Three (3) teams have really surprised in the season Plymouth Whitemarsh, Devon Prep and North Penn. All 3 teams are pretty young and the future looks very bright for these programs.
Four (4) underpublicized 2022 Point Guards need more love throughout the area. Saleem Payne (Cheltenham) super quick who has led Cheltenham to an undefeated record. Argel Ivy Pettit (Devon Prep) , he’s been balling the last 2 years at Rustin but now he has taken it to the Catholic League proving he’s for real. Joey Larkins (North Penn) the defensive leader and unselfish PG of the Knights. #24 in the class academically, he is heady and steady. Jeremiah Bembry (Executive Education) had been off the radar but has come back in a big way at Executive Education Charter School. He makes them a true contender for the state title.
Muneer Newton (Wood) is playing like a 1st Team All Catholic. The only unsigned member of the Wood starting 5. Newton is very Athletic and a great team player would fit colleges at any level.
The stars are playing like the stars. Rahsool Diggins (Wood), Daeshon Shepherd (Wood), Hysier Miller (Neumann-Goretti), Stevie Mitchell (Wilson West Lawn), Jameel Brown (Haverford School), Jevin Muniz (Executive Education), Jordan Longino (Germantown Academy) among others are looking elite.
Some very strong 2023/2024 players are really starting to show their meddle. Led by 2023 Roman PG Xyavier Brown and Imhotep duo of Rahmir Burno and Justin Edwards, 2024s P-W Jayden Colzie, Carroll’s Moses Hipps, Devon Prep’s Ty Mishock, CB East Jacob Cumminsky, Central Dauphin’s National Ranked Malachi Palmer lead a very deep class of 2024’s in the area. The future looks bright for these 2 classes.
P.S-Get ready for an interesting playoff season as changes in the District and State format make every game remaining that much more important. 6A looks to be a minefield as usual but even more so this year with Wood and Roman in District 12 and District 3 Wilson, Reading and Central Dauphin and District 1 with PW, Neshaminy, Lower Merion and Cheltenham and limited spots available. No time for slip ups!!! Good Luck to every team playing this year in this crazy season!!!
There’s a BIG college basketball game tomorrow… A Big 5 matchup featuring the St. Joseph’s Hawks traveling uptown to take on the La Salle Explorers. It’s a BIG game because all my life it’s been a Big Game. Stevie Black vs Bryan Warrick… Lionel Simmons vs Rodney Blake… Rab Townes vs Rap Curry… Donnie Carr vs Rashid Bey… Those were BIG fuckin’ games!
Well… tomorrow the rivalry resumes… We are in new eras for both programs.
On April 8, 2018, La Salle announced Ashley Howard would be the next head coach of the Explorers, succeeding his former boss John Gianinni. After struggling early during his first season, Howard’s Explorers finished 10–21. The win total increased in year 2 as Howard guided the team to a 15–15 record in the 2019–20 season. The Explorers come into this game 5-8 (2-4 in the A10) and in the midst of a 3 game losing skid.
La Salle’s roster is loaded with local talent. David Beatty (Imhotep), Jhamir Brickus (Coatesville), Jack Clark (Cheltenham), Clifton Moore (Hatboro-Horsham), Christian Ray (Haverford School), Kyle Thompson (St. Joseph’s Prep) and Derrius Ward (Sankofa) all hail from the Greater Philadelphia region.
Howard plays a 10-man rotation. Ten (10) guys play anywhere between 14.3 and 24.7 mpg. Jack Clark leads the Explorers in scoring and rebounding with averages of 9.1 ppg and 5.4 rpg. Rookie point guard, Jhamir Brickus leads the team in minutes (24.7 mpg), assists (3.5 apg) and steals (1.7 spg). Clifton Moore blocks 1.7 shots per game.
In late March 2018, St. Joseph’s announced they hired Billy Lange to replace Phil Martelli. The Hawks went 6-26 (2-16 in the A10) in Lange’s first year at the helm. This year, the Hawks are off to a 1-9 (0-4 in the A10) start.
The St. Josephs’s roster has some local flavor. Ryan Daly (Archbishop Carroll), Dahmir Bishop (Imhotep), Jack Forrest (Lower Merion), Jordan Hall (Neumann-Goretti), Rahmir Moore (Mastery North) and Chris Arizin (St. Joseph’s Prep) are the local boys on the Hawks roster.
Star senior guard Ryan Daly leads St. Joseph’s in scoring (17.2 ppg) and rebounding (6.2). But he has only played 5 games due to a thumb injury on his non-shooting hand. Taylor Funk (16.1 ppg) has picked up the scoring slack in Daly’s absence. Funk also grabs 5.6 rpg. Freshman Point-Forward Jordan Hall is averaging a healthy 5.5 apg and 1.1 spg. Funk blocks 0.8 shots per game.
So why is tomorrow’s tilt a BIG game?
La Salle and St. Joseph’s are both trying to re-establish a foothold… It was 8 years ago when the Explorers defeated Boise State in the First Four, Kansas State in the Round of 64, and Ole Miss in the Round of 32 to advance to the Sweet 16 where they lost to Wichita State. In his third season, Howard is 30-44 overall.
St. Joseph’s won the A10 Championship in 2014 and 2016. In 2019, they parted ways with long-time Head Coach Phil Martelli. In his second season, Lange is 7-35 overall.
These proud programs anxiously await their return to National prominence.
A BIG game indeed. Both clubs DESPERATELY need a win. Their fans are getting antsy…
In the words of the immortal Marlo (The Wire) “You want it to be one way. . . but it’s the other way.”
On commencement day Dwayne Anderson II was riding high. He was “the guy” on a team full of “the guys” at DMV powerhouse St. John’s College High School (DC) and St. Thomas More School (CT). He was a bucket getter extraordinaire headed to the school of his choice after telling a bevy of high profile programs “thanks but no thanks”. He planned to take in the sights and dunk on some guys during his pit stop at Villanova before going on to his inevitable destination: THE NBA.
At least that was the plan. Somehow, he went from going to the League to “walking to practice in tears”. What happened? Well, the answer is both simple and complex, with much of it rooted in the expectation that college would be a “rinse and repeat” of high school.
Expectations can be a funny thing. They are formed automatically and are necessary for our survival but in the transition from high school to college basketball they have to be managed with an important caveat borrowed from any sound investment strategy: understand that past success does not guarantee future results. Or at least not immediate future results.
Keith Urgo, a coach at Penn State University, said this is a common mistake made by incoming freshmen who have to learn a plethora of things on and off the court to be productive in the program. Not once did any of the persons interviewed for this piece ever mention “talent level” as a reason for not getting playing time. Urgo mentioned a few things, including adapting their bodies to physically compete, improving their work habits and focus to consistently play with the required intensity and learning the systems implemented by the coaching staff. Larry Suggs, director of a midwestern AAU program, Team Sizzle, acknowledged the need for players to properly grasp the “terminology and techniques” college teams employ.
Walter Fisher III, an assistant at an Illinois NAIA program, Governor’s State, echoed those same sentiments in describing the trials and tribulations suffered by freshmen. “The growth process is the same at our level,” he noted adding that “managing time off the court” is just as pivotal.
Fisher pointed to one the keys to Anderson’s early struggles as a Wildcat. “(Freshman) have to develop the mental preparedness to compete everyday.” Anderson, now the Director of Basketball Operations at Villanova, acknowledged that was one the things he had to learn. “I thought I’d be given an opportunity to play” as opposed to “earning” it everyday in practice, he said. All of these were factors in my own son’s delay in playing meaningful minutes for the Villanova Wildcats.
Another major component in “earning” playing time is garnering the head coaches trust by showing the necessary “commitment” to work hard on and off the floor to improve and contribute. In a cursory examination of minutes played by freshmen from the Class of 2019 from the Philadelphia area I found that most only played about 10-12 minutes. Isaiah Wong (Miami), Donta Scott (Maryland) and Christian Ray (Lasalle) were among the few to garner 21 minutes per game. With the exception of those three, the majority did not play important minutes in more than half of the conference games for their respective schools.
One of the things that can negatively affect the management of expectations is promises made on the recruiting trail. Urgo and Fisher emphasized that most coaches understand the dangers of guaranteeing playing time beyond the opportunity to compete for minutes. Still, some paint a less than realistic picture for prospects. Urgo added that some high school influencers don’t help as some may operate with an agenda and “sell the school, sell the dream” to recruits.
Fisher, who started his own AAU organization (Team RWA) prior to becoming a coach, took it a step further advising prospects to surround themselves with people who are willing to give straight forward feedback and have difficult conversations. “You want the blunt guy. You don’t want the dreamer.”
On the recruiting circuit, Urgo believes being honest and as forthright as possible can save a lot of “headaches” later, for both the staff and the player. It helps the player “pick a school that is the right fit. The right institution”. Fisher, who is in his 2nd season with the Jaguars, only assures prospects that “if you outplay the (upperclassmen) you will play”.
Well, “outplaying the upperclassmen” is quite often easier said than done. In college, especially at the NAIA level, it may be even harder because the players will be competing against guys as much as 5 years older than them.
