O’Hara Basketball… The Best Delco has to offer?

Delaware County has a strong basketball tradition… Growing up in Delaware County in the 70’s, and 80’s hoopheads were always focused on mighty programs in Chester, Darby-Colwyn and Darby Township. Occasionally, Penncrest, Yeadon, Bonner, Archbishop Carroll and Springfield would also field strong teams. Almost never was Cardinal O’Hara in the conversation…

Yeah… Yeah… they had the great Tom Ingelsby

Ingelsby played for the Lions from 1965 to 1969. In his junior season he helped the team win the Philadelphia Catholic League championship, knocking off Father Judge High School in the finals. Ingelsby’s O’Hara team fell short in the City Championship, losing to the West Philadelphia High School Speedboys. But beyond that… not much to the O’Hara hoops pedigree.

Times… They are a changin’…

A few years ago, O’Hara made the decision to, once again, get serious about their hoops program. They hired Jason Harrigan away from troubled Delaware Valley Charter High School to lead the basketball program and the Lions began to stick their heads outside the cage. After Delaware Valley Charter closed in June 2017, Harrigan brought the magnificent Antwaun “Booty” Butler (Austin Peay University) to O’Hara. With Butler manning the point guard position, O’Hara immediately became a factor in the Catholic League. No longer were the Lions thought of as “sweet.”

After going 6-16 in 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16 and 5-17 in 2016-17, Harrigan and Butler led O’Hara to a respectable 11-12 record in 2017-18. Things were looking up in Springfield.

But Harrigan decided to move on and the Lions were once again looking for a coach that could keep the momentum moving forward.

Enter Ryan Nemetz

36137035_10155569328920737_6563191683100442624_n

Ryan Nemetz, O’Hara Head Coach

 

Nemetz is an intensely-focused and razor sharp lifelong hoophead. He was previously an Assistant Coach at Eastern University where he worked closely with the players in all areas of the program including recruiting, player development, academic progress and scouting. Eventually, Nemetz’s primary focus became serving as the defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator.

Nemetz played collegiately at Kutztown University from 2007-2009 and then transferred to Temple University where he served as a walk-on and student assistant from 2010-2012 under Big 5 Hall of Fame Coach Fran Dunphy. One should note that all five years that Coach Nemetz participated in college basketball, his teams made the NCAA tournament.

Before joining the staff at Eastern University, Nemetz served as the Director of Player Development at the House of Sports (Westchester, NY), Senior Staff Coach at IMG Academy (Bradenton, Florida) and Assistant Director of Team Nelson (Chester, PA) where he has coached numerous college and professional basketball players.

Nemetz has a keen understanding of the Delco and Philadelphia basketball landscape. He has been charged with the responsibility of managing the Jameer Nelson Point Guard Camp. In this capacity, he was able identify 20-30 of best guards in the Greater Philadelphia area and place them in a highly competitive setting on the campus of Girard College for 3 days under the tutelage of a 15 year NBA professional point guard.

Nemetz saw Isaiah Wong, Jhamir Brickus, Zahree Harrison, Naim Walker, Donta Scott, Seth Lundy and many other great high school players up close. He saw their work ethics… He saw their skill levels… He was able to effectively gauge the type of player and the level of effort that would be required to compete in the Philadelphia Catholic League.

Smart guy…

With O’Hara lacking a strong basketball tradition, Nemetz realized he had to be creative to lure smart, talented and athletic players to Springfield, Delaware County. Toward that end, Nemetz and O’Hara hosted the Black Cager Middle School Classic last February and March. This competitive circuit brought some of the best 7th graders in the region into O’Hara’s gym on two weekends to play against stiff competition from Virginia and Maryland.

55798293_2379561215396374_8272103335603994624_o

Maryland Freshman Starting Forward, Donta Scott, working Middle School Classic at O’Hara

 

Indeed, last night… four kids that played for Jarett Kearse’s WER1/Blue Magic club listed O’Hara as one of their final High School options alongside schools like Episcopal Academy, Friends’ Central and Shipley. These kids can play. They were dominant throughout the regular season on Black Cager Middle School Circuit. O’Hara and Nemetz made them and their families feel welcome when they played at O’Hara. Indeed, O’Hara was effectively Blue Magic’s home court last winter. One shouldn’t be surprised to hear “I wanna go to O’Hara” when these kids are asked where they want to play High School basketball.

These kids know O’Hara has a large, modern, well-lit gymnasium with stadium style seating on all sides. They know it’s one of the nicest facilities in the region.

These kids know Ryan Nemetz…

Last night, the nationally ranked Archbishop Wood Vikings traveled from Warminster to test the Lions… Exactly how far has O’Hara come? Clearly, they are good… But how good?

