Youngfellas.. If you are the best player in the gym? Leave….

… and go find a gym where guys will push you and make you a better player. Charles Brown, Jr., A Saint Joseph’s University 2016 commit took this advice to heart and tracked down Jameer Nelson and Emmanuel Mudiay of the Denver Nuggets. He spent some time working out with the NBA players. Most importantly, he listened as they talked about different aspects of conditioning and mental preparation necessary to play at the highest level.

CHarles Brown Jameer Nelson

Charles Brown (Philly Pride/St. Joseph’s University) and Big 5 Hall of Famer, Jameer Nelson (Denver Nuggets)

Over this past Spring/Summer Brown exploded on the national scene with a series of phenomenal shooting performances for Philly Pride AAU on the Under Armour Circuit. As a result, he was heavily recruited by Big 10, SEC, Big East and Big 12 programs. A true Philadelphia and a man of his word, Brown never wavered from his verbal commitment to St. Joseph’s. “It was nice to see people recognizing that i could play at the highest level, but I made the decision to become a Hawk a while back. There’s nothing that could change my mind. My mother, my father and the rest of my family already feel like we are part of St. Joseph’s University. Coach Arnold and Coach Martelli have made us feel welcome. I can’t wait to play on Hawk Hill.”

Brown got a chance to gauge himself against the very best today.  Emmanuel Mudiay was a lottery pick of the Denver Nuggets in the recent 2015 draft. He is expected to immediately contribute as Denver makes a push for the playoffs in the super competitive Western Conference. “Emmanuel is super athletic and highly skilled”, said Brown. “It’s really a pleasure to just watch him go about his business.”

CHarles Brown Mudiay

Charles Brown and Emmanuel Mudiay (Denver Nuggets)

Brown reports to St. Thomas More Preparatory School next week. He will be playing in the New England Prep School League for the 2015-2016 season.

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Pussy Is Undefeated!! Youngfellas, Please Take Notes…

Pussy got a better record than Floyd Mayweather. Undefeated every win by KO.

Charlamagne Tha God

Pussy is undefeated…

Some things you learn from your parents… Some things you learn in school… Some things you learn on the streets… Your friends, especially during that awkward transitional period known as puberty, will try to teach you a thing or two…

But, some of the most important lessons in life can only be learned through experience. It’s taken me half a century to come to this realization. Please allow me to give you a few of examples of shit I have come to understand, on my own, over the years.

I was born exactly 50 years ago, January 12, 1965. I came into a world and a nation characterized by strife and conflict. Unbeknownst to me, from the moment I drew my very first breath, my life was directly impacted by European colonialism and the resulting international conflicts.

White Americans and their European 1st cousins rule the world…

Life taught me this important lesson very early on. While I was learning to sit up, hold a bottle, crawl and eventually walk… The United States was heavily involved in a protracted conflict with the communist government of North Vietnam.

As a boy focused almost exclusively on how Ultra Man would overcome the evil monsters and awed by the strength Bam-Bam displayed in the fictional city of Bedrock, I had no way of knowing North Vietnam had run the French Colonialists out of their homeland in 1954. Looking back as I begin my second half-century, it kinda makes sense that the Vietnamese wanted to govern themselves.

ultraman

Ultra Man

Who doesn’t? What people in this world want to be ruled by foreign powers?

George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the rest of the American Founding Fathers wanted the exact same thing and, for that, they are revered and celebrated.

One can almost imagine Alexander Hamilton or Ben Franklin loudly saying “FUCK King George!” The founding Fathers were rightly pissed about the lack of American representation in English Parliament. They really resented direct taxes levied by the English Parliament on the American colonies without their consent. Over time, they came to the conclusion that King George and the rest of England could “fuck off.” They created self-governing provinces, they circumvented the British ruling apparatus in each colony by 1774. Finally, in July 1776, they said “we out!”

We all know the narrative… It’s been drilled into us from Day 1… King George and England were the bad guys. Washington and the other Founding Fathers seeking self-governance and independence were the good guys.

As I came into the world, active US combat units were being introduced into Vietnamese Arena. By the time I was four, in 1969, more than 500,000 U.S. military personnel were stationed in Vietnam.

vietnamChildren running during Vietnam War

The North Vietnamese, like Jefferson, Adams and Franklin 180 years earlier, sought independence and self-determination.

“Fuck the French… We out!”

My toddler brain was only capable of caring about Ultra Man and 1 soldier, Private James Earl Wilson, my father. He was drafted and sent to fight for “his country” I was told.

