March 21, 2022,PHILADELPHIA – La Salle University head men’s basketball coach Ashley Howard will not return next season, Vice President of Athletics and Recreation Brian Baptiste announced Monday.
“I would like to thank Ash for the guidance he provided to our student-athletes over the last four years,” Baptiste said. “Unfortunately, the performance on the court did not meet our expectations. The time is right for a change in leadership that will benefit our student-athletes and the future of the program. We wish Ash, his wife, Ari, daughter, Journey, and son, Ace, nothing but the best in their next chapter.”
Howard recently completed his fourth season as head coach of the Explorers, compiling a 45-71 record and a 25-46 mark in Atlantic 10 play.
“I would like to give my heartfelt gratitude to the La Salle community for their support of me and the program over the last four years,” Howard said. “Unfortunately, I was not able to lead the program to the heights and expectations that were set. I am better for my experience as a head coach at La Salle, and I will always be a supporter of the Blue & Gold. Believe.”
Associate head coach Kyle Griffin will serve as interim head coach. A national search for a new head coach will begin immediately.
“La Salle men’s basketball is a program that is well known across the college basketball landscape, due to the outstanding student-athletes and coaches that have been a part of our proud institution,” Baptiste continued. “Our alumni, our fans, University administration, and I have high expectations for returning the team to success at the highest levels and maintaining our student-athletes’ nationally recognized excellence in the classroom. We will work diligently to find a head coach who is committed to building a championship-caliber program.”
As they say around the way… Team Final is FLEXXIN’!
Over the past fifteen years, quite a few NBA players have emerged from the Team Final camp. Off the top of my head, I think of Tyreke Evans, Dion Waiters, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Rondae Jefferson, Mikal Bridges, Davon Reed, Malachi Richardson, Donte DiVincenzo, Mikal Bridges, Louis King and Cam Reddish. I may have missed a couple… I apologize if that’s the case… I certainly don’t want no smoke with #FinalFam… Real shit…
Team Final is NOT in the mood…
In the face of this year’s stampede into the already jam-packed NCAA Transfer Portal, Team Final has, very publicly, established clear parameters for college basketball programs seeking to recruit kids playing under the Final umbrella.
At 1:30 PM on March 14 the official Team Final twitter account issued the following tweet:
declaration: “Attention all college coaches!! If you push any of our players into the transfer portal, you can NOT recruit any of our players again! #TeamFinalFamily”
With that edict, Team Final is attempting to provide some cover and leverage for young men that played in their EYBL program. The NCAA transfer portal has resulted in a significant increase in the number of D1 and D2 (scholarship level) transfers in Men’s basketball. While many young men initiate the transfer process themselves, a significant number of student-athletes are pushed into the portal by coaches looking to free up scholarships.
These guys are vulnerable… Coach comes in and says “It’s not working… we’ll help you find a spot…” it’s over. Every day young men are being pushed into the portal.
Team Final has decided that they will implement consequences for college coaches that push their players into the portal. Any coach that runs off a Team Final player is forever banned from recruiting other players in the program. Given Team Final’s track record, that’s a consequence with bite. Team Final produces a steady flow of Division 1 prospects and occasional NBA lottery picks.
This move by Team Final is significant. They are asserting that Team Final is in a position to impose consequences for actions they deem unbecoming by college coaches. Can Team Final actually prevent college programs from recruiting players in their program? What if college coaches goes through the high school coach? Or the workout guy? Or the shooting instructor? Or the strength coach? Or the principal? Or the pastor? Or the uncle?
How will Team Final actually stop the college coaches?
Having raised these questions… Let me say, I actually think any AAU/grassroots program can fairly easily create a narrative and shape the perspective of it’s players and parents. It’s doable… I’ve seen it done…
Moreover, Team Final is asserting that it is appropriate for grassroots clubs to impose consequences. Suppose… just suppose… the kid is a “asshole”? Suppose the kid is non-compliant with team rules and expectations? Suppose the kid deserved to be dismissed from the program?
Suppose another kid in the program really likes the college and wants to play there? Does Team Final actually prevent his enrollment? If so, how?
Can Team Final block college programs? Yup
Should Team Final block college programs? I dunno
Will Team Final block college programs? Absolutely… They aren’t bluffing.
“We’ve had all great leaders: (Jalen) Brunson, (Ryan) Arcidiacono… He’s the one that is most like a coach. He literally stops them [in practice] and teaches them. He’ll say, ‘Stop. Look, you’ve got to lock and trail on this. I’m helping high, you’re trailing.’ … He’s a teacher.”
Jay Wright, Villanova Coach
Soon, the last page will turn and the book will close on Collin Gillespie’s magnificent college basketball career. I still recall the first time I heard his name… It was the summer of 2016 and the late great youth basketball coach Paul Gripper was telling everyone that would listen that John Mosco had an under appreciated and under recognized Philly point guard on his roster. “Del… This is a bad white boy… I’m tellin’ you he’s a D1 point guard.” This was before Gillespie scorched any and all comers in the Philadelphia Catholic League while leading Archbishop Wood to their first championship. Before Collin settled any and all debates about the best HS guard in Philly that year. Before anyone else, Gripp told the world Collin Gillespie got that “John Blaze shit.”
Well… everyone in America can now see what Gripp saw six years ago…
Last season, Collin Gillespie shared the Big East Player of the Year honor, but this season, in his return as a fifth-year senior, the 2017 Philadelphia Catholic League POY stands alone as the Big East’s best. The lone unanimous All-Big East first team selection, he was also named the Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award. Gillespie is the first player in Villanova history to earned Big East Player of the Year honors more than once in his career. Earlier today, he was named the MVP of the 2022 Big East Tournament after leading Nova to another title in Madison Square Garden.
