AAU/Grassroots: “The Game is the Game”

We have entered officially entered the heart of “basketball season”!

We’ve had a few weeks to digest the Falcons shittin’ the bed like no other team in the history of sports… Except maybe the 2016 Golden State Warriors…

It’s March!

Very soon… in a matter of days… we will be relentlessly bombarded with ads for NCAA March Madness. Shit gets crazy… People with absolutely no interest in college basketball will spend hours pouring over brackets trying to pick a winner from the field of 68 schools lucky enough to participate. Inevitably, some small school with a name like “NorthSouthEast Pennsylvania A&M” will knock off “Big State.” Or, maybe an HBCU with a shoestring budget like “Tubman University” will squeeze past “Big Tech.”

American sports fans, not just college basketball fans, will be mesmerized by the possibility of the 1 vs 16 or the 2 vs 15 upset. It’s magnificent theater! As good as it gets in the American sports landscape. One ALMOST gets a sense of what it was like to watch Roman Emperors feeding humans to hungry lions.

In an orgy of spending, the NCAA will make over $1,000,000,000 dollars televising Lil’ Man’s crossovers and Stink-Stink’s dunks over a three week period. With a couple of good wins a few relatively obscure coaches will go from making $300,000 to $2,000,000 in a three week period as the mega-programs at the top of the food chain poach leaders of the best mid-size basketball programs. All this stuff will be covered in the most minute detail by ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS Sports, YahooSports, ABC, NBC and hundreds of mainstream sports outlets.

Meanwhile… There’s some other really interesting shit taking place…

Out of view, in every major city across the country there is a real fuckin war underway!

Look at a US map and pick a city… Any city? Houston, Baltimore, Miami, Oakland, Chicago, Kansas City, New York… Doesn’t matter…

For illustrative purposes, today I’ll focus on a high school in Jackson, Mississippi. Medgar Evers High School is where Darryl Johnson, a 16 year old 6’7’ high school sophomore, received 87 text messages while he was in school today. Darryl tried to focus on his school work but his jack was on fire…

What the fuck? Bzzzzzzzzz… Bzzzzzzzzzz… in his pocket over and over…

Stealthily, every few minutes he reached in his pocket and read text messages from coaches with various AAU/Grassroots programs.

“What up Kid? What we gotta do to make this happen?”

“What size you wear? I got 2 pair of KDs and the new Duke Kyries for ya!”

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“What’s your Pop’s inmate #? Gonna put lil’ sumthin on his books.”

Darryl tried to listen to the history lesson on the Great Depression, but he couldn’t focus…

The teacher words were gibberish… Just like Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice! (click link)

His team is still alive in the state playoffs. They locked up the county title last week. He’s trying to focus on his High School quest for another state title, it’s 3rd in 4 years, but it’s nearly impossible…

The war is raging!

AAU/Grassroots teams are in the middle of their “tryout” season… Darryl is the top sophomore in Mississippi. The Nike program in his area has been trying to lure him for two years non-stop. Same with the Adidas program.

But Darryl’s surrogate father, Jimmy Earl, is his youth coach and he’s been a fixture on the Under Armour Circuit for years. They met when five years ago when Darryl was in the 5th grade. Back when everybody called him “Dirty Darryl.” He hung out at the local playground while Earl was teaching his own son the fundamentals of basketball. Long, gangly and quiet Darryl caught Earl’s attention when, standing about 6’1″, he said he was only 11 years old. Although he could barley tie his shoes and could not make a layup, Earl knew the kid would have a chance if he worked at it. Besides, his son was a point guard and here was the BIG he could develop alongside his son.

“Where’s your Daddy?”

“I don’t know my Daddy….” Darryl said…

Where’s your Momma?

“She at work…”

“You want learn how to play basketball?”

“Yessir… I do…”

With that, Earl and “Dirty Darryl” entered into an arrangement… They later formalized it with Darryl’s Momma, Bernice, an in-home health aide working 12 hour shifts 7 days a week, 9:00 am – 9:00 pm. Bernice make $8.25 per hour. Just enough to keep a roof over Darryl’s and his 4 siblings’ head and something resembling food on the table.

Her job leaves very little time, however, for actually raising her children… She welcomed Earl’s help with Darryl…

When Darryl first came home with two new pairs of sneakers, she’s pleased. She profusely thanks Earl knowing she would NEVER spend $125 on a pair of basketball shoes.

“No big deal…” Earl replied.

Actually, it’s wasn’t… Earl has three storage rooms where he keeps about $40,000 worth of sneakers at all times.

After a few months, the neighborhood kids drop the “Dirty” from Darryl’s moniker… He wears new basketball gear everyday. Darryl has over 20 pair and he meticulously cleans them each time they are worn. He never wears the same pair twice in a week.

Eventually, Earl learns that Darryl has been suspended from school over 30 times… Shit doesn’t make since since he’s extremely well-behaved when he’s with Earl’s family in his home. Keeping it real, Earl’s wife never fails to mention that Darryl does more around the house than her own children. Why is Darryl so obedient and compliant in the home and disruptive and defiant in school? What gives?

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Darryl requests that the school psychologist “test” Darryl to see if he has any learning “issues.” He’s shocked to learn that while he was in the 6th grade at the time, Darryl was reading at a 2nd grade level and his math skills were barely 3rd grade. Clearly, his long-standing pattern of acting out behaviors were designed to cover up the fact that Darryl could NOT do the work. Facing a perceived choice between being considered “dumb” or “bad”, Darryl chose the later time after time.

