9 minutes per game. He will surely have increased responsibilities at Saint Joseph’s next season. With Jordan Hall turning pro, Greer will have an opportunity to play significant minutes both on and off the ball for Billy Lange and the Hawks.
36) Chris Ings, Norfolk State, 4th year Ings is entering his 4th season and 2nd with Norfolk State. He has started 59 out of 77 career games and 21 of 25 at Norfolk St. Last season he averaged 9.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg and 2.5 apg. Ings also shot a career best 40.5% from 3 point range.
t37) Antwaun Butler, Transfer Portal, 5th year The veteran Butler has started 68 out of 100 career games. This past season he stared 21 out of 23 games played for NJIT. Butler has not decided on a destination for his 5th season.
t37) Derek Simpson, Rutgers, Rookie Simpson is a very savvy, crafty and cerebral PG. He is also a very good athletes with surprising quickness and explosiveness. He expected to be a contributor very early in his career at Rutgers. Once he adjusts to the physicality of the Big 10 conference he should be an entrenched member of the Scarlet Knight backcourt.
38) Chris Arcidiacano, Villanova, 4th year Arcidicono is entering his 4th year in the the Villanova program. He has started 4 out of 56 games in which he has played. This past season he averaged 1.6 ppg, 1 rpg and 0.6 apg. With the graduation of Colin Gillespie and the injury to Justin Moore, Arcidiacono will be expected to lead and help the young guards as they learn the Villanova way of doing things.
39) Anquan Hill, Transfer Portal, 2nd year Hill started 17 out of 26 games in a freshman campaign in which he was named NEC Rookie of the Year. Hill averaged 7.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg and 1.0 bpg. He has yet to settle on a destination for next season.
40) Lance Ware, Kentucky, 3rd year Ware has started 3 of the 49 games he’s played at Kentucky. Last year he averaged 1.5 ppg and 2.3 rpg while playing 6.3 mpg.
41) Nnanna Njoku, Villanova, 2nd year Njoku appeared in 9 games as a freshman. He averaged 0.7 ppg and 1.6 rpg in just 3 minutes of playing time in those limited appearances.
42) Deuce Turner, San Diego, 3rd year As freshman at Bucknell in 2021-22, Turner appeared in 11 games and averaged 8.3 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 19.8 minutes per contest. He spent a year at South Plains College where he named a 2nd team JUCO All-American. Turner will have up to three years of eligibility to use as he heads to San Diego to play for Steve Lavin.
43) Elijah Taylor, Quinnipiac, 3rd year After a medical redshirt as a freshman, Taylor played 3 games for the Fighting Irish last season before stepping away from the team to resolve some academic issues. Taylor has transferred to Quinnipiac where he will once again be teamed with former Imhotep Charter HS teammate Jamil Riggins. If healthy, Taylor projects as All-MAAC level player for the next three seasons.
t44) Justin Anderson, NJIT, Grad Student
The 6-3 lefty avg. 18.7 ppg and made 38 three-pointers on his way to PSAC Eastern Division First Team. After a strong D2 career at Bloomsburg, Anderson has 2 years of eligibility remaining. He possesses a sweet lefty stroke from well beyond the college 3-point line.
t44) Dahmir Bishop, Florida Gulf Coast, 4th year Bishop has started in 14 of the 58 games he played. Last season he averaged 3.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg and 0.7 apg while playing 16.1 mpg. Pat Chambers aggressively recruited Bishop coming out of HS while he was at Penn State.
45) Daeshon Shepherd, La Salle, 2nd year Shepherd played in 19 games as freshman for Ashley Howard and the Explorers. He averaged 2.1 ppg and 0.7 rpg while playing 8.0 minutes per game.
46) Fah’Mir Ali, Delaware State, 3rd year Entering his 3rd college season, Ali will suit up for his 3rd team. He began at Radford, transferred to the College of Charleston and is now at Delaware State. Last season, Ali played 11 games for Radford. He averaged 7.6 ppg and 3.4 apg. He projects as the starting PG for Stan Waterman’s rebuilding Hornets squad.
47) Lucas Monroe, Pnnsylvania, 3rd year Monroe is entering his 3rd year with the Quakers. Last season he averaged 4.8 ppg and 3.9 rpg while playing 16.7 mpg for coach Steve Donahue.