The kids watched an exciting and intensely competitive game. While O’Hara came into the game undefeated with wins over Catholic League contenders Archbishop Ryan and Bishop McDevitt… This would be THE test…

Well over 1,000 energetic spectators filled the gym. The enthusiastic O’Hara student-body was ready… Stephen Stewart from Delaware State, Boo Farmer from the Boo Farmer Podcast, Superscout Norm Eavenson and Nemetz’s mentor Fran Dunphy, the recently retired winningest coach in Big 5 history were there to see the highly anticipated matchup.

They were not disappointed…

O’Hara is a very good basketball team…Let me repeat… O’Hara is a very good basketball team…

However, John Mosco’s Archbishop Wood club is better and more experienced.

82106595_481828242736948_1936171699418431488_n

Rahsool Diggins, Rivals Top 100 Point Guard

 

One immediately notices that Nemetz’s Lions have a Jason Vorhees-like quality to them… You simply cannot kill these guys. After the 1st quarter they were down 2 and Wood, relying on the incredible athleticism of Daeshon Shepard and Muneer Newton, extended the lead to double digits rather quickly.

Then the Friday the 13th music starts to play in your head… O’Hara crawls out of the swamp… kicking, snatching, clinging and refusing to die. They go in at halftime down 2.

 

 

The second half starts and you are reminded why Wood is nationally ranked and one of the favorites to win the Catholic League title. Everywhere you look, they have Division 1 basketball prospects. Their point guard, Rahsool Diggins, is the smoothest guard in the mid-Atlantic region. His game is like Häagen-Dazs… creamy goodness… He lulls you to sleep and then he attacks… Never in a hurry… He gives you the in and out and lets it play out… You can see the defender thinking he has adjusted and has the situation under control and BAM… there’s a cross over leaving the defender flat footed as Sool has entered the lane… The help defender is on his way but he’s too late… The floater has been released… Splash!

The Vikings are setting their defense…

Less than four minutes into the third quarter, the 2 point lead has ballooned to 13… It’s starting to seem like it’s just too much… Jaylen Stinson is sniping and then he’s in your jersey with you playing a type of man to man on ball defense not often seen around these parts… Marcus Randolph is slashing, pulling up and relentlessly looking to attack… Muneer is rebounding and rebounding and rebounding… And…

Oh shit… Watch yo head!

Shepard is hanging on the rim again after catching and cleanly finishing the perfectly placed alley oop from Sool.

It’s just too much… So you think…

Here comes that Friday the 13th music in your head… They just won’t die… O’Hara, once again crawls out of the swamp… kicking, snatching and clinging… They cut the lead all the way back down to 2.

Watching the O’Hara backcourt (Anthony Purnell, Adrian Irving, Jr and Tre Dinkins) compete you just keep saying to yourself… “these guys are good.”

81680237_2372961246142245_3605423739874836480_n

Adrian Irving, Jr., Cardinal O’Hara Guard

 

In the end, however, Wood was better…

Nonetheless, Ryan Nemetz just may have assembled the best team in Delaware County. The matchups with Bonner-Prendie and Archbishop Carroll will feature very high level scholastic basketball. Perhaps, the best that Delaware County has to offer.

O’Hara is in the mix… Yup O’Hara… Can you believe this shit?

The Cahillites Capture South Jersey!

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

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

81135064_441388036749370_1911210771128254464_n-1

DJ Wagner, Camden’s Freshman Guard

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

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

80578173_2544880995837145_8564305044676018176_n

Rick Brunson, Camden Head Coach

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

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

81203421_542441663150243_1806559945886269440_n-1

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

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

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

Not the last two games…

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

How are they getting it done?

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

80960862_1617676015039181_1845267458173173760_n

Jalen Duren

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

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

81445522_2778688048820851_3094552876257640448_n

Jalen Duren

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

80633089_602869687138708_5784320722843205632_n

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

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

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

81459260_1006979986319000_1671937404333719552_n

Jalen Duren

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

81837442_843143302790288_700440467975700480_n-1

Justice Williams, Roman Catholic, defends an inbounds pass

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

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

80693313_10157510546827928_4939287685471666176_o

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

Can they be stopped?

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

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

I love this shit…

Explaining College Recruitment or the Lack Thereof…

I am a trained political scientist. I try to structure my thoughts on social behavior using analytical frameworks borrowed from social science. One of the most powerful, and therefore most useful, is rational choice theory.  Rational choice is a framework for understanding and often formally modeling social and economic behavior.