Earl intervened and broke that horrific pattern…

The evaluation discovered that Darryl had neurologically-based processing problems. These processing problems interfered with basic skills such as reading, writing and/or math. They also interfered with higher level skills such as organization, time planning, abstract reasoning, long or short term memory and attention. In other words, he needed an Individualized Education Plan with special accommodations in place to help him learn.

Earl made that happen… He changed the trajectory of Darryl’s educational journey…

Earl attended every school meeting, dragging the Mother along when a parental signature was required. Within a year, Earl was the de facto parent. Darryl spent at least 5 nights a week at Earl’s house. On Christmas, he reached under the tree retrieved and opened his gifts just like Earl’s other kids. On Thanksgiving, he sat at the table with the rest of Earl’s extended family.

Earl was his Pop…

Earl chose his high school… A local public basketball power with an exceptional special education program. In doing so, Earl had to fend off EVERY private and Catholic school in the region. By the 8th grade Darryl was 6’5” and 190 lbs. He more than held his own with local High School stars in workouts and pick up games. Everyone knew he was ‘next up.”

In the past, Earl referred most kids to private and Catholic schools, but the kids with “special needs” floundered academically. They would receive mostly Ds. They would earn enough credits to remain eligible, but their low GPAs would put them at-risk of not meeting NCAA eligibility requirements.

Not this time…

Earl knew full well that Darryl’s ONLY shot at going to college was a basketball scholarship. His family could never afford to send him… Earl met with the principal, the Special Education Coordinator and the coach. They put a plan in place to support Darryl and make sure he had adequate accommodations in place.

Freshman year, Darryl starts varsity and does well. He blends in with some of the older players and becomes the “glue guy”. He defends the other teams best player… He leads the team in rebounds… He draws charges… He dives for loose balls… The HS coach LOVES him…

His GPA is 2.8…

In the summer, he plays for Earl on the Under Armour 15U circuit… There he shines… He’s the MAN on Earl’s team and they are ranked in the top 5 nationally… He get invited to several Top 100 Camps where he does extremely well against the top players in the country.

Sophomore year, Darryl expands his game… While he still does much of the dirty work, he’s become a much more polished offensive player… He’s also grown… Now, standing a legit 6’7” and weighing at 21lbs, Darryl is real problem at the high school level. Mississippi, Mississippi State, Southern Mississippi, Jackson St, Alabama and about 12 other schools have offered full basketball scholarships…

As noted earlier, Medgar Evers is in the midst of a playoff run. Darryl is trying to stay focused on the task at hand…

But that fuckin phone is on fire… Every 2-3 minutes another text…

“You gotta look out for you…”

“Earl ain’t got ur back… You should come over here…”

“Hit me when you get out of school… Got sumthin’ for you…”

Non-stop… Eventually, Darryl shows Earl the texts… At first, Earl becomes visibly pissed off…

BUT… What’s he gonna do?

He sent damn near identical texts over the past couple hours to 5 kids that play for the same coaches contacting Darryl…

In fact, he has to meet the parents of one the other coaches kids at the Cheesecake Factory in 45 minutes… One thing for sure…

The game is the game…

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The DEVIL is a LIAR! Our kids WANT to learn!

Black student-athletes don’t care about academics… Inner city High School coaches don’t emphasize the importance of books…

Last week a U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia openly stated “There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well.”

I’m here to tell you…

Devil is Liar

Out kids are thirsty for knowledge. They want to learn! They want to go to college. They want to create better situations for themselves and their families.

What they lack is a road map. How do they accomplish their goals? They have no idea. What are the obstacles the face? They have no clue.

What I know for sure is that High School Coaches want to see their kids excel and further their education. Coach after coach has demanded that I come in an explain the NCAA eligibility process to their players. Indeed, Lou Williams at Dobbins Vo-Tech insisted that I hang up the phone and come talk to his players immediately. Of course, I jumped in my car and headed to 22nd and Lehigh. Upon arriving, Coach Williams stopped practice because he said, “education is MORE important” than what they were reviewing in practice.

Time after time, the same scenario plays itself out… The DEVIL is liar…

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The coaches know that in June of 2013 Philadelphia Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. laid off 3,783 employees, because of the district’s financial crisis. The list included 676 teachers, 283 counselors, 127 assistant principals, and 1,202 noontime aides. Before he said it, the coaches knew that “These … employees are more than numbers: these are people — professionals — who play important roles in the lives of thousands of students throughout our city.”

The coaches see the results… Hite called the layoffs “nothing less than catastrophic for our schools and students… Every aspect of the district will feel the impact — schools, regional offices, and central office — along with employees ranging from senior administrators to support staff.”

I have been amazed by the extent to which the coaches and the student-athletes persist in the desire to pursue higher education… Everyone knows Philly’s students and student-athletes have long received the short end of the stick. Yet, they strive…

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When I show up to talk about NCAA regulations and the kwalifī smartphone app, I am frequently told “I already downloaded it and put my grades in…”

I cannot put into words how that makes me feel… To know that my idea, my concept, my plan has come to fruition and the young people are using it without being prompted nearly made me cry! Youngbucks have called me from Baltimore asking how to interpret their results and I have yet to visit a single school in Maryland.

It’s not just under-performing urban schools… Predominantly white and middle to upper class Upper Moreland, Wissahickon and Pymouth-Whitemarsh have embraced kwalifī. But, the intent was and will always remain to help those who are most needy… For years, I have spent hours and hours with some of the sharpest, most intelligent young men in the country. I have seen many of these guys go on to do great things in college and beyond. Here is a partial list…

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With the kwalifi app, instead of 10-15 per year, we will be able to help tens of thousands!!

