If you ain’t ever been to the ghetto
Don’t ever come to the ghetto
‘Cause you ain’t understand the ghetto
And stay the fuck out of the ghetto…
“Ghetto Bastard” Naughty By Nature
Basketball is THE inner city game. It is the game played in the ghetto, ‘round the way and in the ‘hood. Every year black communities and neighborhoods many consider off-limits to outsiders are invaded by representatives of multi-million dollar college athletic departments. Wave after wave of college coaches regularly venture into places most white people avoid after sundown. The trained eye can spot ’em a mile away. You see ‘em roll up in rental cars fresh off the private jets looking lost in public housing developments. The team logo and that of their shoe company sponsor featured prominently on a new golf shirt or sweater if it’s a lil’ chilly outside. The over-sized Conference Championship ring is dripping with ice.
Across America in cities like Philly, Motown, NYC, Chi-town, LA, B-more, DC, ATL, and H-town representatives of America’s increasingly wealthy athletic departments come in search of beautifully sculpted Black bodies. They are looking for the young men that will lead them to the “promised land” or at least the “Sweet 16.” This search brings to them to the projects, Section 8 homes and other low-income Black neighborhoods one after the other. Representatives of the Math department, Chemistry department and History departments never seem to make their way down. In much of the non-sports mainstream (mostly white) discourse, urban centers are derisively described and as isolated pockets of dysfunction, deviance and despair to be avoided and in some case obliterated, if the opportunity for gentrification presents itself.
The athletic department reps, the coaches, the recruiters are there for a very specific purpose.
These colleges and universities are vying explicitly to extract a valuable resource from these impoverished communities. They want young athletic Black bodies. They want to co-opt the labor of our young men and use it to increase the economic status of the University President, Athletic Director and Basketball coach and other athletic department employees. They want our Black boys to serve as cheap labor in the multi-billion dollar enterprise known as collegiate athletics. Now, it should be noted that along the way he may earn or be awarded (see recent UNC scandal) a degree in some obscure major with limited earning potential.
As bad as this situation sounds, it’s infinitely better than being one of the 72% of Black boys that fail to graduate from HS on time every year in places like Philly and NYC. These young men are headed for a lifetime of low wage earning or they will participate in the extra-legal ‘hood economy and likely end up in prison. In the ‘hood, collegiate athletics is a possible way up and out of poverty. But having dealt with college programs over the years, you know others benefit to a much larger extent. The fates of the gifted low-income urban Black male athletes and wealthy white university athletic department employees are inextricably intertwined.
A situation has emerged whereby Black boys and the struggling grassroot basketball community from which they emerge are dependent upon billion dollar sneaker companies and college athletic programs with $100-$150 million dollar athletic budgets. The existing situation breeds economic success and financial security for Presidents, AD’s and coaches. In many ways, the existence and sustenance of grassroots programs is dependent on the their connection to college programs and the college program’s continued economic gain in dependent upon struggling grassroots basketball programs. Born out of this arrangement is a sort of mutual dependency.
High skilled urban Black male basketball players sell their athletic labor in return for athletic scholarships while the college athletic programs generate millions of dollars selling their performance to alums and the general public. Coaches are paid million in salaries, bonuses and perks.
As the heads of the AAU/grassroots “farm system,” what are you getting? Are you treated fairly? Do the coaches, boosters and fans respect you? Over and over, I hear that you guys are “killing” amateur basketball. It’s bullshit. AAU/grassroots basketball long ago superseded scholastic basketball as the premier development arm for collegiate hoops.
In Philadelphia, basketball is king among amateur sports. College basketball occupies a unique space in Philadelphia’s sports milieu. There are six (6) NCAA Division 1 Basketball programs in the Philadelphia area representing some highly competitive conferences. Villanova (Big East), Temple (AAC), St. Joseph’s (A10), LaSalle (A10), Drexel (CAA) and Penn (Ivy) all play in tough leagues with nationally recognized competitors.
