High Level Basketball: I Found A GREAT Game Tonight!

Like all of you… I’m tired of this shit!

Fuck Coronavirus!

I wish things would return to normal. This is really my favorite time of year. If we had actually been able to “limit the cases to 15 and they soon reached zero” back in the Spring, I would be traveling up and down 95 visiting high school and college gyms.

I would be trying to get a feel for this years version of high school programs like DeMatha (MD), Woodrow Wilson (DC), Paul VI (VA), St. Frances (MD), Sanford (DE), Chester (PA), Trenton Catholic (NJ), Atlantic City (NJ) and Immaculate Conception (NJ). I would be visiting college programs like VCU, Georgetown, George Washington, Maryland, Howard, Morgan State, Delaware, Delaware State, Seton Hall, Penn State, Rutgers, Monmouth and Rider.

Who’s up next? Who’s gonna break out? Which programs are gonna win state championships? Which programs are gonna make the NCAA tournament?

Unfortunately, he lied… Coronavirus didn’t just miraculously disappear when summer rolled around. Moreover, he continues to BULL SHIT all of us…

“We are turning the corner…”

Get the fuck outta here!

The situation is worse than ever… Hospitals all across the nation are close to capacity and talking about rationing medical care.

So… No trips up and down 95… No sneak peeks at the top programs…

Times are hard for hoopheads.

Imagine my surprise when I heard there was a good game scheduled tonight. We all know the schools are NOT currently playing. We ALL know that the PIAA and the NJSIAA are trying to figure out a way forward.

So… this was NOT a HS basketball game…

But, somehow, someway… mystically, magically and fortuitously the players from two of the top high school programs just happened to meet up at 3640 G Street at 7:00 pm.

Who know how these things happen? Who gives a fuck?

For degenerate hoopheads like myself, the only thing that matters is there was actual competitive basketball to be witnessed.

No cheerleaders… No matching uniforms… No Public Address announcer…

Just 20 or so super-talented and highly motivated players, a couple of referees, a scorekeeper and someone at the door pointing a thermometer at every skull that entered the door.

Just so happened that this particular “club” matchup featured players from Archbishop Ryan playing against players from Camden High School.

On August 4, Black Cager released a “Way too soon Top 5 High School Programs” in the Greater Philadelphia Region. On that list, Camden was number 1 and Archbishop Ryan was number 5. That made this game a battle between 2 of the top contenders for mythical Black Cager Pound for Pound title.

This setting, while not ideal, certainly serves a purpose. Kids that have been effectively banned from getting together in their school gymnasiums are able to convene and actually play structured basketball. Prospects seeking to leverage their basketball abilities for access to higher education get to put a performance on film for college coaches that have been chained to their desks since March. The importance of the video cannot be overstated.

All indications are that Division 1 basketball coach will not be allowed to evaluate prospects in person until April 2021 at the earliest. That means that current HS kids will go a full year of playing without college coaches in the stands.

Good video right now could result in anywhere from $200,000 to $320,000 being made available to a family for educational related expenses.

This shit matters…

It should be noted that I am blessed and favored… I have tremendous relationships with many of the kids and parents navigating the recruitment process right now. Prior to this game, I called Ryan combo guard Jalen Snead ’22 and reminded him that he was going to be matched up against DJ Wagner, the Number 1 player in the Class of 2023. In a very direct and forceful manner, I let him know that I expect him to demonstrate that he is severely underrated by meeting that challenge.

Jalen Snead, ’22 Ryan Combo Guard

I also called, Rodney Warren, the father of Aaron Lemon-Warren and let him know I would give him call after the game. He works out of town and could not be in attendance.

I speak with Taquan Woodley every day. We never really discuss his performance. Mostly because there’s really very little variation from game to game… Double-Double with about 4-6 blocks… Book it…

I come in the gym and I see, Bill and Beth Tomasco, parents of Ryan PF Christian Tomasco ‘21. Christian was one of the biggest free agent pick ups of the past off season. While he has a D1 offer and plenty of D1 interest, he wants to demonstrate that he ranks among the best players still on the board. After warmly greeting the Tomascos, I see Christian seated about four feet away from his folk…

“Muthafucka… This is what you wanted!”

I sit next to Christian and remind him that there will be video from this game. I also note that Woodley is, perhaps, the premier BIG still on the table in the class of ’21. A strong performance against Woodley would certainly help Tomasco increase his stature.

A few minutes later, the game gets underway…

As one would expect from a group of kids unable to access their gyms and practice on a consistent basis, the play is a little uneven and ragged at times. But the effort and talent are there for all to see.

