Where are Today’s John Chaney & John Thompson?

The NCAA has consistently implemented a series of increasingly stringent academic reforms. These reforms have disproportionately impacted Black student-athletes from under-performing urban and rural schools in the South.

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When the initial reforms were proposed and implemented John Chaney and John Thompson took incredibly strong stances. They cited the “racist” nature of the measures. They openly criticized the NCAA.

Today, prominent Black coaches and professional athletes are noticeably silent. This despite the fact that the most restrictive and discriminatory reforms are set to become effective August 1, 2016.

This had led me to ask: Where are today’s John Chaney and John Thompson?

I’ve spoken to a couple hundred young student-athletes in the Philadelphia area over the past 3-4 weeks. Maybe 1 in 20 have ever heard of John Chaney and John Thompson.

Our children do not know our history. They have no idea of their place in the struggle for inclusion and equality. As a result, they are not prepared to navigate the traps that have been set for them.

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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

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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

Do Y’all Even Give A Fuck? Notes of a Madd Ol’Head

With the start of the High School Basketball season upon us, the Black Cager has few things he wants to get off his chest… This information is presented “WITH LOVE” and nothing I write is directed at any particular individual… However…

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Yo… HS Coach, why you tryin’ to get that boy to transfer to your school?

You know the average SAT score at your school is 650… You know the kid is at a good school right now… The average SAT score at his current school is 1280… His science labs have modern, functioning, state of the art equipment… Your school has 15 year old text books and the students have to share those…

Last year, there was one suspension at his school. There was a heated argument and one girl slipped and called another girl an “ugly bitch.” She fucked up and said it in front of that nosey meddlesome group of parents that volunteer at the school 3-4 days a week. Of course, they reported her to the Head Master and his hands were tied… He had to suspend her for one (1) day… That’s as bad as it gets at his current school…

Last year, at your school there were 4-5 fights per day. Everyday, weapons and potential weapons are confiscated as students arrive for their daily trek through the metal detector gauntlet. There are 3 armed police officers assigned to your school. One of the rooms adjacent to the main office has been converted to a “holding cell.” The police make trips to take “offenders” to the station for processing.

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The counselors told you that there were 23 pregnancies at your school. You took three of your players to the clinic when you realized they were “burning.”

C’mon man… How…..

How do you even broach the subject of the kid transferring from such a well regarded, high achieving learning environment to your abysmally under-performing school? One hundred percent of the students at his school are admitted to college and many end up in Ivy League institutions. Conversely, only about 26% of the Black males in your school will actually receive a diploma.

Does high school basketball mean that much to you?

Are you really willing to place your desire to win a league, city and/or state championship above the clear cut “best interests” of this young man?

You’re fucked up!

Yo… AAU coach, why you trying to get that boy to change AAU programs?

He’s been with those guys for six (6) years. When they first got him, he couldn’t make two consecutive layups. He was garbage… No one wanted him.

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That range from anywhere on the floor all the way out to NBA three… It didn’t just appear. Those guys put in hundreds of hours in the gym working on that jumper. That soft touch around the rim, where he uses both hands to finish with a variety of moves, is the result of intensive drills day in day out. You know how he gets in the triple threat position and uses jabs and shot fake? Well, they work so well because those guys spent countless hours improving his first step.

When they got the kid, he was soft as cotton candy. Now, he fights hard to get good position on the block, and even harder when crashing the offensive glass. That’s the result of reinforcing the mental aspects of the game day in and day out for years. They have developed a kid with a strong personality with great confidence who never gets down on himself. There are few doubts about him becoming a big time impact talent at the collegiate level.

Now… You want him to abandon those guys and come play with you?

He already has 23 scholarship offers… How does changing programs benefit him?

Are you really gonna place your desire to win AAU tournaments and secure a shoe company endorsement over what’s best for the kid?

You’re fucked up!

Yo Mom… Why you not playing the parental role?

That boy is only 12… I know he can be a handful. He’s going through that stage. He’s trying to figure out who he is.

He wants to be a baller!

But… Pay attention… I mean… seriously…

Pay attention

You need him to be a student-athlete. Or, should I say STUDENT-athlete! In order to accomplish that goal, he needs his parents to play a parental role.

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Black student-athlete at his desk

I know it seems innocuous… The “mentor” seems nice… He looks out for your son. He picks him up almost every day to go to the gym. He feeds him before he brings him back. He’s given him 6 or 7 pairs of sneakers. I know it feels like a real burden’s been lifted off your back. Those sneaks cost $125-$200 a pair.

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Your son seems happy… He’s traveled to New York, the Jersey Shore, Washington, D.C, Virgina Beach and Orlando to play ball. There’s no way you could have afforded to take him all those places.

I understand… But… Nothing is free…

Here is where you need to be careful. The “mentor” is gonna come and tell you that your son should change schools. He’s gonna tell you that his current school cannot “develop” your son to his full potential. He’s gonna tell you that your son should go to “Big Catholic/Private HS.” He’s gonna tell you it’s a much better school and he may be right in that regard…

What he isn’t telling you is that he has a relationship with the coach at “Big Catholic/Private HS”… He isn’t gonna tell you that the transfer is designed to ensure that he strengthens his “control” over your son’s scholastic basketball career…

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Knowing full well that you can’t afford to pay $9,000, $22,000 or even $30,000 per year, he’s gonna tell you that your son will receive a “scholarship.”

Beware… If your son does not develop as player the “scholarship” funds will disappear. If your family decides to move, you may find out you have accumulated a balance that will have to be paid in full before your school records are released to his new school. If you son has disciplinary issues, you may discover that same balance is due the day they ask you to leave.

I can safely predict that they will tell you that you son need to repeat a grade (reclassify) when he enters “Big Catholic/Private HS.” The stated reason will be that he is inadequately prepared for the more rigorous curriculum. The extra year will allow him to become acclimated to more challenging academic setting. The more pressing, and often unstated, reason is that 19 year old seniors are more effective high school players than 17 or 18 old seniors.

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You may agree with all of the above, but it should ALWAYS be your decision. Do NOT relinquish your parental control.

When the college coaches start to call, text and direct message your son, make sure you are in the loop. It may seem convenient to let the mentor “handle” his recruitment. College coaches are worse than the most persistent bill collector you have ever encountered. They are relentless and the amount of communication can seem overwhelming. But, it’s part of the process.

Always remember that the interests of the mentor and those of your family might be aligned and they also might NOT be aligned. There may be outstanding academic colleges offering your son a scholarship but unwilling to make donations to the mentor’s “program.” If a less prestigious, less competitive college is willing to make a donation to the mentor’s “program” he will steer you toward that program. More importantly, you may never even know the other school offered a scholarship.

Are you really gonna place your convenience above the best interests of your son?

If so, you’re fucked up!

Which begs the question: Do y’all even give a fuck?

 

Aaron McKie, Tyrone Pitts: From Evictions to Big 5 Success

What do you see in this picture?