As he prepares to exit the college stage, it seems appropriate to try place Gillespie in the pantheon of great Philly guards? Which Philly guard is he like? Who does Gillespie remind you of? After giving this considerable thought, I think Temple’s Howie Evans may be the most appropriate comparison for Gillespie.
I would go so far as to argue, Gillespie is Evans with a National Championship!
Now… I saw them both… in high school and college… However, I realize younger readers may not have a frame of reference… After all, Evans began his college career 38 years ago. Young hoopheaps have no idea how good Evans and those Temple teams were… Let me walk you through this comparison…
First and foremost, I had to find a point guard that was a winner. We think of Gillespie as the ultimate winner and rightfully so. Gillespie has been a winner every year at Villanova. However, Evans won even more than Gillespie. Temple played 132 games over Evans’ four years… They won 114 of them. The Temple record from 1984 to 1988 (114-18) resulted in a gaudy .863 winning percentage. Villanova during the Gillespie era has gone 127-35. That’s a great record and it includes a National Championship in 2018. But the winning percentage of Evans Temple teams (.863) is better than Villanova since Gillespie arrived (.783).
While both are pass first Philly point guards, both can get a bucket when needed. For his career, Evans averaged 11.1 ppg over 132 games for a total of 1,459 points. Gillespie averaged 11.9 over 150 games for a total of 1,784 points. Keep in mind Gillespie, most likely, has a few NCAA tournament games to play.
Both were solid, not spectacular, shooters. Evans shot 41.6% from the field and 39.8% from behind the 3-point line. Gillespie has shot 42.4% from the field and 38.8% from behind the 3-point line. For his career, Evans attempted 9.0 and made 3.9 field goals per game… Gillespie has taken 8.9 and made 3.8. Evans averaged 2.9 rebounds per game, Gillespie has averaged 2.8.
Evans was a better play maker. This is evidenced by the fact that he averaged 5.7 assists per game for an incredible 748 career assists. Gillespie has averaged 3.1 assists for a career total of 456. On the other hand, Gillespie has fewer turnovers, 213 compared to Evans’ 253. Neither guy was doing much rim protecting… Evans 17 career blocks, Gillespie 6.
Evans was more proficient at playing the passing lanes… He finished 268 career steals compared to Gillespie’s 148.
Both in my mind and statistically speaking, this thing is really close…
But, I have to give the edge to Gillespie… He got that chip!
But I want readers to know two things: 1) Collin Gillespie is a BAD muthafucka, and; 2) You kids just don’t understand how good Howie Evans was at basketball!
What’s a good year for a coach or a team? The answer varies for different programs. A below average year for Villanova would be strong year for most college basketball teams. Here in a highly UNscientific manner, I offer “reasonable expectations” for area programs. These reasonable expectations are based on historical performance, league affiliation, facilities, financial incentive, recruiting patterns, etc.
Do we set the bar too high for some programs? It is too low for others? What do you think?
I didn’t believe it… I really could not wrap my head around what I was hearing… After 24 years as head coach of Hawks, Phil Martelli was pushed out of the door.
Martelli was a good coach… A damn good basketball coach… He led SJU to an Elite 8 in 2004. He made it to the Sweet 16 in 1997 and 2004. He made the NCAA tournament seven (7) times and participated in the NIT on six (6) other occasions. On four occasions (1997, 2001, 2004, 2005) Martelli led the Hawks to regular season A10 Championships. Three times (1997, 2014, 2016) he cut down the nets after capturing the A10 tournament. He was the consensus National Coach of the Year in 2004 and named A10 Coach of the year on 4 different occasions.
“Get the fuck outta here… They didn’t bang Phil…”
“Yo man… it’s all over the internet.”
“Imma hit you back… Let me read this shit…”
There it was… SJU athletic director Jill Bodensteiner said she made the decision mutually with St. Joseph’s president Mark C. Reed. “Recommended by me, approved by him,” Bodensteiner said. “This was anguishing, unequivocally the hardest decision I’ve made in my life. But I’m owning it.”
I respected the fact that Bodensteiner owned her decision.
With that… Martelli was done at St. Joseph’s… He was 444-328 (.575) overall and 218-176 (.553) in the A10. When his 13 post-season appearances in 24 years are taken into account, one can argue that Martelli did a helluva job at Saint Joseph’s.
The Philadelphia basketball community took a deep breath, looked directly into Bodensteiner’s eyes and like Andy Reid on a Monday morning press conference sighed, “Time is yours…”
Bodensteiner was on the clock… She was at bat and needed to hit a home run. To many, Saint Joseph’s is and always has been a solid basketball club that offers classes when practice is not in session. The SJU job was sure to attract a bevy of highly qualified candidates. Bodensteiner noted at the time “I think this is an incredible job, in large part thanks to Phil.”
After considering the likes Bruiser Flint, Jameer Nelson, John Thompson, III, Geoffrey Arnold and several other candidates, Bodensteiner and President Reed handed the keys to the Hawk program to Sixer’s Assistant Coach Billy Lange.
Lange came to St. Joseph’s with a 93-114 (.449) overall record as a D1 head coach at Navy. He was 42-56 (.429) in Patriot League games.
Three years later… Lange is 22-60 (.268) overall and 10-38 (.208) in the A10 at St. Joseph’s.
St. Joseph’s was just defeated by La Salle in the 12/13 play in game for the A10 tournament. The loss was the third to the Explorers this season. St. Joseph’s has finished 13th or T13th in each of the past 3 seasons.
Perhaps, it would be unfair to compare Lange’s record to Martelli’s over a full 24 years. But it seems more than fair to compare Martelli’s last 3 years with Lange’s first three seasons.