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The young brothers pay attention to the message… They ask very good questions…

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I love, love, love this particular project… For us, by us… But everyone should feel free to download and utilize the kwalifī app…

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I will be visiting schools every day for the rest of the school year… If you want us to talk to your guys/girls contact us blackcager@gmail.com…

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We must remain vigilant… We cannot allow a return to the days of yore…

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…and remember… The DEVIL is a LIAR!!

Take Control of YOUR NCAA Eligibility Process: kwalifī app

Happy Holidays!! Here’s my gift to the basketball community… It’s a tool that will allow you to track the progress of young people you care about. It could be your son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandson, granddaughter, neighbor, cousin or just a youngin’ you know with potential.  For a limited time in December, we are making the kwalifī app available for FREE to those that read The Black Cager.

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The kwalifī smartphone app allows high school student-athletes, parents and other concerned adults to track progress toward meeting NCAA DI, DII and NAIA eligibility standards.

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The app is available in both the IPhone App store and Google Play store for Android. Use a keyword search for “Black Cager” to access the FREE download. You can also download kwalifi by clicking on the logo below and following the links on the website…

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If you care about a young student-athlete, download the app… Tell the student-athlete to download the app… Tell his parents to download the app… Take control of the NCAA eligibility process…

It costs you nothing!! This is my gift to the basketball community… Merry Christmas!!

If you do NOT download the app… If you do NOT take control of the NCAA eligibility, the consequences could be severe!!

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For nearly 30 years… The NCAA has been closing the window of opportunity for students…

“A survey by the Associated Press showed the overwhelming majority of players sidelined by NCAA eligibility standards are Black…. Blacks accounted for 81 percent of football ineligibles in 1986 and 90 percent in 1987.”

Reading Eagle, September 9, 1988

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Temple Great Eddie Jones was ineligible as a freshman

“Two members of Temple’s 1990 basketball recruiting class who figured prominently in the Owls’ plans will be ineligible next season because they failed to meet the academic requirements of NCAA Proposition 48, sources said. Sources close to the program said yesterday that Eddie Jones, a highly touted 6-foot-6 swingman from Pompano Beach, Fla., and Aaron McKie, a 6-4 shooting guard from Philadelphia Public League champion Simon Gratz, had scored less than the required 700 of a possible 1,600 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test or 15 of a possible 36 on the American College Test.

Philadelphia Inquirer, July 18, 1990

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Sun-Times player of the year Kevin Garnett of Farragut H.S. (photo by Phil Velasquez 2/28/95 Sun-Times) Sun-Times Library files

Kevin Garnett had the high-school grades to qualify to play college basketball, but the standardized test scores were a different story. He easily gained the necessary number in practice tests, and his teachers considered him plenty smart, but try as he might, he kept coming up short when the ACT was given for real. The best he could do was a 16, one point short of the minimum required by the NCAA for freshman eligibility at the time.”

ESPN, February 28, 1995

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Brandon Jennings could not meet NCAA eligibility requirements

Brandon Jennings signed a letter of intent to attend Arizona and planned to stay there only one season. But he struggled to reach a standardized test score to meet the N.C.A.A. minimum for a scholarship. (He and his mother, Alice Knox, said that his last SAT score was questioned by the testing service and that they still had not received it.)”

New York Times, October 4, 2008

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Jonah Bolden (right) in street clothes during UCLA game

“The NCAA has ruled that UCLA freshman Jonah Bolden is a partial qualifier, and as such, will not be able to compete for the men’s basketball team this season,” UCLA said. “The ruling allows for Bolden to continue on athletic scholarship.”

ESPN, September 12, 2014

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Lamonte Turner was not cleared by NCAA

“Tennessee athletic department spokesman Tom Satkowiak confirmed that Lamonte Turner is unable to compete or travel with the Volunteers this season because he “was not cleared by the NCAA eligibility center.” Satkowiak said Turner will be able to practice with the team. Turner enrolled at Tennessee in August but was awaiting clearance from the NCAA in an attempt to play this season.”

ESPN, September 28, 2015

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Kobie Eubanks lost a scholarship to University of Alabama

“Kobie Eubanks, Alabams’s top recruit in the 2015 class, won’t play for the Crimson Tide after he was not cleared by the NCAA. Eubanks will not enroll at Alabama, Tide head coach Avery Johnson said in a statement on Wednesday.“We are disappointed for Kobie and his family,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, Kobie wasn’t cleared by the NCAA and we couldn’t get him admitted to the University of Alabama. He has a bright future and we wish him well.”

Sports Illustrated, August 19, 2015

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Andy Van Vliet ruled ineligible by NCAA

“Wisconsin forward Andy Van Vliet will not play in the 2015-16 season after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA, UW announced Tuesday night. According to the press release from UW, “NCAA rules state that prospective student-athletes have one year to enroll in a collegiate institution following their high school graduation or expected graduation date. Van Vliet played basketball as an amateur outside of that one-year window, which has resulted in him sitting this season and losing a year of eligibility.”

SB Nation, November 17, 2015

James Proche

James Proche ruled ineligible by NCAA

“SMU receiver James Proche, a DeSoto alum, has been ruled academically ineligible for the 2015 season by the NCAA. But don’t get the wrong impression about Proche, who was one of the state’s top-100 recruits in the Class of 2015.”