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Aaron McKie, Temple ’94 and Tyrone Pitts, Penn ’88

Most people probably see two American success stories… Aaron McKie (left) earned over $50 million dollars over the course of a solid 13-year NBA career. Drafted in the 1st round of the 1994 NBA Draft by the Portland Trailblazers, McKie was a key player for Portland, Detroit and Philadelphia. He finished his playing career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Philly hoop heads will see a Simon Gratz High School graduate. They will recall his prolific three-year career at Temple (1991-92 thru 1993-94). A Big 5 legend, McKie started for all 92 games of his career, averaging 17.9 points per game while leading the Owls to 60 wins, three NCAA Tournaments and a trip to the 1993 Elite Eight.

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Hall of Fame Coach, John Chaney and Aaron McKie

McKie was an honorable mention All-American (1993). He was named first-team All-Atlantic 10 (1993, 1994) and a member A-10 All-Championship team (1993). He balled out in the local rivalry games and was named first team all-Big 5 every year of his college career (1992, 1993, 1994). In addition, McKie was named Atlantic 10 Conference and Philadelphia Big 5 Player of the Year for his performance in the 1992-93 season, when he averaged a team-best 20.6 points per game.

Tyrone Pitts (top right), born and raised in Camden, New Jersey, is the largest minority general contractor in Southern New Jersey. This year, his firm KL Pitts Construction will generate in excess of $20 million in revenue. Like McKie, Pitts made his mark playing in Philadelphia’s Big 5.

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Tyrone Pitts with a picture depicting the balance between books and basketball

A high flying Palestra favorite and an All-Ivy League player, Pitts finished his career at the University of Pennsylvania with 1301 points. After trying out for the Philadelphia 76ers, Pitts embarked upon a highly successful 7 year professional career in several overseas leagues. Once his playing days were over, he returned to the Ivy league an assistant coach with Cornell University.

Longing to return to the Camden/Philadelphia region, Pitts joined Speedy Morris’ staff at LaSalle University. However, his training in Wharton business school allowed him to see business opportunities where others could not. For a while, he tried to maintain his responsibilities as a basketball coach and manage his investments in Camden real estate.

It soon became obvious that he would have to devote his full attention to managing over 100 full-time construction workers on multiple commercial, public and residential projects. Over the past year or so, his firm has totally renovated 175 low-income housing units in Camden and built a 110 unit senior housing complex in Lindenwold, New Jersey.

What you don’t see in the picture…

You don’t see the scared and insecure boys that came home from school to find padlocks on their front doors and their family’s precious few belonging strewn across the sidewalk. “I was in seventh grade when we got evicted from our house,” Pitts said. ”You can imagine the feeling I had. You come out of your house and see your things lying on the sidewalk. That feeling that hit me that day was something that I’d never like to come back to me again. From then on, I was kind of determined to succeed.”

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Belongings on sidewalk following eviction

Addressing a group of children and community organizers at a Philadelphia Youth Basketball Foundation event, McKie conveyed the same feeling. “I came home one day and we were evicted. All I can remember is that there was a big padlock on our door and we no longer lived there. I’ll never forget that feeling.”

Pitts and McKie came of age in the 1980‘s. Cities like Philadelphia and Camden were in the throes of the crack epidemic. North Philadelphia and Camden had long been poor, highly segregated neighborhoods in which a majority of individual adults were either unemployed, had dropped out or never been a part of the labor force. Most of their peers were dropping out of school and many were entry level “lookouts” or “hand to hand” participants in the booming illegal street drug game.

But not these guys…

Pitts and McKie embraced sport as a way to help them develop and become productive citizens by learning life lessons. Despite growing up in the midst of despair and chaos, they were able to develop positive social sphere through sports. Basketball participation offered countless opportunities for socialization activities such as team work, fair play, respect for others and personal discipline.

Forced to deal with evictions and all that goes with that process, Pitts and McKie used basketball to develop coping mechanisms for anxiety, stress, and other factors that make up a low income urban Black male adolescent’s life.

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A street in Camden, New Jersey

They leveraged basketball for access to education…

For McKie and his Temple running mate, Eddie Jones, it was a close call. Both were declared ineligible as freshmen by the NCAA. As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer in July 1990, “Sources close to the program said 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.”

Time out…

Think about this for a minute… In 2013, the average SAT score at Simon Gratz High School was 682. Keep in mind that in 1994, four years after McKie and Jones sat for the test, the nation’s SAT scores were “recentered.” In other words means that every child in America got something like 100 free points added to his score. So… the current Gratz HS average of 682 is equivalent to 582 when McKie actually sat for the exam. That’s an indicator of how poorly the academic program at Gratz prepares students for college entrance exams.

Gratz kids ain’t supposed to make it… Shit… only 26% of Black males graduate in four years from Philadelphia’s woefully under-performing public schools.

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The NCAA has spent thirty years closing the window of opportunity for guys like McKie and Jones. They were fortunate to have John Chaney in a position to give them an opportunity to play collegiate basketball. For that, McKie is eternally grateful…

“This is the university that gave me an opportunity at life when no one else wanted to,” McKie said. “I was a Prop 48 coming in … I’m forever grateful to Temple … I was able to get my degree in 4 years.”

Pitts made the transition from the hardscrabble streets of Camden to one of the most competitive and highly regarded business schools in the nation. He has been able to apply his business education and improve the lives of Camden residents. His firm has been responsible for the construction and/or renovation of thousands of units of low-income and market rate housing. He employs hundreds of Camden residents in high paying construction jobs.

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Recognizing the importance of education, Pitts also co-founded the Arline Institute which provided small-group tutoring to over 6,000 low-income students attending under-performing public schools.

According to Pitts, “Attending Wharton allowed me to develop the skills necessary to apply the theories needed to overcome challenges in places like Camden. It helped me be in a position to make a positive impact.”

Basketball was the gateway for these success stories. When they had nowhere to live, they had their teams. They had their youth coaches. They had the structure that basketball provided. It helped them avoid the fate that befell so many of their contemporaries.

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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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Why Did He Commit to Them? Toward A Better Understanding of the College “Decision” Process

What the fuck? Why?

Why did he commit there? Why didn’t he choose us? Why didn’t he come to our school?

Our academics are better! We win more! We produce more pros! Shit makes no sense…

Many resort to knee-jerk accusations that the kid was “bought off” to explain the decision… They had to cheat… Why else would he choose them over us?

Every year around this time, passionate alums and casual observers rack their brains trying to make sense of decisions made by 18 and 19 year old elite Black male student-athletes. Indeed, an entire multi-million dollar industry has emerged dedicated solely to tracking the college selection processes of elite predominantly Black male student-athletes. Scout and Rivals are two of the biggest media enterprises dedicated to in-depth coverage this annual race to sign the very best scholastic ballers. Rivals was purchased for $100 million by Yahoo in 2007. Scout generates over $100 million in annual revenues.

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Malik Ellison committing to St. Johns

Despite intensive media coverage, very little thought is given to the actual decision-making process itself.  Core questions at the center of the ‘mainstream’ dialogue are fairly easy to delineate: Where will Black male athletes sell their athletic labor in return for an athletic scholarship? Which predominantly White NCAA Division I institution will profit generously in return?