Phil went 41-55 (.427) overall and 20-34 (.370) in the A10. Lange has gone 22-60 (.268) and 10-38 (.208) in the A10.
I get it… It’s hard as shit to win A10 games… It took time… sometime 2 or 3 years… but Phil would always figure it out. He was positioned to ascend the A10 mountain again…
The day he was let go, Martelli’s roster featured Jameer Nelson, Jr (2nd team All-CAA), Jared Bynum (2nd team All-Big East), Hakim Hart (2 yr Big 10 starter), Bones Hyland (Denver Nuggets), Charlie Brown (Sixers 2-way deal), Ryan Daly (G-League) and Taylor Funk.
It’s safe to say, with that core group of players, Martelli would have made a run and gotten to an NCAA tournament or two. But, the SJU brain trust lost faith in Martelli and pulled the trigger.
Some will contend that I give Martelli the benefit of the doubt because he is my “guy”. They would not be entirely wrong. I will be the first to admit, I am able to make that assertion because Phil is my “guy.”
Because he is my “guy”, I got to see how he won games and built teams. I was at every game within driving distance… I was at practices… I was in meetings with kids… I saw the prospects in high school and on AAU circuits… I was able to tell Phil, “Philly Pride is gonna look out for you…” and watch Chris Clover, Charlie Brown and Hakim Hart subsequently sign LOIs with the Hawks…
Because Phil is my “guy” I got to see the sausage being made… Then every 3 or 4 years we had a helluva meal…
I was with the team in Brooklyn when they found out who they were playing in the NCAA tournament in 2014… I was there again who they did it in 2016.
I expected to be there in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
St. Joseph’s basketball, however, has taken another direction.
Zach Spiker and the Drexel Dragons face Martin Ingelsby in the first round of the CAA Tournament at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington, D.C. today at 2:30 pm. This is the 4/5 game.
Spiker, in his 6th year leading the Dragons is 76-102 (.427) overall and 36-63 (.364) in the CAA. Ingelsby is also in his 6th year at Delaware is 92-85 (.520) overall and 45-54 (.455) in the CAA.
Delaware finished the regular season with a record of 19-12 (10-8 in CAA) T-4th. Drexel finished the regular season with a record of 15-13 (10-8 in CAA) T-4th.
Ingelsby has had greater success during the regular season. His overall winning percentage (.520) is ten points above Spiker’s (.427). But we all know that you play college basketball to make the NCAA tournament. In 2021, Spiker pulled a rabbit out of a hat, won the CAA Tournament and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament after finishing 6th in the regular season with a record of 4-5.
The Blue Hens are led by guards Jameer Nelson, Jr. and Kevin Anderson. Nelson (14.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg and 2.3 apg) is an athletic and explosive combo guard. He attacks the basket with a quick and effective first step and crossover ability. Nelson’s handle is very strong and he gets into the lane effortlessly. He will bang it on you… He finishes well through contact at the rim and is unafraid to go over bigs in traffic. He gets good lift on his jump shot and has a quick release. He hit 38% of his 3FG this season. Nelson is a solid and unselfish passer, he always looks for the open man. Really excels defensively and has a chance to develop into a great defender.
Anderson has been an excellent combo guard throughout his career at Delaware. Blessed with good size and athleticism, he has become a good shooter. Knocked down 38.3% of his 3’s last season, and has a very smooth stroke. At 6’5″ with a 6’8″ wingspan, Anderson has great size and length for a combo guard. An intelligent player, He uses his length to disrupt the passing lanes and shoot over smaller defenders. He is a solid ballhandler with decent shot-creating ability. On of his strengths is his great court vision. Anderson is an excellent passer and leads the team with nearly 4 APG this season. He is a very instinctive offensive player, both as a scorer and a distributor.
Senior PF Dylan Painter (12.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.0 apg), Senior guard Ryan Allen (12.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg. 1.8 apg) and sophomore PF Andrew Carr (9.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.4 apg) round out the starting five for Ingelsby and the Blue Hens. Freshman forward Jyare Davis (8.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.0 apg) was named CAA Rookie of the Year. Davis scored in double figures in each of the final 10 regulars-season games, while averaging 15.7 points and 6.9 rebounds.
Ingelsby has a crew that could make some noise in the CAA Tournament
But first he’ll have to vanquish Spiker and the Dragons. Led by 1st team All-CAA selection Camren Wynter (15.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg and 4.7 apg), sophomore Xavier Bell (11.1 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 1.7 apg) and CAA Defensive Player of the Year sophomore PF/C Amari Williams (9.7, 7.3 rpg and 1.1 apg), the Dragons are looking to make another run through the CAA Tournament.
These are solid CAA contenders. The local CAA teams seemed to have inched ahead of the local A10 teams. Drexel vs Delaware is a bigger more important league tournament game than the La Salle vs St. Joe’s A10 Tournament play-in game on Wednesday.
Bring It, What? We right Here. We’re not going anywhere We right Here.
Those words from the late, great DMX best describe what we are witnessing with this 2022 Norristown Eagles Boys Basketball Team. A team that was forced to sit the entire 2020-2021 by no choice of their own is now battling Lower Merion, the 2021 Defending District Champion, for the chance to be called the 2021-2022 District 1 Boys Basketball Champions on Saturday at Temple University 6PM. Normally when I enter journalist mode, I make any stories devoid of emotions to really convey the “FACTS” of the event that is happening, going to happen or happened. This one is very different for me. This is not James Nelson Stewart writing this piece, it’s the “Chief Justice” that is giving you this version. For many that will read this, they understand the difference between the distinction between the 2 names involved.