Anderson got an inkling of the difficulty in one preseason open run with his Villanova teammates. He had “made a steal or something” and got on the break with just 6-10 Jason Fraser standing between him and an impressive dunk. “He waited for me. Like, waited for me. So I (reared back) ready to dunk.” Then as Anderson recounted, Fraser leapt into the air meeting the high flying freshmen at the rim, blocking his dunk in spectacular fashion, bringing the ball down with him while sending the incredulous Anderson sprawling under the basket, Fraser standing over him with a greeting, “Welcome to college”.
Urgo talked about the importance of having veteran players to help freshmen adjust and accept their roles as they prepare to be key contributors down the road. He talked about how having Lamar Stevens helped Seth Lundy, who has doubled his scoring average in his sophomore year, get through his early playing time frustrations. Conversely, he related how not having that type of mentorship hurt Stevens and Tony Carr as they had to “figure it out” on the court, losing a lot but learning in the process. Both were outstanding high school players who were unaccustomed to the losing and they were often frustrated in the beginning.
Stevens and Carr arrived in Happy Valley as heralded recruits in a program not known for them. They were instantly two of the best players on the roster. This is not the case for most incoming freshmen and certainly was not the case for Anderson, who joined several future NBA players on the mainline. It didn’t take him long to discern that he wasn’t going to be in the rotation as a freshman. “It was okay because I knew I was behind future NBA guys.” He spent his first year “watching them, learning from them, believing next year would be my time”.
Over the following summer he would earn a chance to have a larger role early in the following season. He wasn’t getting it done. He again had to accept that he wasn’t “going to be one of the guys that would be playing.” It was tough for him and his parents. Following his sophomore season an end of the season meeting with Coach Wright made things quite a bit tougher. According to Anderson, Wright sat him down and told him he should transfer because he didn’t envision him having the kind of role on the team that he knew he wanted.
Wright and his staff took notice and he earned more trust and more playing time. During a mid season lull he earned more opportunities as the guys ahead of him just weren’t productive enough. The turning point came midway through his junior year when Anderson buried a corner three to beat Seton Hall. He was a fixture in the rotation after that. That moment, that shot, propelled Anderson to a change in perspective that has driven him ever since. “I will never again accept that I’m not good enough.”
His message to freshmen: “The way you adapt to coaching will determine when you get on the court.” And to parents: “Don’t try to solve all of their problems.” Urgo intimated that parents need to make sure their children are coachable as early as “5th or 6th grade”. Fisher advises that parents and other HS influencers “stop treating them like babies” and not to ‘“coddle them”.
Other things high school influencers (parents, coaches and trainers, amongst others) can do to help are making sure they learn about nutrition and proper sleeping habits. In addition, Fisher says “trainers need to train them for the college game, not the pro game.” In relation to that Suggs said he tries to be familiar with what colleges are doing so that he can help his players start adapting before they even arrive on campus. For example, if he has a player committed to or strongly considering a certain school he would have them practice doing things like releasing from pin-downs or guarding ball screens the way the school does it.
Other things freshmen often struggle with according to Fisher is focusing on things other than scoring and guarding without fouling. Also, drilling the fundamentals. “Be consistent. Don’t get bored with what you find boring.”
As a parent who is experiencing this first hand I would like to share a few things from my perspective. I acknowledge that being the parent in this process can be very difficult, especially when you have been involved in the game as I have as a player and coach. We invest an incredible amount of emotion, time and other resources to their development and, more importantly, want so badly for them to achieve their goals and realize their dreams. There is a sense of powerlessness that coaches and bystanders often ignore as they villainize us and scapegoat us. However, the truth is we do make mistakes and we do sometimes cause more harm than good when we interfere in their coaching and teams. Those needing help or information can join the CBPA for free. For more details visit us at theCBPA.org.
The key for me is understanding my role and realizing that my relationship with his coaches has to be a partnership with clear lines of both communication and boundaries. Also, when helping him with his school decision I considered that my son and I are close so picking a school close to home where my wife and I could attend games or just meet for a quick chew and chat was important. We don’t really talk about basketball unless he wants to and even then it’s never about discounting what his coaches are telling him. Again, his coaches are my partners so I wouldn’t want to disparage them. In addition, I understand the value of him having to struggle. As one assistant said to me once, “Diamonds are not made at the top of the mountain, they are formed by the intense pressure under it.”
Also, “waiting your turn” may not be popular but it is often necessary. At Villanova, as Anderson found out, it is almost built into how the program develops leadership in it’s players. Wright and his staff teach players the fundamentals and how to be productive role players while they play behind the upperclassmen. These players then become leaders by example, torch bearers for those who come after them. Their mantra of “playing for those who came before us” becomes a kind of two-way street with learning and leading happening throughout the process.
The transition is “humbling” and an “extremely difficult… ego check” for many says Anderson, who is now pursuing a career in coaching. To those freshmen and their families who are struggling I say you are not alone. Pay attention and use patience, persistence and perseverance, and maybe even a little prayer, to get through it.
College basketball fans are enduring some trying times. Hopefully, we will be able to patch together something resembling a Division 1 college basketball season. Fans of small college basketball may very well hav to do without… D2 and D3 seasons don’t seem likely. There have been extensive cancellations at the D1 level. Scores of teams have shut down for 2-week periods following positive tests. All things equal… One would anticipate the cancellation of the season.
But… All things ain’t equal…
There is a big fuckin’ pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If most schools competing can get to 12, 13 or 14 regular season games played, the NCAA will find 68 of them and populate the field for the 2021 NCAA Men’s basketball Tournament.
At that point, they are printing cash…
When the tournament is held, over $1,000,000,000 will flow into the coffers of the NCAA.
The NCAA has an opportunity to make in excess of a billion dollars from the TV rights to its basketball tournament starring unpaid basketball players. Furthermore, these unpaid players are competing under stressful and medically challenging conditions. And… that billion doesn’t include the money the NCAA and member schools make from other media rights and ticket sales.
But I digress…
We are gonna have an NCAA tournament… The NCAA is gonna get that muthafuckin’ bag!
What will the journey to the bag look like? Who knows?
So far, the big boys have literally been parked outside the gym at Indian Casinos asking “who got next?”
I’m tellin’ y’all… The show must go on…
So… While we are bumbling, fumbling and stumbling our way into another season of college basketball, it seems like a perfect time to discuss the head coaching careers of two legendary local figures, Fran Dunphy and Phil Martelli. Their Big 5 head coaching careers are in the books. Both are over a year removed from their stints as Big 5 Head Coaches.
So… start to finish… Where would you rank their respective bodies of work amongst best in Philly’s illustrious college basketball history?
Full Disclosure: Both of these guys are friends of Black Cager Sports. Over the years, both gave Black Cager Sports unfettered access to their respective programs. Both have appeared multiple times on Black Cager Sports talk. These are my guys. I tried my best to control for the friendship factor and objectively assess their accomplishments and place them in the pantheon of great Philly coaches. Don’t know if others will agree.
Both would be extremely uncomfortable in discussions placing themselves alongside the great college coaches in Philadelphia. Well… Dunph would be uncomfortable… I think Phil would perhaps be a little more open for such conversation. Nonetheless, Black Cager Sports is committed to recognizing and honoring excellence and sparking interesting sports dialogue whenever possible. In that spirit, we set out to compare the the careers of Dunphy and Martelli against those of the very best college coaches to come through the City of Brotherly love.
All errors and omissions are my fault… Here we go…
#1 Jay Wright Over the course of his 20 year stint at Villanova, Wright has played in the post-season every year but one. He has reached the NCAA Sweet 16 six times, the Elite Eight 4 times and the Final Four 3 times. Wright’s Wildcats were crowned National Champions in 2016 and 2018. Wright entered the season with 471 wins at Villanova and 593 overall. He’s won 72.1% of his games at Villavona.
Jay Wright is the finest college basketball coach Philadelphia has produced… Period.
#2 John Chaney Tough to type that #2 next to Coach Chaney’s name. It’s really hard to place anyone over Coach Chaney for so many reasons. It almost feels like I’m betraying a fundamental truth… a core belief. Coach Chaney is the best. For so many reasons… Coach Chaney, the man, the social commentator had my full attention throughout his career. His perspective on collegiate athletics, the NCAA, student-athletes and race influenced my outlook. I first became aware of racial, social, economic and cultural aspects impacting collegiate athletics by paying attention to what Coach Chaney said publicly.
On January 13, 1989, William Rhoden wrote about what he described as a “contested piece of legislation that some feel could slow the influx of black athletes into predominantly white Division I universities.” I remember it like yesterday. I remember my visceral response when I read Rhoden’s recounting of the responses of John Chaney and John Thompson. Chaney, the basketball coach at Temple, referred to the N.C.A.A. as ”that racist organization.” He was deeply angered by NCAA action on scholarship eligibility that would limit opportunities for Black student-athletes.
The late, great John Thompson said, ”I think it’s sort of ironic when they began to integrate the South athletes were the ones used to pave the way, and they were used under the pious assertion that ‘we’re helping these poor kids… Now, apparently someone has said, ‘Enough,’ so they don’t need the kids anymore. They’re using the same rationale they used to get them in to begin to keep them out. I guess it’s a situation where we’re like shoes and clothes. We’re not in style anymore.”