The Black Cager is dedicated to going a little deeper than that. I want to foster understanding. So… How can we begin to make sense of these “decisions” made by thousands of young Black men entering collegiate athletics every year?

I want to provide a basic framework for understanding the all too often overlooked decision-making process. While the analytical focus is on urban Black male basketball players, the framework can be applied across racial and ethnic backgrounds as well as geographic settings. Many white ballers from the cornfields of the mid-west face the same circumstances.

My basic hypothesis is that predominantly white college sports fans, alums, writers and even coaches assess the decision-making process from a purely “rational” point of view. In doing so, they consistently fail to understand and appreciate the limits or “bounds” the student-athlete operates under. As a result, the observers are usually confused and unable to comprehend why decisions are made. This confusion leads many to make unfounded and unwarranted accusations about the character and integrity of the process, the student-athletes and their families.

What are the limits and constraints? What are the “bounds” imposed upon student-athletes making college decisions? Elite Black male student-athletes facing college decisions have to work under three unavoidable constraints.

  1. They only have access to limited, often unreliable, information regarding possible alternatives and their consequences,
  2. The human mind has only limited capacity to evaluate and process the information that is available. And,
  3.  only a limited amount of time is available to make a decision.

Therefore even student-athletes intent on making rational choices are bound to make satisficing (rather than maximizing or optimizing) decisions in complex recruiting situations. This vital fact is overlooked by disappointed and frustrated supporters of programs that lose recruiting battles. Moreover, it is not addressed by ‘mainstream’ sportswriters and analysts trying to explain outcomes to their targeted audiences.

All they know is, to them, shit don’t make no sense… As a result, message boards are flooded with nasty, vile and even racist attacks on young men that chose a program other than theirs.

Mookie NLI

Tamyra ‘Mookie’ Laws committing to Holy Family University

Fans fail to understand that these limits (bounds) on rationality make it nearly impossible for student-athletes and their families to consider every contingency, necessitating reliance on advisers, ‘handlers’ or even agents operating behind the scenes.

Black male student-athletes, like everyone else, are to some extent rational beings in that they will try to logically understand things and make sensible choices. This is rightfully assumed by most observers. Collegiate sports fans, alums and college coaches assume that student-athletes have preferences among the colleges offering scholarships that allow them to state which option they prefer.

From a purely rational perspective, these preferences are assumed to be complete (the student-athlete can always say which of two college programs they consider preferable or that neither is preferred to the other) and transitive (if college A is preferred over college B and college B is preferred over college C, then A is preferred over C).

However, observers make the mistake of assuming student-athletes take account of ALL available information like academic reputations, graduation rates and probabilities of events like winning conference championships, appearing in the NCAA tournament and being drafted by an NBA team. It is further assumed that a student-athlete weighs the potential costs and benefits in determining preferences, and acts consistently in choosing the self-determined best choice of action.

That’s how most causal observers think the process works. But…. That’s not how it actually goes down…

For elite Black male student-athletes the college recruitment process is extremely daunting and complex, and they do not have the capacity to understand everything. As noted earlier, they only have access to limited, often unreliable, information regarding possible alternatives and their consequences. Yes… college coaches are able to make an unlimited amount of phone calls and text messages to recruits. Of course, they do everything they can to get their message across to the young men.

For many student-athletes this quickly results in hundreds of calls and/or text messages per day. As a result, coaches begin to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher, “whaaan, whann, whann, whann, whann…”


Coaches understand this, even if fans don’t, so they rely on the development of intermediaries like AAU/grassroots coaches, HS coaches, family members, friends, girlfriends, etc. to deliver messages to student-athletes. Unfortunately, in many instances, the “interests” of the intermediaries supersede the interests of the student-athletes. “If he comes with us, we’ll take care of you or your AAU/HS program” is the message the intermediaries hear. In this way, information reaching the student-athlete becomes limited and unreliable regarding possible alternatives and their consequences.

At this point, the possibility of a truly ‘rational’ outcome has been compromised. The student-athlete is receiving skewed information.

Rakeem Graduate

Rakeem Christmas Graduated from Syracuse University in 3 years

Further complicating the process is the fact that the human mind has only limited capacity to evaluate and process the information that is available. This is especially so for urban Black male student-athletes. The athletes and their family members very often do not possess the intellectual tools required to adequately understand the process as it unfolds.

It’s really bad… Really, really bad…

On August 24, 2015, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that “nearly half of all adults in [Philadelphia] – more than half a million men and women – lack the basic skills necessary to qualify for postsecondary training or hold jobs that permit them to support a family. Many function below eighth-grade levels.”

How are parents and grandparents that can’t read supposed to sort through the labyrinth of NCAA regulations and appropriately weigh the options available to them? They can’t….

The student-athletes themselves may be in an even worse position. A recent study by the Schott Foundation for Public Education found that the four-year HS graduation rate for Black males in many of America’s urban areas was profoundly abysmal. Detroit, MI (23%) has the lowest Black male graduation rate in the country (in Detroit only 13% of White males graduate from high school within a four year period), followed by Philadelphia, PA (26%), Clark County, NV (27%), Pinellas County, FL (28%), Cleveland, OH (28%), New York, NY (28%), Chatham County, GA (28%), Richmond County, GA (29%), Duvall County, FL (29%), and Norfolk, VA (31%). For the 26% that remain engaged in school, in 2014, 42 percent of students met the reading standards bar set by the state on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, down from 42.3 percent. In math, 45.2 percent met standards, down from 46.9 percent.

Plainly stated, many student-athletes and their families lack the educational foundation necessary to adequately process, evaluate and process information available on the various collegiate programs offering athletic scholarships.
bembry-dunk-twitter 
DeAndre Bembry dunking on VCU
Then on top of that, there is limited time to make a decision. The NCAA manages the daily operations of a National Letter of Intent (NLI) program that includes 650 Division I and Division II participating institutions. Through the establishment of signing periods, the NLI program imposes deadlines on student-athletes and their families. And, there’s always the possibility that another player may take the desired scholarship.
Most elite Black male scholastic student-athlete are confronted with limitations imposed by poor educational backgrounds, a lack of understanding NCAA regulations and other factors. Given this set of circumstances, there is no way student-athletes can have a complete understanding of the recruiting process before having to make a decision.
Within this context, truly ‘rational’ decisions become impossible… What emerges are decisions that are ‘good enough’…
Information, more or less, tends to change people’s decision. Every student-athlete is limited by the decisional limitations outlined above. The better the athletic prowess, the more complex the issues become, thereby increasing the cognitive load. And where there is cognitive overload, student-athletes rely upon coping mechanisms to arrive at a decision.
They settle for a school that is ‘good enough’ as opposed to finding the ‘best school’. Black male student-athletes end up choosing a school that meets most of their goals instead of going for the optimal solution.

 

This is where college fans and alums become confused. They wonder: Why did he choose a school that hasn’t been to the tournament in 10 years? Why did he choose a program that doesn’t have as many NBA players as ours?

In choosing college destinations, in can be argued that there are no optimal decisions, but choices that are in some sense locally optimal at best. The implications of these decisions are based on bounded rationality, which is senseless to observers applying rational logic, but completely sensible for the student-athlete making the decision.