Here we apply the basic premises of rational choice theory to the conundrum that is local college basketball recruiting. Basically, I’m trying develop an explanatory model make sense of shit that makes no sense at all…

Let me give a quick and dirty explanation of how I apply rational choice theory in this instance. I assume that aggregate social behavior (who gets and does not get D1 offers) results from the behavior of individual D1 coaches, each of whom is making their individual decisions. Rational choice theory then assumes that D1 coaches have preferences among the available high school/JUCO and transfer prospects that allow them to state which option they prefer. These preferences are assumed to be complete (the D1 coach can always say which of two prospects they consider preferable or that neither is preferred to the other) and transitive (if player A is preferred over player B and player B is preferred over player C, then A is preferred over C). In my rational choice model, D1 coaches are assumed to take account of available information, probabilities of events, and potential costs and benefits in determining preferences, and to act consistently in choosing the self-determined best choice of action.

Basically, a rational choice model assumes D1 coaches get out and actually watch the prospects first hand, have an understanding of the options each kid has, realize what the prospect can add to his program and work in good faith to win games and improve his program.

The challenge then becomes explaining recruiting outcomes that don’t make no muthafuckin sense.

In the Philadelphia region, there have been some truly befuddling recruiting outcomes in recent years. Sam Sessoms, Ryan Daly and Jhamir Brickus are examples that force me to call the explanatory power of rational choice theory into question.

sessoms1

Sam Sessoms, Binghamton University

Sessoms was one of the best guards to come out of Philadelphia’s fiercely competitive schoolboy scene in recent years. Academics was not an issue for Sesssoms. He attended and did well at one of the elite private Main Line high schools. Moreover, he played on the prestigious Nike EYBL summer circuit. He played for the Team Final program that has consistently produced NBA players. During the winter, Sessoms absolutely scorched opponents during a dominant senior season that saw him easily eclipse the 2,000 point mark. Yet, he had exactly one (1) D1 scholarship offer from Binghamton University which plays in the low-major America East Conference.

DSC_5643

Ryan Daly, St. Joseph’s University

Ryan Daly was named the MVP in the Philadelphia Catholic League as a senior. Daly was the MOST VALUABLE PLAYER in one of the top 3-4 HS leagues in the nation. He is a fearless and fierce competitor capable of scoring in bunches from all three levels and rebounding like a power forward. Like Sessoms, his academic profile was beyond reproach. Indeed, he would have been accepted at Ivy or Patriot League schools. Then there is his DNA… his father and grandfather were Philadelphia Catholic League stalwarts and played college ball for St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia’s vaunted Big 5. Yet, very late into his senior season, he was struggling find an adequate suitor for his considerable skills. Fortunately, Delaware’s Martin Inglesby swooped minutes after being given his first head coaching opportunity and gave Daly an opportunity to play in the mid-major Colonial Athletic Conference.

31232811

Jhamir Brickus, Coatesville High School

Fast forward to today… Jhamir Brickus has just exceeded the 2,000 point mark with about 20 or so games left in his scholastic career. He has Rip Hamilton in his rear view mirror and will soon lap John Allen to become Coatesville’s all-time leading scorer. He regularly gives highly respected opponents 40 or even 50 points in big games. See for example, the 52 piece family pack… with biscuits and extra gravy he dropped off on Chester in the PIAA playoffs last year. Brickus consistently dominates games from the backcourt with exceptional ball-handling and an uncanny knack for finishing at the rim through contact. Possessing exceptional vision, he is an elite passer. He has played a couple summers on the highly competitive Under Armour UAA circuit where he averaged double figures in points, 5 assists and less than 1 turnover per game… Please note… He averaged LESS than one turnover per game against some of the best competition available. Simply stated, Brickus is a bad, bad man… Yet, his has yet to reel in D1 offers commensurate with his exceptional abilities.

What da fuck? How do we make sense of these outcomes? In my search for answers, I’m leaning hard on the my understanding of rational choice theory… Truth be told… I’m really struggling to make this shit make sense…

The premise of rational choice theory is that the aggregate behavior (the total sum of D1 offers) reflects the sum of the choices made by individual D1 coaches. Each D1 coach, in turn, makes their choice based on their own preferences and the constraints (or choice set) they face.

The logic of the model holds that D1 coaches choose the action (or outcome) they most prefer. In the case where offers (or recruiting outcomes) can be evaluated in terms of costs and benefits, a rational coach chooses the prospect (or recruiting outcome) that provides the maximum net benefit, i.e., the maximum benefit minus cost.

The local D1 coaches (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia) would experience very little costs recruiting these kids. Some gas, a few tolls and a couple Popeye’s chicken sandwiches on top of letters, phone calls, texts and DMs. Viewed in the context of their respective recruiting budgets, pursuing these guys costs nada, zilch, nothing…

The potential rewards? Daly exceeded 1000 points in two years and Sessoms may exceed 1,200 by the end of his sophomore campaign. Beyond that, these guys are Philly guards… They bring a level of toughness to programs that add a value that can’t be quantified. It’s apparent and easy to see now.

Indeed, if Sessoms or Daly were to enter the transfer portal today, each would likely receive 40-50 scholarship offers within a week. Think about that shit… The same D1 coaches that passed on them as high school seniors would relentlessly call, text, DM and visit them begging for their services today.