It’s like Coach Chaney and Coach Thompson came into a dark room and turned the lights on for me. For that, Coach Chaney will always remain my personal number 1 college basketball coach. He literally helped create the intellectual space for me, decades later, to interject strong opinions on racial dynamics the manner in which they impact HS and college sports.
Coach Chaney was directly impacted by American Apartheid/Jim Crow social conditions when he graduated as the best player in Philadelphia’s Public League. He was not afforded an opportunity to play for one of the local college programs because he was Black. This is Coach Chaney… The man forced to play at a Black college, Bethune-Cookman, in the deep south.
In 24 years as Head Coach of the Owls, Coach Chaney led his team to post-season appearances every year except his first season at the helm. The Owls went to the post-season every year from 1984 through 2006. Every year… 23 straight seasons. Chaney’s Owls made 17 NCAA appearances. They made 5 Elite Eight appearances. The Owls won the Atlantic 10 regular season Championship 8 times and the Atlantic 10 Tournament Championship 6 times.
#3 Fran Dunphy Dunphy won 310 games while coaching Penn for 17 seasons… Then… He won another 270 while coaching Temple for another 13 seasons. Overall, Dunphy won 580 games while coaching in the Big 5.
Fran Dunphy is the all-time winningest coach in Philadelphia Big 5 history.
Dunph has coached in seventeen NCAA tournaments. Some may feel that Dunph’s ranking is elevated. I don’t think he would place himself in the top 10.
He wouldn’t want me to do it… But, I’m doing it… I got Dunph 3rd all-time.
#4 Jack Ramsay Saint Joseph’s hired Jack Ramsay as coach for the 1955-56 basketball season for $3,500. It would prove to be a great decision. In his first season at St Joseph, the Hawks went 23-6 to win their first Big 5 crown. This season also marked the school’s first-ever postseason playoff berth, as St Joseph’s placed won in the NIT. Ramsay would remain at St. Joseph’s through 1966, leading the Hawks to six more Big 5 crowns, five straight seasons of first-place finishes in the Middle Atlantic Conference, ten postseason appearances, and a Final Four in 1961.
Is Ramsay ranking being dinged for leaving to pursue a World Championship in the NBA? Yup…
His ranking is a tough call… Do you give him credit here for the NBA championship? Naaaah…
Ranking Dr. Jack is like ranking Gayle Sayers… You didn’t see many do it better… Dr. Jack won 76.5% of his games at St. Joseph’s. He was 306-234 overall.
#5 Harry Litwack Litwack coached the Owls to 2 NCAA Final Four (1956, 1958) appearances. That’s right… Two Final Fours… He also led the Owls to the NIT Championship in 1969. Litwack compiled a record of 373–193. Recognized as one the very best coaches of his era, he was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1973.
#6 Phil Martelli Martelli is my guy… I had a front row seat as Martelli led Saint Joseph’s to seven NCAA Tournaments and six NITs in 24 seasons as head coach. Phil had a damn good run at St. Joseph’s.
His highs were very, very high… At times, astronomical…
He was good out of the gate… In his very first season as head coach (1995–96) the Hawks reached the NIT Finals.
Now before we go further… Full disclosure… Martelli is my homie… My guy… Throughout his tenure with St. Joseph’s, Phil Martelli afforded Black Cager Sports and Delgreco Wilson unfettered access to the Men’s Basketball team. I attended/covered virtually every home game. I openly pulled for the St. Joseph’s Basketball program under Phil Martelli’s leadership.
Over the years, Phil delivered some big wins…
In his second year, led by junior Big 5 MVP Rashid Bey flanked by Arthur “Yah” Davis and Terrell Myers and Harold Rasul, Martelli’s Hawks captured the A10 title. This talented and entertaining crew made it to the Sweet Sixteen in 1997.
After a 3 year dry spell, Martelli embarked upon one of the best runs in the past 25 years. In 2001, his Hawks finished 26-7 losing in the second round. Marvin O’Connor dropped 37 in an epic performance in the 83-90 loss to Stanford.
St. Joe’s would go 23-7 in 2002-03. Nice… Very good team…
The following year, with Jameer Nelson as his senior point guard, Martelli led the Hawks to the greatest season in school history. They ran the table during the regular season, going 27-0. The Hawks lost to Xavier in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, and ultimately reached the Elite Eight to finish with a record of 30-2.
This is “officially” the deepest run that St. Joseph’s has ever made in the tournament.
But, the fact is the 1960-61 SJU team went all the way to the Final Four and won the third-place game. Do I give Dr. Jack full credit for this Final Four appearance? Yup…
Will I note that his Final Four run was erased from the books due to a gambling scandal? Yup…
In 2004-05, Martelli led the Hawks back to the final game of the NIT, where they lost to South Carolina.
In 2008, Martelli led Saint Joseph’s to its first NCAA Tournament since 2004 with a team led by Pat Calathes and Ahmad Nivins.
Martelli captured the A10 Tournament titles in 2014 and 2016.
#7 Rollie Massimino Massimino won a National Championship. He defeated John Thompson, Patrick Ewing and the mighty Georgetown Hoyas to get it done. Over the course of a 19 year run at Villanova, Massimino won 355 games. He made 11 NCAA appearances. Massimino Villanova teams made to the Elite Eight five times.
Massimino also insisted on playing Big Five City Series games on the Villanova campus. Under Massimino, Villanova decided no longer play a full slate of Big Five games. Massimino insisted on playing just two Big Five games a year.
It is what it is…
Massimino’s positions were clear… Philadelphia traditions did not matter… The Big Five was expendable. As far as Massimino was concerned, no Palestra, no round-robin, no Big Five.
Do I hold that against him? Yes
#8 Kenneth Loeffler Coached at La Salle from 1949 to 1955. His record at La Salle was 144 wins and only 28 losses. He won an NIT when it really mattered. He led La Salle to two Final Four appearances and a National championship.
What do you do with that record? How do you rank him? I don’t know… But, I feel strongly he is worthy of being mentioned. Coach Loeffler got shit done… in a big way.
#9 Speedy Morris Speedy Morris coached La Salle men’s basketball team for 15 years from 1986 to 2001. His first six years were outstanding. Morris led the Explorers to 4 NCAA appearances and 2 NITs over his first six seasons. He won 100 games in his four years.
#10 Herb Magee Herb Magee has spent more than 60 years as either a player or coach at what is now known as Jefferson University. His career record stands at 1096-440. Magee is one of only four college coaches to surpass the 1,000 win milestone. On August 12, 2011, Magee was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame.
This college basketball season marks the end of an era.
It will not be noted in national, regional or local newspapers. Sports Illustrated will not do a cover story… ESPN is not sending a film crew…
None of that matters…
The absence of mainstream media acknowledgment doesn’t make it’s passing any less significant. After this season, there won’t be another college basketball player that was coached directly by the late, great Philadelphia Black Basketball Hall of Famer Claude Gross, Sr.
There won’t be anymore of Claude’s guys coming down the pike.
The self-proclaimed GURU, began nurturing and developing South Philly’s basketball talent in the mid 1950’s. He heavily influenced the career of his dear friend Ray “Chink” Scott, who played 11 highly productive years in the NBA and ABA with the Pistons, Baltimore Bullets and Virginia Squires. Scot went on to become NBA Coach of The Year.
Over a coaching career spanning more than half of a century, Gross developed, coached and helped raise hundreds of young boys. He possessed a truly unique gift. Gross was able to use the game of basketball as a means of furthering the socialization process for hundreds of young Black men.
As a young man, he made you extremely uncomfortable… Gross forcefully maintained the adult/child distinction in his relationships with those playing in his program. Some would describe him as intimidating. Standing over 6’5″, he was a man and you were a boy. There was absolutely no confusion in this regard. Claude Gross was not a friend to his players, he was not a peer. He was an domineering authority figure within the highly regarded Sonny Hill League and the larger Philadelphia Basketball community.
Claude would poke you, prod you, smack you, cuss you, embarrass you, kiss you, hug you and most importantly, love you.
Once you became a man, it all made perfect sense. Mo Howard, Lionel Simmons, Roland Houston, Nate Blackwell, Geoffrey Arnold, Bobby Johnson, Donnie Carr, Rashid Bey, the entire Myers family, John Davis, Junior Fortunat these are just a few of the division 1 players that honed their games and refined their understanding of the larger world while playing for under Gross in the South Philly Sonny Hill Program.
Dion Waiters, BJ Johnson and Langston Galloway are the last of the NBA guys that played for Gross. All of them should have several more years left in their respective NBA careers.
But… at the college level, it’s a wrap. This is it. No more coming…
It’s significant in a lot of ways.
University of Hartford, graduate student and point guard Traci Carter is the last of the long and glorious line of college basketball players that were directly coached by Claude Gross.
It seems fitting that Traci is last.
I met Traci, through Claude, when he was in the 7th grade. I had been talking to Claude and Philadelphia Black Basketball Hall of Famer Rashid Bey about their Sonny Hill teams. They both spoke glowingly about two South Philly kids in particular. Terquin “Buddha” Mott and Traci Carter, these guys were next up.