Elite Black male student-athletes do exactly what makes the most sense to them, in the context of the moment, with their current understanding. If you are a white college educated-male with college educated parents that were in a position to pay for your education you likely have no frame of reference for understanding this process.

It ain’t personal… Cut the kids a break…

Philly’s AAU/Grassroots Voice: An Interview with Kamal Yard

“Teams play game after game after game, sometimes winning or losing four times in one day. Very rarely do teams ever hold a practice. Some programs fly in top players from out of state for a single weekend to join their team. Certain players play for one team in the morning and another one in the afternoon. If mom and dad aren’t happy with their son’s playing time, they switch club teams and stick him on a different one the following week. The process of growing as a team basketball player — learning how to become part of a whole, how to fit into something bigger than oneself — becomes completely lost within the AAU fabric.”
Steve Kerr
Head Coach, 2015 Western Conference Champion Golden St. Warriors

“AAU basketball.. Horrible, terrible AAU basketball. It’s stupid. It doesn’t teach our kids how to play the game at all so you wind up having players that are big and they bring it up and they do all this fancy crap and they don’t know how to post. They don’t know the fundamentals of the game. It’s stupid.”
Kobe Bryant
5 Time NBA Champion
17 time NBA All-Star

“If you’re playing defense in AAU, you don’t need to be playing… I’ve honestly never seen anyone play defense in AAU.”
Michael Beasley
NCAA All-American 2007-08
2nd pick in 2008 NBA Draft

“AAU is the worst thing that ever happened to basketball…”
Charles Barkley
1992-93 NBA MVP
11 time NBA All-Star

“It’s 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. If I can win the 11-and-12 year old league and tell all my friends about it, that is a whole lot more important than if my kids actually get any better or learn anything about the game.”
Stan Van Gundy
Head Coach, Detroit Pistons

The consensus is clear… The experts, the people whose opinions are valued most by fans and observers of collegiate and professional basketball, have emphatically declared that AAU basketball ain’t worth shit… Is that a fair assessment? One rarely has an opportunity to hear the other side. What do AAU guys think about the role they play?

The Black Cager sat down with Philadelphia’s most renowned AAU/Grassroots basketball figure for an in depth discussion. Kamal Yard is the director of Philly Pride a grassroots basketball program sponsored by Under Armour. He is also a marketing consultant with Under Armour charged with developing strategies to increase brand awareness in the Greater Philadelphia region.

Kamal Yard

Kamal Yard, Philly Pride Basketball

Black Cager: How long have you been involved in AAU/Grassroots basketball and how did you first get involved?

Kamal Yard: It’s funny man… For me, it started with my early years at the John Chaney/Sonny Hill basketball camp in the mid 1980’s. The camps were held at Cheyney University and on the Ambler campus of Temple University. During the camps, they had something called “lecture time.” During and lecture time, Mr. Hill and Coach Chaney would always talk about the importance of giving back. That was their main thing “giving back.” And, then you look at the camaraderie of the Chaney/Hill camp and the Sonny Hill League it was all about service. So that kinda like planted a seed in me that never left. Since then, I always wanted to establish a program that provided young kids in Philadelphia with structured, supervised and well organized opportunities to play basketball.

SonnyHill

The legendary Sonny Hill

Black Cager: Most people are unfamiliar with the nuances and subtleties of AAU/Grassroots basketball in the Philadelphia area. Team Final, WE R 1, Team Philly and Philly Pride are the elite boys programs. Your partner program Philly Triple Threat, led by Eric Worley does a phenomenal job on the girls side. Team Final and WE R 1 are known as programs that feature elite Division 1 players, however, Philly Pride has developed a niche whereby you serve student-athletes that tend to come from less than ideal family, educational and social situations. How has that come about?

Kamal Yard: Honestly… I get motivated when people tell me a kid can’t make or won’t make it. When people say a kid is a “problem” or a “head case” I actually become more attracted to the kid. I’m from 25th and Diamond and I wanna help the kids that the other programs don’t want to deal with. Now, we’ve had some kids that were can’t miss in terms of their family and educational backgrounds. Garrett Williamson (St. Joseph’s), Ryan Brooks (Temple) and Darryl Reynolds (Villanova) all came from Lower Merion High School. These were kids that would have graduated from college without basketball, their families situations were straight. But for the most part, we tend to have kids from the “hood.” That’s just a commitment on my part. I’m the guy that will give kids a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th chance. Every situation is different, every case varies.

Black Cager: That’s a very interesting point. I can think of situations where the cases vary within single families. Let’s examine the White family. Older brother Desean, spent a season and a half at Providence, he transferred in the middle of the 2005-06 season to La Salle. After sitting out a year, he was dismissed from the team and never played a game for the Explorers. White then moved on to Delaware but was again dismissed from the team after being ruled academically ineligible. White ended up playing his final two years at Northwood, an NAIA school in Florida, where he was coached by former Villanova legend Rollie Massimino. There, he was a two-time NAIA First Team All-American. His younger brother, Devon had a much different experience.

Kamal Yard: Devon is a success story. Devon is a straight up success story. Absolutely! Look man, I don’t think of these kids as failures because sometimes they go and they try the school thing and it doesn’t work out. Most of the times it works out for the kids, but sometimes it doesn’t. What do you do? Do you throw him to the wolves because it doesn’t work out or do you try to pick him up? In my mind Desean and Devon are successes. Devon graduated from LaSalle and he even went on to pursue a Master’s degree at Niagara. He’s playing professionally overseas and taking care of himself and his family. That’s what this thing is all about.

devon white

Devon White, LaSalle University

Black Cager: When did you make the transition to a sponsored program and travel team? How did that come about?

Kamal Yard: First, when my cousin Cuttino Mobley was drafted into the NBA in 1998, he was with Nike so we were sponsored through a Nike “community deal.” How it worked was like this, we got the same amount of product that all the other Nike sponsored teams received. This arrangement was part of Cuttino’s contract with Nike. He simply diverted some of the compensation to our program through a “community deal” arrangement. We received sneakers, bags, T-shirts and uniforms. We had that arrangement for the duration of his career. That arrangement was good, it was really good for us. Then we switched over to Under Armour after he retired in 2010.  I also became a consultant for Under Armour. In 2011, our program became officially sponsored by Under Armour… I just took that and ran with it. We currently have 370 kids in our program from 3rd grade through 11th grade, girls and boys.

Black Cager: Before I became acquainted with you, my perception of Under Armour was that it was a football, work out gear focused company. I didn’t really view them as a force to be reckoned with in the basketball marketplace. I did not associate Under Armour with basketball.

