Eric Dixon Previews Wissahickon’s Boys Basketball Season

By Eric Dixon 12/03/2018

The Wissahickon High School boys basketball team is  greater than the sum of its parts. “We don’t have any stars,” says boys head coach Kyle Wilson (below, left). They haven’t needed any to be considered a good team as they have for the most of the 15 years Wilson has been at the helm. “We play together for each other.”

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Head Coach Kyle Wilson and his son Chase Wilson

Observing a recent practice, one clearly see the patient way Wilson and his staff work to instill concepts and principles central to the Trojans’ selfless brand of basketball. Wilson and the Trojans posted a 20-7 mark last season. Wissahickon basketball is consistently competitive in the ever changing landscape that is high school basketball.

The student athletes are attentive and attempt to take in every word of instruction, giving only nods in response. The focused and respectful manner they receive coaching caught first year assistant, Andrew Trella, off guard.

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Wissahickon Trojans

“We have great kids,” Trella explained. “I didn’t expect them to just listen to me right away.” He went on to say how much he appreciates working with the kids and how their attitudes and respectfulness has made coaching them easy. While Trella is new to the staff, Michael Scheier, long time assistant and head of the JV team is well versed in coaching and brings a wealth of knowledge to the program.

“(Scheier) always brings a different perspective,” Wilson said while explaining how the decade and half together allowed them to build a symbiotic relationship based on trust and mutual respect. The two often ask each other hard questions and are comfortable being very candid in how they answer those questions.

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Michael Scheier, Assistant Coach

Some of those hard questions involve how to deal with parents and players who may have an issue with the staff over the decade and a half the pair have coached together. Both are sensitive to the parental perspective as both have experienced the ups and downs of watching their own sons come through the Wissahickon program as players, albeit from the coach’s seat. According to Scheier, “would I expect that from my kid?” was a question they would ask and answer with compassion as they continue to help other kids develop and grow under their stewardship.

Coach Wilson is enjoying an additional bit of assistance this fall as his son, Chase Wilson, has come back to the area and is helping him get the team ready for the season. The younger Wilson, is a former Wissahickon standout, was continuing his basketball career at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Florida before an injury prematurely ended his season. This unfortunate happenstance has become a boon for the Trojans as Chase Wilson has been able to provide additional guidance to a team that will have to help a number of players learn new and bigger roles this upcoming season. “We will ask them to trust in what we are doing and the framework we have in place,” Trella responded when asked how the staff would help the players adjust to new responsibilities and expectations.

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One such player is Carmen Ostroski, a talented 6-5 wing forward who was a role player last year. The athletic, National Honor Society student-athlete will be called on to be much more this season. In preparation for the transition he took advantage of Coach Wilson’s generosity with time in the gym this summer. He added that he “worked a lot on my shot creation and shooting.” Ostroski, a junior co-captain, also has bought into the coaching staff idea regarding the team concept adding that ““Execution is going to be huge for us. We have to get our execution down.”

Another key player for the Trojans this season will be senior c-captain Eddie Fortescue, the four year varsity member who was named second team All American Conference last year. Wissahickon had three all league performers in 2017-18, including Max Rapoport (1st team) and Zach Reiner (2nd-team), however the hardworking scoring guard is the only one of the trio who returned. He will lead his younger teammates and remind them to “be in the game and stay focused.”

Coach Wilson will is hoping he can also find a couple of “D.O.R.K(s)” to contribute. They are players who “Defend, are Offensively apathetic, Rebound and Know their role.” This isn’t surprising at all coming from the head coach of a team well-known for their cerebral style of basketball.

 

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Eric Dixon Previews West Catholic Prep’s Boys Basketball Season

By Eric Dixon 11/26/2018

“Take a breath. Relax. Now Reset.”

Coach Miguel Boc and his staff are engineering a cultural and organizational “reset” at West Catholic Prep that they believe will eventually bring the program the respect and accolades that come with winning. But for now its “One day at a time,” the first year head coach explains.