I head to one of Claude’s “practices” held for decades at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center located at 740 S 17th St. Truth be told, I really didn’t get to see the kid’s play. As usual, Claude’s practice consisted of Claude holding court and regaling everyone. After he explained in great detail how he led his Ben Franklin team into Overbrook HS and defeated Wilt and his teammates for the 937th time there wasn’t much scrimmaging that day…
At the conclusion of his performance, Rashid and Claude introduced me to young Traci Carter after the practice. “Traci… this is Del. He’s gonna help you stay on top your academic situation. Whatever he tells you to do… do it.” This was a very formal process. Rashid, Traci, Claude and I understood very clearly that I would be held accountable for keeping him on track academically.
The basketball was a foregone conclusion… If Claude and Rashid said he was D1 prospect, then he was a D1 prospect… period.
From that day forward, that was my responsibility. I was Traci’s academic “guy.” In this way, Traci was the beneficiary of Claude’s immense social capital. People with with belief systems rooted in religious faith, may refer to Traci’s situation as a “blessing.”
They are not mutually exclusive. One can be the beneficiary of social capital and be blessed at the same time.
Social capital is the effective functioning of social groups through interpersonal relationships. Because, Claude saw the need and had access to resources, Traci would have a personal, well-informed and accessible academic advisor throughout his career as a student-athlete. Traci directly benefited from the fact that Claude and I shared a sense of identity as Black men, a shared understanding of the importance of education, shared norms, shared values, trust, cooperation and, reciprocity.
Claude would do things to help me and I would always return the favor when called upon. In this way we were able leveraged our respective social capital. Think of social capital as a measure of the value of resources, both tangible (e.g., access to Marian Anderson Rec Center and McGonigle Hall) and intangible (e.g. people), and the impact that these resources have on individual young men, and on the larger Philadelphia basketball community. Social capital is regularly deployed by conscientious men to make hundreds of young men “middle class by mistake.”
A South Philly prodigy on the court, Carter enrolled at Prep Charter high school. He would suffer a significant knee injury, requiring surgery and not play at all as freshman. Through it all, Carter remained focused on his academic progress. The South Philly ol’ heads Claude, Rashid Bey and Donnie Carr instilled this value in him early. Carter internalized it almost immediately. More than the typical gifted young ballplayer, Carter grasped the importance of maintaining strong grades. Without prompting, he would check in every time he got his report card.
That’s what Claude and Rashid had told him to do 2 years earlier. I always walked him through his core updated GPA and core credits. Traci wanted to have all options available. He would not allow poor grades to limit his choices. As a high school freshman, Carter took control of his academics, even while suffering a significant knee injury.
As he recovered, Carter decided he wanted to play in Philadelphia’s Catholic League. Carter began his playing career at Roman Catholic High School and averaged 7.6 points per game for the Cahillites as a sophomore and competed on the AAU circuit for We-R1 and the squad claimed the Under Armour Association Championship in 2014. He did very well on the court.
Off the court, he exhibited questionable judgement and engaged in some negative behaviors. As a result, he had to abruptly leave Roman Catholic.
Carter clearly violated school rules. Had to go…
He needed a school. He was leaning heavily on Donnie Carr for guidance. Claude “suggested” that we find a solution fast. “Fix this shit!” is the way he phrased his suggestion. In doing so, Claude was once again leveraging his considerable social capital.
An accomplished basketball player, Carter needed a school with a solid basketball coach and program. A precocious juvenile, Carter would benefit immensely from a high structured boarding situation that took him away from the streets of South Philadelphia.
Also, Carter had no money for educational expenses. He lived with his grandmother who was on a fixed income.
So… we needed to find a solid academic boarding school situation with a strong basketball program for free… Ok… got it…
Leveraging the only resource we had, social capital… Donnie Carr and I walked Traci Carter into meet with Pastor Dave Boudwin and Pervis Ellison, the School Head and Basketball Coach at Life Center Academy. All the cards were placed on the table. Traci fully disclosed the nature of his negative behaviors at Roman Catholic. We essentially asked Life Center Academy to take this young man just because it would benefit Traci.
We asked for a blessing.
We prayed on the situation and Traci’s educational and athletic career at Life Center began that day. Traci faithfully attended all church services and programs. He was able to participate in Life Center missionary programs in Central America.
On the court, Traci averaged 16.0 points, 7.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 steals per game in 2014-15 and was tabbed first team all-independent. He was also a McDonald’s All-American Game nominee and was named the program’s most valuable player. Carter led the program to 40 victories in his two seasons and the team claimed the top ranking among independent teams within the state of New Jersey.
Each and every time Traci got his report card he sent me a picture and we had to review and update his standing. He did not take any chances. Actually, he was a pain in the ass about it. He understood how to calculate his GPA and core courses. He could have done this independently. However, he wanted to engage, he needed to discuss his academic standing. It was a ritual… a habit. Claude planted the seed of academic responsibility in Traci when he was 12. By the time he was 17, it was simply an important part of who Traci was as a student-athlete.
Why take chances?
Control the shit you can control…
On the court, Traci started off in the Big East at Marquette. He had a strong rookie season, leading the team in assists. He played in a total of 33 games, making 19 starts while averaging 23.9 minutes per outing. The next year Carter would play in 8 games and start 4 before leaving the program after the Fall semester.
He resurfaced at La Salle where he emerged as the starter on Ashley Howard’s first team. Carter played in all 31 games for the Explorers, while making 30 starts. He led team with 101 assists (3.3 apg) and 57 steals (1.8 spg). Averaged 6.4 points per contest. Shot 83.9 percent from the free-throw line.
Would talk to him occasionally… Always ask the same shit… “What’s up with the books?”
Always got the same response. “I’m straight.”
He was straight. Graduated easily and on time.
Decided to go graduate school and continue playing at the University of Hartford. While pursuing a Master’s Carter played a lil’ hoops for Hartford.
He was named America East All-Conference Third Team and named to America East All-Defensive Team. Carter was one of two players to start all 33 games while breaking the program’s single-season record in steals with 83. He finished sixth in the nation in steals and ninth in steals per game (2.5), leading the America East in both categories. Carter also finished as the America East’s leader in assists (162), assists per game (4.9) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.9).
Guess what? They gave him another year of eligibility. Carter is once again running point for Hartford Head John Gallagher who is coming off most successful two-year run in Hartford’s DI history (2017-19).
I’m sure Traci will perform well on the court. He gets at guys…
Most importantly, Carter’s going to emerge from his journey as a student-athlete with a Master’s degree, zero debt and plenty of relationships. The last of Claude’s guys. Catch him Tuesday night as he squares off with Collin Gillespie and Villanova on Tuesday night.
You’ll be witnessing the the end of an era. Traci Carter, M.A. is the last one.
So… the father of one of the top D1 prospects in the area calls me yesterday… Right away he observes…
“The kids are gonna wanna play at St. Joe’s… Billy let’s ’em go, they play hard and they play anybody.”
His son already signed, sealed and committed to another D1 program out of the state, Dad was just doing what we’ve always done… Talking local hoops. I had to agree with his assessment.
“They are in shape, he let’s those guys play basketball. They keep coming at you…”
This was after the second loss in a row to a nationally prominent Power 5 conference opponent. We both agreed there will be some BIG wins coming and soon…
St. Joseph’s Head Coach Billy Lange has taken a stand… He’s decided that he will throw his bunch into the deep end of the pool and see what happens. Sink or swim muthafucka… It’s an admirable approach. Lange sits at 6-28 since assuming the helm at 54th and City Avenue.
Many other coaches would schedule as many America East, NEC or MEAC opponents as possible and get some easy wins. Not Lange…
Yet, despite the losses…
Everyone seems to agree that he’s got the program headed in a decidedly positive direction. Shit… Lange is so convinced in his team’s progress that he is apparently seeking out every available Power 5, Top 25 road game he can find.
Such a scheduling approach is revered around these parts. Grab a bunch of Philly kids, get on a plane and take on all comers. For hoop heads in the 50 – 70 year old range, some of your fondest memories include watching John Chaney march his troops into North Carolina, Duke, UCLA and UNLV and screaming “check rock.”
Last year, despite a ton of close losses, Coach Lange stuck with his plan and his analytic dependent approach to college basketball.
Layups and threes… That’s what the analytic eggheads say… Layups and threes… This approach has taken over the NBA… Houston, Portland, Golden State, etc. have adopted this approach to basketball…
Lange’s embrace of this strategy was clear last year… Many questioned the approach, myself included…
We noted that Lange didn’t have the horses for the kind of race he wanted to run. Maybe, just maybe, he could have slightly modified his approach and won another game or two. Maybe he could have finished 8 – 24 or 9 – 23 instead of 6 – 26.
Naaaaaaah… Lange clearly said FUCK that… We are gonna learn to play the way I want to play…
He decided to stick with his approach and take his lumps. He wanted his team to learn to play a certain way. Of course, he wanted to win but not at the expense of forestalling the full implementation of “BillyBall” on Hawk Hill.
At times, it was painful to watch. He was playing pinochle with a hand dealt from poker deck.
This year, he has assembled a roster that is faster, more explosive, better shooting and better defensively.
These guys are playing as a unit. They are committed to being aggressive offensively. They push the rock. Even against elite athletes they just keep coming.
Dahmir Bishop (Imhotep/Xavier) and Jack Forrest (Lower Merion/Columbia) look like kids that have been allowed outside after spending 6 months on punishment. With Lange’s encouragement and support, these guys are letting it fly… They have demonstrated an ability to get good looks at layups and threes… More importantly, they’ve been converting these looks at a nice clip.