This begs the obvious question: How did they miss? Why couldn’t they see this 24-36 months ago?

We have to continue to assume that D1 coaches want to win… We must assume they want to add very good players. Indeed, the fact Zane Martin (New Mexico) receive offers from coaches at high major programs like Clemson, Seton Hall, Gonzaga and New Mexico 24 months after they were completely ignored by the same guys means something is seriously askew.

These fuckin’ coaches ain’t behaving rationally… The model doesn’t explain this shit…

Some really smart social scientists have introduced the useful concept of bounded rationality to account for situations precisely like this. Bounded rationality is the idea that rationality is limited, when individuals make decisions, by the tractability of the decision problem, the cognitive limitations of the mind, and the time available to make the decision. Decision-makers, in this view, act as satisficers, seeking a satisfactory solution rather than an optimal one.

In other words, coaches are limited by factors beyond their control. Plainly stated, some just are not that smart. In the words of my good friend, Amauro Austin, “some D1 coaches just don’t know what the hell they are looking at.” This was clearly the case in the recruitment of Ryan Daly. Coach after coach lamented that he was not an “explosive athlete.” They openly cited his lack of foot speed and the fact that he played “below the rim” as factors explaining their lack of a scholarship offer.

I would openly question if I had contacted the right office. I had to remind these guys, I was not trying to reach the track coach. I was not arguing that Ryan should run the 100 or 200 meter dash… Nor, was I suggesting that he be recruited as a high jumper…

“Sorry, coach… my bad… I thought you were looking for good fuckin’ BASKETBALL players.”

Same with Sessoms… He was too small… Incredibly, some even wondered if he could play at the D1 level at all. This as he was punishing opponent after opponent, it seemed like they were all reading from the same script. He can’t really shoot from distance… He’s not a true point guard… blah… blah… blah…

Huh?

Well… We seem to be headed down the same road with Brickus.

Here’s script on Jig… He doesn’t really play hard… He’s more of a small shooting guard… He doesn’t like to play defense… He’s too cool… He doesn’t play against anyone…

Once again, I find myself dealing with the “cognitive limitations” of a lot of D1 coaches.

I just want these guys to be actual rational actors… Unfortunately, more often than we care to admit, Amauro Austin’s assessment is dead on…

“Some D1 coaches just don’t know what the hell they are looking at.”

They Used to be BAAD Jawns!

Just got back from a party…

My man J-Rock threw another banging party… He’s been having some GREAT parties lately… Shit, a couple weeks ago he threw a party in Ohio and LeBron and Savannah James showed up… That night he had over 14,000 partygoers and the joint was rocking.

Tonight, I expected nothing less than another banging party… See, last year I went to a party right off 17th and Spring Garden and these two BAAAAAD jawns were there… These jawns were HOTTT!

One was from Center City… Her name is Romona and she’s a little stuck up… You know the bourgeoisie type… but I understand… She know she’s a BAD jawn! She was a BAD jawn waaay back in the 80’s… She had the big bamboo earrings and she was rocking cazals way back then… Her shit was fly… In fact, she always had the fly shit… She never lets up…

Very rarely will you catch her off her game… In fact last year, her shit was on point… The weave was tight… edges and all… She had the brand new Birkin Bag and the Loubitin pumps… The jeans was fitting just right… The make up was flawless… The manicure was perfect… This jawn was FLAT OUT fine… And, she knew it.

The other jawn was from uptown… Imhotesha is what they call her… She’s still kinda new to town… Her history doesn’t extend all the way back like Romona… Her pedigree is a lil’ questionable…

In fact, when she first came to town she lived in a trailer… But she got her shit together fast… Next thing you know she had a brand new crib… Yeah… She built it in the hood, but it’s a nice crib… She’s been getting all the attention for the past 6 or 7 years…

She’s not as polished as Romona… Now… Let me be clear, she’s a BAD jawn too! Don’t get it twisted… But she more likely to sport a pair of fresh Tims than Loubitin pumps… She is definitely all about the culture… Romona has crossover support… Imhotehsa is decidedly BLACK and ALL BLACK all the time for sure… She tends to pass on the weaves and wears her hair in braids or a natural style… In fact, almost every time I’ve seen her she’s wearing a Dashiki…

Last year, I went to a party right off 17th and Spring Garden and they both were there… Man those jawns were fine as shit… Niggas was sweatin’ both of ’em… They were on top of their game… You couldn’t take your eyes off of them, not even for a second… And they knew they were fine as hell… That was the party of the year.

That was last year…

81454049_2836224356441441_3574809681140383744_n

The Party was packed!