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Coach Miguel Boc leads a practice at West Catholic Prep

Watching them go about their work at a recent practice, you get the feeling that the fresh air the program has so desperately needed is finally flowing into the Burrs gym at 46th and Chestnut. Coach Boc can be seen going back and forth from one end of the court to the other as assistants, Kyle Finklea, Jonathan Michaels and Jermaine Washington oversee drills. As he steps in to add a detail or point you can see the energy and passion he brings as he exudes a seriousness that belies his years. At 28, he’s the youngest on the staff. Still, there is no mistaking who is in charge.

“It’s his program,” says Michaels, who at 51 is the sage of the group, as he speaks whimsically of how the other staff members are young enough to be his sons. “I was done, then Boc called me and asked me to give him whatever I could. Now I’m here all the time.” Michaels, like Boc, has a love of the game and the students. He says the youth of the the staff has “energized” him.

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Assistant Coach Jon Michels and Miguel Boc

For Coach Boc being the 3rd coach in four years at West Catholic Prep has it’s challenges, but far more rewards. He is grateful for his young charges who he believes were looking to embrace a new direction after the uncertainty of the past few years. He comes in as a disciple of one the best coaches in our area, Andre Noble of Imhotep Charter School. The most influential thing he takes away from his time with the perennial area powerhouse isn’t directly related to basketball.

“I want my kids to know I care. I want them to know I have their backs”, says Coach Boc. The biggest thing he saw in Noble was “his heart”. He wants to show his staff and players the same thing. He wants them to know that he genuinely cares for them as people and players. He wants to focus on their lives beyond high school and find a college situation for all his players. These are lofty aspirations, however Coach Boc believes he can reach them if he can master the next most important thing he took from Noble: “his attention to detail”.

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The recently refurbished floor in the West Catholic Prep Gymnasium

It’s no surprise, assistant Coach Michaels, a 30 year coaching veteran, shares this respect for the details. “The importance of the little things”, as he puts it, could be seen in how diligently Michaels explained the nuances of post defense and offense to junior Naadhir Wood, a talented 6-7 forward. Wood and his teammates were receptive to the repeated tutelage. Michaels explains that he can be stern with them and hold them accountable because they know “what I’m all about.” They know he cares for them. He regards them like one of his own children. “They’re mine.”

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D1 prospect Samier Kinsler ’19

Coach Boc will rely on Wood’s deft post touch and the leadership and perimeter scoring of Samier Kinsler (6-0) and Imere Harris (5-11), an experienced backcourt tandem, to keep the team afloat as they learn to navigate the deep, rough waters of the Philadelphia Catholic League. Although half of the 12-man roster are seniors, the group still has to learn and grow together as the season goes along. Four juniors and just two freshman round out the varsity squad that wants to “get to the Palestra and go to States” according to Boc’s coach on the floor (COF), Kinsler.

But first they will “Take a breath. Relax. Reset.”

 

“Devine” Intervention: Khalil Turner’s Philadelphia Story

Written by Khalil Turner

Family is supposed to protect you. The safest place in the world is with your family…

Isn’t it?

That is what I was always taught… In fact, I internalized and deeply believed that message.

Then real life intervened!

What happens when your family becomes a threat to your safety and well-being? I was truly unprepared for the moment I had to really face that situation head on.
Never had I felt that my safety and well-being were at risk… Never, ever… My older siblings, however, have not always agreed.

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Khalil Turner and his extended family

About three years ago, I was just starting my freshman year at Sankofa Freedom Academy Charter School. Finally, I was a “big boy.” I was a High School student filled with anticipation and eager to begin my academic and athletic journey, when a report was filed with the Sankofa counselor. This report stated that my sister and I were being “mistreated” at home.

More specifically, my siblings felt so strongly that our health and general well-being were at-risk that they decided to formally intervene. It was that bad. Looking back, I realize I lacked a frame of reference, I thought it was normal. I thought everyone struggled like we did… But my older siblings knew better and they came to the conclusion that my family was unable to adequately provide for and protect us.

A call was made…

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Khalil Turner and his older siblings during his LOI signing ceremony

Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services (DHS) is the county child welfare and juvenile justice agency. Their mission is to provide and promote safety, permanency, and well-being for children and youth at risk of abuse, neglect, and delinquency. Unbeknownst to me, our living situation definitely fell under their purview.