Anyone that watches the games will notice some common themes regarding these teams and others in their respective conferences. A significant percentage of revenue is generated by basketball programs with a high percentage of urban Black male athletes. The boys from ’round the way are getting it in. North Philly’s DJ Newbill is the star at Penn State. Jabril Trawick, hailing from the Westside, is the headliner for Georgetown. Another North Philly native, Rysheed Jordan in manning the point guard spot in Madison Square Garden for St. John’s. Chester’s Rondae Jefferson is back for a 2nd and perhaps final season at Arizona. Black males from ’round the way are making a lot of money for these schools.
The over-representation, employment and production of Black males in revenue-producing sports (basketball and football) is well documented. Black males represent a mere 5.8% of the total U.S population. Black males comprised 45.8% of major college football rosters and 61% of major college basketball rosters in the 2009-2010. The numbers for the pros are even higher. Over 67% of NFL players are Black and 78% of the NBA in 2011-2012. Collegiate and professional football and basketball organizations consistently scour the ‘hood when seeking talented players. In many cases, you stand ready and willing to serve your players up to the hunters. I want ask you some important questions.
Are your AAU/grassroots programs sufficiently benefiting? Do you feel like college programs respect the role you play? Do college coaches and fans appreciate your tireless efforts getting these guys ready for the next level?
Is it enough for these programs to just come year after year and take the most talented and highly gifted without considering the plight of those left behind?
Do the City 6 programs work with you when your kids can’t afford the $200, $300 or even $400 price of their camps? Do they give you balls? Do they donate equipment? Do they make sure you “eat” when you bring your players to visit their campuses? Do they provide tickets to your organization so the younger kids can see the older kids play “live”? Or, do they just come through, pick the ripest fruit and get back in the German luxury sedan?
Let me know… I’m really curious. Remember, you have leverage.
If they tell you the kids have to “pay” full price, let everybody know… Tell the other AAU/grassroots coaches how you were treated… Share information about your experiences…. In my opinion, Black boys have already paid. Let me show you how.
Young men from the ‘hood currently participating in revenue-generating sports (football and basketball) far exceed their white counterparts and other races. Keep in mind football and basketball make virtually all the money supporting all the other white dominated collegiate sports. Think about this fact, less than 1 percent of the total collegiate student-athlete population generates more than 90% of NCAA revenue during “March Madness.” Of the 1 percent, well-over half were Black young men from ’round the way.
Over the past decade (2004-2013), the NCAA men’s basketball tournament has triggered more than $6.88 billion of national TV ad spending from 269 different marketers. Ad revenue in 2013 was $1.15 billion, up 3.8 percent from the prior year. Less than 1% of college student-athletes generate this staggering amount of revenue, the overwhelming majority are young Black men from the ‘hood.
Guys from the ‘hood played, started and produced more than their non-Black teammates. Locally, Black players scored 73.9% of Temple points last year. Blacks accounted for 83.5% at St. Joseph’s, 87.3% at Villanova, 98.3% at Drexel, 87.1% at LaSalle and 65.7% at Penn.
The 1953 Christian St YMCA, National Champions, featuring Philadelphia school boy legends Wilt Chamberlain (standing center) and Claude Gross (seated 2nd from right)
The local colleges and universities want and need Black athletic talent. Their labor is undeniably needed to sustain massive inflows of revenues in athletic departments. Make no mistake colleges, universities, Presidents, Athletic Directors and coaches are making money off the labor of young men plucked from the ‘hood. The players get an “opportunity” to earn a college degree as long it doesn’t conflict with their athletic obligations. Alums, boosters and fans root for and are entertained by the performances of these young men.
Ask yourself: How do the university’s alums and fans really feel about the young men in the ‘hood? I know they shake your hand after your boy gets get 20 points and grabs 10 rebounds against a rival. I know they cheer loudly and passionately for your boy when you’re seated next to them at the Wells Fargo Center, Liacouras Center, Hagan Arena and Gola Arena. But, how do they really feel about you and yours? How do they talk amongst themselves?
Do fans of the local schools respect the communities that spawn the athletes that help them win games? How do they refer to the neighborhoods that border their respective institutions? You have been there your entire life. They are guests passing through while pursing a college degree.