DallasNews.com, August 25, 2015

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Marcus Lovett cannot play this year

Red Storm freshman guard Marcus LoVett has been deemed a partial qualifier for the 2015-16 season, which basically means that he can practice with the team but cannot play in games. The ruling stems from an investigation into LoVett’s academic credits in high school, as the six-foot point guard attended three different schools.

CBSSports.com, November 11, 2015

2014 Nike EYBL. Session #2. Dallas.

Mickey Mitchell rule ineligible by NCAA

“Ohio State freshman forward Mickey Mitchell has been ruled ineligble, according to a release from the university athletic department. “Freshman forward Mickey Mitchell has not been cleared to compete for the Ohio State men’s basketball team by the NCAA Eligibility Center,” Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith said in the release. “He is eligible to practice but not compete until the issue is resolved.”

Scout.com, November 3, 2015

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Therence Mayimba lost scholarship to George Mason

“We got some sad news yesterday via redshirt freshman Therence Mayimba’s instagram account. It appears that once again he has been ruled ineligible by the NCAA and likely keeping him off the college basketball hardwood for good. Recently he’s been playing in the FIBA Afrobasket 2015 tournament for his home nation of Gabon and doing well.”

GMUHoops.com, August 29, 2015

Jovon Robinson

Jovon Robinson ruled ineligible

“Auburn’s biggest running back on the roster will not be playing for the Tigers this year after the NCAA ruled Jovon Robinson ineligible. The action came after one of his high school guidance counselors at Memphis’ Wooddale High admitted to changing a grade on his transcript.”

Trackemtigers.com, August 18, 2012

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Giovanni McLean lost a scholarship

“The NCAA has issued a temporary waiver allowing Giovanni McLean to continue his studies at the university for the remainder of the fall semester,” said Lynn Bushnell, vice president for public affairs. “He is, however, prohibited from playing and practicing with the basketball team until the NCAA issues a final decision.”

Q30television.com, November 3, 2014

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Download the kwalifi app NOW!!! Click the link below…

www.kwalifi.com

A Real NCAA Rule Change Casualty

Today, I received a text message from a good friend of mine. He’s highly regarded high school basketball coach. Over the years, he has sent numerous players to some of the best college basketball programs in the nation. He’s known as a stern taskmaster that does things the right way. He’s asked the Black Cager to address his parents and players in the past. We’ve always been happy to oblige.

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Today, he needed help. He needed me to talk to a parent. He asked if I could spell it out for Mom.

Her son, “Javonte” (not his real name) is a “Dead Man Ballin”!!

At 6’8″ 240 lbs, he is a beautiful physical specimen.  He is a high level athlete with a smoothness to his game.  On the court, Javonte has a chance to be very special.  He just turned 17 and is already playing at a very high level for high school. Possessing text book form with feathery touch and excellent release, Javonte grew up around the game. His older brothers were All-State players. As a result, he shows a feel for the game that cannot be learned on the fly. With a strong handle, he is adept at creating shots for himself and can spot up or pull up off the dribble. He is very good at creating offense for his teammates.  Javonte has a tremendous basketball body with a big frame, wide shoulders, enormous hands and long arms.

Big East, Big 10, ACC, Atlantic 10 and SEC coaches have been drooling at the thought of Javonte joining their program. They have been constantly hitting him up on twitter, instagram and snapchat.

None of them have seen his transcript…

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Mom refused to take the coach’s advice. When he transferred in prior to the start of his 11th grade year, the coach told Mom, “Your son has dug a big hole for himself… it’s gonna be tough.”

He had spent his freshman and sophomore years at a Catholic High School. During that period he had taken and completed 12 core courses. His grades were 6 D’s and 6 C’s. He had a 1.5 core GPA.

Coach, very much aware of the 2016 rule changes, stressed the importance of getting straight A’s going forward. Coach hoped the kid would at least get mostly A’s with a few B’s. Kid proceeded to fail English and get a D in Algebra as a Junior.

Coach pleaded with Mom and the kid to go to summer school before 11th and again before 12th grade. Coach explained over and over again that he needed to get those D’s off his report card.

“D’s are GPA killers!”

He would say over and over, to no avail. Mom and her boyfriend wanted the boy to play on the Nike EYBL circuit and summer school would get in the way…

On the first day of school in September, when the homeroom bell rang, the NCAA had him in their sights….

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When the teacher, taking attendance for the first time, called his name…

“Javonte, Javonte?”

The finger was on the trigger… Once he raised his hand and responded…

“Here….”

He was done… Dead Man Ballin’…

His senior year had officially commenced. With that, the poor grades on the transcript depicted above were “locked in”.

He cannot retake or replace any of those grades in an attempt to raise his core GPA to the new 2.3 minimum.

His refusal t0 follow the directions of his coach cost the family anywhere from $200,000 to $300,000 in scholarship funds.

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Like a cop after an accident in the middle of the night… Like a military chaplain after a young man steps on a land mine…

It was my responsibility to let his mother know that her son is a Dead Man Ballin’…

Before he plays a single game in his senior year, he is ineligible for a Division 1 athletic scholarship…

This fucked up situation is playing out in High Schools and homes in Black communities across the country… Unnecessarily so!!

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Dealing with Barriers to NCAA Eligibility: The kwalifī Strategy?

I’m NOT sayin’ it’s a racist organization, but….

Historically speaking, from 1906 through the early 1970‘s the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sanctioned and supported Apartheid-like Jim Crow segregation among it’s member institutions. For the better part of seven decades, the NCAA perpetuated a system which, more or less, formally excluded people of color from widespread participation. A few exceptional Black athletes like, Paul Robeson (Rutgers), Jackie Robinson (UCLA) and Jesse Owens (Ohio State) slipped through the segregationist cracks in the northern and western parts of the country. In the South, however, big-time college athletics was the exclusive purview of white people.