So… One day they just appeared… DHS was at my front door…

I had no comprehension of the concept, so I never imagined that I was “at-risk.”
I remember the DHS case workers making detailed observations of our living conditions… They literally looked in every crack and crevice of our family home. Everything was closely examined. Then, they conducted exhaustive interviews of my family members and came to a conclusion that would alter the trajectory of my life.

DHS concluded that our needs were not being adequately met. We had to be removed from the only home we ever knew.

What?!?! Foster care… Huh?

Now I knew my mother was struggling with some dependence and related mental health issues, but I never for a moment felt abused or neglected. I was just living day to day… But DHS determined otherwise. Citing a lack of structure and a paucity of resources in the household, they decided we had to leave our family home, for our own good.

Real life crept up on me real quick… My friends are worried about homework and playing Madden or NBA 2K on PlayStation… I’m just beginning my freshman year in high school and suddenly dealing with change and adversity of a magnitude I never imagine.

Honestly, at times, it was too much for me to bear…

Angry and frustrated, I had an immensely strained relationship with the family that DHS wanted me to move in with. It just wasn’t going to work. This I knew almost immediately.

I wanted to be with family… I wanted to be with people I love… I wanted to be with people I trust… DHS wanted me to live with total strangers.

I was scared… Then God intervened.

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Kobe Devine (foreground), Dayna Devine and Khalil Turner

He made it possible for me to live with my friend Kobe Devine and his parents Dayna and Barry Devine. Actually, there was no real plan. It kind of just happened. I would stay with the Devines when he had AAU basketball tournaments. Kobe’s Dad was my AAU coach and, logistically, it was just easier to be there than to have them worrying about picking me up and dropping me off. Eventually, I just decided to stay and not return to the “foster home” where the relations were strained.

Again… I thank God!

The Devine family members were angels sent from above in my time of need. This I am sure of. Nonetheless, it was initially awkward, while I loved the Devines they were not my “real” family. I was a young, insecure and scared boy. But this family was beyond patient and understanding with me. After a few months, the love and support overwhelmed me, Kobe became my “blood” brother and his parents became my parents as well. They made sure I felt welcomed. They were always asking me if I needed anything.

Before I knew it, I felt safe… Again. Now… It should be noted that this process wasn’t easy!

After moving into the Devine home, my life changed in so many ways. For the first time, I experienced unwavering family structure. There were limits, there were boundaries, there were rules… And, they were rigidly enforced. For the first time, I had to consistently deal with consequences of my actions and decisions.

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Khalil Turner and Dayna Devine

The first few months were rough because I had never really been subjected to discipline and structure. Immature and ignorant, I tried to balk and disagree when Kobe’s mom, Dayna, imposed the family structure on me. I didn’t want to hear it… I didn’t like being held accountable. I didn’t want to suffer the logical consequences of my actions. I would attempt to argue with her.

I was immature and unable to fully comprehend the blessing I was receiving.

Now, I fully understand how wrong and misguided I was.

Over time, I became increasingly respectful and considerate toward others because Kobe’s Mom and Dad were respectful and considerate toward me. I realized that they were preparing me to enter the world on my own.

Dayna Devine was my mentor, my teacher and my surrogate mother. The lessons and encouragement were non-stop. Several times a day, she would talk to me about the importance of respect, obedience and discipline. Within a few months, I began to internalize these values. She really led me through the process of becoming a more mature, responsible and accountable young man.

Every night, I would think to myself: how can I become a better man? How can I avoid the negative paths that so many of my neighbors, friends and family members have embarked upon? Every night, I would think about making my Mom and Kobe’s mom proud… I wanted to make sure they didn’t have to stress about paying for me to go to college.

After everything my family has endured, I still wanted to look out for my mother because I believe that family is still first. With the Devines in my life I am blessed to have an extended family added to the equation.

Since I began living with Kobe and the Devines, I had no choice other than to go hard in pursuit of my dreams and everything I love. I was determined to make my mother happy. I wanted to bring a smile to Dayna Devine’s face. I wanted an opportunity to continue my education and play college basketball at the Division 1 level.

Basketball is my love and I recognized that I could leverage my athletic ability to access college. As I progressed through high school, with the guidance of the Devines, I was able to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

I have tried to include Kobe every step of the way because he did not have to invite me into his family and his home. He is my brother and I love him. I thank him for helping me pursue my dreams and I will always stand with him as he pursues his dreams.