Tonight, the party was live… It was packed… Indeed, they had to stop letting people in… But it wasn’t a raucous as it was last year… It was a nice party though…

Truth be told, both Romana and Imhotesha fell off a lil’ bit…

The weave has been in a little too long… Romona’s manicure looks about 2 weeks old… You can see the little gaps where the nails have grown… The Birkin bag has a few stains on it… The make up looks like she was in a hurry and she has those weird extra long eyelashes…

Imhotesha has gained a lil’ weight, the love handles are hanging over the yoga pants… The braids have been in at least a week too long… The colors are faded on the Dashiki…

But damn… when they walked across the floor together, there can be no doubt… They are still two bad jawns!

80434663_1419423781559845_6139365083425275904_n

Rudy Davis, Marty Bibbs and Lewis Leonard at J-Rock’s Party

They still draw a crowd… They still make the party pop…

They just not as fine as they were last year.

Nor are they as fine as this chick I saw over the bridge last week… Mannnn… Listen that muthafucka is gorgeous… I heard Romona is going to a party with her on Monday… She better go to the hairdresser, go shopping and get that face painted…

That chick Cammy ain’t playing no games… Niggas is sayin’ she a dime!

 

 

You Want da High? The Camden Renaissance in Underway!

It’s a new day in Camden… There’s a Renaissance underway…

Massive construction projects are underway or recently finished completion. In the past few years, I’ve watched Mastery Charter Schools erect state of the art elementary school from the ruins of a desolate and barren field next to my office. Where there was once trash strewn about and acres of cracked and broken concrete, there are now hundreds of eager and energetic children learning and scores of them playing in manicured fields adjacent to the school building.

Across the street from the school, a gigantic manufacturing building is under currently construction. This building replaced a dilapidated tin roof monstrosity. Around the corner, a similar building is arising from the ashes of an old nasty concrete manufacturing plant and long ago abandoned brick buildings.

maxresdefault-1

Subaru Headquarters in Camden, NJ

Just a few blocks from that site, one can find the brand new national headquarters of Subaru and it’s training facility. These are beautiful new multi-million dollar facilities adjacent to the modernized research and development headquarters of long-time Camden resident Campbell’s Soup.

A couple of minutes away, the new Rutgers-Camden Nursing and Science building adorns the reshaped skyline. Cooper Hospital has recently completed some impressive additions and undergone a facelift.

092316-sixers-new2bestvideo3_1920x1080_772043843922

Sixers Practice Facility and Training Complex, Camden, NJ

Everyday, Ben Simmons reports to work, and refuses to shoot 3-pointers, at the Sixers new state of the art practice facility and offices in downtown Camden.

It should be noted that they have torn down the Castle on the Hill. A modern, state of the art technology infused Camden High School is currently under construction.

It’s a new day in Camden…

While all of these recent developments are important and significant, the most talked about aspect of the Camden Renaissance on the streets of Camden is the resurgence of the mighty Camden High School basketball program. And… quite frankly, it ain’t close… Camden High Basketball is back…

Today marked the start of the 2019-2020 campaign. Camden High hosted Simon Gratz from the Philadelphia Public League at Woodrow Wilson HS.

OQGBN6DIIRDONC2ORAJOQJQYNE

Rick Brunson, Camden High Boy’s Basketball Coach

Camden High’s basketball team is now led by an experienced no-nonsense taskmaster. Rick Brunson is a former McDonald’s All-American from Salem Massachusetts. Brunson replaced Camden High legend, Victor Carstarphen. Carstarphen, a dedicated life-long Camden resident, recently won election to Camden City Council and will be inaugurated in January. He passed the clipboard to his fellow Temple Owl.

Brunson and Carstaphen played collegiately for John Chaney, a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Brunson brings an approach that appears to be modeled after Chaney’s. In their first game against a talented Simon Gratz team led by yet another Chaney disciple, Lynard Stewart, Brunson was straightforward and heavy on accountability with his players. And… man does he have some players!

80704085_560315788082572_7522670703963799552_n-1

Taquan Woodley ’21, Camden High PF

Camden is LOADED! They feature a Kentucky commit in 6’9” Senior PF Lance Ware. Another 6’8” PF Taquan Woodley who holds offers from Temple, La Salle, St. Joseph’s, Penn State, South Carolina and a host of mid to high major programs. Rounding out the front court is Jerome Brewer an 6’7” SF capable of scoring from all three levels. Brewer is being hotly pursued by Rider University. Camden High has a solid Division 1 college front court. These guys defend, they rebound, they pass and they communicate with one another. Without question, Camden has the best set of BIGS in the region.

But…

The player that everyone shoehorned into the Woodrow Wilson High School to see was DJ Wagner. Wagner is a fresh faced freshman with straight A’s on his report card and impeccable manners. He is unfailingly polite and deferential off the court. A true gentleman and a young scholar, his parents are to be commended to raising such a fine young man.