Kamal Yard: Nobody did… So, the first thing I did when I started working with them was to make sure all the top kids in the rec centers became familiar with the brand. I put up banners in rec centers, sponsored leagues and gave away shoes to all the little kids. I made sure all the top kids had it on in North Philly, Southwest Philly, South Philly, West Philly. Then I went out and signed up some of the best high schools. I signed Imhotep to a contract with Under Armour. Then I went after Roman Catholic and Chester High and signed them to their contract. At that time MCS was emerging and Vaux had Rysheed Jordan so I signed them. That was an important step. You have to remember at that time Rysheed, Aquille Carr and the Harrison twins were among the most highly visible high school players in the country. By having the top guys in Philly, Baltimore and Houston they really helped drive brand awareness in the inner cities. Under Armour really didn’t have a lot of pros at the time. We had Kemba Walker and Derrick Williams, other than that we didn’t have anyone in the league. The young guys kinda fueled the shit for Under Armour. They kinda served the same role as professional endorsers. Aquille was hot as fish grease down there in Baltimore. They called him the “crime stopper.” He had like 50,000 twitter followers. Rysheed had 30,000 twitter followers and the Harrison twins had a huge following. It really helped that we had Rysheed in Philly and he was a pretty popular player. And, then you have the success of the high schools we sponsored. Rysheed and Vaux won a state championship. It just helped catapult it and now it’s all over Philly.

Rysheed Vaux

Rysheed Jordan, Vaux High School

Black Cager: That’s really interesting… What would you say to someone that looks at that strategy and feels that you are just branding them and trying to turn them into future Under Armour consumers?

Kamal Yard: The reality of the situation is that in places like Baltimore, Philadelphia and Houston the publicly funded opportunities are gradually disappearing. The taxpayers are walking away… When we were kids you could play in the league at the rec center, you could play in free summer leagues, you could play junior high basketball, you could play junior varsity basketball. All of these publicly funded opportunities are disappearing. I feel a duty to leverage my relationship with corporations like Under Armour to provide opportunities for kids to play, participate and be within structured and supervised organizations. As far as the players, I’m with my guys for life. For me it’s about the high I get when I pick up a poor inner-city kid and take him off to college in front of his young siblings and little kids in the neighborhood. For me seeing the looks on those kids faces builds my confidence and my self-esteem. Right then, right there, I feel like I have a million dollars in my pocket. Think about the Whites. Everything didn’t pan out for Desean, but Devon watched his mistakes. Devon did everything he was supposed to in school, never had any issues with anybody. That’s how that shit go. We’re not trying to brand kids. I guess that comes with the territory. But, I’m doing this to save lives. I’m trying to go to graduations. My man Scootie Randall ‘bout to get married.

Scootie Randall

Scootie Randall, Temple University

Black Cager: Run off some of the names of players that came through your program that went on to play in college.

Kamal Yard: Scootie Randall (Temple), Ramone Moore (Temple) Rahlir Jefferson (Temple), Garrett Williamson (St. Joseph’s), Tyrone Garland (LaSalle), Jesse Morgan (Temple)… I don’t normally include guys like Darryl Reynolds (Villanova), Miles Overton (Drexel) and Ryan Brooks (Temple) because they would have made it college without our program and without basketball. They just came from really stable educationally focused families, but they were an important part of our teams. They would have been good no matter what. I always like to cite guys like Jeremiah “Lump” Worthem (Indian Hills Junior College), Quadir Welton (St. Peter’s) and Malike Starkes (Cecil Community College). Those are the guys I go after, because I feel like I can fix all of ‘em. You can’t tell me I can’t. We also had guys like Vinnie Simpson (Hampton), he was tough. I think I got over 100 guys that received Division 1 scholarships. I would bet that I have the most in this area by far. For a while I was getting 8, 9 or 10 a year. On Scootie’s team we had Larry Lougherty (Penn), Russell Johnson (Robert Morris), big Dev White (LaSalle) and Charles White that went to Hartford University. Charles is from the projects, he got his degree and he just got a big job with the Philadelphia Housing Authority.

Black Cager: How do you respond to the criticism that AAU programs don’t work on skill development and focus almost exclusively on playing games?

Kamal Yard: Honestly, the top tier programs… They got those kids in the gym. I know we do. We do mandatory stuff every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. But 5 days a week you can catch Sean Colson in the gym doing skill development for our program. We have 5 different coaches like that. Colson is coaching my 17u team and a Philly Public League product from FLC. He played at Charlotte University and in the NBA. With Colson, it’s really all about the “giveback” we talked about earlier. He’s an AAU coach and he’s also a high school coach. He understands the commitment, he understands the need to give back to the kids and sharing what he has learned. His whole thing is really making kids better. That’s all he talks about. If he could be in a gym 7 days a week making guys better that’s what he would be doing. I’m happy that he’s with us. I’m happy we got him. If you look at everything we do it’s really all about service to our kids, service to our community and service to our staff. I had to convince him to take the Martin L. King job. The principal at King came from Vaux and he told me he needed a coach. I told him I know just the guy and told Colson to take the job. We went back and forth for about 6 weeks because he still had offers to play overseas. Ultimately, I was able to convince him that this was a perfect opportunity to give back. For us, we take care of all of our people. You can’t be asking people to do all this volunteer shit and then not have a plan for them. I want all my coaches to be ambitious. They have to want to move on and be a college coach or high school coach. We want to see them progress. We take care of our guys.

colson

Sean Colson, Philly Pride and Martin L. King, Jr. head coach

Black Cager: I think the recruitment of one of your current players, Charles Brown, gives a clear indication of how AAU/grassroots basketball is more important that high school basketball.

Kamal Yard: It is… it’s not the AAU guys fault… It’s just changing times… The college coaches, especially the coaches from the bigger conference tell me they don’t wanna see a kid like Charles Brown playing in a high school game against guys that aren’t even Division 3 prospects. A lot of this ties in with the way scholastic hoops has become saturated. The explosive growth in the number of charter schools means there a lot more teams, but there hasn’t been an increase in the number of players. These teams have to field teams. It’s watered down the basketball… What, if you are a D1 coach… are you gonna come see Charles Brown play against Palumbo or Esperanza? You are not coming to see that stuff.. If you wanna get a good gauge on his ability you wanna see him against Division 1 prospects. If you come to an Under Armour session, there are 40 17u teams and about 40 16u teams. With one plane ride you can see at least 100 Division 1 prospects.

Charles Brown pic 2

Charles Brown, St. Joseph’s University commit

Black Cager: In Philadelphia, there’s a concentration of talent at say 6,7 or 8 high schools. These programs are so stacked up that some really talented players don’t an opportunity to play. Guys like Brown, DJ Newbill (Penn State)  and Jarrod Denard (Claflin) leave one high school because they don’t get any playing time and emerge as All-State players at another school.

Kamal Yard: Take a program like Imhotep. Brother Andre Noble is doing an excellent job. Brother Andre is just like us.. He is all about giving back and lifting up the kids. Once you’ve been around him you gain an appreciation for all the things he does to take care of his kids. Now… Brother Andre looks at and feels that he has one of the best programs here. He has the best structure. So.. he’s going in… he’s getting the best talent. His program is just like DeMatha. DeMatha has kids that don’t play. They have kids that don’t qualify. Here in Philly, Roman Catholic has kids that don’t play a lot and transfer. People just aren’t used to seeing public schools doing it. Calculate the number of kids that have left different Catholic League schools over the past 5 years.