One of the things I love about sports is it results driven. A win is a win, a loss is a loss, and a tie is a tie. We can say and think whatever we want but the result is still going to be the result and 99.9% of the time there is nothing we can do to change it. But there are those occasions when the Story is more important than the result of the game. There are those times when the human element, better called the emotional side of sports is bigger than the overall picture. This Norristown Team represents that for me on many levels.
I will start with the history of Norristown Basketball in a synopsis. One of the area’s powerhouses for years, Norristown also went through the changes that are sweeping or swept a lot of our more ethnic suburban schools such as Chester, Cheltenham, Coatesville, Darby Twp and others. The schools have either been raided for their talent, changed for “academic reasons” or closed altogether. A lot of the Norristown talent was being showcased at other schools in the Delaware Valley. Even with that Norristown’s basketball history included players like the late Great Henry Williams (Jacksonville & ABA), Daren Queenan (25th all time leading scorer in NCAA history 2,703 points at Lehigh), Harry Allen (Memphis), Derrick Perry (Rider & Overseas), Tai Crutchfield (Philly U & Overseas), Marques Green (St. Bonnies & Overseas), Willis Gardner (Colorado St & Overseas), Khalif Wyatt (pictured above) (Temple & Overseas) and Michael Starling, who is known today as “Big Star” from Raw Sports plus so many more that I could list.
The tradition for Norristown is great and the pride that TOWN takes in its basketball is even greater. Another name that could be put on that list is the current coach of this Norristown Team is Dana “Binky” Johnson. Coach Johnson was one of the stars of the 1990 4A District Champions that went to have a Hall of Fame career at Canisius under Coach John Beilein, who eventually moved up the ranks to become the Head Coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The history between me and Coach Johnson goes back many years. As a young man in my early 20s, we teamed together and won a championship in the famed Norristown Oak Street Summer League, where many of today’s coaches and father of players laced them up and battled for street bragging rights. My hard charging style was a great fit for the cerebral player that Coach Johnson was.
Our team had balance all of the floor. Norristown Assistant coaches Coach Julius “Whip” Mack (my roommate for a semester in college and longtime friend from Wissahickon) and Coach Rowan “Roe” Watson was also on that team that beat current Lower Merion Superintendent Dr. Khalid Mumin in the playoffs that year (like I said there were some heavy hitters). Another Norristown Assistant Coach Joedy Johnson goes back even further than that with me. My “Brother” Joedy and I go back to when we were kids running around on the back streets of Penllyn as toddlers. We learned how to play sports together amongst other things. Relationships like those are rare in these times, so I cherish it very much. My emotions is pulling for that coaching staff.
Then you got the current players like Sr PG DJ Johnson (Coach’s son), Sr PG Righteous Mitchell, SR SG Zaki Gomez and Sr F/C Johnny Dinolfi that I followed as young kids when they were developing into basketball players and So G Myon “Mister” Kirlew, that I personally coached on a MadeHoops 8th grade team. That feeling of excitement is running through my body as they have a chance to accomplish history, that NO ONE outside of that locker room expected them to achieve.
This piece isn’t in anyway against Lower Merion, a team that I really, really appreciate. Dr. Mumin is a man that I support, respect and admire. Head Coach Gregg Downer may be the Dean of District 1 coaches at this exact moment and is the epitome of what a Hall of Fame Coach’s resume should look like. Respect is due. Sr 6-1 PG Jaylen Shippen is the son of John Timms, another friend of mine in this crazy basketball world. Sr 6-9 C Demetrius Lilley (Penn St Commit) is the most dominant player in District 1 PERIOD. Jr 6-3 G Sam Brown is very good now and improving daily especially with his father being former Sixers Head Coach Brett Brown. I fully respect them and will cheer them on as they pursuit another State Championship for the Aces. This is a formidable team that has already beaten Reigning state Champion Reading High and just took the undefeated record of Cheltenham in their last game. Norristown has an extremely HUGE task ahead of them but just this one time I’m putting away my logical James Nelson Stewart side and I’m using my more emotional Chief Justice side in hoping someway that Norristown can pull this victory off.
One thing I can guarantee is that Norristown will be filling the Liacouras Center in droves tomorrow.
Earlier today, I learned that 12 year old Thomas Sidero was fatally shot by Philadelphia police officers Tuesday evening after a bullet was fired into the police cruiser. The bullet that went through the window and passed through the passenger-seat headrest.
According to police reports, two officers got out and fired at Thomas, who they said was carrying a semiautomatic handgun that was equipped with a laser. One of the officers shot him in the upper right back area once. The bullet exited through his chest, police said.
Thomas Sidero, a Philly pre-teen, was dead minutes after being shot… fuck!
The drumbeat is incessant… It’s bad in ‘round the way… Really bad… Shit just piles up…
To escape from reality for a couple of hours, I decided to attend the second annual game to determine who will wear shirts and skins during the play-in portion of the A10 tournament.
Last year, Ashley Howard and the Explorers won the first game they played against the Hawks. In that game, Jared Kimbrough played his finest game as an Explorer, tallying 24 pts, 6 rebs and 1 blk.
Right before the second Hawk-Explorer contest on February 20, 2021, Superman showed up at Hagan. He emerged from the Hawk locker room with a long flowing crimson cape, trimmed with grey silk, around his neck. Ryan Daly scored 30 points, shot 13-19 FG, 3-6 3FG, grabbed 7 rebounds, dished 2 assists and blocked 2 shots after missing after missing 2 months and 10 games between Dec. 21 and Feb. 20 due to a broken thumb and torn ligaments on his left hand suffered against Tennessee.