One way you can get a feel for this is by perusing the local team message boards. It’s an absolute must for those desiring a peek behind the curtain of cordiality extended to your face during actual games and “official” visits to campus. There behind the veil of a screen name, keyboard tough guys unleash their true feelings about the ‘hood and those who hail from there. They are talking about your Grandmom that refuses to move from the house she paid off years ago. They are talking about your cousin that is struggling to work 2 jobs to pay that Catholic school tuition. They are talking about your homie that’s remodeling the house his parents left him in their will. They talking about your Aunt with those hot ass plastic furniture covers on her “good” living room set. They are talking about your uncle in the halfway because the police lied and fabricated evidence against him.
What are they saying? Far too often, they say “Fuck the community!” Far too frequently, they argue that they should “bulldoze your family’s homes!”
Then 10 minutes later they argue that your son, grandson, godson, nephew, or youngbuck averaging 32 ppg for the public school ‘round the way should come to their school. They call President Obama and Attorney General Holder “minstrels.” Meanwhile, the same person puts forth an argument why “Junior” should come, bust his ass and sack quarterbacks for their alma mater next year. It’s a truly weird dynamic to observe. They make no apologies. Indeed, the proudly claim they are speaking “truths”. Many of them despise and hate the ‘hood, while simultaneously yearning for the big beautiful Black bodies walking down it’s narrow avenues.
I say Fuck ‘em!
I say keep track of these public discourses and hold the programs accountable. I say ask the coaches and athletic directors to disassociate themselves from the most egregious offenders. If they choose not to, I say educate our young men from the ‘hood about the way SOME of the alums feel about them, their families and their neighborhoods.
Let’s not ignore those that wish you and yours harm. Of course, MOST alums and fans are respectful and always decent in public and behind a screen name. I say call on them to check the racist tendencies of the vocal minority within their family. These boards have moderators. If offensive language it left up, one can safely assume is is acceptable within that cyber-community of the school’s alumni.
Read for yourself. View this stuff for yourself. Make sure you let young people understand the parameters of public discourse surrounding their families and their neighborhoods.
The time has come to make sure our young people and their families are fully informed before they make the very important decision to earn money for a particular university. If one or more of the local schools is offering your players a scholarship he will likely have other options. If he doesn’t hit me up and I’m sure we can find a school that will pay his bills.
If you feel disrespected, if you feel unappreciated by local programs and their followers and they are offing your players scholarships you have options. Exercise them. Buyer beware!
It should be noted that it’s a very specific segment of the largely white male middle class fan and alumni base making the most vile statements.
Message boards are largely populated by white male alums of the schools. Recent surveys have identified the characteristics of message board posters. The data indicated that the vast majority of message-board users were male (87.8% of total, 92.2% of subscribers), White (90.8% of total, 92.4% of subscribers), and married (62.1% of total, 63.0% of subscribers); had least an undergraduate degree (76.0% of total, 79.3% of subscribers); and were current residents of the United States (97.4% of total, 98.1% of subscribers). Most respondents indicated that they were alumni of their message board’s school of focus (59.0% of total, 60.6% of subscribers). A total of 77.4% of survey participants indicated they were at least 30 years old, with subscribers tending to skew slightly older than non-subscribers. Also of note was the finding that 25.5% of all users were age 50 or older.
Let’s not send our young men where they aren’t welcomed and embraced. These are the internet addresses of message boards for the City 6 basketball programs.
St. Joseph’s Basketball – http://saintjosephs.scout.com
Temple Basketball & Football – http://temple.scout.com/
LaSalle Basketball – http://explorertown.proboards.com/
Villanova Basketball & Football – https://villanova.rivals.com/forum.asp
Drexel Basketball – http://www.caazone.com/boards/forums/drexel-dragons.7/
Penn Basketball – http://boards.basketball-u.com/showforum.php?fid/43/
Judge for yourself.
Is Steve Kerr correct? Has the process of becoming a better team basketball player “become completely lost” within the now dominant world of AAU basketball? Kerr’s sentiments have been echoed by many within the basketball hierarchy. Detroit Piston’s Head Coach, Stan Van Gundy says, “[AAU] is a bad system for developing players… They aren’t learning to handle the ball, they aren’t learning to make plays against pressure. The emphasis with our high-school players is to get exposure and play as many games as you can and show everybody how great you are.”