God had been incredibly good to me… Although I didn’t have a stable father in my life, I kept meeting men that were a positive and strong influence on me. Many men in the Philadelphia basketball community embraced me and helped cultivate my talent.

Then it happened…

I picked up my first Division 1 basketball scholarship offer from Hartford University. With this offer, it became tangible… It became real…

I could use basketball to attend college for free. There would be another offer… and another offer… and another offer…

No Sankofa student had ever received a Division 1 scholarship. This was huge for my school, my family, my friends and for me. More than anything else, it inspired me to work even harder. Receiving that first scholarship offer made me think that’s anything is possible. It also made me think about the support and protection I would need once I graduate from Sankofa. I chose Rider University because I know the Kevin Baggett (Head Coach), Dino Presley (Assistant Coach) and the other coaches will be there for me for the rest of my life.

As months and years went by, the drama of the DHS ordeal began to recede from the forefront of my thoughts. I began to truly believe that I was going to be something special in life. I was experiencing a great deal of success in the classroom and on the basketball court.

But, beneath the surface, the pain still lingers…

 

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Between his two mothers, Turner signs a Letter of Intent to attend Rider University

I recently signed a Letter of Intent to attend and play at Rider. After graduation from Sankofa, I will spend four years living, learning and playing on campus in Lawrenceville, NJ. But today I am still not living with my mother. Regrettably, she has not addressed or resolved her mental health and dependence issues to the satisfaction of DHS.

I love my mother, but I can’t focus on that right now I just have to keep working hard. I know she loves me and I pray she gets better soon. However, I am intensely focused on making both my biological and my extended families proud. These past few years have changed me. It was very hard at the beginning and has become a little easier everyday. I am happy that I have my good friend and brother, Kobe, in my life. I truly do not know where I would be at this moment if Kobe and the Devines did not accept me into their family. I know I wouldn’t have the protection and love that a family is supposed to provide.

I know I would not feel safe.

Tired of NIGGA SHIT!

Last week, Gregory Bush, a 51 year old white man walked up to the door of the First Baptist Church in Jeffersontown, Kentucky. Filled with venom and hate and fueled by the relentless drumbeat of racist/white supremacist messages emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Bush was hunting Black people. Following a blueprint laid down in Charleston by Dylan Roof, another white supremacist convicted mass murderer 3 years earlier, Bush was intent on slaughtering Black people in their house of worship.

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Racist/white supremacist murderer, Gregory Bush

First Baptist Church officials confirmed that surveillance video recorded Mr. Bush’s unsuccessful attempt to enter the building. Billy Williams, the church administrator, said eight to 10 people were inside the church when Bush arrived after a midweek service. A church member in the parking lot grew alarmed when she saw him aggressively pulling on the historic church’s front doors. Mr. Bush drove away after less than 10 minutes.

“There were 70 people here at our weekly meeting service just an hour before he came by,” said Mr. Williams, who was among them. “I’m just thankful that all of our doors and security was in place.”

Unfortunately, the supermarket was open…

After a short drive to Kroger, Bush entered the store just before 3 p.m. and fired multiple rounds at Mr. Maurice E. Stallard, a 69 year old Black father and grandfather. He then exited and fired at Ms. Vicki Lee Jones, a 67 year old Black mother and grandmother, striking her several times.

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Maurice Stallard (l) attends the Louisville Male High School 50th class reunion with daughter Kellie Watson and his wife, Charlotte

Both Mr. Stallard and Ms. Jones were declared dead at the scene.

A white man confronted Bush with a firearm, the murderer told the man “Whites don’t kill whites,” and moved on.

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Vickie Lee Jones is pictured here with her nephew, Kevin Gunn.

That same week, another racist/white supremacist Robert Bowers, 46, did make it past the threshold of a House of Worship. Once in this particular house of God, Bowers shouted “All Jews must die!”

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Racist/white supremacist mass murderer Robert Bowers

He proceeded to methodically execute 11 unarmed Jewish people congregating in their sanctuary, including a 97 year old mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
Bush, Roof, Bowers and Cesar Sayoc, Jr, charged with mailing more than a dozen explosive devices to critics of President Trump are real-life enemies of Black, Latino and Jewish people.