Off the court

79794710_471598193495260_2342450660449976320_n

DJ Wagner and Taquan Woodley, Camden High

 

On the court, DJ Wagner is a Bad Muthafucka… His Daddy was a Bad Muthafucka… His Grandpop was a Bad Muthafucka…

DJ Wagner is already around 6’2’ – 6’3” with long arms, good speed, excellent lateral quickness and a solid and repeatable shooting stroke. He is capable of handling the ball with both hands and displays an innate ability to score in variety of ways. He does not rely on the jump shot. He’s equally adept going to his left and right. He’s able, as a freshman, to attack the rim and dunk on opponents.

Camden has been waiting for today for a LONG time. DJ Wagner’s career at Camden High has officially begun… Baby Wags is on the clock.

It’s almost a perfect scenario for him. He’s an important part of a very good team, but he won’t be expected to carry the load as a freshman. Lance Ware is the man for this team. Ware is a long, highly-skilled and Intelligent player. As the lone senior, playing major minutes, it’s legacy time for Ware. He’s already nationally ranked… He’s already committed to Kentucky…

Ware is playing to bring the Tournament of Champions trophy back to Camden… Period!

His running mate Woodley is the most unselfish mega-talent to come down the pike in a while. Woodley relishes in doing all the little things that win basketball games. Loose 50/50 balls? Woodley is getting 90% of those… Block shots? Woodley is gonna give you 6-8 of those on a good night… You want rebounds? Woodley will grab somewhere around 13-15 of those… Extra passes? Woodley seems to prefer setting his teammates up to scoring himself…

Casual fans may not immediately grasp the significance of Woodley’s game… But, he jumps out to real hoopheads, scouts and college coaches. They understand that his unselfishness and toughness are winning characteristics… They also love that he tries to bang that shit real hard on opponents whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Jerome Brewer can simply be counted on to find 14-18 points every game. He’s a confident shooter from distance and his presence, along with Wagner, spaces the floor and allows Ware and Woodley to operate more freely in the paint. Brewer is also an excellent and instinctive offensive rebounder. He gets a few put backs almost every game. Like Woodley, Brewer will also try to bang that shit whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Brunson is demonstrating that he is more than willing to insert the many freshmen role players into the fire. The youngsters played extensive minutes is key segments of the first game. This will only help this team down the road.

It’s tempting to encourage everyone to come out and see this group, but tickets are gonna be very hard to come by. The Camden Renaissance is underway. The people of Camden know and support good basketball… You can expect to see about 2,000 of them showing up wherever this team tips-off. If you plan on coming, arrive at least an hour before tip-off.

Ohhhhh… By the way, Camden defeated a tough Gratz team today. They led wire to wire. The lead crept up to 20 in the first half. Gratz fresh off a convincing over Imhotep Charter school earlier this week, was able to get it down to 10 when Brunson had 4 or 5 freshmen on the court. But once Ware, Woodley, Brewer and Wagner returned to the contest the lead would be extended once again.

Woodley snagged nine offensive rebounds and 15 total, Ware added 13 boards and Jerome Brewer grabbed six.  Woodley played an excellent all around game. In addition to his 15 rebounds, he added 6 points and 4 spectacular blocked shot. Brewer had 13 points and Ware added 12.

Wagner led Camden in scoring with 15…

You sure “You Want da High?”

Ashley Howard & Bashir Mason: Bruiser’s Boys!

On March 7, 2016, Drexel University severed ties with Men’s basketball Head Coach Bruiser Flint.

That one hurt…

Flint, assumed the helm at Drexel in 2001 after five years as the head coach of the UMass Minutemen. Fifteen years later, he left as the all-time winningest coach in Drexel program history (331-289) and a four-time winner of the CAA’s coach of the year award.

Flint elevated the Drexel program to unimaginable heights… His Dragons were, at times, the best the City of Philadelphia had to offer.

Seriously… Drexel was the BEST the City of Philadelphia had to offer…

In one memorable stretch, Flint’s Dragons walked three blocks over and knocked off St. Joseph’s 72-56 at the Palestra in front of 7,622 on December 2, 2006. Exactly a week later, they drove about 20 minutes up Lancaster Avenue and spanked Villanova 81-76 at the Pavillion while 6,500 sat in silence as the final buzzer sounded.

Yup… Drexel…

Ten days later, the Dragons took a four hour ride to upstate New York and smacked Syracuse 84-79 at the Carrier Dome. This time 16,328 Orange fans got to watch the giant slayers do their thing.

11drexel.1.600

Drexel players celebrating their Dec. 19 victory over Syracuse, which was ranked 23rd at the time. Credit Dennis Nett/The Post-Standard, via A.P.