The deeply held pessimism is enough to make one wonder if there are any redeeming aspects of AAU/grassroots basketball. Nonetheless, any knowledgeable basketball person will tell you AAU/grassroots circuits (NIKE, Under Armour and Adidas) have superseded high school in importance for aspiring collegiate and professional players. Hence, parents face a quandary, do they forgo the most significant platform in terms of exposure and high level competition because of the concerns expressed by coaches like Kerr and Van Gundy? Or, do they try to identify AAU programs doing the things the “right” way? I’m going to assume that virtually every parent will choose the latter course of action.
This begs the question: What does AAU/grassroots basketball look like when it’s done right? Of course, first and foremost the program must be competitive. Of course, a good AAU program has to win tournaments. Kerr complains that winning is devalued. He significantly overstates his case. Winning matters and it matter a lot. No one wants to play for a program that get’s smoked game after game. Nobody wants to be on the wrong end of 20, 30 even 40 point blow outs in front of ACC, Big East, Big 10, SEC and A10 coaches. Good AAU programs win games. Some of the very best AAU programs are in the mid-Atlantic region. NJ Playaz, Team Final and WE R1 are doing AAU/Grassroots basketball the right way. They win and their players consistently go on to play at next level.
These are grassroots organizations with well-established support structures and developmental programs that have improved the quality play among their participants. It should be noted that high quality programs enhance the athletic, educational, and social development of the student-athletes. It can’t be all about winning AAU games and tournaments. But, make no mistake these programs win a lot of AAU games and tournaments.
In 2014, Team Final, led by Rob Brown, was the regular season champion of the NIKE EYBL circuit. Their 14-2 record was the finest in what is widely considered the most competitive grassroots league. Jimmy Salmon’s NJ Playaz (pictured above), led by All-American Isaiah Briscoe (Roselle Catholic HS) won the prestigious Peach Jam title. The Peach Jam Tournament provides a culmination for teams playing on the NIKE sponsored the travel team circuit and allows 40 teams to compete for an ultimate goal each summer. It is the premier tournament of the summer. The Final Four of the Peach Jam wan nationally televised by ESPNU (see below).
Another nationally recognized AAU program has emerged out of Middletown, Delaware. Under the direction of Terrell Myers, WE R1 took home both the regular season and UAA Tournament championships in 2014. Led by Derrick Jones and Malik Ellison We R1 defeated highly regarded Sports U to capture the Under Armour Association title (pictured below). WE R1, like NJ Playaz and Team Finals, is generally considered one of the most competitive grassroots programs in the nation. All three are consensus top 25 teams, with NJ Playaz and WE R1 coming in 1, 2 in most national rankings.
So, they win big games and bring home hardware from the biggest tournaments. What else makes these programs special? Some obvious questions immediately come to mind: Do their players get recruited? Do they get scholarships? The track record of Jimmy Salmon and the NJ Playaz in this area is beyond reproach. Tim Thomas (Villanova), Wayne Ellington (North Carolina), Gerald Henderson (Duke), Eddie Griffin (Seton Hall), Marcus Toney-El (Seton Hall), Vince Carter (North Carolina), Kenneth Faried (Morehead St.), Dahntay Jones (Duke), Sean Singletary (Virginia), Earl Clark (Louisville), Jeremiah King (Drexel) and Kyle Anderson (UCLA). Of course J.R. Smith and Kobe Bryant would have been included had they elected to play collegiately instead of jumping straight to the NBA. Another Playaz alum is NY Giants ALL-PRO wide receiver Victor Cruz.
Team Final alumni roster includes NBA lottery picks Tyreke Evans (Memphis), Mike Gilchrist (Kentucky) and Dion Waiters (Syracuse). This year alone, seven Team Final players have committed to NCAA Division 1 programs. This list includes Malachi Richardson (Syracuse), Donte DiVincenzo (Villanova), TreVaughn Wilkerson (Hartford), Trey Lowe (Temple), LaMarr “Fresh” Kimble (St. Joseph’s), Ahmad Gilbert (Geaorge Mason) and Levan Alston, Jr. (Temple). Khaif Wyatt (Temple) and JaQuan Newton (Miami) are also recent high profile Team Final Alums.