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Jewish victims

Too many Black males in Philadelphia fail to truly understand what the word “enemy” means, As a result it is misused and misapplied all to often. An enemy is a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something. 

Shit you hear Black Men say in Philadelphia…

“Why is he organizing a basketball game or event? He needs to stay in his lane… Fuck him, he’s my ENEMY!”

“Why is he taking that kid to talk to that college? He needs to stay in his lane… Fuck him, he’s my ENEMY!”

“Why did he take pictures of that AAU program? He needs to stay in his lane… Fuck him, he’s my enemy!”

“Why are you talking to him? I don’t like him, so YOU shouldn’t talk to him… Fuck you, you’re my enemy!”

“Why are you playing in his event? If you do, you’re my enemy!”

“Why don’t you write something positive about my son? If you don’t you’re my enemy!”

These are just few examples of the types of petty, inconsequential episodes that lead Black males in and around Philadelphia to declare other Black men to be their “enemies”…

Meanwhile…the real enemies are preventing Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans from voting across the country… The real enemies are sending American troops to confront a couple thousand penniless brown men, women and children trekking hundreds of miles toward the American border…

What amazes me is that Black men in Philly know full well that a majority of Black boys fail to graduate from high school in 4 years. They also know that too many of those that make it college struggle socially and emotionally.

In the past month, I have had a young man sent home for assaulting his girlfriend on campus, another arrested for fighting on campus and yet another two fail drug screenings.

Our kids are struggling…

Scholarship kids gunned down in the streets…

Superstars convicted… Others begging for dollars to buy pills…

We all see it… We’ve seen surefire NBA prospects derailed because of highly questionable behavioral choices. Some of our finest prospects have never worn an NBA uniform for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with their basketball abilities.

Indeed, some of our guys in the NBA have had to deal with felony charges arising from poor decisions…

Over and over… Shit is on repeat…

Still… Black males somehow remain focused on keeping one another from advancing.

This is NIGGA SHIT!

As the larger society struggles to keep the racist/white supremacist pot from boiling over, Philly’s Black males, committed to crab-like behavior, pull one another back into the scolding water.

Last night a Black male executed another Black man… Yup… Although I have no idea who pulled the trigger, I am 99.999999% certain it was a Black male between 18-35.
He lurked in the shadows… He waited for an opportunity… He wanted to take a father from his kids… He wanted to take a coach from his players… He wanted to take an ol’ Head from his youngins…

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Coach Bok Green

Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!

Eleven (11) bullets entered his body… Piercing his skin… Crushing his bones… Dislodging internal organs… A river of blood ensued…

A life prematurely snuffed out!

Hundreds of young kids traumatized… Of the 200-250 he would have in a gym at a time, for at least 20-30, he was the tie, the connection to “civilian life”… Who will check on those kids now? Will they listen?

The Black male shooter is doing the work of racist/white supremacists like Bush, Roof, Bowers and Cesar Sayoc, Jr.

The Black male shooter is our enemy!

Miss me with the NIGGA SHIT!

Understanding New Rules: The End of “One-and-Done”

Black Cager Sports Media takes pride in our ability to disseminate important information to the youth, high school and collegiate basketball communities in the Mid-Atlantic Region. We are starting a new series of essays, “Understanding New Rules.” The aim, as always, is to help parents, student-athletes, coaches and other stakeholders make better informed decisions regarding their educational futures.

In the first essay, we delve into one of the most widely publicized aspects of the “New Rules” outlined in the Rice Commission Report submitted to the NCAA.

End of One-and-Done
“Elite high school players with NBA prospects and no interest in a college degree should not be “forced” to attend college, often for less than a year. These uniquely talented players are the focus of agents, apparel companies, investment advisors, college coaches and other seeking to profit from their skills and offering them cash and other benefits in hope of future gain. If they are allowed to turn professional, some of the pressure on the collegiate model will be reduced.”

Rice Commission Report

Those of us of a certain age can understand what the Rice Commission means by “the pressures on the collegiate model.” Like elsewhere, in college basketball, money is at the root of all evil.