Greg Foster is athletic, he’s able to push the rock while being cautious and he’s a very capable perimeter defender. Jordan Hall is finding his way… A natural playmaker, he is a long and capable point forward.
Cameron Brown is a capable scorers and a steady calming influence off the bench and Rahmir Moore provides pure unadulterated Philly toughness.
Despite the aforementioned upgrades to the roster, this SJU team will only go as far as the BIG DOGS are able to take them. Taylor Funk and Ryan Daly possess All-A10 talent. Funk, with his feet set is one of the best shooters we’ve seen in recent years. His range literally extends from the concession stand inward. He’s always been capable of stringing together 3, 4 or 5 straight NBA 3 pointers. Nothing new to see here. What is new is his commitment to strength and conditioning. He has changed his body. He is leaner than he was in high school. This is significant because he will have to play major minutes if this version of the Hawks aspire to be a factor in the A10.
Funk can barely jump over the laptop he using to complete his schoolwork, yet he had emerged as a solid “BIG” for this team. He understands the importance of positioning in rebounding and defending the post. He’s getting shit done against much bigger and more explosive post players… Respect.
Daly continues be the unquestioned leader of this scrappy Hawk bunch. He’s a fucking hockey player on a basketball court. Daly is the Bobby Clarke of college basketball. Against Auburn and Kansas he repeatedly tried to protect the rim against 6’9” dudes with 40 inch vertical leaps. Watching at game speed, one is convinced that he got “all ball” on these efforts. The slo-motion instant replays reveal the truth though… He just checked those guys against the boards and damn near knocked their teeth out.
But he sells it hard! “What foul ref?”
Daly has never seen a matchup he didn’t like… He’s going to score, rebound and get assists every game. There’s literally nothing the opponent can do about it. His tenacity and confidence allows the other guys to play freely.
Coach Lange has a very interesting team… They play an appealing style of basketball… They are seeking out the very best opponents… Local Dads and kids are noticing.
Imagine what will happen if they can make it to the Stanley Cup Finals?
Or… better yet, what if they knock off Nova on Wednesday?
Been getting a lot of questions from parents and players about Prep Schools… Have some friends that recently placed their kids in prep programs… This burst of interest in Prep basketball was expected. With the dramatic shift in the scholarship market, 17, 18 and 19 year old students face tough choices. For many, Prep School basketball is a rational move… Shit makes sense…
Think about this…
For the first time in history, every men’s and women’s college basketball team in America could theoretically field the exact same team again for the 2021-2022 season. This season will not be applied to the student-athlete’s eligibility clock.
The 2020-21 season is a free year as far as eligibility is concerned. This rule change is having an enormous impact on the scholarship market.
Walk through the basic numbers…
Let’s say there are 350 Division 1 basketball programs. Each program has 13 basketball scholarships. There are roughly 4,550 scholarships. Every year around 1,000 or so D1 scholarships become available.
Not this year… Everyone playing college sports can theoretically come back next year. The extent to which player take advantage of this rule change directly impacts the number of available basketball scholarships.
Somewhere less than 100% of the student-athletes will choose to stay. Some guys will just want to get on with their lives. Coaches may not want all of their players to return. For illustrative purposes, let’s say half or 50% choose to play another year of college basketball. The number of available scholarships decreases to a mere 500 or so. If 30% choose to stay the number of available scholarships decrease to 700.
The recruitment process can get even more complex and daunting for high school prospects and their parents.
College coaches fully realize that any player currently participating in NCAA basketball could conceivably play on their team next season. Players can transfer one time and play immediately without sitting out a year in residence.
This is pure free agency.
These conditions have never existed before. College coaches have adapted their recruitment strategies in light of the relaxed transfer constraints. Plainly stated, college transfers are preferred over high school prospects in most situations. Real rap…
So much so that once vaccines are widely available, one can envision some college coaches literally recruiting in the hand shake line after the games…
As of right now, many college coaches are not even considering high school players.
The market shift is forcing an increased number of high school players and their families to consider “Prep Schools” or accept slots in D2, D3 or NAIA programs.
One thing for sure in college basketball, levels matter. As they say, “it’s levels to this shit.” This statement definitely applies to college hoops. Players and parents want to play at the highest level. They want to play D1 hoops.
Rather than abandoning hopes of playing D1 basketball, more and more prospects are going the Prep School route.
With far-reaching regulatory changes enacted by the NCAA, this route will appeal to an increasing number of prospects.
There’s a lot of variation in Prep School Programs. There are some really excellent programs and there are some really bad ones. This is a largely unregulated area.
Prep schools have been around for a long time. Since the early 1900’s, the term “prep school” has been associated with predominantly white, private, elite institutions that have highly competitive admission criteria and high tuition fees, catering to students in the 8th – 12th grade range. Many of the elite prep schools are located in New England. These schools charge tuition ($20,000 to 70,000). Some prep schools are affiliated with a particular religious denomination. Independent preparatory schools are not governed by a religious organization, and students are usually not required to receive instruction in one particular religion. Graduates of these schools typically enter highly competitive colleges such as those in the Ivy League. Many of these prep schools have fine basketball programs.
Then… on the other end of the spectrum, there are basketball clubs that label themselves as “Prep schools.” These are programs where the emphasis is solely on basketball. Some of these programs play 60-70 games per season. In the past, schools like this were able to provide miraculous academic recoveries for students in a short amount of time. However, the NCAA began to argue that they did so with “little-to-no instruction.”
Eventually, the NCAA created a list of Prep Schools whose transcripts are no longer be accepted because of what they described as questionable academic credentials.
Parents MUST verify that any academic work completed under the auspices of the Prep School will be accepted by the NCAA.
Ask the Head Coach and/or Director of the Prep School for the School’s NCAA High School Code or CEEB/ACT Code. With either code you can search for a high school’s list of NCAA courses with this link.
If you don’t know the school’s NCAA High School Code or six-digit CEEB/ACT Code, you may search by city/state and high school name.
If… Academic concerns are part of the equation, parents MUST verify that the classes will be accepted.
Here’s the interesting thing though… More than likely, there will be a significant increase in the number of NCAA eligible kids that just want to play Prep School basketball. For many, this makes perfect sense. They don’t have D1 offers and they want to get better and earn a D1 scholarship. The NCAA clock does not start while a kid is in Prep School. Kids can play a full schedule of games, practice everyday, get stronger and further develop skill sets.
Kids that are NCAA eligible, can take up to 6 credit hours per semester at a Community College. A qualified Prep student could enter college with 18-24 credit hours under his belt.
Most importantly, by playing at the Prep level a kid’s NCAA eligibility clock does not begin.
If a kid is NCAA eligible, he could focus entirely on basketball, strength, conditioning and nutrition. Good prep school programs are strong in these areas.
Some reputable prep programs in the mid-Atlantic region include, Mt. Zion Prep (MD), Rocktop Academy (PA), Covenant Prep (NJ) and Olympus Prep (NJ). All of these programs play strong national Prep school schedules.
Mt. Zion Prep Sports Academy is located in Lanham, Maryland. n 2011, Founded in 2011, by Rodrick Harrison and Brian Scott. Mt. Zion Prep has emerged as one of the premiere Prep Programs in the Nation. Mt. Zion is an independent prep program that competes on a national level. Mt. Zion has competed in the National Prep Showcase as well as the National Prep School Invitational. Obi Toppin, the 8th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery is a Mt. Zion alum.
Founded by Sam Rines, Rocktop Academy is located in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA and directly across from the largest shopping mall in the United States. It is the only prep school partnered with the fastest growing recruiting service in the country, BasketballFinders.com.’s With more than 100 universities within a 50 mile radius of Philadelphia and many more throughout the northeast, Rocktop Academy is ideally located. Los Angeles Laker forward Kyle Kuzma in a Rocktop Alum.
Founded by Ian Turnbill, Covenant College Prep is located in Belmar, New Jersey. Turnbill has built a respected basketball academy with a college level training program. He emphasizes three core components: 1) Strength and conditioning training, measurably improving on court performance; 2) On court college level skill development, and; 3) Comprehensive meal program to enhance training. Temple freshman Nick Jourdain is a Covenant Prep alum.
Founded by Todd Beamon and Rich Marcucci, Olympus Prep is located in West Berlin, New Jersey. Marcucci has decades of experience running Prep Programs. He has worked with some of the best college and professional players to come out the Greater Philadelphia region. Eugene Teague (Seton Hall/Europe), Marcus and Markeiff Morris (Kansas/NBA) played in Marcucci’s program. Olympus has a modern, safe basketball facility and produces highly skilled, and disciplined players.
Players and parents have to do their research. Before anything, players have to realistically assess their value in today’s basketball scholarship market. Are you likely to attract a D1 offer? Please keep in mind, there are fewer available D1 scholarships… Additionally, high school kids are competing with more 21, 22 and 23 year old student-athletes for this smaller number of scholarships.
Players and parents then have to try to realistically project value after a year of serious training. If the player is committed he can improve and demonstrate improvement while playing at any of the prep programs listed above. Division 1 coaches regularly recruit players from these prep programs.