When he came home, his foot was gone.

That’s how I learned Europeans rule the world… During my formative years, all I knew was that war took my father’s foot. War was bad… Actually, war was really fucked up.

 

To me, Muhammad Ali made perfect sense when he said, “I Ain’t Got No Quarrel With The VietCong… No VietCong Ever Called Me Nigger.” My Pop ain’t have no skin in that game. Yet, he came home without his foot. He made a helluva sacrifice for “his country” and the dying remnants of the French Colonial empire.

This process helped me become an “experiential learner.” That is, it helped me improve my ability to learn a lot of shit on my own.  Experiential learning is a process through which people develop knowledge, skills, and values from direct experiences outside a traditional academic setting. Basically, it’s the shit you pick up and understand on your own.

For example, my teachers in high school and college never explained why George Washington was a revered “freedom fighter” and Nelson Mandela was a “despised terrorist”….

Some shit, I came to learn, you just have to pick up through experience and observation…

Over the past 5 decades, I have learned a lot of things outside the classroom.

White Flight is real…

Every February for as long I can remember, Black school children across the country are reminded that Crispus Attucks was the 1st American casualty in the the Revolutionary War, Frederick Douglass fought against slavery, Jackie Robinson was the 1st Black player in Major League baseball, Rosa Parks refused to give her seat on bus to a white man, Dr. King gave a great speech during the March on Washington and the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court in 1954 ruling ended segregation in American public schools.

WKNnettie.jpgNettie Hunt and her daughter Nikki on Supreme Court steps in 1954

However, my experiences taught me a very different lesson… Every day, I got on buses with 200-300 other Black Darby Township students and we rode right past two predominantly white high schools to get to our predominantly Black high school…

While my history textbooks told me that school segregation was formally declared unconstitutional in 1954, my daily experiences from 1977-1982 taught me something very different… Segregation was very much alive… the Court ordered only that the states end segregation with “all deliberate speed.” This vagueness about how to enforce the ruling gave segregationists in Delaware County the opportunity to organize resistance. Their stall tactics worked for a full three decades.

Finally, after 30 years “all deliberate speed” arrived in the Southeast Delco School District… After, attending schools that were more than 90% Black from K-11, I spent my senior year as a distinct minority in the “desegregated” and newly formed Academy Park High School.

When it opened in 1982, the newly formed Academy Park HS was about 70% White and 30% Black… Today the school is about 70% Black and 30% White…

White flight is very real…

Again, my teachers and textbooks said one thing, my experiences taught me something very different…

This brings me to, perhaps, one of the most important lessons I have gleaned from 50 years of learning shit on my own. Like the examples cited above, the books don’t cover this one. Nonetheless… It’s extremely important.

Young fellas… Pussy is undefeated…. Please take notes!

In this corner some very famous, powerful and wealthy men like Mike Tyson, Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods and most recently Bill Cosby….

And… In the other corner… pussy…

The resulting losses have been breathtaking, monumental and widely covered by the media… pussy has registered some incredible ass whoopings.

As you transition from High School to college, know that this lesson is not discussed in classrooms, you will not be assigned research papers on the topic, books on the subject won’t appear on syllabi… Yet… Eventually, you will come to know it’s the truth…

Of all the lessons Ol’ Heads try to impart on young fellas, this may be the hardest to teach. I have concluded, for many, this lesson can only be absorbed through experiential learning.  Unfortunately, most of us have to experience the body shots, upper cuts, left hooks and right crosses first hand.

One very recent high profile case serves as a classic example…

Over the past decade, David H. Petraeus, a retired four-star general served as commander of American forces in both Iraq (2007) and Afghanistan (2010). After that, President Obama appointed him to lead the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 2011.

Plainly stated, Petraeus was da fucking MAN! He was running shit!!

He was at the forefront of presidential campaign speculation….

It all came crashing down when pussy whooped his ass…

Iraqi FreedomGeneral Petraeus during a briefing at the Pentagon

On January 9, 2014, the New York Times reported that the F.B.I. and Justice Department prosecutors have recommended bringing felony charges against Petraeus.

Essentially, they are saying he was “pussy whooped” and it caused him to lose sight of his role and responsibilities…

According to the feds, he provided classified information to a lover while he was director of the C.I.A. The Justice Department investigation stems from an affair Mr. Petraeus had with Paula Broadwell, an Army Reserve officer who was writing his biography, and focuses on whether he gave her access to his C.I.A. email account and other highly classified information.