What’s important to note is that this ain’t no new shit! The NCAA has been aware of this “pressure” for decades…

This particular “New Rule” only impacts “uniquely talented” players… Not good HS players… Not great HS players… Just “uniquely talented” players…

The jump from scholastic basketball to the NBA is HUGE… Only a select few over the past six decades or so have been able to make the jump successfully…

In the greater Philadelphia area, we tend to produce one of these players every 5-10 years… Wilt Chamberlain, Gene Banks, Rasheed Wallace, Kobe Bryant, Eddie Griffin and Cam Reddish immediately come to mind as guys that would have been high NBA draft picks right after prom. That’s a pretty short list…

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Gene Banks, #1 HS Player in the Nation at West Philadelphia HS

But when such a talent emerges, “the pressures” as the NCAA euphemistically calls them are well documented.

Forty-four years ago, “uniquely talented” young man from Petersburg, Virginia put ENORMOUS pressure on the collegiate model.

Shit was out of control!

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Moses Malone at Peterburg HS

After his junior year, Moses Malone made the trek to Howard Garfinkel’s Five-Star camp where he dominated… Garfinkel gave Malone 5 full stars and stated that his potential was to “infinity.” As a senior Malone was recruited by more than 200 colleges. Envelopes addressed to his uncle containing $1,000 were commonplace. One day a brand new Chrysler Imperial magically appeared with the keys in from of the Malone home.

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1974 Chrysler Imperial

Never really a serious student, Malone received straight A’s as a senior and managed to barley meet the minimum requirements for accepting an athletic scholarship.

Moses put real “pressure” on the collegiate model!

It was commonly understood that Malone required $200 to even consider making a visit to any college campus.

An assistant coach from New Mexico lived at the Petersburg Howard Johnson’s for more than two months while stalking Malone. Maryland’s tab at the Petersburg Holiday Inn surpassed $20,000.

In an extremely poor neighborhood of homes with no paint, no grass on the lawns… The Malones had a new floor model television, new carpeting and new furniture. They were also the only home in the area with an air conditioner in the window.

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Moses Malone as an ABA Rookie

Very rare are boys that can play with the best men in the world… Like mythological unicorns…

The NCAA has openly acknowledged that the collegiate model isn’t built to withstand the pressures surrounding these young men.

Darryl Dawkins, Bill Willoughby, Shawn Kemp, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal, Tracy McGrady, Amare Stoudemire, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Sebastian Telfair, J.R. Smith, Monta Ellis and Louis Williams were “uniquely talented.”

While Philly produces an abundance of college basketball prospects, straight to the NBA prospects are seldom seen…

Truth be told… Philly-based AAU/Grassroots Coaches/Directors tend to wage intense, friendship testing battles over low to mid-major D1 prospects…

But just in case another unicorn appears on the horizon, the basketball community should be well-versed in the rules…

The end of the “One-and-Done” era is fast approaching…

How will we know when another unicorn appears? Just look for the sports agents, NBA scouts, apparel companies, investment advisors and HIGH-MAJOR college coaches… They will ALL be at the games…

Putting PRESSURE on the young man and his family…

 

 

 

 

 

The Rise of $$$ and the Erosion of Boundaries in Youth Basketball

“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
Timothy 6:10

Because money has become central to youth sports at an elite level, grown men involved with the game today are unwilling to say “no” to kids… men are unwilling to establish boundaries with kids for fear that they will leave the programs…

Because money has become central to youth sports, men encourage kids to lie, deceive and be disloyal…

The centrality of money negatively impacts the culture of youth sports, especially basketball…

To argue that Philadelphia’s basketball culture has not deteriorated or that the deterioration is not related to the increased presence of money in nonsensical… Indeed, I would argue the respect for boundaries and money are inversely correlated… The more money involved, the less respect for boundaries.

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Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, the erosion of boundaries within Philadelphia’s Black basketball community has emerged as a social problem. Most of us have cringed after reading a kid described as a “bum, trash, hoagie or even a pussy” by grown men on facebook or twitter. It is not uncommon to hear parents, friends or ol’ heads ruthlessly attack referees and coaches during games. Doesn’t matter the venue… Collegiate, scholastic, grassroots or youth levels it happens everywhere the game is played these days.