Dion Waiters, Team Final
We R1 alums include Dexter Strickland (North Carolina), Ben Bentil (Providence), Markus Kennedy (SMU), Jaylen Bond (Temple), Jared Mann (Stanford), Charles Cooke (Dayton), Khalid Lewis-El (LaSalle), Isaiah Washington (Penn St), Austin Tilghman (Monmouth). This year’s UAA Championship team featured Tim Delany (Villanova-commit) and Derrick Jones (ESPN #22, 2015). Also in the program is Sedee Keita (ESPN #34, 2016).
By any reasonable measure, these programs produce kids that get recruited at the highest levels. But, what else should you look for in a “good” AAU program? Well, a good AAU/grassroots program build social cohesion and and increase social capital among young people and adults in their respective communities. The younger kids in the program and the larger community should benefit from the success of the older kids. By the time the players participate on the 16u and 17u teams, they are generally very well known and look up to by younger players in the program and the surrounding community. Pay attention to the twitter and instagram accounts of the players in the program. Read what they write. Look at the images they project. Is this how you want your child to portray himself publicly? Watch how the student-athletes interact with younger kids and other members of the increasing AAU fan base. For programs like NJ Playaz, Team Final and WE R1, basketball is used as a practical tool to engage young people in their communities through volunteering, resulting in higher levels of leadership, community engagement and altruism among young people.
Another indicator of a good program is the intensity of the relationships between the players and level of respect players (and former players) have for the coaches. The relationships between AAU teammates are just as strong, perhaps even stronger, than those among high school teammates. Young people regularly spend 7,8 or 9 hours in vans traveling out of state to play in tournaments. They eat and sleep together on the road. In each of the highlighted programs, positive peer relationships are encouraged through coaching. If you spend anytime watching the teams practice and play it becomes apparent that social inclusion is very important to the coaches. Talk to the kids that aren’t the stars on the team. How do they feel about the program? Of course, the guys getting all the attention and limelight are likely to be happy. Are the non-starters benefiting as well? Do they speak highly of the coaches and their teammates?
Social inclusion also relates to offering equal opportunities to educational programs regardless of ethnicity or basketball ability. There is a great deal of attention paid to ensuring Division 2, Division 3 and NAIA level players are academically eligible. Rob Brown, Jimmy Salmon and Terrell Myers are consistently monitoring report cards, arranging SAT tutors and tracking GPAs. Each treats the low D1, D2 and NAIA recruits the same way they treat the ESPN top 50 kids. When evaluating programs, find out how the last man on the bench is treated. That is a true indicator of the quality of the program.
Sedee Keita, WE R1, ESPN #34 (2016)
Lastly, find out if their players exhibit a pattern a negative acting out behaviors. Do they get suspended from high school or college? Are there allegations or accusations of sexual misconduct or assault? Have their alums been arrested while in college? Given the recent explosion in the number of criminal incidents involving high profile athletes, it is important to know the people you trust with your children. There can be little doubt that NJ Playaz, Team Final and WE R1 have a positive impact on character-building in their participating players. The thugh element is virtually non-existent in these programs. These young men go off to college and the overwhelming majority are highly successful on the court and they graduate.
This can be largely attributed to the respective roles Jimmy Salmon, Rob Brown and Terrell Myers play within their respective organizations. Plainly stated, they have high expectations and as a result have a positive influence on the degree of ‘character-building’ within their programs. Research suggests that participation in organized athletics such as AAU basketball can be used as a means to reduce delinquent behavior. But it’s important to understand that playing basketball alone does not directly impact on negative behavior. Accordingly, good AAU programs combine basketball activities with academic, leadership and job-skills development and training to address risk factors in children and youth.
If you want to see AAU done right visit any one of these programs.
This week Division 1 College Basketball programs across the country begin formal practices. More than any other area in the country, Philadelphia has produced some of the best “Bigs” since Dr. Naismith hung up that first peach basket while teaching at the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts. Wilt Chamberlain, Ray “Chink” Scott, Mike Brooks, Gene Banks, Eddie Griffin, Rasheed Wallace and many others have represented Philly on college hardwoods and beyond. However, casual fans, college basketball coaches and independent scouts frequently rave about “Philly guards.” Often overlooked and under appreciated, Philly guards usually find a way to infiltrate the nation’s conscience. Tyrone Garland’s “Southwest Philly Floater” captivated the nation’s attention during March Madness earlier this year. South Philly’s Dion Waiters shocked the so-called experts when he was the 4th player taken in the NBA draft after NEVER starting a game in college.