Of course General Patraeus is presumed innocent of all charges until they are proven in a court of law… I have no idea if he committed any crimes… That is for Attorney General Eric Holder to determine.

What we know for sure is that pussy kicked his Ass… 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10… He’s out!!

Petraeus admitted as much in a statement as he resigned from the CIA, he stated “after being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment… Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours,” Petraeus said, referring to the C.I.A. “This afternoon, the president graciously accepted my resignation.”

Man down!!

Petraeus was at the pinnacle of power and prestige within the American Government. His future was wide open… Several laudatory chapters in American history books already secured, he was headed for a legitimate run for President… No more… This story plays out over and over again..

Who can forget that day in December 2009 when the immensely proud and intensely private Tiger Woods stood before the world and admitted, “I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves… I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart.”

tiger-woods-02-jpgTiger Woods Apologizing on National Television for “transgressions” during marriage

Virtually unbeatable on the fairways and greens, Tiger suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of…. Pussy.

Down for an 8 count, dazed, trying to make it to the end of one of the late rounds… President Clinton resorted to the following verbal gymnastics while trying to extricate himself from a relentless assault featuring devastating body shots:

“It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is…. Now, if someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true.”

That Georgetown education provide Bill with some ammunition, but in the end it wasn’t enough.  He took the L like millions of other men that came before him.

bill_clinton_denies_monicaBill Clinton denies having “sexual relations” with White House intern, Monica Lewinsky

Young fellas… Pussy is about 973,864,899,034 – 0… More importantly, most of the victories have been secured by way of knockout…

I started thinking about all of this because one of my favorite young bucks, Brandon Austin, is on the ropes… He’s staggering, almost out on his feet… Like Holyfield in the third round of the Bert Cooper fight… He’s holding onto his opponent trying to prevent further immediate damage… On the surface, it looks like pussy’s gonna get another body…

Looks, however, can be deceiving…

When one examines the facts, it becomes apparent that he’s ahead on the scorecards and has gathered himself. Brandon stands a good chance of getting out of this thing alive, he can’t win… But a draw remains in the realm of possible outcomes.

The public’s perception of this particular contest, unfortunately, has been shaped by a series of less than favorable stories in national media outlets.  News purveyors such as the Huffington Post, regularly describe Brandon Austin as “a sophomore accused of sexually assaulting women at two other colleges he attended in the past year.”

On July 28, 2014, the Huffington Post reported that “Austin and two other basketball players were accused of gang raping a female undergrad at the University of Oregon in March. The case did not lead to the district attorney’s pressing charges, but the university did suspend the three indefinitely from the team as players and for up to 10 years from the school as students.”

BRANDON-AUSTIN-PROVIDENCE-facebookBrandon Austin

While condemning the behavior of the players, the story had to acknowledge that “the case did not lead to the district attorney’s pressing charges.”

Yet, a month earlier the same media outlet led with the following headline “Oregon Finds 3 Basketball Players Guilty Of Sexual Assault, Will Remove Them From Campus.”

Huh? Which is it?

Is it possible to simultaneously have no charges filed and be found “guilty”?

Yes… Yes… Yes… Austin has been “accused of sexually assaulting women” at two colleges. But, why not place emphasis on the investigation following the accusations and the resulting outcomes?

A Sexual assault is any involuntary sexual act in which a person is coerced or physically forced to engage against their will, or any non-consensual sexual touching of a person.  By all indications, he had sex with women at two colleges.

Like billions of other men, he likes Pussy…

But, he has NOT sexually assaulted anyone… At least, that’s what the prosecutors and grand jury determined in each instance.

In Providence, the evidence regarding Brandon’s involvement was submitted to a Grand Jury.

The findings are as follows:

“After presentation of the evidence to the Grand Jury with respect to Brandon Austin, it was determined there was legally insufficient evidence to ask the Grand Jury to consider charges against Austin.”

There it is… Plain as day… No charges! Yet, the media insists on finding, crafting, subtly creating a way to label him “guilty.”  Where are the arch-defenders of the process? I’ve seen so many of them on my television… I’ve read their op-eds… I’ve listened to them on talk radio…

In the aftermath of the grand jury decision NOT to indict NYPD police officer Daniel Pantaleo for murder following the strangulation death of Eric Garner, the DA, politicians and much of the mainstream media hailed the fairness of the process.

Staten Island DA Daniel Donovan stated, “No one likes to serve on juries, but they upheld their civic duty and they sat for nine weeks, and they’re the only people that heard all the evidence, and they’re the only people that deliberated…. I think we should respect their decision.”