Adult males text and “slide in the DMs” of 13-14 year old boys on a regular basis… Sometimes they contact these boys multiple times a day, everyday for months at a time…

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Many may think of these blatant boundary crossing incidents as the actions of a few isolated rogue individuals. In this way, these behaviors are attributed to some personal fault or pathology in the adult or the kid and the parents, or all of them. In other words, if the parents “want the attention” then the issue is a personal problem affecting only a few “abnormal” situations.

However, those immersed in Philadelphia’s basketball community know full well that these are not isolated incidents. These behaviors have emerged as the new norm. Boundary crossing behaviors occurs so frequently… SHIT HAPPENS SO MUCH… it is no longer a private matter, but rather a public issue. It has also become much more difficult to attribute its causes to the personal defects of a few bad apples in the basketball community. So why is this happening?

The causes grow out of important shifts in the structure and resulting culture of the basketball community itself. Understanding the proliferation of boundary crossing behaviors, requires an assessment of how personal experiences are shaped by social factors built into the basketball community in which we all operate.

The past 15 years or so have witnessed the ascent of elite travel grassroots basketball clubs with the Philadelphia basketball community. Guys like Lonnie Lowry (K-Low Elite), Kamal Yard (Philly Pride), Terrell Myers (WeRone Hoops), Rob Brown (Team Final) and Paul Gripper (Team Phenom) have at various times assembled groups of highly talented youngsters and barnstormed across the country with varying degrees of success. The opportunity to play in very nice venues against the top players in the country is, understandably, very attractive to youngsters and their parents.

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There are many positive aspects to the travel team experience. More than ever, Philadelphia kids get an opportunity to been seen by coaches from different parts of the country. In one weekend, a young man can play in front of 300-500 Division 1 coaches. In recent, years several Philadelphia area players have completed their senior HS season with no Division 1 and picked up 15 or more offers in April-May based solely on their performance in AAU/Grassroots events. There is undeniably a lot of good!

But what are some of the social costs associated with rise of elite travel ball in our community?

The erosion of boundaries within the Philadelphia basketball community has accompanied the shift away from recreation center-based, neighborhood focused youth basketball programs.

Everyone is scrambling for a spot on a sponsored team…

Elite travel basketball at the highest levels is fully funded by major athletic shoe companies (Nike, Adidas and Under Armour). These public traded multi-billion dollar companies have each established separate summer “circuits” where their teams compete against one another.

The sponsored clubs typically have have 2 or 3 teams that are “fully sponsored.” The shoe companies pay the costs associated with travel, lodging, feeding and clothing these clubs as they traverse from city to city playing in front of college coaches eager to evaluate and gain access to the finest players.

As evidenced by the high profile scandals involving NBA Agents, financial advisors and coaches at Louisville, Arizona, Auburn and South Carolina… Shit gets tricky when thousands of dollars are involved.

The budgets for sponsored teams can range anywhere from $75,000 to $200,000+ for team loaded with potential NBA players.

The insertion of money has resulted in a massive change in the culture. The mere existence of an opportunity to profit has resulted in men violating and regularly trampling boundaries that were once firmly established.

Shit done changed…

At the core of it, one has to question the continued existence of the all important adult/child distinction… Organizations like the Sonny Hill Community Involvement League was run by a core of dedicated volunteers. Men like James Flint, Claude Gross, Tee Shields, Fred Douglas, Tee Parham and Vince Miller were former great high school players committed to developing young men into responsible adults. The teams were neighborhood-based and in most case you had to earn your way onto the team.

There was no money involved for the coaches… There were no flights across country to Los Angeles or Las Vegas… No all expenses paid trips to Chicago, Orlando or Atlanta.

Just a game against Germantown on North Broad Street at McGonigle.

These MEN were not going to compromise their values. For what? They were willing to confront disruptive parents… They were willing to dismiss unruly players…

“Get the fuck out of my gym with that bullshit” was a fairly common refrain amongst these guys…

The Philadelphia basketball community controlled the spaces dedicated to High School and youth basketball… This is no longer the case…

Fast forward to the contemporary era… the motivations are different… Money has negatively impacted the Philadelphia basketball culture…

Clubs, inevitably, feel pressure to attract the best collegiate prospects… Ultimately, the shoe companies want to sell shoes… The primary way they accomplish this is by having superstars wear their shoes… Kevin Durant (Nike), Lebron James (Nike), Steph Curry (Under Armour) and James Harden (Adidas) some of the biggest names.