Here, I want to shine some light on the “Philly Bigs” currently plying their trade at the collegiate level. My earlier ranking of Philly College Guards sparked a lot of heated debate. I fully anticipate a similar level of disagreement over these rankings. Please note that guys in JUCOs and current redshirts are NOT included because they will NOT be playing NCAA basketball this season. So guys like Savon Goodman, UNLV and Jamir Hanner, Buffalo are not listed even though their talent level clearly warrants inclusion.
1. Ronald Roberts, Senior, Saint Joseph’s, 11.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 0.9 bpg last season.
At 6’ 8” 220 lbs., Roberts is the most explosive player in the city and, perhaps, on the eastern seaboard. A determined rebounder with a relentless motor, he competes every single play of every game. One of the most prolific dunkers in recent memory, Roberts has gradually added subtlety and nuance to his game each off-season. While he relies primarily on sheer athleticism, he has developed a nice short range jump shot and added it to his offensive repertoire. If he can become a consistent mid-range jump shooter, he will be almost impossible to guard at the collegiate level.
2. Jerrell Wright, Junior, LaSalle, 10.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.0 bpg last season.
Jerrell is a very strong low-post presence. Standing 6’ 8” and coming in at a solid 240 lbs, he provides great balance to a LaSalle team that relies heavily on excellent guard play. Jerell is very good at establishing himself on the block. He is solid rebounder and shot-blocker as well. He has a variety of moves that enable him to be an effective scorer. If he can add an ability integrate countermoves finishing with his right hand, he will be a real problem for A10 defenses over the next 2 seasons.
Tie 3. JayVaughn Pinkston, Junior, Villanova, 13.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.5 bpg last season.
At 6’ 7” and 240 lbs., Pinkston is powerful athlete with solid ball-handling skills that allow him operate on the interior or the perimeter. He is good jump shooter who can hit an occasional 3-pointer. His forte, however, is using his strength and agility near the basket.
Tie 3. Rakeem Christmas, Junior, Syracuse, 5.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.8 bpg last season.
By far, the most difficult player to assess. Undoubtedly, the most physically gifted player on the list. He only played 20 mins per game. His production has been well-below what was expected coming out of High School as a McDonald’s All-American. Blessed with great size and very good athleticism, I look for Christmas to establish himself as a dominant force in the ACC over the next two years.
4. Halil Kanasevic, Senior, Saint Joseph’s, 8.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.7 bpg last season.
A high skilled basketball player at 6‘ 7” and 258 lbs, Kanasevic brings a variety of assets to the Saint Joseph’s attack. A very capable ball-handler, Kanasevic brings the ball up the floor when needed. He is the best passer among all the “Bigs” on the list, as evidenced by his 3.5 assists per game. A capable scorer, Halil has outstanding footwork in the low post. His jump shot is respectable and he shoots 27% from the three point line. An very effective position defender, Halil averaged 1.7 blocked shot per game last season. If he can control his emotions and maintain focus this season he should be one of the better Bigs in the A10.
5. Gene Teague, Senior, Seton Hall, 11.2 ppg, 7.2, 0.5 bpg last season.
An imposing physical presence at 6’ 9” and 270 lbs, Teague is traditional low-post, back to the basket “Big.” Blessed with soft hands, Teague is able to establish himself in the low post and finish with a variety of moves. A good athlete, Teague is able to run very well for a player of his size. A very good outlet passer, he is depended upon to ignite the Seton Hall fast break. If he can maintain his physical conditioning, he will be one of the premier “Bigs” in the Big East Conference this season.
6. Anthony Lee, Junior, Temple, 9.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 0.8 bpg last season.
Possessing a very long wingspan and a deft touch around the basket, Lee scores on a variety of hook shots and short jumpers. At 6’ 9” he’s a little on the thin side, but he will continue to add muscle while maintaining his athleticism. With the departure of one the most prolific scorers, Khalif Wyatt, in Temple’s illustrious history, Lee will be asked to provide more scoring this year for the Owls. I look for Lee to more than hold his own against Louisville, UConn and Memphis when they make their way to North Broad Street this season.