48) Derrius Ward, Texas Rio Grande, 3rd year Ward played 2 games as a freshman at La Salle. This past season, played at Harcum Junior College and averaged 10.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg and 3.6 apg. He is expected to contribute immediately for coach Matt Figgers.
49) Khalil Turner, Morgan State, 3rd year As a freshman, Turner played in 13 games at Rider. Last season, Turner played at Palm Beach State (JUCO) where he averaged 14.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg and 2.9 apg. Turner could flourish under Kevin Broads at Morgan State.
50) Dan Skillings, Cincinnati, Rookie Skillings has played extensively for Roman Catholic and Philly Pride for the past few years. He should be able to contribute as a freshman in the Big 12. Skillings possesses the length and perimeter skills necessary to adjust quickly to the college game.
51) Jameel Brown, Penn State, Rookie Brown is one of the most confident shooters from the region since Shep Garner. We will see if he can match or surpass the 1600+ Garner dropped while in Happy Valley. Brown has good size and is an advanced shooter who can put the ball in the basket from well beyond the 3 point line.
52) Clarence Rupert, Southern Illinois, 2nd year Rupert was key member of the Cinderella St. Peter’s team that advanced deep into the NCAA Tournament. Last season, Rupert averaged 4.4 ppg and 2.6 rpg for coach Shaheen Holloway. He has transferred to Southern Illinois.
53) Seth Pinkney, Florida International, 4th year Pinkney has started 54 out of 84 career games. He played two seasons at Quinnipiac and last year transferred to Florida International. Last season Pinkney averaged 4.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg and 1.2 bpg.
54) Zahree Harrison, St. Francis (PA), 3rd year Harrison has started 8 out of 46 career games at St. Francis. Last season, he averaged 3.5 ppg and 2 apg while playing 20.5 mpg. Harrison is expected to assume the full-time PG spot next season. He will have to significantly improve his 3FG (08.0%) and FT (62.1%) percentages as the primary ball handler. It’s his turn to take the reins.
55) Cam Young, St. Peter’s, 3rd year Young played 47 games at Bowling Green, starting 1, over two years. He will play his 3rd season at St. Peter’s for new Head Coach Bashir Mason. Last season, he averaged 3.2 ppg and 2.8 rpg.
56) Tariq Ingraham, Rider, 4th year Entering his 4th year of college, Ingraham has played in a total of 3 college basketball games. He has decided to play his 4th year at Rider for Kevin Baggett. If healthy, he becomes one of the premier rebounders in the MAAC from day one.
57) Matt McFarlane, Transfer Portal, 4th year McFarlane played in 13 games last season for Ashley Howard and La Salle. Inthose games he averaged 2.1 ppg and 1.2 rpg. He has not decided upon a destination for next season.
58) Jamal West, Transfer Portal, 3rd year West had strong freshman year at South Alabama averaging 5.7 ppg and 6.3 rpg. He went from playing 26.6 mpg as a freshman to only 6.1 mpg as a sophomore. He entered the portal and has not identified a destination for next season as of yet.
59) Hakim Byrd, Transfer Portal, 3rd year After making the 2020-21 MAAC All-Freshman team, Byrd transferred to UMBC. Last season he averaged 1.9 ppg and 0.6 apg. He has not identified a destination for next season as of yet.
60) Marcus Randolph, Richmond, 2nd year Randolph played in 9 games as a freshman. He averaged 0.6 ppg and 0.1 apg while playing 3.1 minutes per game.
61) John Camden, Virginia Tech, 2nd year Camden played 2 minutes in 1 game for Memphis as a freshman. He has transferred to Virginia Tech and looks to establish himself as a ACC wing. He has excellent length and a sweet shooting stroke from behind the 3 point line.
62) Jeremiah Bembry, Florida State, Rookie Bemby is a 6’6” PG committed to Leonard Hamilton and the Seminoles. Bembry played for Executive Education Charter and Athlete’s Plus. Bembry looks to crack the rotation as a freshman. He is also a good athlete and should be able to defend 1-3 for the Seminoles.
63) Aaron Lemon-Warren, Delaware State, Rookie Lemon-Warren is a highly regarded recruit. He played for Archbishop Ryan and K-Low Elite. He will find a way to contribute early in his freshman season. Spent last season prepping with Mt Zion Prep in Maryland.