The pressure to attract and keep talented players has resulted in a widespread compromising of values… Many in the basketball community excuse the inexcusable and forgive the unforgivable…

Times have changed for the worse…

It is impossible to imagine Claude Gross calling a 13-14 year old boy everyday begging him to play for South Philly… It’s also hard to imagine a mother and father in the 70s, 80s or 90s allowing a adult male stranger to call her son every single day for months trying to get him to play with a club…

“Leave my son the FUCK alone”… I can just imagine the responses during that era…

Today, it’s all good… Parents want their kids to play with sponsored teams so badly they allow unfettered access to boys with 8:00 pm bedtimes… WTF?

Parents want to be ranked and receive scholarship offers as early as the 9th and 10th grade… They apply incredible pressure on youth and high school coaches when they feel their child is not receiving the accolades due to him… Imagine a Dad sitting behind the bench cursing at Vince Miller about playing time for his son…

Trying to attract the best clubs and their registration fees, event promoters openly and brazenly seek to destroy business opportunities for other event organizers… Imagine Tee Parham trying to keep Fred Douglas from sponsoring a tournament…

Grassroots coaches encourage deceit, deception and disloyalty…”Fuck them, you should be over here… They ain’t taking care of you… You should leave them… Don’t tell nobody I talked to you…”

Imagine James Flint trying to steal a player from John Hardnett…

Adult fans make deeply hurtful negative public attacks on 15-18 year old boys… When kids play with another school or another grassroots program they become targets for senseless vilification… Imagine someone’s uncle writing that a kid is “bum” or “trash” in a newspaper 20 years ago…

Packs of young men and boys follow and support their friends in a socially unacceptable manner… Competition turns into strife… Crowds resort to violent assaults to resolve verbal disputes… Imagine fans at a Sonny Hill League game stomping the parent of one of the players…

Neighborhood beefs are resolved through murders at games… Imagine a man being shot on North Broad St after leaving a Sonny Hill or Baker League game…

Things have truly changed for the worse…

A few (40-60 kids) are better off… They travel across the country, play in great events against top competition… They are seen up close by college coaches eager to offer scholarships…

The vast majority, and the City as a whole, are much worse off because the recreation-based, neighborhood focused programs have been decimated in the process… The values and important boundaries that were once well established and consistently reinforced in these programs have been obliterated…

As a first step, we should work to strengthen and support organizations like the Ralph Brooks Community League, BAA League, Retroaction Sports and the Chosen League. We need these leagues and organizations to flourish… We need the values promoted within these groups to spread and once again become the norm in Philadelphia.

Many of the younger (30 and under) members of the basketball community grew up in this new era… They have no real frame of reference for an adequate comparison…

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Sonny Hill League

They could not imagine Mr. Hill at 5’7” 150 lbs bringing an entire gym to halt and complete silence because a guys shirt was not tucked in… Everything stopped… No talking, no playing… No nothing until the shirt was tucked back in and Mr. Hill was finished talking…

We are much worse off as a result…

Basketball beefs are corny…

Middle School “Live Period” Sponsored by Black BBall Hall of Fame

The Philadelphia Black Basketball Hall of Fame is sponsoring the first annual Middle School Showcase at Fidonce Basketball Development on Friday, December 29, 2017. The Tournament is designed to facilitate exposure to high quality academic high schools for Philadelphia-area Middle School students.

Admissions staff and basketball coaches from Catholic, Independent, Charter, Magnet and select Public Schools will be invited. Parents of participating students will have an opportunity to interact with high school representatives.

To encourage parents to bring relevant academic information, admission is 50% off if a player’s report card is presented. We want the parents and coaches to approach the event as a Middle School “Live Period.”

The Black Basketball Hall of Fame encourages and supports basketball centered activities that further academic advancement.

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For further information, please contact:

Delgreco Wilson

blackcager@gmail.com