Andre

Brother Andre Noble, Imhotep Head Coach

Black Cager: Let’s talk about Philly college hoops… Which programs make the most sense for Philly kids? If I sent you my son and he was a D1 player which school would you suggest?

Kamal Yard: Imma keep it real with you… I’m a pro-Philly guy. If I was King for a day, if I could make rules I would make a rule where all of the top guys have to stay in Philly. I think that would reverberate throughout the Philly basketball community. Everyone would be better off. More assistant coaches would get head jobs. There would be higher salaries for the coaches and better attendance at the games. The talent level is so high here that if Philly kids were able to really infiltrate the City 6 programs shit would be bananas!

Black Cager: Do you think we are moving toward that? Kids are starting to stay home after watching many of those that left transfer back to City 6 schools. It seems the younger guys are learning from the experiences of the guys that came before them.

Kamal Yard: I think throughout the history of college basketball in Philadelphia, the better prospects, the better players always left. Wilt Chamberlain (Kansas), Andre McCarter (UCLA), Gene Banks (Duke), Dallas Comegys (DePaul), Pooh Richardson (UCLA) and Rasheed Wallace (North Carolina) all left. You have some that stayed like Michael Brooks (LaSalle), Cliff Anderson (St. Joseph’s) and Lionel Simmons (LaSalle). But for the most part, the better guys have always left. I think one of the main reasons kids leave is because it’s so rough around this city… The parents really influence that… They wanna get their kids away from the violence and mayhem they have seen all their lives. A lot of times the coaches get real petty and blame it on the kid, but in reality it’s the parents. If I’m raising a kid here for 18 years and I’m going to funerals all the time, first thing I’m thinking is my son is getting the heck outta here. If you go see the campus at the University of Virginia or you go out UCLA that’s the first thing you are thinking. I’m getting my kid as far away as possible from Philly. Take a kid like Savon Goodman (Arizona St.) at the end of the day he could have stayed here. But he had a pretty rough upbringing and when it came down to it his people were like you getting outta here. Same thing with Rakeem Christmas who grew up in Southwest Philly, his Aunt Amira was like you are going away. I do think it goes in cycles. At different times a lot of kids go away and at other times a lot of kids stay home. For me, I remember going to Big 5 games and I remember the intensity and the level of competitiveness Randy Woods (LaSalle), Aaron McKie (Temple), Bernard Blunt (St. Joseph’s) and all those guys played with. I think a lot of that was because those guys really knew each other. I think you are going to see more of that. All it takes is for some of these local kids to blow up and make to the NBA. I’m good with all the coaches.. I think all of ‘em do a good job. One thing about all the coaches, they are real Philly guys. I’ll never forget about ten years ago we were in a war down in West Virginia. Phil Martelli was so caught up in watching the game that he started yelling at the refs on our behalf. He got really loud and might have said some strong words. The refs threw him out the game… He actually got kicked out the game. The refs told him to get out and he said F you! He wasn’t faking it… I honestly can say, the area coaches are Philly guys to the core.

wilt-chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain, Kansas University

Black Cager: If you were an AD or if an AD asked you and he needed a coach which current Philadelphia assistants would you recommend?

Kamal Yard: Right now, Geoff Arnold and Ashley Howard are everyone’s favorites. I think Geoff in terms of the type of person he is has everybody pulling him. Geoff is special. You know there are some guys that Geoff helped get into coaching that are now head coaches and Geoff has no bitterness towards anybody. So, selfishly speaking I would like to see Geoff get his shot. But I think Ash might be next up because he’s at Nova and he’s done an unbelievable job everywhere he’s been. When you talk about Geoff and Ash, I believe you are talking about 2 of the best assistant coaches in the country. I really do. They can really recruit. Look at the class St. Joseph’s just got. St. Joe’s doesn’t get those guys if Geoff’s not there. Look at the players Villanova’s gotten since Ash has been there. It ain’t no secret that when Ash was at Drexel they were able to win 28-29 games. Damian Lee was his parting gift to Drexel. He goes to Xavier and they get Semaj Christon. He goes to Nova and the DC pipeline really starts to open up. So at the end of the day, I think either one of those guys will be phenomenal coaches and they will recruit the hell out of Philly.

Geoff  & galloway

Geoff Arnold, St. Joseph’s Assistant Coach and his nephew New York Knick’s guard, Langston Galloway

Black Cager: A program like Rider, led by Kevin Baggett gets a lot of Philly kids. What would it take for a program like Delaware to really make inroads in Philly? Outside of Temple, they have the best facilities in the area.

Kamal Yard: I think that visibility is really important. I know Monté is from here, but I can’t tell you the last time I’ve seen him. When was the last time he was in a barbershop in Southwest? When is the last time he was in a barbershop in West Philly? You know what I mean… I know as coach, a lot of times you can’t go to games like that but I think visibility is really important. If they could have some games where they play at Temple, at LaSalle or at St. Joseph’s every other year that would increase their visibility. But all it really takes is for them to get one that has a solid career and graduates. They can go from there. Delaware is a sleeping giant.

Monte

Monté Ross, University of Delaware Head Coach

Black Cager: Penn has had 2 Black coaches, Princeton has had 2 Black coaches, Bruiser’s been at Drexel for 15 years. Coach Chaney was at Temple for 25 years. Rider has a Black coach. Delaware has had 2 Black coaches. Maryland has had a Black coach. Georgetown and St. John’s have had two Black coaches. Rutgers and Seton Hall have had Black coaches. The Philadelphia Catholic universities, LaSalle, St. Joseph’s and Villanova have never had Black coaches. Why are some schools more successful in attracting and hiring Black coaches and does it matter to guys like you that are advising elite prospects?

Kamal Yard: I think each situation is different. However, if it is overly and abundantly clear that a school doesn’t have Blacks in senior positions then that should be a problem. Because when I’m trying to tell a kid to go to a particular school or advise him on his decision one of the things I tell him is that  you have to open your eyes up and open your ears up. Who’s gonna be role models for the kid? Hypothetically, say they go to the University of Virginia and Craig Littlepage is the AD. That’s telling you that job is an attainable goal for you. You are seeing more African-American ADs. Temple has one. There’s a little progress being made and I think it comes from us complaining. But it’s still not enough. Blacks make up 70-80 percent of the players. It’s not just a problem at the college level. Look at the high school level. Catholic schools in Philly may have had, maybe 4-5 Black coaches in the history of the Philadelphia Catholic League. Two of them were from West Catholic. That is an issue. Where is our network? Shit is important.

craig-littlepage

Craig Littlepage, University of Virginia Athletic Director

Black Cager: Thirty years ago, John Thompson, John Chaney and Nolan Richardson spoke out against what they perceived as attempts to limit or reduce the Black presence through increasingly restrictive academic requirements based on standardized test scores. Who is gonna speak out today? Where are our Chaneys, Thompsons and Richardsons?

Kamal Yard: We don’t have any… We are in an era where there is an overall lack of support for those fighting these measures. At one time, we had some power. When Thompson, Chaney and Richardson were in there battling they were very secure in their jobs. Now guys have to worry about job security. There is no security now. I think we need to start real small and build the opposition to some of the things the NCAA is implementing. I want to bring guys together… I think dialogue like this is real important.