When revealing the grand jury decision NOT to indict Officer Darren Wilson, St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch declared, “The duty of the grand jury is to separate fact from fiction. After a full, impartial and critical examination of all the evidence and the law and decide if that evidence support filing of criminal charges…”

So… we are told, grand jury decides if there was the commission of a crime. In Providence, the grand jury reviewed the evidence and determined there was no crime.

Bandon’s cases, like others tossed by grand juries across America, is settled. Nothing to see here… Move on…

In Oregon, the Lane County District Attorney concluded that there was “Insufficient evidence to prove charge(s) beyond a reasonable doubt… the conflicting statements and actions by the victim make this case unprovable as a criminal case.”

Again, Brandon was cleared by the legal system. No charges were even filed in either case. He beat all criminal charges…

Despite sensationalistic headlines declaring him “Guilty,” Brandon has NEVER been convicted of any criminal acts.

On the scorecard, Brandon is ahead 2 round to none.  But, all the Ol’ Heads know how this story ends… We all know that Pussy is undefeated…

Legally speaking, the grand jury cleared him in one instance… District Attorney cleared him in another…

As Americans have been repeatedly told after other prominent grand jury and prosecutor decisions NOT to prosecute… “I think we have to respect their decision.”

He has been cleared of all criminal charges, but like General Petraeus, Tiger and President Clinton his reputation has taken a beating.

He’s in his corner right now… He’s listening to his corner men… The cut man is on standby…

I just wish I could find a way to let him, and other young bucks, take advantage of the things I have learned over the course of the 50 years I have spent on this earth… Some things, I wish they didn’t have to learn from experience.  At the top of that list is the fact that…

Pussy is undefeated.

So, when did you fall in love with the Big 5? Alton McCoullough to Temple, 1978!!

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Guy Rodgers (center), Naismith Hall of Famer

For me it was 1978.  College wasn’t the norm around my way.  I grew up in the southern section of Darby Township, PA a small rigidly segregated town bordering Southwest Philadelphia, about 2 miles from the Philadelphia Airport.  In the mid to to late 1970s, the southern end of Darby Township consisted of a cemetery, three traffic lights, Eddie’s Hot Dog stand, about 7 or 8 churches, 2 bars and a populations  of around 3,000 sports crazed Black people. Demographically similar to nearby Philadelphia and Chester, PA with an Apartheid-like political and social structure straight out 1960‘s small-town Mississippi, Darby Township was a wonderful place to grow up if you enjoyed sports. For most, however, the athletic journey ended with high school.

Looking back, it seems we punished opponents on fields and courts, at least in part, because we exercised very little political, economic and social power in Delaware County.  The Northern, predominantly white, section of Darby Township held, and continues to hold, political power through a permanent 3 (white) -2 (Black) representative structure on the Township Commission.  The political deck was and is stacked against Blacks in the southern end of Darby Township.  However, within the athletic realm, more or less, the playing field was fair.

In September 1977, I was 12 and like virtually every one of the other 200-225 boys in Darby Township Junior-Senior High School, I wanted to play for one of the Darby Township Eagles varsity squads. That was the long-term goal.  There wasn’t much else to do other than march with drill teams or go to bible study.  Being rhythmically challenged and a certified sinner, I chose basketball.  This was before the advent of personal computers and home video games. There was no cable television. Cell phones were something on the Jetson’s cartoon. Crack cocaine had yet to be invented and disseminated within poor and working class Black communities. There was no AAU circuit.  No programs sponsored by sneaker companies.  It was truly a different and far less complicated time.

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Jim Williams, Led Temple in scoring and rebounding from 1963-66

For most boys, there was but one outlet.  In Darby Township you went to school and after school you went to practice. Then, when you came home, you played some more.  Finally… when the games came around, you tried to punish the opposition. That’s all I knew.  I didn’t realize that Darby Township, along with Chester and Darby-Colwyn were considered to be on the lower-end of the county’s socio-economic scale.  I just knew when the horn blew, Darby Township came to play.  Expectations were high and justifiably so.

In 1975, when I was 10 Darby Township won the State Class A Basketball title. Two years later in 1977, an undefeated Darby Township squad was knocked out of the PIAA playoffs by eventual state champion Elk Lake. That spring, DTHS finished second in the PIAA small-school track championship.

In the fall of 1977, I entered the Darby Township Jr-Sr High School. I was truly blessed.  This was the Golden Age of Darby Township Athletics. A period when Darby Township produced some of the greatest scholastic teams and individual performances in Delaware County history.  This was time when the dream of college became a reality for me and so many of my teammates and classmates.