Ohhhh… Bruiser and Drexel were ready for anybody… anywhere…

Three days after the ‘Cuse game, Bru and his boys jumped on the El, transferred to the Sub and down went Temple 69-54 in front of 4,677 at the Liacouras Center. For good measure, in February the Dragons hopped on one of those commercial flights to Omaha, Nebraska and took down Creighton in front of 17,607 rabid Blue Jay fans.

Let’s recap… Drexel… On the road… Knocked off…

St. Joseph’s
Villanova
Syracuse
Temple
Creighton

Get the FUCK outta here! Naaaaah… You’re making this shit up…
Except, I’m not making it up… I was there… I watched it unfold…

Then in 2011-2012, I watched the Dragons win 29 games… TWENTY-NINE fuckin’ games… Drexel? Yes… Drexel!

During his tenure, Bruiser led the Dragons to four NIT appearances, including a trip the quarterfinals with that 29 victory squad in 2012.

damion-lee-drexel-transfer-graduate-eligible

Damion Lee (Golden State Warriors) played 3 seasons and graduated from Drexel University

However, the Dragons experienced a steady decline in performance following that 29-win season. Flint’s two best offensive players Chris Fouch and Damion Lee experienced major knee injuries forcing them to miss entire seasons. After Lee decided to play his final year of eligibility with the Louisville Cardinals, Flint limped through his final campaign severely undermanned and posted a 6-25 record to close out a great run at the program about 30 or so blocks from his childhood home in Southwest Philly.

When he reappeared in the the Big 10 on the bench with Archie Miller at Indiana, many probably thought we had seen the last of Bruiser Flint coaching in Philadelphia.

GettyImages-874731034-e1547497331980-1024x683

Bruiser Flint and Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller

Well… That is certainly not the case… On Wednesday December 18, 2019 at the Tom Gola Arena on the campus of La Salle University, Bruiser Flint roamed sideline in front of both benches. All you had to do was look closely…

You saw the finely tailored suits, the polished and elegant shoes and the charismatic smiles masking the burning desire to win the game. The unyielding effort on the defensive end of the floor and of course the unforgiving nature of the interactions with the referees.

81139910_541319986596890_5891035644943138816_n

Bashir Mason, Wagner Head Coach & Ashley Howard, La Salle Head Coach

The Head Coach of the visiting Wagner Seahawks, Bashir Mason was the man with the ball in his hands when Flint’s Dragon’s knocked off all the BIG BOYS in 2006-07. From the moment he arrived at 34th and Market as a freshman, Mason was Drexel’s point guard. Executing Flint’s game plan from 2003-2007, Mason scored more than 1,000 points while dishing out nearly 500 assists. Those that watched him play know that Mason’s calling card was defense. He was first four-time member of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) All-Defensive Team, he also became the first player in league history to be named Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman following the 2003-2004 season.

A true student of the game while playing for the Dragons, Mason told me then he wanted to be like then Drexel Assistant, Geoff Arnold and Bruiser Flint. He has certainly made his mentors extremely proud. Mason graduated from Drexel with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Management. After earning a Master’s Degree of Science in Education from Wagner in December of 2013. Mason, who was the youngest head coach at the Division I level when he was named the 18th head men’s basketball coach in school history on March 26, 2012, and at age 35, remains one of the nation’s youngest head coaches, checking in as the sixth-most youthful head coach heading into the 2019-20 campaign.

La Salle’s Head Coach, Ashley Howard, was introduced to the coaching profession by Bruiser Flint. Howard began his coaching career as a student assistant coach under Flint at Drexel University, in 2002, after medical concerns effectively ended his playing career for the Dragons. Flint and Arnold, embraced Howard and immersed him into all aspects of the coaching profession while he was still an undergrad.

Like most young athletes in the prime of their playing careers, Howard was understandably frustrated about his inability to compete on the court. But, he is extremely grateful that Flint and Arnold had the foresight to give him a set of tools, skills a a perspective that have served him well during his rapid rise through the coaching ranks.

After his apprenticeship under Flint and Arnold, Howard was fully prepared to embark upon a Division 1 coaching career. In 2004, following graduation, Howard was hired as an assistant coach at La Salle by Dr. John Giannini. He spent four years with the Explorers before returning to Drexel in 2008 as an assistant coach. He was part of a staff that led the Dragons to consecutive 20-win seasons, including a school record 29 victories in 2011-12. Howard successfully recruited Damion Lee (Golden State Warriors/NBA) to the Dragon program.

In 2012-13, Howard served as an assistant on Chris Mack’s staff at Xavier University before landing back in his hometown with Villanova. Prior to taking the reigns at La Salle, Howard most spent five seasons as an assistant coach at Villanova, helping the Wildcats to a pair of National Championships.

During his tenure at Villanova, Howard was involved in all aspects of the Villanova program including on-court teaching, player development and recruiting. He was instrumental in helping the Wildcats win two NCAA National Championships and setting a new NCAA record for the most wins in a four-year span.