Luke Boyd, ’22 Ryan Shooting Guard

Ryan jumps out to a double digit lead early. As usual, sharpshooter Luke Boyd is dialed in… Boyd would finish with a game high 19 points with 5 3-pointers and 3 rebounders. Ivy and Patriot League programs would be wise to reach out to Boyd. A few weeks ago he dropped 22 against Nationally Ranked St. Frances (MD). A pattern is emerging… Big shots from deep in big games…

Snead was relishing his opportunity to play against the best player in the Class of 2023 and one of the premier guards in the country regardless of class.

Last year… Snead was named 1st team All-Muthafucka by Black Cager Sports Media… The Baller TV viewers and those in attendance got to see for themselves how he earned that designation. Exceedingly quick, with long arms he is an excellent defender. He harassed Wagner from start to finish. He was able to consistently stay in front of him, he blocked his shot, he disrupted his dribble… Basically… Snead was a muthafucka defensively…

His stat line for the game was typical Snead… 4 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 block.

DJ Wagner, ’23 Camden HS Combo Guard, ESPN #1 2023

Of course, the uber-talented Wagner would have his moments on his way to solid 13 points, 2 steals and 1 assist. What remains the most impressive aspect of Wagner’s game is his mental toughness. Even when the shots are not falling, he continues to ferociously defend and make plays for his teammates. As a sophomore, Wagner is one of the most mature players I’ve seen in recent years.

Snead, in the opinion of this observer demonstrated clearly that he is a bona fide Division 1 prospect.

Tomasco did what he was supposed to do.

He ran the floor very well. He showed some range from the beyond the 3 point line. Against one the most formidable front courts in the nation, he finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 assists.

Looking ahead and assuming there will be a high school basketball season, Tomasco adds a dimension to this Ryan club that makes them a real contender to return to the Catholic League Final Four for the 4th time in 6 years and maybe take the title back to the far Northeast this year.

Players from Archbishop Ryan

Still working himself into form, Lemon-Warren was solid with 15 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. He is just a complete basketball player. With practice and increased reps, he will be one of the contenders for Catholic League MVP.

As the game wore on, the difference was the relentless pressure on the boards applied by Taquan Woodley (14 points) and Jerome Brewer (17 points). After deploying a full court press to disrupt the early offensive flow of Ryan, Camden’s big duo dominated the boards in the second half.

Now a senior, Woodley has evolved from a high energy super athletic defensive force into a cerebral leader of this version of the Camden Panthers. He is playing the game at his own pace, making sure his teammates are in the correct positions on both ends of the floor, protecting the rim and scoring big buckets when needed.

Taquan Woodley, ’21 Camden HS PF

Earlier today, Woodley formally decommitted from Penn State. Thus far, he has been contacted by La Salle, St. Joseph’s, Temple, St. John’s, Mississippi State, Seton Hall, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Auburn, SMU, VCU and Akron.

He is clearly the “bad bitch” at the bar… Right now, everyone wants to buy him a drink and take him home.

But the best part of my day came when I got home. Earlier, I had gave my friend Gerald Holmes a heads up… Holmes is the highly successful Had Coach of the Division 2 Bloomfield College basketball program in New Jersey. Told him he could catch this game on Baller TV. Always working, Holmes watched intently.

Then at exactly 8:24 pm… A potential 6 figure conversation began…

A great game… indeed!

Thank you Difference Makers, The Miller Report and FiDonce Basketball Player Development…

The importance of the video cannot be overstated.

Players from Camden HS

Open Gym: Camden High

“You want da High?”

“Yo Got da High!”

For decades that chant has roared from the student section in victory after victory as the storied Camden High School basketball program rolled over opponents… In recent years there has been a steady uptick in a program that had fallen on hard times.

Camden has regained it’s place of prominence among South Jersey programs. The question… The ONLY question that matters, is… Does Camden have what it takes to compete with the powerhouse programs in North Jersey?

The names are very familiar… St. Benedict’s, The Patrick School, Hudson Catholic, Rosselle Catholic and Immaculate Conception… With the closing of mighty St. Anthony’s and the retirement of it’s legendary Hall of Fame Coach, Bob Hurley, New Jersey basketball supremacy is up for grabs.

For the first time in recent memory, Camden High may be among the elite programs in the state. They have tremendous size, athleticism and experience.

All of that was on display in an “Open Gym” at the Camden Boys and Girls Club across the street from the now shuttered “Castle on the Hill.” The buzz around this year’s team is palpable. Upon entering the gym, I was warmly greeted by highly respected, long-time independent scouts Chick Gillespie and Allen Rubin. These guys sniff out talented college prospects as well as anyone in the nation.