Less than 2 weeks later… The Explorers, donning shirts as the 12th seed, faced the 13th seeded Hawks (skins) again in the play-in game. Although St. Joe’s was skins, no one told Ryan Daly he could put his cape back on one last time and lead what had been a moribund group of Hawks to a victory in a first round A10 tournament game. I watched as Daly searched for, found and entered the few remaining phone booths in the Wynnefield section of Philadelphia and Richmond, Virginia. Over the course of two weeks and 4 games, he emerged from phone booths with his muthafuckin’ cape on every time… In the A10 tournament game against La Salle, he scored 23 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, dished 2 assists, got a steal and even blocked a shot.
Less than 24 hours later, UMass found some kryptonite. The Minutemen controlled Daly and smacked the Hawks by a final score of 100-66… Season over.
Last night… we got the second installment of this year’s trilogy.
The Hawks and Explorers faced one another at 20th and Olney. Once again, this game was to determine who will wear shirts and skins in the A10 tournament’s 12/13 play-in game. St. Joseph’s was firmly in control of this scrimmage throughout the first half and early in the second half. Indeed, with 17:52 remaining in the game the score was St. Joe’s 39 – La Salle 24. Lange and the Hawks were up 15… Things were looking good…
Funny thing happened… an old fashioned intense, hotly contested Big 5 basketball game broke out…
For the last 17 minutes of the game it felt like Rich Tarr, Tim Legler, Larry Koretz and Lionel Simmons were once again wearing the blue and gold. The Explorers, despite a dreadful shooting night, refused to lose to the Hawks.
They clawed, kicked, scratched and fought their way back into the game. The Explorers commitment to defense was the key to the game. La Salle won this game by stopping St. Joseph’s from scoring. They held St. Joseph’s to a meager 12 points for the entire second half.
La Salle was just the tougher team. The Explorers wanted the win more than St. Joe’s.
As a result, just like last year St. Joe’s will be skins when the A10 tournament begins next week.
However, this time Superman has left the building… Ryan Daly accepted his SJU sheepskin, framed it, hung it on the wall and moved on to the professional ranks. All is not lost though… I’m sure he left the cape somewhere on campus. That thing has been handed down for generations… It looked really good on Galloway, Bembry, Carroll, West, Nelson, O’Connor, Crenshaw, Bey, Myers, Bass, Townsend, Blunt, Curry, etc. Especially, this time of year…
On many occasions, those guys went into phone booths and came out with the cape flowing ready to kick some ass… We’ve see these dudes literally carry St. Joe’s to victory in exciting, meaningful A10 Tournament, NIT and NCAA tournament game action.
So… there’s only one question remaining: Who’s gonna put the muthafucka on for this St. Joe’s team?
Hall? Obinna? Funk? Reynolds?
Somebody… Anybody… Hello… Bueller…
It’s really hard to win college basketball games… Wins in a tough league like the A10 can be especially tough to accumulate… Let’s compare the A10 coaching records of some familiar names…
Hall of Fame Coach, John Chaney won 3 out of every 4 A10 games he coached. Fran Dunphy won more than 7 out of every 10. Coach Cal won almost 7 out of every 10. Brusier won 2 out of every 3. Phil won well over half of the A10 games he coached. These guys were, at various times, A10 standard bearers.
Last night, Ashley Howard strong arm wrestled his 24th A10 win away from Lange and the Hawks. Atlantic 10 wins have been scarce the past three seasons for Saint Joseph’s which now fallen in each of its last seven contests heading into a final regular season game against Rhode Island. The Hawks have lost 10 of their last 12.
They are struggling to close out with leads… Somehow… Lange and St. Joseph’s held La Salle to 49 points for the game… and lost.
They lost because La Salle played the entire game realizing they only needed to score 1 more point than St. Joseph’s. So, even while shooting a poor 32.8% from the floor and 21.4% from behind the 3 point line they remained fully engaged at the defensive end and were able to pull out a win.
La Salle decided St. Joe’s would not score. The Hawks’ 27.4 field goal percentage represented the worst mark by a La Salle opponent this season. Saint Joseph’s scored 12 points in the second half, a season low for the team.
With this win, the Explorers improve to 2-0 against the Hawks on the season. La Salle also defeated Saint Joseph’s 75-64 on Jan. 17. The two teams are virtually locked into 12/13 play in game for the A10 tournament next week. La Salle sits in 12th place in the A10, 9-18 overall and 4-13 in the A10.
Now in his fourth season as Head Coach, Howard has struggled to gain a foothold in the A10. Thus far, he has won a little more than one out of every three league games.
But the last 2… Those big wins are keeping hope alive…
Last week, Khalil Brantley scored 17 points as La Salle erased a 30-19 halftime deficit and defeated Dayton 62-60 on Saturday. Clifton Moore had 16 points and three blocks for La Salle which snapped its five-game losing streak. Jack Clark added 13 points and nine rebounds.
Last night, Brantley provided 11 hard-earned points, including a 3-pointer that tied the game at 48-48 with 1:27 to play. Jhamir Brickus had 10 points, Jack Clark grabbed six rebounds, Clifton Moore had seven blocks and Christian Ray had 10 rebounds.
After they close the regular season with last-placed Dusquense and Rhode Island respectively, La Salle and St. Joe’s will meet for yet a third time.
The two Philly A10 schools will face off in the first game of the first round of the conference Tournament on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 a 1:00 pm. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+. Two things for sure… Ryan Daly won’t don a cape next week for St. Joe’s and the Lange’s Hawks will be skins after surrendering a 15 point second half lead…
Damn near every day… young men are pumping 5, 6, 7, 8, 12 or even as many as 20 bullets into the bodies of fellow Philadelphians. Damn near every day… unsuspecting and innocent drivers are forced to surrender vehicles to murderous carjackers wielding semiautomatic pistols… Shit is bad ’round the way… real bad…
It’s even worse at the international level… after seven decades of relative peace, the European continent is dealing with murderous, naked aggression and a resurgence of Russian imperialist ambitions. A modern day Czar, Russian self-appointed “President for life” Vladimir Putin has decided that he and he alone should determine who gets what, when, where and how in neighboring Ukraine… Fuck democracy! Dis muthafucka…
At the national level, many disaffected, angry and anxious white American men line up with #45 and Fucker Carlson of Fox News. Apparently, their position holds that abandoning America’s longstanding commitment to expansion of democratic forms of government across the globe is the proper policy shift. The former president of the United States of America described Putin’s brutal incursion into Ukraine as “genius.”