Black Cager: Thanks for taking the time to give us your thoughts on these important issues. The Black Cager is very pleased to provide you with a platform to counter the very negative narrative usually associated with AAU/grassroots basketball. We wish you the very best in July. Philly Pride is the 3rd seed in the Under Armour Association and will be expected to vie for the national championship this summer. Let’s hope Phil doesn’t get kicked out of the gym rooting for you guys.

May 28, 2015

2:00 pm

Charles Brown & Ryan Daly: Two Elite Philly Shooters

Philadelphia is known for producing tough, highly skilled basketball players. Every year, college coaches trek to the City of Brotherly Love from all parts of the country in search of Philly ballplayers.  In recent years, Jaquan Newton made his way south to Miami, Rakeem Christmas just finished a brilliant career at Syracuse and Savon Goodman is toiling away out west at Arizona State. These players, as well as others like Jabril Trawick (Georgetown) and Maurice Watson (Creighton), embody what coaches have come to expect from Philly ballers.

Entering the collegiate ranks in the Fall of 2016, Charles Brown (Philly Pride/George Washington HS) and Ryan Daly (Jersey Shore Warriors/Archbishop Carroll HS) possess a skill that sets them apart on the Philly landscape. These guys can flat out shoot the ball.  They are both very confident shooters, especially when the game is on the line. Brown recently hit a game winning 3 in the first leg of the Under Armour Circuit in New Orleans. (congratulated by his teammates, far right).

Charles Brown pic 1-page-0

Brown can put the ball on the floor and create his own mid-range shot from anywhere on the floor and he doesn’t need much space to get his shot off. Over the past year, he has become adept at getting defenders off balance using pump fakes and he is very difficult to guard because he possesses a quick and consistent release on his shot.

At 6’6″ 180 lbs Brown (below) possesses very good size and terrific length. A young player, that never re-classified, he isn’t very physically strong. He displays good overall athleticism. Brown has decided to spend the 2015-16 school year at St. Thomas More Prep School in Connecticut. His aim is increase his strength and quickness while playing in the super competitive New England Preparatory School Athletic Council.

Charles Brown pic 2Brown has offers from Drexel, Hofstra and Robert Morris. He has also been receiving interest from high major programs like Alabama and Maryland. When asked about his recruitment, Brown expressed a desire to stay close to home. His parents have consistently attended his high school and AAU games. The Brown’s are a close knit family. He made it clear that he really likes St. Joseph’s. “Coach [Geoff] Arnold has been very honest with me from the beginning, he has provided me with information that has helped me understand my options. He has developed a relationship with my family. My parents and I are very comfortable with St. Joseph’s.”

Ryan Daly Pic1For the past two seasons, Ryan Daly has been used as a shooting specialist that wasn’t asked to do much else in the high powered Archbishop Carroll program. Paul Romanczuk has produced six Division 1 level players while Ryan has been in the program. Austin Tilghman (Monmouth), Derrick Jones (UNLV commit), Ernest Aflakpui (Temple commit), David Beatty (multiple offers), Josh Sharkey (multiple offers) and Daly will all play Division 1 basketball.

Surrounded by this vast array of talent, Daly gets the vast majority of his shots spotting up, coming off of screens, and spreading the floor in transition. He has a tremendous outside shot, making 60 3-point shots this past season. Employing textbook form with great touch, he loves to shoot the three ball. He has shown that he is able to knock it down with a hand in his face, but is simply lights out when he’s unguarded. One of the area’s best catch and shoot players. In high school competition, he has been running off of screens and floating to the open spot on the perimeter for two years.

While running for the Jersey Shore Warriors on the AAU circuit, Ryan instinctively gets open as the play develops. He is very good at coming off screens, and is becoming more effective against quicker guards who can close him out quickly and get a hand in his face. Daly is an excellent  midrange shooter and will  knock down jump shots from all over the place with consistency. He is also an outstanding rebounder from the backcourt, making effective use of his strength and determination.

Standing 6’4″ and weighing in at a solid 195, Daly is an outstanding student. He has offers from 2 Ivy League schools (Penn and Brown) as well as Hartford (America East). He has also received interest from several other schools with strong academic reputations (Lafayette, Davidson and Quinnipiac). Daly says academics and geographic location are very important to him. He wants to attend a “good college” that lies somewhere between Connecticut and Virginia/North Carolina. His mother, Tracie is the daughter of the late Jim Boyle, a legendary player and successful coach at St. Joseph’s. His father, Brian, is a former Philadelphia Catholic League Player of the Year and also a former St. Joseph’s Hawk. While he doesn’t necessarily want to be in the Philadelphia vicinity, Daly does want his family to be able to attend as many of his collegiate games as possible.
For college coaches in need of elite shooters… Brown and Daly will be ready and willing to suit up in the Fall of 2016.

The Epitome of the STUDENT-athlete: It’s the RAK!!

Come on
Ha hey yo stop playin man
This is real serious
Ha… It’s the Roc… yeah yo

Jay-Z, “Guns & Roses”

 

Black collegiate student-athletes should strive to be like Syracuse Superstar Rakeem Christmas. He has blazed a trail that should be followed. He represents all that “could be and should be” in collegiate athletics.

Rakeem GraduateSyracuse Graduate, Rakeem Christmas

For the most part, collegiate Football and Basketball fans either don’t know or don’t care about the dismal academic outcomes for black male student-athletes. They acknowledge and loudly applaud their performances in jam-packed stadiums and arenas while ignoring the cold hard fact that half of them will never earn a degree. Within ivory towers across the country, there’s a largely unspoken acceptance among administrators and faculty of black athletes as unconscious accomplices in a naked race for exponentially expanding athletic revenues.

To a considerable extent, black male student-athletes are not viewed as worthy members of learning communities within academic institutions. They are modern-day gladiators, merely entertainers for the rest of the campus community and well-heeled alums.

Stats don’t lie… People do…

Black men among the top 25 BCS schools represent 3 percent of their student bodies but 60 percent of the football players. The performances of 3 percent in football and basketball contests generate hundreds of millions, perhaps even, billions of dollars for NCAA and their respective schools on an annual basis. These revenue streams have evolved into veritable “Nile rivers” of cash.

cardale-jones

Cardale Jones, Quarterback of Ohio State’s National Champion Football Team

Let’s take just a cursory glance at the top lines for NCAA football and basketball. On the gridiron, in 2014, the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC each drew a baseline amount of approximately $50 million in the first year of a 12-year contract. The other five FBS-level leagues will split $75 million. The “BIG” football schools are in the midst of an unprecedented windfall that’s more than five times greater than their combined payday in 2013.

According to Bill Hancock, the College Football Playoff’s executive director, “It’s good for everybody… There’s more money for everybody.” One cannot dispute his assertions, the BCS schools and a few other major conferences have put forth proposals to provide athletes with stipends, to allow athletes to borrow money to obtain injury insurance and to prohibit schools from pulling scholarships from athletes due to injury or poor performance.