7. Steven Zack, Junior, LaSalle, 6.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.3 bpg last season.
A true center, Zack has a tremendous upside. Still filling out his 6’11’’ 240 lb. frame, Zack provides a great front court compliment to Jerell Wright for the Explorers. A little raw offensively, Zack does his scoring very close to the basket. He runs the floor and battles for position every single play. If he can avoid foul trouble on a more consistent basis, I look for his production to increase substantially. It would not be a surprise to see his name mentioned as an NBA prospect, if he continues to develop over the next 2 seasons under the tutelage of Dr. G and the rest of the Explorer coaching staff.
8. Eric Copes, Junior, George Mason, 5.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.1 bpg last season.
Another traditional back to the basket big man, Copes provides a strong presence in the paint for George Mason. He started all 34 games last season and led the team in rebounding and blocks. While his offensive game is still unrefined, he very capable of finishing close to the basket. Copes has exceptional timing and consistently forces defenders to alter their shots at the rim. A very young (20 years old) college junior, Copes could evolve into a high level player in the A10 over the next 2 seasons.
Tie 9. Daniel Ochefu, Sophomore, Villanova, 3.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.7 bpg last season.
While backing up Mouphtaou Yarou last season, Ochefu was limited to 17.5 minute per game. Look for his production to increase substantially with Yarou’s departure. At 6’11” and 240 lbs, he possesses all of the physical tools to be a dominant big man in the Big East. Still learning the game, he will play an important role for the Wildcats this season.
Tie 9. Amile Jefferson, Sophomore, Duke 4.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg last season
Where will Amile play? How much will Amile play? No one can argue against the fact that he is one of the MOST talented Philly kids in college basketball. But a player has to actually play. At Duke, Jefferson played less than 13 minutes per game. Will he play on the wing? Will he play in the post? “I think Amile can play any number of positions. He’s a guy that can play both frontcourt positions, he can play on the wing, he’s a basketball player,” associate head coach Steve Wojciechowki said. I’m including Amile here because he has made an effort to gain weight over the summer. Duke has landed the highly recruited Jabari Parker and he expected to play heavy minutes in the front court. Amile supporters recall his days as a McDonald All-American. College basketball fans are anxiously waiting for the potential to manifest itself in the ACC.
10. Daniel Stewart, Senior, Rider, 10.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 0.7 bpg last season.
Coming in at 6’6” and 215 lbs, Stewart is an undersized Big who relies on quickness and exceptional athleticism to compete against much larger opponents. An outstanding leaper, he is known for finishing with power and force at the rim. Stewart does an exceptional job rebounding and defending the basket for Kevin Baggett’s Rider Broncs. If Junior Fortunat can continue to develop as a low post presence, look for Stewart to expand his game and flourish as an offensive force during his senior season.
11. Marcus Kennedy, Sophomore, SMU, redshirt last season.
12. Dartaye Ruffin, Senior, Drexel, 6.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 0.7 rpg last season.
13. Fran Dougherty, Senior, Penn, 12.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.1 bpg last season.
14. Will Barrett, Senior, Princeton, 9.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 0.7 bpg last season.
15. Shaquille Duncan, Junior, Morgan State, 7.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.2 bpg last season.
16. Malcolm Gilbert, Junior, Fairfield, redshirt last season.
17. John Davis, Freshman, Towson, high school last season.
18. Jeremiah Worthem, Freshman, Robert Morris, high school last season.
19. Carl Baptiste, Senior, Delaware, 4.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 0.4 bpg last season.
20. Junior Fortunat, Junior, Rider, 4.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 0.6 bpg last season.
21. Xavier Harris, Junior, Fairleigh Dickinson, 4.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, o.4 bpg last season.
Others to watch:
Julian Moore, Penn State
Quadir Welton, Saint Peter’s
Jai Williams, Saint Joseph’s
Darian Nelson-Henry, Penn
Darryl Reynolds, Villanova
Zac Tillman, Monmouth
Yohanny Dalembert, James Madison
Dominique Reid, Niagra
Xavier Lundy, Rider
Steve Smith, Fairfield
Contact Delgreco K. Wilson at email@example.com