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Following a massive and sustained struggle for respect, dignity and basic Human Rights during the 1950’s and 1960’s, overt and blatant segregation waned considerably. By 1971, Blacks, heretofore excluded from collegiate athletics at Kentucky, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Texas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Clemson, North Carolina State, Louisiana State and other powerhouse football and basketball programs, became all the rage. Between 1970 and the early 1980’s Black student-athletes became a dominant force in mainstream collegiate athletics. Simultaneously, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) suffered as they steadily lost the most talented Black athletes to wealthier predominantly white institutions.

What was the response of the NCAA to this rapid “tanning” of the high profile revenue generating sports? For some white University Presidents, Athletic Directors and University Donors it must have seemed like an invasion…

Something had to be done… But what?

They couldn’t just contract with Donald Trump to build a “HUGE” wall around football and basketball locker rooms… Nonetheless, they needed a means of stemming the rising tide of Black bodies flooding Basketball and Football programs across the nation…

The problem was that formal segregation was no longer acceptable in America circa 1982-83. It was no longer politically viable to resurrect and reinstall “White Only” signs that had been removed 15 years earlier… A more nuanced and subtle means of denying access was needed. They devised on strategy centered on the development and implementation of “initial freshman eligibility rules.”

I’m NOT sayin’ it’s a racist organization, but….

These eligibility rules were, and remain to this day, discriminatory against Blacks. John Chaney and John Thompson, II throughout much of the 1980’s and early 1990’s, passionately campaigned against what they referred to as  intentionally “racist” eligibility rules. Following eligibility reforms in 1989, Chaney, Temple University’s Hall of Fame Head Coach, unequivocally stated, “The NCAA is a racist organization of the highest order… On this day, it instituted a new punishment on black kids who have already been punished because they are poor. Any time the NCAA, which is 90 percent white, considers the youngsters in Division I basketball and football, it discriminates, because 89 percent of the kids are black. I wonder what message they are sending. It’s another hardship for black kids made by white folk.”

John Chaney

In response to the same reforms, Georgetown University’s John Thompson, II noted, ”I think it’s sort of ironic when they began to integrate the South athletes were the ones used to pave the way, and they were used under the pious assertion that ‘we’re helping these poor kids… Now, apparently someone has said, ‘Enough,’ so they don’t need the kids anymore. They’re using the same rationale they used to get them in to begin to keep them out. I guess it’s a situation where we’re like shoes and clothes. We’re not in style anymore.”

John Thompson

John Thompson, II

These legendary Black coaches used their positions of prominence to consistently and fervently denounce the NCAA’s racist actions. Since then, every four or five years, the NCAA has implemented increasingly stringent initial eligibility standards. Each set of reforms disproportionately impacting Black student-athletes in a negative manner. The most recent 2016 reforms have, once again, led contemporary prominent Black coaches to openly question the disparate racial impact.

I’m NOT sayin’ it’s a racist organization, but….

The National Association for Coaching Equity and Development (NACED), a group led by Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith, Georgetown coach John Thompson III (son of John Thompson, II) and former Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt, recently issued a statement to The Associated Press observing that the standards disproportionately target minority and less affluent students in “an unintended consequence beyond acceptability.”

Whereas Chaney and Thompson, II contended that the NCAA acted with malice and fully intended to harm Blacks, the contemporary Black coaches recognize the same harmful impact but chose to consider it “an unintended consequence.” The raw, unfettered and direct accusations of racist behavior on the part of the NCAA put forth by Chaney and Thompson, II stand in stark relief to mild objections of “unintended consequences” emanating from Tubbs, Hewitt and Thompson, III.

John Thompson, III

Nonetheless, today’s coaches are voicing objection… “That dream could be taken away after six semesters in high school,” John Thompson III said. “So for someone that’s a late bloomer, someone that the light bulb doesn’t go on until later, now it’s too late. And just the disproportionate number of minorities that’s going to affect, the number of people in general that’s going to affect, is not good.”

The 2016 rule changes, coupled with a 2007 rule that allows for only one course from prep school to be applied to an athlete’s transcript, will have a major impact on the number of Black athletes that will be eligible to compete as freshman, especially in the NCAA’s two biggest moneymakers: football and men’s basketball.

A recent NCAA report found that 43 percent of men’s college basketball players, 35 percent of football players and 15 percent of Division I athletes overall who were competing as freshmen in 2009-10 would not have qualified under the new standards. Whether it’s intentional as argued by Chaney and Thompson 25 years ago or “unintentional” as posited by Tubby, Thompson, III and Hewitt, the end result is clear.

A disproportionate number of Black males are going to be excluded from collegiate competition.

I’m NOT sayin’ it’s a racist organization, but….

If I wanted to identify a scheme that would disproportionately harm Black student-athletes I would set the minimum SAT score, with a minimum GPA, at 900. As you can see on the above chart, there is a persistent “performance gap” between racial/ethnic groups on the SAT exam. Asians excel, whites do well and ONLY Blacks have average SAT scores below the 900 cutoff point.

In the “real world,” the “average” white student with a 2.3 GPA will be eligible and the “average” Black student with a 2.3 GPA will be ineligible.

This a perfect scheme… if the aim is to limit opportunities for Blacks while appearing race-neutral.

I’m NOT sayin’ it’s a racist organization, but….