But, if a player is bullshittin’ his situation will not change.
In some cases… Maybe most cases…
Kids will be better off accepting one of the D2, D3 or NAIA offers on the table. In the grand scheme of things, the objective is to leverage basketball ability for access to higher education. A D2 or NAIA scholarship accomplishes this goal. For outstanding students, D3 programs offer outstanding merit-based financial aid packages. If you are a D1 player, it will become evident and you will be able to transfer and play immediately without sitting out a year.
 Villanova Senior Collin Gillespie, 2 years eligibility, (Archbishop Wood HS) Gillespie is a serious candidate for 1st-Team All-American honors. Last season, he was named second team All-BIG EAST. Gillespie is proven and highly productive high major point guard. To many, he is the best college player Philadelphia has to offer for the 2020-21 season. He averaged 15.1 points and 4.5 assists per outing in 31 regular season games. He was first team All-Philadelphia Big Five.
 Rhode Island Senior Fatts Russell, 2 years eligibility, (Imhotep HS) Russell has an opportunity to join Jameer Nelson among previous Cousy award winners. A magnificent combination of speed, explosiveness and skill, Russell ranks among the top point guards in the nation. Last season, Russell ranked second in the nation in steals, while also finished third in the conference in scoring at 18.8 points per game. He needs just 39 steals to become the all-time leader at Rhode Island. Fatts Russell is a pure Philly guard and one of the premier players in America.
 St. Joseph’s Senior Ryan Daly, 2 years eligibility, (Archbishop Carroll HS) Daly is one of the most productive college basketball players to come out of Philadelphia the past decade. He enters his senior season with 1,616 points, 617 rebounds and 261 assists. Daly combines a quick first step, strength, instincts, and aggressiveness to get to the rim, then uses his big frame and excellent body control to consistently finish through contact. In addition to his scoring ability, Daly doubles as an excellent passer and playmaker. St. Joe’s has added some talent. All that’s left for Daly to accomplish at the college level is a Conference Championship and NCAA appearance.
 Penn State Junior Sam Sessoms, 3 years eligibility, (Shipley HS) Sessoms absolutely excelled in the America East Conference. He led the conference in scoring with 19.4 ppg and ranked second in assists with 4.8 app. Sessoms ranks eighth in NCAA in career scoring average among current players (18.6 ppg.) He became just the seventh player in America East history to reach 1,000-point mark as a sophomore (1,151 pts.). Sessoms transferred to Penn State to play the Big 10 for Pat Chambers. Chambers abruptly resigned, Sessoms was granted a waiver to play immediately.
 Towson Senior Zane Martin, 2 years eligibility, (Neumann-Goretti HS) Martin returns to the campus where he exploded on the scene as a sophomore. That year Martin was All-CAA Second Team and NABC All- District 10 Second Team. He was MVP of the Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic. He averaged a team-best 19.8 points, good for third in the CAA. He scored double figures in 30 of the Tigers’ 32 games that season, while also averaging 3.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. He had 18 20-point outings, three games of 30 or more points and a 21-game streak in which scored double figures. He is expected to pick up where he left off.
 Washington Senior Quade Green, 2 years eligibility, (Neumann-Goretti HS) The most heralded of all the Philly ballers coming out of high school, Green participated in the 2017 McDonalds All-American Game, the 2017 Jordan Brand Classic and was the MVP of the 2017 HoopHall Classic. Green has had a solid college career, he left Kentucky with 43 career games, 13 starts, 387 total points, 112 assists and 52 3-pointers. He averaged 8.0 ppg as a sophomore season while shooting 44.9 percent from the floor and 42.3 percent from 3-point range. As freshman, Green started 13 of the 34 games and averaged 9.3 points, 2.7 assists and 1.8 rebounds per game while leading the team in scoring three times, steals four times and assists on seven occasions. Prior being declared academically ineligible, in 15 games, Green was averaging 11.6 points and 5.3 assists while shooting 44.7% from 3-point range. He had scored in double figures in each of his past eight games, averaging 6.0 assists over that span.
 Bowling Green Senior Daeqwon Plowden, 2 years eligibility (Mastery CHS) Plowden has emerged as an NBA prospect. He is winding down a wonderful career at Bowling Green. Last season, he played in all 31 games, making 30 starts. Plowden was Second Team All-MAC and named MAC East Player of the Week two times. He averaged a career-high 12.7 points, which ranked third on the team and 24th in the MAC. Plowden led Bowling Green in total minutes (974), while ranking second in minutes per game (31.4). He also led the Falcons in rebounding for the first time in his career, averaging a career-high 8.5 rebounds per game (264 total). He is a gifted and explosive athlete and will have an opportunity to play at the professional level.
 Maryland Sophomore Donta Scott, 4 years eligibility (Imhotep HS) Scott turned in an outstanding freshman campaign and helped lead Maryland to a Big 10 Championship. Scott played all 31 games (21 starts) in season cut short (no postseason) due to coronavirus pandemic. He started final 20 games of season. On the year, he averaged 5.9 points and 3.6 rebounds in 21.7 minutes of action. Scott was very efficient shooting 44% from the field and 85% from the free throw line. He was a very talented glue guy on a loaded Maryland team as a freshman. This year he will be called upon to score at a much higher clip and make plays for teammates. Look for Scott to emerge as an all-league level player this season.
 Miami Sophomore Isaiah Wong, 4 years eligibility (Bonner-Prendie HS) Wong had a strong freshman season for the Hurricanes. He was one of three Hurricanes to appear in all 31 games, he started the final 13 contests. For the season, Wong averaged 7.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.0 assist in 21.2 minutes per contest. He shot an impressive 82.9 percent from the free-throw line and 37.3 percent from 3-point range, both second-best on the team. Look for Wong to increase his scoring substantially this season.
 Penn State Soph Seth Lundy, 4 years eligibility (Roman Catholic HS) Lundy had a very solid freshman season for the Nittany Lions. He started the last 15 games, all Big Ten games, and played in all 31 contests as a true freshman. He contributed 6.3 points and 3.1 rebounds per game in league games with a 3-point field goal percentage of 40 percent. Lundy has a strong athletic frame and NBA 3 point range.
 Villanova Sophomore Eric Dixon, 4 years eligibility (Abington HS) Dixon practiced with the team but did not appear in any regular season games as he decided to redshirt the season. Over the course of the year, he transformed his body. Dixon is very lean and muscular. In open runs, he is a unique combination of brute strength and offensive skill. He has exceptional post footwork. He is adept on the interior or stroking a soft 3- point jumpshot. Look for Dixon to make an immediate contribution to the Wildcats.
 VCU sophomore Nah’shon “Bones” Hyland, 4 years eligibility (St. George’s HS) Hyland made the A10 All-Rookie Team. He played in all 31 games and made nine starts, including in the final seven contests of the season. He ranked third on the team in scoring at 9.0 points per game, matching the highest by a VCU freshman since the 1998-99 season; Averaged 11.0 points per game in conference play. Nicknamed “Bones” he plays with a unique flair. Hyland set a VCU freshman record with 63 three-pointers. Ranked third in the A-10 in 3-point field goal percentage at .434 (63- of-145), a mark that is also tied for sixth in school single-season history. Handed out 57 assists (second on the team) and grabbed 26 steals. Bones is a bad boy.
 Providence Junior Ed Croswell, 3 years eligibility (St. Joe’s Prep) Last season, Croswell played in 26 games for LaSalle, averaged 10.4 points and 7.6 rebounds, while shooting 60.2 percent from the field in the A10. Croswell is one of the better rebounders in the nation. He ranked third in the nation in offensive rebounding rate at 18.5 percent. He led La Salle in rebounding. He had career best game of 24 points and 18 rebounds versus St. Louis (1/29/20) and posted his seventh double- double of the season with 10 points and 12 rebounds at Duquesne (2/2/20). Croswell will provide immediate help on the boards for the Friars.
 La Salle Junior Jack Clark, 3 years eligibility (Cheltenham HS) A healthy Jack Clark is a difference make in the A10. Last season was a Medical redshirt season. In 2018-19, Clark Missed first seven games of season while recovering from injury suffered in high school. He immediately contributed on the offensive end when he was able to play. Clark averaged 10.6 points and 4.3 rebounds in nine games he played. But he suffered lower-body injury against George Washington in the middle of January and sat out remainder of season. Look for Clark to be among the A10 scoring leaders one he returns full-time to the court.
 Rhode Island Junior Allen Betrand, 3 years eligibility (Roman Catholic HS) Betrand was named to the All-CAA Third Team. He earned CAA Player of the Week honors for the first time in his career on Jan. 13 and was named to the All-CAA Honor Roll on Jan. 6 and 27. He led the CAA in free-throw percentage (88.6) and finished 11th in scoring (13.6) and 13th in 3-point field goal percentage (38.7). Betrand started all 32 games and averaged 28.9 minutes. He was second on the Tigers in scoring and 3-pointers made with 46.
 George Washington Sophomore Jameer Nelson, Jr, 4 years eligibility (Haverford School) One of the most explosive athletes in the nation, Nelson Played in all 31 games and made 28 starts in his first season. He finished fourth on the team in scoring and second among freshmen team with 10.4 points per game. Nelson led the team with 1.8 steals per game. Nelson dropped a season-high 22 points on 8-of-10 from the field with six rebounds against Saint Joseph’s (1/25). Look for him to emerge as an all-league level player this season.