Howard and Mason are the progeny of Flint and Arnold. Their success can be attributed directly to the time they spent being nurtured and “cussed out” by Flint and Arnold. We can certainly expect both to continue the tradition. And, we can also expect them to do so while wearing some of the nicest threads you will see on the sidelines. Flint and Arnold wouldn’t have it any other way.

Gratz Defeats Imhotep, 71-60

Donta Scott, Dahmir Bishop, Chereef Knox, Jamil Riggins and Faddie Wesley absolutely dominated Public League basketball the last two seasons. Before that Scott was also a key starter on teams featuring Jaekwon Carlyle, Fatts Russell and David Beatty. Indeed, over the past four seasons Imhotep Charter School’s basketball team was the equivalent of Gladys Knight and the rest of the Public League were the Pips.

Imhotep was the clear headliner. They featured no fewer that 5 or 6 Division 1 prospects in the lineup at all times. When they boarded the bus and headed to Public League games, the outcome of the game was, more or less, a foregone conclusion. By the end of the night, Imhotep would have another notch on their belt.

The lone exception over a 48 month period was a playoff loss to Jason Harrigan’s Del Val Charter led by then super sophomore point guard Antwaun Butler. Other than that, Imhotep whupped everybody.

56d4e98d9058a.image

Del Val Charter Public League Champions

Donta Scott, a 4-year starter for Andre Noble’s Panthers NEVER lost a Public League regular season game over the course of his entire high school career.

That’s some Wilt, Gene Banks, Rasheed Wallace type shit…

Well… It’s a new day in the Pub…

Donta Scott is a key member of the rotation for the 7th ranked Maryland Terrapins. Dahmir Bishop plays a similar role for the Xavier in the Big East. Chereef Knox is adjusting to life in the Atlantic 10 as a member of Billy Lange’s first team at St. Joseph’s. Jamil Riggins is rounding into form after missing much of the early season with a nagging elbow injury at Quinnipiac. Faddie Wesley shares point guard duties with the mercurial Khalif Meares at Harcum a D1 JUCO nestled against the Villanova campus on Philly’s Main Line.

The page has turned at Imhotep…

The cast of characters remains incredibly talented. There’s an incredibly strong, experienced and fundamentally sound big man. Elijah Taylor is everything one would want in a student-athlete. He is a true scholar with exceptional grades and strong test scores. He fielded dozens of offers from some of the finest basketball programs and top universities in the nation before committing to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Running alongside Taylor is Kamrohn Roundtree, a super-athletic 6-7 power forward. Roundtree is an exceptional leaper, rebounder and shot blocker. While his offensive skills are still rounding into shape, he able to finish in transition better than most high school players in Philadelphia. Plainly stated, Kam will bang that shit on you.

Sammy Wylie is another experienced senior. A 5-10 combo guard, Wylie has participated in games at the very highest level across the country the past few years. The southpaw is a very capable playmaker and scorer.

When combined with supremely gifted youngins like Naji Reid, Rahmir Barno and Justin Edwards, Imhotep once again fields an impressive and formidable varsity basketball team.

But… Unlike last year’s version they are not invincible in the Public League.

The Black Cager entered the historic Simon Gratz gymnasium this afternoon and watched Lynard Stewart’s Bulldogs soundly defeat the Panthers. Gratz was more composed, more efficient, more aggressive and, dare I say it, BETTER…

Duane Satchel matched up extremely well with Elijah Taylor. Coming in at 6’9” and tipping the scales in the 240 range, Satchel was the BIG man on the court today. He played an intelligent and fundamentally sound floor game. Stewart’s experienced guards and wings consistently looked to keep Satchel involved on the offensive end. These guys actually looked like they practice post entry passes. If the pass was a little misguided, Satchel did an excellent job of catching it, regrouping and making good old fashioned low-post, back to the basket post moves. He reciprocated their generosity at the offensive end by corralling a multitude of defensive rebounds and quickly finding his guards for outlet passes to initiate an effective transition offensive attack.

When Imhotep was able to setup their vaunted full court press, the Gratz guards displayed a keen understanding of basic basketball principles. They would flash someone to the middle or throw skip passes diagonally which resulted in 3 on 2 and/or 2 on 1 situations. Led by the sharpshooting Yassir Stover (17 points), the Bulldogs played sound, smart and tough basketball.

and1

The Bulldogs won the game 71-60, after leading by as many as 19 early in the first half. The wire to wire victory was impressive. Lynard Stewart is a DAMN GOOD coach.

With Satchel in the middle, he’s able to matchup with Imhotep’s athletic bigs. His senior guards were unfazed by the full court pressure. Something tells me that game film has already made its’ way around to all the Division A laptops… Any coach that doesn’t already have it is lunching… Big time…