How can Blacks counter this scheme that will, undoubtedly, have racist and discriminatory impact?

While it is certainly interesting to note the evolution of the responses from Black coaches, it really does not matter if the NCAA is intentionally or unintentionally trying to decrease opportunities for Blacks? We must deal with the simple fact that they are decreasing opportunities for Blacks.

The inevitable outcome will be fewer eligible Black student-athletes.

So… What are our strategic options? What should Blacks do about it?

The Black Cager has been discussing this very question with prominent and influential members of the Black youth basketball, AAU/Grassroots and educational communities. Although a lot of different ideas emerged during these conversations, there was a recurring theme in all the discussion.

“We have to EDUCATE the young student-athletes.” Over and over, it was concluded that the best thing we could do was to provide student-athletes and their parents with easy to understand and accessible information regarding the rule changes.

Kamal Yard, Philly Pride/Triple Threat

The Black Cager has had strategic discussions with Kamal Yard, Eric Worley, Rodney Veney and Amauro Austin (Philly Pride/Triple Threat AAU/grassroots organization). They immediately embraced and acted upon the strategy. Rob Brown and Aaron Burt (Team Final) agree that educating families and student-athletes is the most useful tactic at this point. Lonnie Lowry (Team Philly) continues to be a staunch supporter of educational efforts by the Black Cager. Terrell Myers (WeRone Hoops) has also embraced the educational outreach strategy.

Terrell Myers and Sedee Keita

Others have embraced and incorporated the educational outreach strategy as well. Littel Vaughn Charles Monroe consistently make sure they incorporate NCAA eligibility education in every event/league they organize. Philly’s High School Coaches have been very proactive with regard to getting information out to the families. John Mosco (Archbishop Wood), Paul Ramczuk (Archbishop Carroll), Rob Moore (Constitution), Andre Noble (Imhotep), Jazz Williams (West Catholic), Kenyatta Bey (Audenreid), Larry Yarbray (Chester), Pervis Ellison (Life Center Academy), Carl Arrigale (Neumann-Goretti), Chris Clahar (Parkway, CC) and Clyde Jones (Penn Wood) have demonstrated a strong commitment to working with families to increase opportunities for their players to access high learning institutions.

The Black Cager has consulted with Paul Gripper (Team Phenom), Vincent Robinson (The Robinson School) and Sam Rines (Rise Academy) on numerous individual cases. These guys fight the fight and walk the walk with their players. They win some, they lose some… But they always try to arm the players/families with accurate information as early as possible. Lou Daniels, Betty Givens, Mo Howard and Claude Gross are always available to provide counsel and guidance. They treat every kid as if he/she were their own.

But…

Even with all of these efforts we are just scratching the surface of an enormous problem affecting tens of thousands student-athletes of color. This is a national, perhaps even international, issue.  Many African, Latin American and European student-athletes have also been experiencing great difficulty meeting eligibility requirements.

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All agree that we need interventions capable reaching tens of thousands of families. Hence, after consulting with all of the above members of the youth basketball community, we have developed the kwalifi smartphone app. kwalifī is a simple and powerful app for tracking progress toward meeting NCAA Division I, Division II and NAIA scholarship eligibility requirements. It allows parents, students and coaches to take ownership of the eligibility process. Core course grades, sliding scales, core course GPA calculations are made easy to understand. No more depending on counselors. It is simple, easy to understand and very useful! Specific steps are outlined to help student-athletes meet NCAA and NAIA requirements.

Bay and Josh

Josh Selby and Bay Frazier

Moreover, with the assistance of people like Rodney Veney, we have discussed ways to ensure that every Black kid has access to the kwaifi app with Bay Frazier (Carmelo Anthony’s Manager), Rich Paul (LeBron James’ agent), Curtis Symonds (retired BET Executive) and Kevin Chiles (Publisher, Don Diva Magazine). As we develop marketing distribution strategies, The Black Cager welcomes input from all concerned parents. players, coaches and others committed to improving the educational opportunities for Black student-athletes. This is merely one step in a struggle to ensure our young people continue to have access to educational opportunities commensurate with their academic and athletic abilities.

Rich Paul

Rich Paul, Klutch Sports Group

We have to EDUCATE the young student-athletes… If you have any thoughts, ideas or suggestions as to how we can do a better job of pursuing this strategy please shoot us an email at blackcager@gmail.com. If you know of youth organizations or schools that will benefit from the kwalifi app, let me know!

Delgreco K. Wilson
The Black Cager

Kwalifi logo

 

 

Philadelphia Youth Basketball: Social, Educational and Emotional Development

On October 8, 2015, Philadelphia Youth Basketball, Inc. started a new dialogue…

A wide range of basketball stakeholders were present. Claude Gross represented the Sonny Hill League. Don DiJulia, Saint Joseph’s University’s Athletic Director was reunited with his Sweet 16 backcourt of Rashid Bey and Terrell Myers. Fran Dunphy and Steve Donahue, respectively, represented their Temple University and Pennsylvania University basketball programs. Kamal Yard (Philly Pride), Myers (WeROne), Eric Worley (Philly Triple Threat) and Bey (Team Final) represented three of the more prominent and influential AAU/Grassroots programs in the region. Justin Scott, Arcadia University and Rudy Wise II, Rosemont, held it down for the small colleges. Camden was represented by Tyrone Pitts and Larry Yarbray was flying the Chester High flag.