CHANEY ALLEN ROBINSON

John Chaney

One of the first things I noticed upon entering the building was Cardall Baskerville. While the rest of the nation beyond Darby Township focused on Walter Payton, Franco Harris and Tony Dorsett, Baskerville was my football hero. In my mind, he was the greatest running back on the planet. He averaged 6.9 yards every time he toted the rock. You had to see it in person… He would run through a lineman and linebackers like they made of goose feathers and popsicle sticks. Once beyond the line of scrimmage, he would cut sharply, start running upright, change gears and leave defenders smelling fumes for huge chunks of yardage.  Damn… He was good!

How good was Cardall? Darby Township’s coach, Alonzo Covert, said at the time, “He has everything a coach could ask for in a running back.” Covert coached the Eagles to the school’s first undefeated, untied season that year.  Baskerville’s exploits were recognized throughout the area.  The Philadelphia Eagles Alumni Association named Baskerville Delaware County’s Player of the Year. On December 18, 1977 during halftime of the Eagles vs. Jets game at Veterans’ Stadium Baskerville was introduced to 56,000 fans.  In my 12 year old mind, this was huge… I thought the whole world knew about Cardall.

Every day, I would be in awe just watching him walk through the halls.  The future seemed so secure.  Surely he would go to college and then off to the NFL. Shit… I knew he would win the Heisman like Bonner’s John Cappelletti and go on to NFL glory. He was the best in Darby Township, that meant he had to be better than a guy from Bonner.  There were no naysayers… There was no doubt that he was good enough… “This is just the beginning of what Delaware County is going to hear about Cardall Baskerville,” said Covert. “I have received many inquiries about him from colleges that play major college football. They always ask if he can be a Class A college player. I tell them he can be a Class A-plus player. I believe that he could play for Nebraska or Oklahoma or Southern Cal and I’m talking about next year.” You would hear whispers that Syracuse and Penn State were in the school to see him… Man, I was impressed.

Unfortunately, his football career ended at Darby Township High School. Like so many extremely gifted, record setting, young Black Darby Township athletes, Baskerville did not qualify academically to play collegiate sports. He never played beyond scholastic level.  To this day everyone that saw him play remains convinced that the nation was cheated because Cardall didn’t get to keep toting that rock at the collegiate level.  His life would end tragically when he committed suicide a few years later.  It didn’t make sense… How could he be that good and NOT go to college?

Marck Macon

Mark Macon

That really shook me up. How could the best player on the best team in the area not go to college. I tried unsuccessfully to make sense of this situation… I was young, impressionable and did not possess adequate analytical tools… All I knew was… Nobody could stop him. They never lost a game. This didn’t make any sense. Was the system rigged?  I had no understanding of SAT exams and the college admissions process.  It just didn’t seem fair… He was better than everybody.  I felt doomed.  If Cardall couldn’t make it, I had absolutely no shot!

Could anyone actually make it out and play in college out of Darby Township?  At 13, I knew a couple of DTHS alums like Leroy Eldridge (Cheyney St.) and Chris Arnold (Virginia St.) had went on to star at historically Black colleges, but even they were very few and far between.  Moreover those guys graduated in the 60s and were pretty far removed from me… What about the guys I went to school with?  Was college a possibility?

Alton McCoullough and Vince Clark, Baskerville’s extremely talented running mate, would answer those questions for me when they enrolled in Temple University in 78 and 79 respectively.

A key player on the undefeated 1977 Darby Township basketball that lost to Elk Lake in the Final Four, McCoullough led Darby Township to the State Championship game in 1978 where they lost to Father Geibel.

But most importantly, Alton went onto Temple University. At that point in Darby Township, this was a gigantic accomplishment. A kid from Darby Township was playing basketball at the highest collegiate level. While we were all from the “wrong side of the tracks”, “Big Al” was from the “Center.” The Center is a Delaware County Public Housing Development… It’s what some call “the projects.”  At the time, my family was living in another subsidized housing development a few blocks from the Center.

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Aaron McKie and John Chaney

If “Big Al” could go from the Center to Temple, we all could go to college.  Immediately, I loved Temple.  I spent the next four years buying newspapers just to see the box scores. There was no ESPN, no Comcast Sports, if you wanted to follow college sports you had to exert a little effort.  Big Al went on to have a very solid career at Temple. Over four years (1978-192) he would score 1,051 points and grab 673 rebounds while playing on one NCAA tournament team.