 La Salle Senior David Beatty, 2 years eligibility (Archbishop Carroll) Beatty was All-Big 5 Second Team. A big part of the resurgence in the Explorer program, Beatty led the club in scoring with 10.7 points per game. He played in all 30 games, starting 19. Beatty will be called upon to lead a young group of Explorers this season.
 Hartford Grad Student Traci Carter, 1 year eligibility (Life Center) Carter has had an interesting career. He started 19 out of 33 games as a freshman at Marquette. He averaged 5.4 ppg, 4.6 apg and 1.4 spg. He transferred to La Salle 8 games into his sophomore season. After sitting a year, Carter started 30 out of 31 games for La Salle. He averaged 6.4 ppg, 3.3 apg and 1.8 spg. After graduating from La Salle, Carter enrolled in graduate school at the University of Hartford. Last season, Carter averaged 9.7 ppg, 4.9 apg and 2.5 spg. Granted an additional year by the NCAA, Carter will be one of the best guards in the America East Conference and the unquestioned leader of the Hawks.
[19t] Penn St. Junior Izaiah Brockington, 3 years eligibility (Archbishop Ryan HS) Brockington Provided Nittany Lions with athleticism and intense defense in sixth man role. He averaged 8.1 points and 2.7 rebounds per game with 13 double-figure scoring games. IZB, as he is affectionately called, led team in scoring four times. He saved his best for the hometown crowd as he scored 15 of his career-best 23 points in the second half to lead Penn State to victory over No. 23 Iowa (1/4/20) at The Palestra.
[19t] Penn St. Senior John Harrar, 2 years eligibility (Strath Haven HS) Harrar played in all 31 games with starts in 14 of the last 15 contests. He had Nittany Lions’ best field goal percentage at 62.7 and 61.0 percent in Big Ten games. Averaged career high 17.0 minutes per game. As a sophomore, he played in all 32 games and possessed second-highest overall field goal percentage at 55.1.
 Villanova Sr Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, 2 years eligibility (Neumann-Goretti HS) When healthy, Cosby-Roundtree is an athletic forward capable of finishing through defenders at the rim. Last season, he was dealing with lingering lower body injuries. He appeared in 29 regular season games, averaging 2.2 rebounds and 7.7 minutes per outing. That production is a significant drop from his sophomore campaign when he averaged 20.5 minutes, 5.1 points and 5.8 rebounds for the Wildcats. He started 16 games that season. Cosby-Roundtree was named the Most Outstanding Player at the 2018 AdvocCare Invitational. During that 2018-19 season, he connected on .648 of his field goal attempts and .741 of his free throw attempts. A healthy Cosby-Roundtree is a double-double threat every game.
 Arcadia Senior Da’kquan Davis, 2 years eligibility (Roman Catholic) A legitimate small college All-American candidate, Davis started 26 of 27 games played throughout his junior season. He ended the season with 1,571 career points to become the program’s all-time scoring leader. Davis was selected to the D3Hoops.com All-Region Second-team and named to the NABC All-District Second-team. He was awarded All-ECAC First-team and chosen to CoBL All-Area First-team. Received First-team All-MAC Commonwealth honors… Totaled 730 points, averaging a conference-best 27.0 points per game… Recorded 173 rebounds, 94 assists, 36 steals and five blocks… Averaged 46.5% from the field, 33.7% from behind the arc, and 80.2% from the charity stripe…
 Michigan State Freshman AJ Hoggard, 5 years eligibility (Huntington Prep) Hoggard is expected to contribute immediately. He has a BIG 10 body. Very strong for a point guard, he has height, girth and strength. Possessing excellent vision, Hoggard is an elite playmaker. He is very good at creating space to get his shot off the dribble. He’s an adequate 3-point shooter. Rebounds his position. Quality defender who gets steals. Should be an early starter at some point during his freshman year at Michigan State.
 VCU Freshman Ace Baldwin, 5 years eligibility (St. Frances Academy) After a legendary HS career in Baltimore, Baldwin arrives at VCU ready to compete for minutes right away. Baldwin possesses a lean angular frame with long reach and room for additional muscle without affecting his overall quickness. He plays with very good balance and body control, he is explosive with his initial step and he has the quickness to push the ball on the open floor. Has a great work ethic and attitude, bringing energy to the court and leadership to the locker room.
 South Alabama Freshman Jamal West, 5 years eligibility (St. Frances Academy) If you can get past the fact that he is at least 2-3 inches undersized, West has very good physical attributes. Unlike most players, though, he uses his to the fullest extent at all times. West has a D1 ready frame and a super-heros build, with very soft and strong hands, great upper and lower body strength, and a superb wingspan. He has a powerful first step and very solid ability to get off the ground and finish strong at the basket. West is essentially the prototype for what most coaches look for in a player. He is fundamentally sound, tough as nails, and incredibly hard-working; always giving everything he has out on the floor, showing superb confidence in himself, but usually playing strictly up to his strengths.
 Kentucky Freshman Lance Ware, 5 years eligibility (Camden, NJ) Ware combines power forward size and strength, with wing ball-handling and passing skills. He possesses the size, physical gifts and skill to defend four or five positions at the Division 1 level. Ware is ideal for the emphasis on “positionless basketball.” Highly unselfish, team oriented player. Will find his way into the rotation early at Kentucky.
 Notre Dame Freshman Elijah Taylor, 5 years eligibility (Imhotep, CHS) At the high school level, Taylor had the upper body strength to deny almost anyone vying for position on the block. He contested every shot he could reach. He was very good at positioning himself to guard drop steps and up and under moves in the paint. These are all attributes that should lead to early playing time for Taylor. He’s a very good help defender, possessing great timing and anticipation when blocking shots from the weak side. Look for Taylor to play significant minutes because he has good enough foot speed to hedge pick and rolls effectively and guard small players when forced to switch. He always boxes out. He grabs rebounds outside of his area with regularity. Never takes possessions off, which makes him a nightmare to have to score on. Look for him early and often for the fighting Irish.
 Maryland Sophomore Hakim Hart, 4 years eligibility (Roman Catholic HS) Stronger and more confident, Hart sill be a key factor for the Terrapins this season. He appeared in 18 games as a reserve guard in season cut short (no postseason) due to coronavirus pandemic. He helped lead Maryland to 2020 Big Ten Championship. Hart averaged 1.6 points in 6.3 mins of action during the season and matched season-high with 13 minutes of action against Rutgers (3/3). He scored 5 points against Michigan State (2/29) … posted season-highs with 7 points and 3 assists vs. Oakland (11/16) … made collegiate debut against Holy Cross (11/5) and knocked down a 3-pointer.
 La Salle Sophomore Christian Ray, 4 years eligibility (Haverford School) Ray was an impact freshman who saw action in all 30 games, making eight starts. He averaged 4.5 points and 5.0 rebounds per game and grabbed six or more rebounds 13 times, including three games with 10 or more. Scored career-best 15 points in win over FDU. Season-high three steals at Penn… Had six points and 10 rebounds, including four at the offensive end, in win over St. Bonaventure… Closed season on strong note with 13-point, 11-rebound outing at Saint Joseph’s.
 New Mexico State Sophomore Wil McNair, 4 years eligibility (Martin L. King HS) Saw time exclusively as a reserve during his first season of deployment…Took part in 28 of the team’s 31 games and averaged 1.8 points, 1.6 rebounds and 0.1 assists in 8.2 minutes per game…Shot .583/.000/.636…Ranked second on the team in blocked shots (12)…Debuted in style by coming up with season-highs in points (11), rebounds (seven), field goals made (four), field goals attempted (five), free throws made (three) and free throw attempts (four) in a season-high 17 minutes during the team’s season-opening home victory over Western New Mexico (11/5)…Posted two blocked shots on three occasions, the first coming during a non-conference home win over longtime rival UTEP (12/3)…Helped the Aggies capture their third-consecutive WAC regular season title while ending the season in a 19-game winning streak that ranked as the second-longest in the nation.
 NJIT Junior Booty Butler, 3 years eligibility (Cardinal O’Hara HS) Played two seasons at Austin Peay, starting 37 games over his freshman and sophomore campaign…helped lead the Governors to 22 wins in 2018-19 and 21 victories in 2019-20…averaged more than 27 minutes per game as a sophomore, scoring 6.4 points per game and dishing out 3.3 assists per game…scored a career-high 14 points at West Virginia on December 12, 2019…tallied career-best nine assists vs. McKendree on December 19, 2019.
 Texas A&M, Corpus Christi Junior Cyrie Coates, 3 years eligibility (Overbrook HS) Averaged 11.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals in 31 games in 2019-20 for the Community College of Beaver County…played for coach Bryen Spriggs and helped the team to a No. 4 national ranking.
 Cal-Bakersfield Sophomore Ray Somerville, 4 years eligibility (Shipley HS) Physically imposing, good athlete, Somerville spent a redshirt year working on all aspects of his game. Expected to contribute immediately as a first year player.