Carlson initially described the Russia-Ukraine conflict as a “border dispute.” He asked, “Why is it disloyal to side with Russia but loyal to side with Ukraine?” A recent American president and the most popular American news/opinion personality openly praising, and expressing admiration for a Russian autocrat bent on reclaiming the Russian empire…
How? When did this shit become acceptable in the United States? What the fuck is goin’ on?
If only for a few hours, I need an escape… You need an escape… We all need an escape…
Last night for a few hours, the Philadelphia Catholic League provided the City of Brotherly Love and it’s residents a much needed respite…
The storyline was familiar.
A tough, gritty, well-coached and ultra-competitive group of Saints left South Philly and came marching into the fabled Palestra. Last week, Carl Arrigale coached Neumann-Goretti to victory over a very talented Roman Catholic team to reach the finals… again.
One thing for sure… One thing for certain…
Arrigale knows what the fuck he’s doing. When he brought his team to the Palestra yesterday, he was seeking his 12th Philadelphia Catholic League Championship in 24 years. That’s some prime, on the juice Barry Bonds type shit… That’s some Tiger Woods (2000-2010) type shit… Over the past quarter century, if you bet Arrigale against the field, you would have won 50% of the time… Dominance…
Arrigale and Neumann-Goretti have dominated Big BOY basketball in Philadelphia.
Last night, Joe Zeglinski took his best shot. But he missed… again… This was Zeglinski’s 5th trip to the PCL Final Four in 7 years. It’s pretty clear that Zeglinski also knows what the fuck he’s doing. Last night he came to lay claim to the title. Ryan has been knocking on the door for a while now.
Zeglinski’s program has emerged as one of the finest in the region. He has produced numerous All-Catholic performers that have gone onto college. Most notably, Izaiah Brockington ’17, who may be named Big 12 Player of the Year. Matiss Kulackovskis ‘17 is finishing a fine career at Bowling Green. Ja’ Quill Stone ’19 played at JUCO power Grayson College in Denison, Texas. Gediminas Mokseckas ’20 is at Campbell. Aaron Lemon-Warren ’21 is at Mt. Zion, a powerhouse prep located in Prince George’s County, Maryland. All of these guys played for Zeglinski. All of these guys played in the PCL Final 4 at the Palestra. None of them have cut down the nets.
Like I said earlier… On some Bill Belichick type shit… Carl Arrigale wins this thing half the time.
Half… What Da fuck?
Last night, The question was: Would this year be different?
Zeglinski has a strong 7 man rotation. His centerpiece is 6’9” center Thomas Sorber ’24 from Trenton, New Jersey. Sorber, only 16, is a fundamentally sound and highly skilled big with soft hands. He thinks the game. Last night, Sorber played with great awareness and and utilized his excellent length. He exhibited outstanding footwork and vision. Sorber blocked and contested shots, gathered weak-side boards and shot over opponents for 17 points. He also made clean passes over and around defenders.
Sorber played a cerebral game. He displayed a keen sense of his surroundings on the floor. He understands when plays are developing and knows where his teammates are in relation to the defense. Consequently, he was able to find teammates and convert easy buckets as a cutter.
Right now, Sorber is a good basketball player… As he grows into his body and gains strength, he has an opportunity to play at a high major college level and beyond. But tonight, in the quest for the Catholic League chip, the talented young fella was not enough.
As usual, the Ryan attack also featured Luke Boyd ‘22. Boyd is essentially a shooting specialist in the Ryan scheme. Boyd got most of his touches in catch and shoot situations, with jump shots accounting for the lion’s share of his offensive contributions. He is a very capable shooter when left open from the perimeter. His percentage dips, with a hand in his face. Boyd is always moving around the arc looking for daylight. Neumann-Goretti defenders made sure a hand was in Boyd’s face on every possession. Boyd would accumulate a hard fought 15 points.
But last night… that wasn’t enough.
Jalen Snead ’22 played his role well. He was very good at anticipating and making plays at both ends. Snead displayed strong defensive instincts. He was able guard both wing spots as well as point guard at times. Darren Williams ’24, a very promising young wing exhibited an ability to score from all three levels. He found opportunities from spot ups, fast breaks, and one-on-one situations as well as two missed 3 point shots with seconds remaining in the game.
Michael Paris ’23 has emerged as backcourt stalwart for Zeglinski. Paris displays a lot of confidence, good court vision and the ability to put his teammates in positions to score, especially in transition. He optimizes his quickness by changing speeds effectively which allows him to get around most defenders and attack the paint. David Wise ’22 is a steady veteran that is capable of providing minutes at both the 1 and 2 position. Zeglinski rounded out his rotation with 6’7” Jaden Murray ‘24. Murray was an active interior presence for Ryan. He played with good energy, effort and consistency.
I took the field against Arrigale… I had Ryan winning by 2.
Khaafiq Myers ’24 saw it very differently… The quick and wiry South Philly PG showed off his crafty ball handling and ability get defenders off balance. Myers was in his bag. He displayed a repertoire of crossover moves and pull ups that kept the Ryan defense guessing all night. The latest representative of the both the South Philly point guard tradition and his family’s basketball legacy, Myers is what they call a “dawg” on the court. Last night, he was barking, bitin’ and defending.