Pitts, Bey, Dunph, Claude, Scott

Tryone Pitts (Penn), Rashid Bey (SJU), Fran Dunphy (Temple), Claude Gross (Sonny Hill League), Dr. Scott Brooks (Missouri)

What was most interesting about this gathering was the fact that the game of basketball was never mentioned over the course of more than 2 hours. The discussion focused squarely on how the Philly basketball community can develop, harness and leverage social capital that can be utilized to further the social, educational and emotional development of young people or “our guys” as Dr. Scott Brooks described them.

Held in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, the “Roundtable Discussion” was led by Dr. Brooks, Professor of Sociology at the University of Missouri. Dr. Howard C. Stevenson, Constance Clayton Professor of Urban Education at the University of Pennsylvania and Stephanie A. Tryce, J.D., Assistant Professor of Sports Marketing were also in attendance.

Kenny Holdsman and Eric Worley outlined their vision and plans to build a state of the art, basketball-based youth development center in the heart of North Philadelphia. Holdsman passionately posited that when you create opportunities for young people to develop their potential as students, athletes, and responsible engaged citizens, the individual and the community will thrive. Basketball, for Holdsman and Worley, is more than a game. Their efforts are undergirded by extensive research demonstrating that sports foster growth and development physically, academically, and socially.

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Towards that end, Holdsman noted that they have begun building a professional organization and initiated fundraising efforts to construct a $25 million state-of-the-art, basketball-based youth development center in the heart of North Philadelphia. This 120,000 square foot facility will have 8 indoor and 8 outdoor courts including a 2,000 seat indoor competition court. It will also feature an education wing with a library, classrooms, computer lab, and a community engagement center.

Take the PYB Tour!

Worley explained that they simply could not wait for construction to be concluded to begin serving Philadelphia’s young people. As a result, in a couple of weeks they are initiating the PYB School Partnership Pilot Program. Through this pilot program, PYB will provide programming in eight-week intervals (fall, winter & spring) for middle-school aged students at four school partners located in the North, Northwest, and Southwest regions of the city. Programming will be held at the location of the four school partners twice a week during after-school hours and every Saturday at Temple University and/or another Philadelphia area college or university. The program will focus on academic support, homework help, study skills, time management, tutoring, high school selection, leadership, character development, health and nutrition, family engagement, and basketball skill-building and competition. All participants will receive basketball uniforms.

Dunph and Claude

Fran Dunphy & Claude Gross

Claude Gross shared stories from his experiences over the past 55 years with the Charles Baker and Sonny Hill Leagues. Gross explained that the Hill league was never about producing NBA basketball players. Rather it was always about producing middle class young men that could provide for themselves and their families and become positive contributing members of society.

Finally, there was a magisterial presentation by Dr. Brooks, a protege of Philly Schoolboy legend Claude Gross. While pursuing a Ph.D. in sociology at the University, Brooks spent four years coaching under Gross in the Sonny Hill League basketball. The result of his research was an extremely insightful and nuanced book, Black Men Can’t Shoot (University of Chicago Press). For those interested in gaining a better understanding of the multi-layered intersections of urban education and scholastic sports, it is a must read.

Black Men Can't Shoot

In his presentation, Dr. Brooks deftly described what he saw, heard, and felt working with the young black men in the Hill league. His discussion of the manner in which the Claude Gross, Fred Douglass, Vince Miller, John Hardnett, Tee Shields and others utilized their social networks and expended their social capital was both informative and captivating.

Stephen Pina, a sports attorney with ASM Sports exclaimed, “that was the best talk I’ve heard… Dr. Scott is able to convey his academic work in a very ‘REAL’ manner.” Kamal Yard said, “He articulated everything I have been saying and thinking for the past 10 years.” Rashid Bey reported, “I thought about that presentation all night.”

Perry, Terrell, Rashid

Perry Clark, South Carolina Assistant Coach, Terrell Myers and Rashid Bey

There will be subsequent “Roundtable Discussions” sponsored by Philadelphia Youth Basketball, Inc. and Black Cager Urban Sports Media. Updates will will be available on this website.

The Declining Significance of Sonny Hill and the Resulting Loss of Social Capital

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Sonny Hill at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

Founded in 1968, the Sonny Hill Community Involvement Basketball League uses basketball as a foundation for teaching life skills. For thirty years or so, the Sonny Hill league reigned as the undisputed best summer high school basketball league in America. The Holcombe Rucker League in Harlem is also highly regarded. But, the talent in Hill League was unsurpassed. Gene Banks (Duke), Lewis Lloyd (Drake), Clarence Tillman (Kentucky/Rutgers), Mo Howard (Maryland), Pooh Richardson (UCLA), Nate Blackwell (Temple), Dallas Comegys (DePaul), Lionel Simmons (LaSalle), Kobe Bryant (NBA), Rasheed Wallace (North Carolina), Rip Hamilton (Connecticut) and Alvin Williams (Villanova) are just a few of the great scholastic players that laced ‘em up in the Hill League.

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Gene Banks

The concentration of talent was incredible. You could walk in McGonigle Hall on Temple University’s campus and catch the incredibly strong Rico Washington (Weber State) battling the powerful low-post force, Brian Shorter (Pitt) on the blocks. If you were more attracted to guard play, the wizardry of Michael Anderson (Drexel) was on full display as he went against consummate Philly point guard Howie Evans (Temple), the blindingly quick Bruiser Flint (Drexel) or the explosive Steve Black (LaSalle). Summer basketball in Philadelphia was truly something to behold.