 Coppin State Junior Justin Steers, 3 years eligibility (RockTop Academy) MEAC All-Rookie Team…Played in 28 games and made one start while averaging 13.5 minutes per game… Averaged 6.0 points and 3.2 rebounds while finishing second on the team with 25 blocks to go with 12 assists and 17 steals… Made team-high 52.9% of his field goals (63-119) along with 5-of-20 3-pointers and 38-of-66 (57.6%) free throws… Scored in double figures six times, including a season-high 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting and 5-of-5 free throws in win over Bethune-Cookman (1/28)… Also scored 16 points at Rider (11/19) and 13 at Louisiana Monroe (12/21)… Had a huge MEAC Tournament where he averaged 12.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks while making 9-of-11 shots.
 St. Joseph’s Freshman Jordan Hall, 5 years eligibility (Neumann-Goretti HS) Hall is a highly skilled and unselfish wing. He will help Ryan Daly and the Hawks with his passing and rebounding. Led Neumann Goretti to a 45-13 record as a junior and senior…Named First Team All-Catholic and First Team 3A All-State as a senior after leading his team to the Catholic League Championship…Competed for Cardinal O’Hara as a sophomore and Middle Township as a freshman.
 Bucknell Freshman Deuce Turner, 5 years eligibility (Neumann-Goretti HS) Turner enjoyed a stellar high school career at Malvern Prep, where he became the all-time leading scorer in the history of the Inter-Ac League and one of the top scorers in Philadelphia high school annals with 2,452 points. In 2020, Turner was named Pennsylvania 5A State Player of the Year. He averaged 25.1 points per game as a senior, leading his team to a school-record 27 wins and 10-0 league mark.
 La Salle Freshman Jhamir Brickus, 5 years eligibility (Coatesville HS) One of the top scorers in the state of Pennsylvania, registered 2,531 career points for Coatesville Area High School… Two-time Pennsylvania State Writers Association Class 6A All-State First Team honoree… Averaged 23.1 points per game as a senior, bettering John Allen (Seton Hall) to became Coatesville Area’s all-time leading scorer… Team went 20-8 record, tying West Chester East for first place in the Ches-Mont League National Division during the regular season… In final high school game, scored 26 points in a 81-75 loss to Roman Catholic in the first round of the PIAA Class 6A tournament.
 St. Joseph’s Sophomore Dahmir Bishop, 4 years eligibility (Imhotep CHS) Appeared in 10 games, averaging 1.6 points and 2.5 rebounds over 12 minutes per contest…Had four points, seven rebounds and three assists in his collegiate debut against Jacksonville…Finished with four points and seven rebounds in a season-best 23 minutes versus Siena. High School/Personal: Named a Pennsylvania Sports Writers Class AAAA First Team All-State selection as a junior and senior…Averaging 12 points and 5.5 rebounds per game as a senior captain, led Imhotep to its third PIAA Class 4A state championship and the Philadelphia Public League title…Played on three consecutive league and state title teams.
 Marist Freshman Hakim Byrd, 5 years eligibility (Neumann-Goretti HS) A classic Philly guard, Byrd is quick, tough and smart. Byrd shined scholastically at Neumann-Goretti High School in Philadelphia. In his high school career, his team won four district championships, two state titles, and one Philadelphia Catholic League crown. In his senior season, Byrd earned First Team All-Catholic League and Class 3A Second Team All-State honors as he averaged 14.6 points, 3.1 assists, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game for a team which went 24-4. Byrd built off a junior season in which he averaged 12.5 points per game while shooting 47 percent from the field and 36 percent from three-point range. He was a Second Team All-Catholic selection who boasted a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
 St. Frances (PA) Freshman Zahree Harrison, 5 years eligibility (Cheltenham HS) Coming off a knee surgery that robbed him of his senior season in high school, Harrison is anxious to return to competition. He was a three-year letterwinner as the point guard at Cheltenham after earning a letter at Archbishop Wood his freshman year and a two-time captain at Cheltenham. He was the only sophomore to be selected as All-League in 2017-18 when he was selected to the third team and was the only junior to be selected to the All-League First Team in 2018-19.
 Quinnipiac Sophomore Seth Pinkney, 4 years eligibility Pinkney played in all 30 games, making one start as a freshman. He recorded 3.0 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game over 11.2 minutes. He finished the season third in MAAC in total blocked shots (43). Registered season-high eight points in collegiate debut at Brown (11/13), adding four rebounds in 21 minutes. He added six points and season-best eight rebounds vs. Niagara (1/10)
 Drexel Junior Tim Perry, Jr., 3 years eligibility. Perry appeared in 22 games last season for Drexel, playing 165 minutes which came to 7.5 minutes per contest. He scored 16 points and contributed 39 rebounds. As a freshman, he played in 27 games with the Dragons and had one starting assignment…averaged more than 11 minutes per game off the bench…shot .698 from the floor (30-for-43)…averaged 2.3 points and 3.1 rebounds.
 Lincoln University Junior Bernard Lightsey, 3 years eligibility. Lightsey played in 17 games with 16 starts last season. He led the team with 17.4 points per game, while shooting 40.9 percent (92-of-225) from the floor … despite missing 12 games, still connected on team-high 59 three-pointers (59-of-137; 43.1 percent) and added 51 assists. He reached double figures in 15 of 17 games and dropped season-high 32 points in his return to the court (12/19/19; vs Fayetteville State) … dished out season-high 10 assists (1/20/20; Elizabeth City State) … pulled down season-high five rebounds (2/22/20; at Bowie State).
 Central Connecticut State University Junior Karrington Wallace, 3 years eligibility (Archbishop Wood HS) Last season, Wallace played in 21 games and made 18 starts, averaging 5.0 points and 3.1 rebounds. In conference play, he ranked 15th with 0.8 blocked shots. He ranked second on the team with 19 blocked shots. Shot team-best .464 from the field…Shot .737 at the foul line…Scored a career-high 13 points against Wagner (1/25) and posted four blocked shots…Grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds at St. John’s (11/9)…Had a season-high two assists against Fairleigh Dickinson (2/18)…Had two steals in opener against Hartford (11/5).
 Quinnipiac Junior Tyree Pickron, 3 years eligibility Last season, Pickron Played in 14 games, scoring 4.1 points to go along with 1.6 rebounds per game off the bench. He made his season debut vs. Fairfield (1/24), recording three points, three assists and two rebounds. He recorded 10 points and three rebounds at Saint Peter’s (2/14), then chipped in with eight points and three rebounds at Rider (2/16). Closed season with nine points at Fairfield (2/28), five points vs. Marist (3/1) and eight points vs. Iona (3/4) As a freshman, he played in 28 total games and averaged 2.1 points and 10.0 minutes per game.
 Bucknell Junior Andrew Funk, 3 years eligibility. Selected to 2020 Academic All-Patriot League Team … played in 33 games with 32 starts in the backcourt … missed one game due to illness … 4th on the team in scoring at 10.8 ppg … also averaged 3.9 rpg, 1.7 apg … shot 39.1 FG%, 30.2 3FG%, 70.6 FT% … led the team with 169 3FGA … scored in double figures 21 times … ranked 22nd in the Patriot League in scoring and 8th in minutes played (32.6 mpg) …
 Georgia Highlands Langston Wilson Sophomore Langston Wilson, 3 years eligibility Committed to Alabama, Wilson is a phenomenal athlete who certainly looks the part of a NBA wing. He measures in at 6’9 with a 7’+ wingspan and possesses elite-level quickness, leaping ability and explosiveness. In order to compete against SEC players on a nightly basis, he will quickly need to fill out his lanky frame. He uses his incredible athletic gifts to make an impact in the open court. He was a force on the break by using his quickness to leak out or fill lanes to get to the rim for a dunk. He isn’t yet comfortable handling the ball in transition but instead prefers to give the ball up to a guard and look for a lob pass back. His physical tools are on full display in transition, as he can beat the defense down the floor and sky for highlight reel caliber alley-oops, including corralling passes that look like sure-fire turnovers.
 Rider Sophomore Chris Ings, 4 years eligibility. Ings was one of six players on the team to play in all 30 games, including 18 starts. He averaged 4.9 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game, posting a 1.2 assist-to-turnover ratio. He posted double-figures scoring in six games. Posted season-highs of 15 points and six rebounds at Canisius (Jan. 19), hitting 5-of-8 attempts from the floor, including 2-of-3 from long range. Contributed 14 points in a season-high 36 minutes against Iona (Jan. 10)
 Rider Sophomore Allen Powell, 4 years eligibility. Powell played in 25 games off the bench, averaging 8.8 minutes per game. He established season highs in points (nine) and minutes (25) at UMass (Nov. 20), hitting 3-of-6 three-point field goals. Dished out a season-high three assists at Delaware State (Nov. 8) Added six points against Canisius (Feb. 7)
 Abilene Christian Senior Makhi Morris, 2 years eligibility. Morris appeared in 17 games, making one start. Unfortunately, he suffered season-ending injury prior to game at SHSU. Had two double-digit scoring efforts and averaged 3.8 ppg and 1.6 rpg.
 Lincoln University Senior Markus Stevenson, 2 years eligibility. Stevenson played in 28 games with four starts for the Lions. He averaged 4.7 points and 4.0 rebounds. He scored season-high 11 points (12/7; at Livingstone) and grabbed a season-high 12 rebounds (12/3; Millersville)