Myers displayed outstanding quickness in the open court and the ability to smoothly navigate traffic while going full speed. His most profound impact on the game, however, came at the defensive end. Each and every trip down the floor, Myers put in a good effort defensively. He enjoyed being aggressive and pressuring ball handlers. He disrupted the Ryan guards ability to initiate offense cleanly and comfortably play through Sorber. On several occasions he stole the ball directly. On every defensive possession, Myers forced Ryan to be aware of and account for his presence..
While playing on-ball defense, Myers made Ryan’s guard very uncomfortable.
Myers was the MVP of the game because he controlled the pace most of the night on both ends of the floor.
Robert Wright, III ’24 was Myers running mate. Over the past 2 seasons, Wright has put together a proven track record of being able to put pressure on opposing defenses with his ability to score from all over the court. Last night, Wright displayed the ability to get into the paint using changes of speed and direction. He’s a crafty shot creator with a high skill level and basketball IQ. Wright shows good court vision, but is not a natural facilitator for the Saints, nor is he asked to be one. Wright’s current job is to get big buckets… He’s damn good at his job… The Delaware native makes very good decisions pushing the ball in the open floor, and has impressive ball-handling skills, leaving plenty of room for optimism that he could fill a role that calls for both scoring and distributing as a high major point guard in a couple years.
On the wing, Masud Stewart ’22 demonstrated once again that he is an explosive athlete that exerts exceptional effort on the defensive end of the court.
But in this particular game, the Saints were gonna need a strong effort from Sultan Adewale ’23 in the paint. Adewale was able to counter Sorber’s production in the post. Adewale delivered in a big way. In addition to 7 points, he had 9 rebounds and 4 blocks in the first half as the Saints set the tone. Adewale is as a very good athlete and as he demonstrated last night, he isn’t afraid of physical contact. Adewale also can really run the floor and found a few dunks in transition. His help defense on penetrating Ryan guards was impactful.
Led by Myers and Wright, Neumann-Goretti outplayed a tough, smart Archbishop Ryan team. As a result, for the 12th time in the last 24 years, Carl Arrigale and the Neumann-Goretti Saints are champions of the Philadelphia Catholic League.
Same shit, different year… This year, it was much needed…
I believe that sport have the ability to pull people into a hopeful, albeit brief, escape from real world problems. Rather than dealing with the intense struggles prevailing in the real world, people are able to engage in or consume competitive sports in a way that shuts out everything else. The Philadelphia Catholic League championship, for a few hours last night, was all that mattered…
I needed that… You needed that… We all needed that…
It was a wonderful sporting event. Local high school basketball playoffs are an underrated and underappreciated live sporting event. The in-person game experience is in many instances is memorable. For instance, last night’s Catholic League Championship played out in front of about 9,000 passionate basketball fans in the cozy confines of the the historic Palestra. It was a great night of basketball. Two evenly matched, well coached and fiercely competitive high school programs met in one of the great basketball venues to determine a champion.
The battle was intense. Tempers came close to flaring. About half of the crowd left the Palestra disappointed and dejected. These folk from the Northeast came close. Entering the game, they sensed a real opportunity this year.
Zeglinski had a shot… Right?
Archbishop Ryan was battle tested, peaking and hungry.
Khaafiq Myers and them boys the from South Philly refused to lose. Within the Neumann-Goretti program, the Philadelphia Catholic League Boys Basketball Championship is a birthright. In 2020, they won… Last night Hakim Byrd ’20, Jordan Hall ‘20 and Hysier Miller ‘21 positioned themselves on the Neumann-Goretti bench as the Saints laid claim to yet another championship.
I’m telling you Carl Arrigale is on some Phil Jackson type shit...
Unfortunately, the respite had to conclude. By ten o’clock I was in my car headed home. By 4:30 am Philadelphia police were investigating a murder in North Philly after finding a woman dead on the sidewalk with a gunshot wound to the head.
Hello real world…
As the day went on, Russian armed forces continued to bombard civilian sites in Ukraine. A TV tower in the capital was hit. Local media reported that there were several explosions and that Ukrainian TV channels stopped broadcasting shortly afterward. Simultaneously, a 40-mile convoy of hundreds of Russian tanks and other armored military vehicles advanced on Kyiv determined to unseat Ukraine’s democratically elected government and install a Kremlin-friendly regime. Huh? What?
It’s getting dark in Europe… Again.
I truly appreciated the respite the Catholic League provided…
I’m 57 years old… I’ve seen some shit… Rarely am I truly surprised.
However, over the past couple of days, I’ve been taken aback by the enormous chasm that exists between the way the Philadelphia Public League and the Philadelphia Catholic League treat their respective players, students, families and fans.
Remember when your Mom would tell you to clean up your room before you go outside? Remember how you would just shove everything under your bed and declare the room spotless… At least, you tried to pretend… Well… The Public League just leaves dirty drawers in the middle of floor… Snickers wrappers on the desk… Half finished bottles of soda on top of the TV…
It’s fair to say, the PUB just doesn’t give a fuck… Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Catholic League consistently provides first class five star service during it’s playoffs.
The game experiences could not possibly be more distinct and different. If I didn’t personally know many of the administrators and coaches in the Philadelphia Public League, I would jump to the sad conclusion that they do not like the kids, students and families that play in and attend Public League games.
Judging by the way they are treated, it feels like they damn near hate their constituents.
I’m befuddled because, like the Catholic League, the Public League produces a solid and marketable product once the playoffs come around, especially the Final 4. The brand of basketball played in the Pub is extremely fast, often chaotic, frequently undisciplined and always entertaining. This year, the final four consisted of a double header featuring perennial powers Math, Civics and Sciences (MCS) and Lincoln in the first game. The second game saw upstart West Philadelphia take on Nationally ranked Imhotep Charter School.