64) Jerome Brewer, Texas A&M, Commerce, Rookie Brewer was a key component of a nationally ranked Camden HS team. He spent this past season prepping with Sunrise Christian Academy. Brewer possesses the size and strength to defend the low post and rebound as a freshman.
65) Ray Somerville, Delaware State, 4th year Entering his 4th year, Ray Somerville has transferred from Cal Stat Baskersfield to play for Stan Waterman at Delaware State. Over the past two seasons, Somerville appeared in 15 games for Cal State Baskersfield. He averaged 1.3 ppg and 1.2 rpg.
66) Konrad Kiszka, Princeton, 3rd year Kiszka has played in 15 games in two years. He only played in 1 game last season.
67) Ed Holland, Pennsylvania, 2nd year Holland appeared in 7 games for the Quakers as a freshman. He averaged 0.6 ppg and 0.3 rpg while playing 3.1 mpg. Holland is expected to make big leap next season.
68) Justin Moore, Drexel, Rookie Moore is a prototypical Philly guard. He likes to play downhill. He is very adept at beating the initial defender and either pulling up for a midrange jumper, attacking the rim or setting up his teammates.
69) Kareem Ewell, Delaware State, Rookie Ewell is a very active and athletic forward. He is bouncy and likes to attack the rim. He possesses good lateral quickness and should be able to defend 3-5 depending on matchups. He is a very nice addition for Coach Stan Waterman and the Hornets.
70) Kobe Magee, Drexel, Rookie Magee is solid all-around wing. He is a good shooter, rebounder and defender. Once he adjusts to the sped and athleticism of D1 basketball, he could be a contributor early in his college career.
71) Blaise Vespe, Florida Gulf Coast, Rookie Vespe is a very good athlete. He runs and jumps as well as most forwards you will find at the low to mid major level. His ball-handling and perimeter shooting have improved steadily. Vespe should be able to contribute early at FGCU for coach Pat Chambers.
72) Mike Walz, Richmond, Rookie Big, strong and fundamentally sound, Walz should eventually become a solid starting big in the A10. The leap from Conestoga HS to the A10 is pretty big, but his experience with Philly Pride should help Walz man the adjustment.
73) Christian Tomasco, Hofstra, Rookie A prototypical stretch 4, Tomasco should do very well in the CAA. He is able to catch and shoot from three and use ball fakes to attack the rim. A good athlete, Tomasco will bang it on defenders when attacking the rim.
74) Gediminas Mokšeckas, Campbell, Rookie Mokšeckas has started 11 of the 42 games he’s played at Campell. Last season, he came off the bench 19 times averaging 1.5 ppg and 1.4 rpg.
t75) Jaylen Stinson, Merrimack, Rookie Stinson played in 4 games for James Madison as a freshman. He averaged 3.3 ppg, 1.5 rpg and 1.5 apg in 5.8 minutes of playing time per game. He has transferred to Merrimack where he expected to assume the full-time PG position.
t75) Zaakir Williamson, Buffalo, 2nd year Williamson missed the entire season last and received a medical redshirt.
76) Khalil Farmer, Hofstra, Rookie Farmer is an outstanding catch and shoot guard. He is very capable of scoring off of 1 or 2 dribble pull ups. He has good size for a CAA guard and he should flourish playing for Speedy Claxton and alongside Aaron Estrada.
t77) Masud Stewart, Binghamton, Rookie Stewart is a winner. He makes unselfish, winning plays on a consistent basis. H a a very strong, tough and athletic guard. Stewart is solid jump shooter, decent ball-handler and exceptional defender. Should play early and often at Binghamton.
t77) Yazid Powell, Buffalo, 3rd year
Powell is committed to Buffalo. He played for Harcum College (JUCO) last season. Powell is an explosive leaper and a tough defender on the perimeter.
78) Kaseem Watson, Cal State Bakersfield, Rookie Watson is multi-skilled 6’7” wing. He is a solid ball-handler and defender and playmaker. After years of wars in the Philadelphia Catholic League and on the Adidas 3SSB circuit, he should be ready to contribute as freshman for Coach Rod Barnes and the Roadrunners.