The Sonny Hill League was an outgrowth of the Charles Baker League. In 1960, Mr. Hill founded the Baker League as place for professional basketball players to work on their craft during the off-season. The four-team league that began playing outdoors on the concrete court of of North Philadelphia eventually grew to attract some of the biggest names in basketball. Over the years, Wilt Chamberlain, Guy Rodgers, Hal Greer, Billy Cunningham, Bill Bradley, Earl Monroe, Darryl Dawkins, Joe Bryant and World B. Free were regulars in the Baker League.

Wilt

Wilt Chamberlain

It’s all gone!

The Baker League no longer exists and the Sonny Hill League is a just shell of what once existed.

Recently, I received a phone call early one morning from St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli. He asked, “Del what happened to the Hill League… I’m reading the box score from a college league playoff game and I only recognize one name – Biggie Minnis.” The Hill league no longer attracts the best high school and college players in the area. There can be no denying the fact… The Hill League has fallen off… That conversation with Martelli stuck with me for a few days. I brought the topic up with Bruiser Flint, Ashley Howard and Geoffrey Arnold. They coach at Drexel, Villanova and St. Joseph’s respectively. I asked each the same thing Martelli asked me: What happened to the Hill League?

The focus of the conversations was on  two distinct questions: 1) Why did the Hill League become insignificant? And, 2) What have we lost as a result?

There is a consensus that the rise of AAU and shoe company teams contributed mightily to the demise of the Hill League. However, the more interesting question becomes: Could the outcome have been any different?

Brian Shorter

Brian Shorter

Mr. Hill’s tenacity and drive enabled him to form and maintain a youth sports league that is nearing it’s 50th year of existence. Perhaps, these same traits rendered him a unable to adapt and become more flexible when the AAU movement crept into Philadelphia. Rather than accommodate the schedules of the biggest AAU tournaments, Mr. Hill forced players to choose. Over time, the lure of jet travel across the country, stays in fine hotels and playing in front of 200-300 college coaches was too much for Philly’s best ballers to resist. Gradually, more and more began to play exclusively for prominent local AAU programs like Team Philly (Adidas), Team Final (Nike), WeRone (Under Armour) and Philly Pride (Under Armour).

The kids, however, being from Philadelphia needed an outlet to settle their neighbor “Ball-Beefs.” Rahim Thompson’s popular Chosen League has emerged to satisfy that thirst for local school yard competition in the summer. Thompson, ingeniously, decided to work around the schedules of the biggest AAU tournaments which take place during NCAA live periods. In this way, he has been able to have the very best scholastic players in Philadelphia participate in his league. The Chosen League has surpassed the Hill League as the place to see the best local players during the summer months.

chosen league

Philly Schoolboy Legend Rysheed Jordan in the Chosen League

What have we lost? The best answer I could come with is: We have lost a great deal of “Social Captial”.

For Mr. Hill and his colleagues Claude Gross, Tee Shields, Fred Douglas, Vince Miller and James Flint the Sonny Hill League was about far more than just basketball. The Sonny Hill League Community Involvement League is an organization that not only includes roughly four dozen youth basketball teams, but also features career-counseling and tutoring programs.

It’s been that way since the beginning… “During that summer of ’68, gang warfare was a big problem all over the country,” Hill said. “Kids were dying. Neighborhoods were being torn up. So I decided to put my name on a league that would get some of kids who would be in gangs to focus their efforts on basketball… I talked to people all over the city. We got truces established. If a kid was found crossing a rival gang’s turf and he said he was going to play in the Sonny Hill League that got him a pass. At first it was a diversion for those kids. Now over the years we’ve grown into a program that gets kids off the streets, gets them learning and gets them a chance to lead productive lives.”

That’s Social Capital!!

lionel-simmons

Lionel Simmons

The basic premise of social capital is that social networks have value. Social capital refers to the collective value of all “social networks” [who people know] and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other [“norms of reciprocity”]. Through the Sonny Hill League, Philadelphia’s Basketball community was awash in social capital. Shit… were were wealthy in that regard.

Social capital emphasizes a wide variety of quite specific benefits that flow from the trust, reciprocity, information, and cooperation associated with social networks. Social capital creates value for the people who are connected and, at least sometimes, for bystanders as well. Think of all the trust people had in John Hardnett, Claude Gross and Tee Shields. Think of all the information the administrators of the Sonny Hill League possessed and shared with participants and bystanders.

The Sonny Hill League fostered and facilitated information flows (e.g. learning about scholarships, learning about coaches looking for players, exchanging information about players with college coaches, etc.). This was social capital.

The Sonny Hill League established norms of reciprocity (mutual aid). Alums to this very day do for one another. For example, I have called on Lionel Simmons to help kids pay for SAT prep materials and tutoring. The Sonny Hill League network connected folks who were in similar in-groups. The League facilitated connection among individuals.

Rasheed

Rasheed Wallace

The Sonny Hill League facilitated a broader “Philadelphia” identity and solidarity among Philly ballers. The Sonny Hill League helped translate an “I” mentality into a “we” mentality.

When the group of men keep an eye on one another’s players in the streets, that’s social capital in action. When a tightly knit community of youth coaches recommend players from other teams for scholarships, that’s social capital in action. Passing the hat to get up money to get a kid down south for school was social capital in action. Social capital can be found in friendship networks, neighborhoods, churches, schools, bridge clubs, civic associations, and even bars.

The Sonny Hill league has declined in significance. Philly’s basketball community is poorer as a result. We have lost a great deal of social capital.

The elite shoe company sponsored AAU programs will take care of the best 50-60 players… The Sonny Hill League would take care of 800.