MCS and Lincoln both feature long, talented and athletic scholarship level players at every position. Both programs have been among the best in the city for several years. West Philly was the surprise of the Public League this year. Their best player, Deyishon Miller, is a raw but truly gifted 6’5” athlete capable of play all five positions at the high school level. He shoots, he passes, he rebounds, he passes, he defends… He does it all with a distinct Philly swagger that reminds many of Gratz legend Jarrett Kearse. Imhotep has three top 100 high major prospects on the roster. Justin Edwards is ranked as the 8th best player in the class of 2023 by ESPN. Ahmad Nowell is ranked in the top 30 in the class of 2024 by ESPN. Rahmir Barno is a top 100 player according to 247sports and my eyeballs. Mo Abdullah ’22 has committed to play for Rider University. Beyond the aforementioned, Imhotep has another 4 or 5 young D1 prospects in the oven.
In short… The Pub Final 4 is definitely something you wanna see…
It’s an event deserving of proper planning, organizing, marketing and media coverage.
So… I arrive at the School of the Future (SOTF) about an hour before the scheduled 4 pm start. The SOTF has a nice but relatively small gym and limited parking. The lot is already overflowing when I arrive. I am forced to “create” a spot next to a dumpster in the rear of the building. After grabbing my camera, I walk around the building and as soon as I turn the corner, I see about 50-60 high school age kids pleading their case to an administrator.
“I’m on Ms. So and so’s list…” “My brother is playing…” “I know I’m on the list…”
I walk past the kids and identify myself as media. I am allowed to enter… But only after my pockets are emptied, my body subjected to a metal detector wand, my camera bags thoroughly searched and I am patted down.
Now… given the fact that it seems like 10 people are shot every day in Philadelphia, I feel a little better knowing they are making a real effort to keep firearms out of high school gymnasiums.
I walk into the gym and immediately notice that only half of the bleachers are available. There’s seating for maybe 200-250 people… That’s it…
Awwww… Shit… This is gonna be a problem.
Apparently, there’s a process in place. I learn that teams are expected to submit a list and only those on the list are allowed to enter the gymnasium, I didn’t know this… Thankfully, the Pub respects media outlets.
It’s the PUB Final 4, that is not gonna work!
I decide to sit along the far baseline. I wanted to be as far away from the entrance as possible. I thought the exuberant youngsters clamoring to gain entrance might try to “bum rush the show” and I’m too old for that shit.
I posted my chair next to the exit doors. Within minutes, despite the so-called “attendance limitations” the crowd began to swell. It was at capacity before tip off. The available bleachers were filled and folk were standing shoulder to shoulder along both baselines.
There remained a substantial contingent of anxious young people outside… Students of the respective schools, hoopheads eager to watch the games and frustrated family members that weren’t on the list.
Desperate to gain entrance, they started to intensely bang on the doors… BOOM!.. BOOM!… BOOM!
It felt and sounded like the Minneapolis, Minnesota police armed with 37 arrest warrants for unarmed Black men… BOOM!.. BOOM!… BOOM!
Damn… I felt their pain…
They just wanted to see the game… Alas, it was not going to happen.
Then I got a text from a coach that drove from Baltimore, Maryland to see one of the MCS kids play. He was sure his name was on the list… He said they told him they couldn’t allow him in because they were over the capacity limit. This after he drove over an hour and half to evaluate a kid in a playoff game. He was never able to see the kid.
That reminded me of the time I went to with two D1 college coaches to watch Miller and West Philadelphia play at Overbrook. We were met at the door by the athletic director and told we were not allowed to watch the game. After explaining that we were there to evaluate kids for scholarships that would allow them to attend college for free, the Overbrook AD said “I’m not letting you in.”
After voices were raised and several minutes of back and forth bickering, the AD reluctantly relented and allowed the coaches to watch and evaluate the kids. He made sure to tell us NOT to come back because next time we won’t get in.
Is this real? I gotta pay $3.00 for a soda so a disgruntled athletic director can deny kids life changing opportunities?
Seriously, it feels like the people running the Pub hate the kids… Fuck that soda tax!
So… then I had to take a leak… After the first game was completed, I walked across the court toward the bathroom. A security guard told me to turn back around.
I said “My man… I have to piss.”
“That’s not my problem… You can’t go past this door.”
“I’m 57 years old and I have to go to the bathroom.”
“You need to go somewhere else.”
“Well… I’m gonna go outside and piss on school grounds, is that what you want me to do? The bathroom is right there on the other side of that door.”
“Do what you have to do.”
So I did what I had to do… I went outside and took a leak…
I was thirsty… There were no concessions available… No water… No juice… No soda… I was hungry… No soft pretzels… No hot dogs… No pizza… No chips…
They just don’t give a fuck…
Now I imagine some will rationalize such minimalistic treatment by citing the wanton violence and mayhem gripping our region.
“We don’t want large gatherings of young Black kids, especially males”, they might say.
“These are the kids leaving 20, 30, 40 or even 50 shell casings at crime scenes on a daily basis” one could argue.
They would NOT be wrong… Truth be told… My head is on a swivel each and every time I traverse the city of Philadelphia.
There are young brothers out here fucking it up for everyone.
But, isn’t that also the case in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Detroit, Houston, Newark and Atlanta?
District administrators in those cities somehow manage to treat players, students, fans and families with a modicum of respect. Grandmom and Grandpop can come watch junior play in those towns.
They aren’t welcome in the Philadelphia Public League. And, if they do decide to venture out and try their luck, they better wear some Depends adult underwear.
When they decide to transfer grandsons to Catholic, Friends or Inter-Ac league schools… I understand.