Seated in the bleachers observing were some of the finest college players of the past 30 years. Pervis Ellison was watching intently. Ellison was the MVP of the 1986 NCAA Final Four, a Consensus All-American, the number 1 pick in the 1989 NBA Draft and a NBA player for more than a decade. Seated a few feet from Ellison was the man himself, Mr. Camden basketball, DaJuan Wagner. Wagner was a consensus High School All-American at Camden High before averaging more 21 ppg as a “one and done” player for Memphis University. His flourishing NBA career was cut short by illness and injury.


L to R, Tyrone Pitts, Pennsylvania, Vic Carstarphen, Temple, DaJuan Wagner, Memphis

Seated next to Wagner and recording the scrimmage was Vic Carstarphen, another Camden High All-Timer who went on to man the point for some very good Temple teams under the great Temple Hall of Fame Coach John Chaney.  Carstarphen was discussing the players with Tyrone Pitts, another life-long Camden resident that played in the Ivy League at the University of Pennsylvania before embarking on a lengthy professional career overseas.


LaMarr Greer (L), Florida State and Camden Superintendent, Paymon Rouhanifard (R)

On the floor, barking directions was LaMarr Greer, a Middle Township HS alum and former Florida State standout. Greer’s son, Corey, is a Division 1 point guard prospect coming off a serious knee injury. Greer participated in all activities, did not wear a brace and moved fluidly while scrimmaging. When asked how he feels, Greer replied “my knee is fine… I just have to get back in basketball shape.”


Corey Greer, Camden Senior Point Guard

Roaming the paint during the scrimmages was a slender, raw 7’0″ center named Osato Iduwe. Still developing his offensive repertoire, Iduwe is a presence on the defensive end of the court. His extensive wingspan consistently alters and blocks shots. He’s a capable defensive rebounder and he plays within himself. He will ably man the center position for Camden.


Camden High power forward/center, Osato Iduwe (center)

Helping out on the boards will be senior SF/PF Myles Thompson. Standing 6’4″, Thompson has really leaned out over the past 6 months. As a result he is much quicker and more agile. At the same, he still has a very refined low-post offensive game. He’s got a nice package… Up and unders… Drop steps… Turn around jumpers… Jump hooks… All done at a very nice pace with excellent footwork.


Camden High senior small forward/power forward, Myles Thompson

Then there’s Lance… Standing 6’9″ Lance Ware is a Top 50 player and it is immediately observable why… He plays like a very fluid 6’4″ wing… He grabs defensive rebounds and immediately begins pushing the ball up court… Head up, looking for teammates…

Remember… Lance is 6’9″…


Camden sophomore small forward/power forward, Lance Ware

He deftly uses a crossover to elude a defender… Head still up… quick no look pass to teammate under the basket for a layup…

Huh? Whoaaaaa…

On one play, after pushing the ball end to end he decided to take off about 10 feet from the basket…

“What’s he doing?”

The ball was extended in his left hand and he jumped off his right foot… After floating for what seemed like 5 seconds, he punished the rim while slamming the ball straight through to the floor… An “ol’ skool” Dr. J one-handed off one leg “gusto dunk”… The gym and all the grizzled basketball veterans said the same thing….


This could be special year for Camden High basketball… Itchy Smith, Milt Wagner, Billy Thompson, Kevin Walls, DaJaun Wagner, and now… Lance Ware!

Everyone is on board… Camden is a city trying to re-emerge after some very trying times… There are signs of progress… Cooper Hospital is expanding, Subaru has come to town, Campbell’s still calls Camden home and the Philadelphia Sixers are poised for a rebirth from their new Camden home…

They are all in… Indeed, Camden Superintendent, Paymon Rouhanifard is working as assistant coach with the freshman team. Tasked with overhauling one of the most challenging urban public school systems in the country, Rouhanifard carves out a few hours everyday to work with kids on the court. The value of his presence cannot be overstated. 


Superintendent Rouhanifard works with a young player on free throws

Black Cager Sports asked him why he believes sports matter in urban education. Rouhanifard responded by saying, “I believe in a holistic educational experience for kids, that means developing the mind, body and spirit of kids. Sports are an integral part of that holistic experience for kids. To take it a step further, especially in Camden, I think sports change kids lives and kids are learning here the same way they learn in a classroom. The skills they gain on a basketball court, volleyball court or a football field are the skills they need to be successful in life. If you’re coachable, show that you are resilient and fight through adversity… All of those things you take with you for the rest of your life.”

Rouhanifard further added, “For me personally, sports changed my life. For some kids, yes, the classroom is where they are more likely to excel or extracurricular activities like chess. But for me personally, sports changed my life… The relationships I had with coaches helped make me the person I am today. I am grateful that I can help pay it forward here.”

“You want da High?”

“Yo Got da High!”