They can certainly afford to make these concessions to the players.

USA TODAY Sports has reported that BCS football playoff television revenue will average at least $470 million annually over the life of the contract. Ticket and merchandising sales and sponsorship deals could add $40-50 million annually, on average.

The NCAA makes even more marketing and selling the performances of it’s basketball players.

It is very likely that within the next 48 months, the NCAA will surpass a billion dollars in annual revenue. The exponential revenue growth is a direct result of lucrative television rights for its men’s basketball tournament.

The NCAA cashes in every year during “March Madness.” It wasn’t always this way.

As recently as 1973, when the first wave of Black student-athletes were recruited to all-white Jim Crow athletic departments across the Southern part of the country, TV rights for the NCAA tournament generated only about $1 million. Plainly stated, segregated collegiate sports weren’t generating the enormous revenues we see today.

1967-alabama-footballAlabama’s 1967 Football Team

Let’s recognize that it wasn’t until June 9, 1969 that the University of Kentucky signed it’s first Black basketball player. In 1971, Alabama signed it’s first Black football player.  Over the next decade, Black student-athletes became de rigueur in the American south. The influx of Black student-athletes into major college sports was accompanied by an explosion in revenues. The performances of Black student-athletes have become extremely marketable and valuable. Last year, Men’s basketball tournament multimedia rights accounted for more than $680 million of the NCAA’s nearly $913 million in total revenue.

So… How have Black student-athletes fared? What are they getting out of the deal? Have young Black student-athletes been entering “Faustian Bargains” since the early 1970’s? Have they abandoned their commitment to academic achievement in order to play on the largest stage? Are they modern day equivalents to Roman gladiators?

Shaun Harper, Collin Williams and Horatio Blackman of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity at Penn Graduate School of Education,  reported the following in their study of graduation rates:

~ Across four cohorts, 50.2% of black male student-athletes graduated within six years, compared to 66.9% of student/athletes overall, 72.8% of undergraduate students overall, and 55.5% of black undergraduate men overall.

~ 96.1% of these NCAA Division I colleges and universities graduated black male student-athletes at rates lower than student-athletes overall.

~ 97.4% of these institutions graduated black male student-athletes at rates lower than undergraduate students overall.

By any reasonable measure, Black male student-athletes are struggling. Plainly stated, half of them do not graduate within six years. At nearly every D1 school they graduate at rates lower than student-athletes overall. Moreover, they graduate at rates lower than undergraduate students overall.

The picture is more than bleak! It’s downright scary… Young Black men are entering the chamber and fewer than half are emerging out of the other end with a degree within six years… There’s gotta be a better way…

Who will provide the example? Where is our Beacon on the Hill?

It’s the RAK!!

Rakeem1Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse

The numbers are beyond impressive. Syracuse’s Rakeem Christmas is averaging 18.4 ppg and 9.0 rpg in an astounding senior campaign. One of the favorites for ACC Player of the Year and a sure fire ALL-American, Christmas dropped 35 and 9 on Wake Forest. In his very next game he put up 21 and 10 against Clemson. Miami was victimized for 23 and 8, while he gave North Carolina 22 and 12.

Rakeem is, without question, the most productive BIG in college basketball this season.

However, the greatest numbers he has put up over the past year were 120 and 3.

120 and 3…

Defying the odds and refuting stereotypes, Rakeem Christmas graduated from Syracuse University – earning 120 credits of coursework – in just 3 years.

The Syracuse graduation requirements are very clear. Students must earn a minimum of 120 credits of coursework for the B.A. or B.S. degree. For all students enrolling in the College of Arts and Sciences, 30 of the 120 credits must be taken in upper-division courses. Every major leading to the bachelor’s degree in the College of Arts and Sciences must include at least 18 credits of upper-division work (courses numbered 300 and above) in the field of study.

In an era where half of Black male student-athletes fail to graduate within 6 years, Rakeem graduated in 3.

It’s the RAK!!

Rakeem2After three seasons as a Syracuse starter, Christmas graduated as a junior with a B.S. in communications and rhetorical studies from SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. According to Head Coach Jim Boeheim, Christmas is the first to accomplish this feat. Boeheim said, “It’s got to be about as rare as can be… It’s an unbelievable accomplishment.”

What was the key to his academic success? Is there a secret that can be passed on to other Black student-athletes in high profile D1 programs?

So… Rak, exactly how did you get this done? “I’m just here in the summer time a lot and I was taking a lot of classes… For my major, I was just knocking out a lot of stuff that I needed. So I was getting down to it and I realized I had taken a lot of my major courses.”

Everyone familiar with the demands of collegiate sports is familiar with the obstacles. There are probably a minimum of 15-20 hours practice each week. If you want to get better, you have to exceed the mandatory time in the weight room. In the hyper-competitive ACC there are countless hours spent in meetings and studying film. After all, it is widely considered the premier conference in all of college basketball.

Then after all of that, you have to travel up and down the East Coast to play the games. This demanding schedule takes you away from the classroom. You invariably miss lectures and seminars.

How have you managed this demanding schedule? “The travel is the tough… We’re away from campus a lot, but I made sure I kept in contact with professors, emailing them and sending in assignments.”

Raised primarily by his Aunt, Amira Hamid, Rakeem has internalized her lessons on the importance of developing and refining his ability to prioritize and compartmentalize aspect of his life.

Rakeem and AmiraRakeem and Amira Hamid

“Practice isn’t that bad for me. It’s about two hours out of my day. I practice and I go home and work before going to sleep.”

He admits that road games can be a challenge.

“When we’re traveling, I don’t really want to focus on class work. I’m thinking about the game… But I know I’ve got to get the work done.”

Hamid has instilled a strong West Indian value system in Rakeem.

“I’m pretty self-motivated… My first year, people had to tell me what to do. But I have come to realize that I have to get it done… I learned to pay attention to the little things that you need to do to get it all done.”

Oh…… Rak’s gotten it done….

His freshman year Syracuse went 34-3 and reached the Elite Eight. As a sophomore he helped the Orange to a 30-10 record and a Final Four Appearance. During his junior year, the Orange were 28-6 and made it to the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament.

The team has been incredibly successful. Average attendance in the Carrier Dome was 26,253 in 2014.

Most importantly, Rakeem came out of the chamber early. His degree was firmly in hand after 3 seasons. He is an example for all Black collegiate student-athletes that come after him. He’s committed to helping younger kids understand the importance of focusing and setting priorities.

A McDonald’s All-American in high school, he struggled early trying to find a niche on supremely talented Syracuse squads. Unlike the 604 Men’s Basketball student-athletes that transferred in 2014, Rakeem buckled down, hit the books and worked on his craft. He has reaped the benefits of studying as he makes his way through a Master’s program. Syracuse is reaping the benefits of his perseverance as he slays ACC opponents night in and night out.

A classic win-win proposition… That’s exactly how it should be for every young Black student-athlete participating in collegiate athletics.

“I love Syracuse University! I couldn’t imagine going to another school… I bleed Orange!”

Rakeem4It’s the RAK!!