79) Kareem Watson, Cal State Bakersfield, Rookie Watson, like his twin brother, is multi-skilled 6’7” wing. He is a solid ball-handler and defender and playmaker. After years of wars in the Philadelphia Catholic League and on the Adidas 3SSB circuit, he should be ready to contribute as freshman for Coach Rod Barnes and the Roadrunners.
t80) Darryon Prescott, Florida International, Rookie Prescott was declared ineligible by the PIAA his senior year. He has exceptional length , standing nearly 7’0″ ft tall. He is still raw offensively, but he’s hard worker that is improving rapidly. He should able to contribute early on the defensive end.
t80) Tre Dinkins, Canisius, Rookie Dinkins is a good athlete and he has improved his perimeter skills during his stay at Harcum College (JUCO). Canisius is getting a college ready combo guard.
81) Gestin Liberis, St. Francis, Rookie Liberis is a 6’9″ forward that is just scratching the surface of his potential. He brings some athleticism and length to the St. Francis (PA) program.
82) Nix Varano, Rider, Rookie Varano is one of the better catch and shoot guys to come through the Philadelphia Catholic League this year. He will get an opportunity to watch Allen Powell play while learning Coach Kevin Baggett’s system.
PHILADELPHIA – La Salle head men’s basketball coach Fran Dunphy has officially added La Salle alum Joe Mihalich ’78 to his staff as Special Assistant to the Head Coach, it was announced on Friday.
“We are excited to welcome Coach Mihalich back to La Salle,” Dunphy said. “I have known Joe for a long time, worked with him for three years on the coaching staff at La Salle under Lefty Ervin and Speedy Morris, and know what a high-quality coach and man he is. His vast experience and knowledge will benefit myself, our student-athletes, and the rest of our coaching staff tremendously.”
With nearly 40 years of experience on the sidelines, Mihalich rejoins the Explorers with more than 400 career wins under his belt in his 22 years as a head coach. A former player and assistant in the Blue and Gold, Mihalich is set to make his third stint to the La Salle men’s basketball program.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be back at my alma mater,” Mihalich said. “The opportunity to work with one of my best friends in the college basketball world and another La Salle alum, Coach Dunphy, makes this all the more special. I look forward to developing relationships with our players, coaches, and staff members as we work together to create a championship culture at La Salle.”
Mihalich spent the last nine seasons at Hofstra, stepping down after seven seasons in charge of the men’s basketball program to become the special assistant to the athletic director. In his seven years at the helm of the Pride, Mihalich amassed a record of 141-92, including four postseason berths – two NIT bids and an automatic NCAA Tournament berth that never took place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his second season at Hofstra, Mihalich improved the squad to a 20-14 record and a CBI first round appearance. In 2015-16, the Pride became Colonial Athletic Association regular-season champions with a 14-4 conference record in just his third season in charge. Mihalich tallied five winning seasons in his seven years as head coach at Hofstra, combining for a 53-16 record in his final two years that saw the Pride record back-to-back regular season titles and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in 2019-20 after sweeping both the regular season and CAA Tournament Championship.
Prior to his time in Hempstead, Mihalich developed one of the most consistent programs in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, leading Niagara to 265 wins, five postseason appearances and earning three MAAC Coach of the Year awards in his 15 seasons inside the Gallagher Center. Mihalich was responsible for 12 winning seasons while with the Purple Eagles, becoming three-time MAAC regular season champions and two-time tournament winners.
Mihalich spent 17 seasons on the sidelines at 20th & Olney before making his jump to head coach, assisting at his alma mater under head coaches Lefty Ervin and Speedy Morris. Mihalich was part of eight postseason appearances and five NCAA Tournament teams while at La Salle and helped develop numerous players that would play professionally in the NBA, including Lionel Simmons, Tim Legler, Doug Overton, and Randy Woods.
Joe Mihalich grew up right near the campus of La Salle, starting his collegiate career as a walk-on on the 1974-75 team, making the NCAA Tournament in his freshman year. He would spend four seasons as a player with the Explorers before entering into the coaching field with his first assistant role at DeMatha High School in Washington, D.C.
The eldest Mihalich is joined in the coaching ranks by his son, Joe Jr., who is currently an assistant at the University of Pennsylvania.
Jamal Nichols was finest player the Philadelphia Public League had to offer in 2001. He won the Markward Award as the Philadelphia Public League Player of the Year that season. He averaged 15.0 points and grabbed 13.5 rebounds per game his senior year at Ben Franklin High School. Now… I didn’t really know him while he was a schoolboy standout, but I certainly knew of him.
Nichols committed to play for Phil Martelli and the St. Joseph’s Hawks. Right after he committed, the late great John Hardnett brought him to see me. He told Jamal Nichols, “if you ever have any issues or questions about any school shit talk to Del.” With that, Mal was my youngin… Once he arrived on Hawkhill, Martelli asked me to “tutor/mentor” Nichols and a freshman guard from PG County named Delonte West. Big 5 HOFer Pat Caroll was the other member of that notable recruiting class.
Nichols, West and I met on average 2 or 3 times a week regularly… I kept my finger on their academic pulse while serving as a sounding board as they vented their intense basketball frustrations. Martelli’s Hawks were loaded, as a result, that was a tough year on the court for the rookies, Nichols, West and Carroll.
Martelli decided to redshirt Nichols. West and Carroll, while active, were trapped behind Big 5 Hall of Famer, Marvin O’Connor and PUB legend Naim Crenshaw. Nichols and West were not pleased with their predicament. Two or three nights a week, I had to hear “we bussing they ass Del… they can’t fuck with us. I don’t know why Phil won’t play us.”
“Man… y’all freshmen… Those guys are good… shut up! Wait your turn…”
Way beyond impatient, Nichols and West wanted to play ahead of established upperclassmen like Bill Phillips, O’Connor and Crenshaw.
Wasn’t gonna happen… Martelli wasn’t doing that…
“Chill out fellas…”
“Mannnn… fuck that…”
West begrudgingly waited his turn. So did Carroll. Nichols, however, went the JUCO route after being suspended for a semester. All three became really good college basketball players. West and Carroll are Big 5 Hall of Famers…
Nichols spent his one season at Riverside (Calif.) Community College where he averaged 17.4 points and 8.3 rebounds. The following year, he played at Globe Tech in New York, N.Y. where he averaged 24 points and 14 rebounds and was selected to play in the National Junior College Division I All-Star game.
Each and every step of the way, Nichols faithfully kept me abreast of his academic progress. Nichols is no bookworm, far from it. But he is highly intelligent… Wicked smart as they say in Boston… He always paid close attention to academic requirements at each stop and made sure he steadily progressed toward a Bachelors Degree. Basically, he didn’t fuck around… He piled up his credits…
After graduating Junior College, Nichols signed to play basketball at DePaul University for Blue Demon Head Coach Dave Leitao prior to the 2004-05 season. After one season at DePaul, a frustrated Nichols turned professional. He spent more than a decade playing in Europe and the Middle East.
After his playing days ended, Nichols settled down with his family and began working with students with significant autism support and emotional support needs. Nichols provided educational, behavioral and clinical services while helping students reach their full potential. His advancement in this field was hindered by his lack of a bachelors degree.
He never stopped thinking about completing his own academic journey. Frequently, we would discuss his son’s educational progress and placement. Ultimately, Nichols and his wife enrolled him at Friends Central. Like his Daddy, Nichols’s boy is wicked smart. Inevitably, the discussions would always wind back around to Nichols completing his bachelors.
The challenge was finding a path that could work with his intense work schedule and heavy family responsibilities. We explored Rosemont, Eastern, Cheyney, Arcadia, Cabrini and some other online programs trying to find an affordable path to completion of the bachelors degree. None of them worked financially.
Then one day, I suggested that he reach out to DePaul. That was the last school he attended. He played a full season and left in good standing.
“Maybe, they’ll let you finish there…”
“Hit up the AD and explain your situation… Brother came from Kentucky, I heard the he’s a good dude.”
In August 2020, DeWayne Peevy became the new DePaul University athletic director. Peevy has been Kentucky’s deputy director of athletics for the last six years and has been with their athletic department for the last 12 years.
After a few raw and honest conversations, Peevy helped Nichols identify a path toward a DePaul degree. The two have formed a friendship. When the Blue Deamons came to town to get spanked by Nova, Peevy and Nichols met up and discussed his progress. It should be noted that, DePaul basketball has never wavered from their initial promise to take care of Nichols made nearly 20 years ago.
That’s all Nichols needed, an opportunity. Nichols has taken full advantage of the opportunity. Indeed, he was recently named to the DePaul University Dean’s List for the Spring Semester.
I’m not surprised… Not at all… Like I said, the young man is highly intelligent.
The game ain’t over… But it’s first and goal on the one.
Nichols is in “beast mode”… He’s handing that shit off to Marshawn… fuck that goal line slant pass!