However, his biggest accomplishments, his most important feats did not take place in McGonigle Hall. They took place down the Center court.

In a way, I’m sure he never fully understood, Alton brought Temple University to Darby Township and influenced a generation of young Black boys.  He didn’t bring the bricks and mortar.  He didn’t bring the books.  He brought the “idea” of Temple to Darby Township. Al and his teammates were real live Temple ambassadors in Darby Township.

Every summer, Al would bring Rick Reed, Kevin Broadnax and Neil Robinson to play in the Darby Township Summer League. While Lynn Greer, Sr., Leroy Eldridge and other highly regarded players competed as well, the buzz was most intense when Big Al and the boys from Temple were up next.  I was never disappointed.  It during those moments that I began to grasp the difference between high school and NCAA Division 1 athletics.  Broadnax was the first person I ever saw extend his arm parallel to the court while dunking with enormous force.  He jumped that high.  Robinson was one of the tallest players in the league and one of the better ball-handlers.  This did not make sense to my 13 year old mind.  Rick Reed was just the man.  I remember it like it was last week.  Temple Basketball was part of Darby Township, Darby Township basketball was Temple basketball as long as Al was on the team.

The games were played at the “Center” court.  This court was a “bottle throw” away from the projects. I know this because  my man “Peep-Sight” proved it when he hurled 4 or 5 beer bottles from the projects into the jump circle from the projects during one hot summer night when they wouldn’t let him play.

They simply swept up the glass and kept it moving… Darby Township had it’s share of “issues.”

The college boys from Temple, for me, represented what was possible.  They let me believe I could overcome the whatever issues presented themselves.  They gave me hope.  Al and the other Temple players were incredibly accessible. They spent hours hanging and talking with the younger guys and, of course, made time for the young ladies that gathered on the fringes of the court every night.  Temple, from 1978 to 1982, became Darby Township’s team. One of my friends and teammates, Robert Carter, became so enamored with Rick Reed’s game that he literally adopted the moniker “Rick Dunk” which stuck throughout his own illustrious playing career.

Temple University gave young Black boys in this small community hope.  By adopting Alton and Vince, Temple let us know that we were good enough. Temple wanted us. Temple respected us.

eddie_jones_1994_02_20Eddie Jones

In 1979, Baskerville’s running mate, Vince Clark, would set a state single game rushing record by piling up 438 yards against Yeadon. Clark, like McCoullough the year before, would accept a scholarship to play at Temple. He would go on play two years seasons for the Owls carrying the ball 35 times and gaining 167 yards. That same year Jim McGloughlin from neighboring Collingdale also agreed to play at Temple. St. James’ Donny Dodds would also join the Owls shortly after.

For young kids, Black and White, from the “wrong side of the tracks” Temple University seemed like the only place that would welcome us. In retrospect, once Alton and Vince “made it” to Temple, one could sense a change among young poor Black boys in Darby Township. College was now a very real option. The question was no longer if, but where, would you go.

I fell in love with the Big 5 basketball and Temple University in 1978 when Alton McCoullough enrolled at Temple University. That love was reinforced in 1979 when Vincent Clark moved to North Broad Street.  Until then, I really didn’t know anyone other than my teachers that had attended college. By embracing Alton and then Vince, Temple broadened my horizons.  By bringing Temple basketball to Darby Township every summer, Alton provided a lot of guys with role models, inspiration and a a clear example of what was possible.

Doug Ambler and Rick Pergolini were young guidance counselors at Darby Township during this period. They often cite the period of 78-82 as the Golden Age of Darby Township Athletics. According to them more Black boys from Darby Township went on to college during that era than at any other time in the history of Darby Township. It all started with Big Al going to Temple.

I know that idea of college wasn’t “real” for me until I saw Big Al, Reed, Broadnax and Robinson playing ball down the “Center.” If those guys could make it to Temple, I knew I was smart enough to go to college.

Ten years later, I had fellowship offers from schools like Michigan, Ohio State, California-Davis, Delaware, and Maryland-College Park. They wanted to pay my tuition and pay me to attend their respective graduate programs. Not bad for a kid raised by a single Mom on the “wrong side of the tracks.” Not gifted enough to be a Division 1 athlete, these schools were recruiting me to “study and perform research.”

The idea, the notion, the thought that I could really attend college grew from seeing Alton McCoullough and Vince Clark, my DTHS heroes go on to attend Temple University.

Tyndale_400

Mark Tyndale

Since then, I have followed Temple basketball closely.  I appreciate how Temple continues to provide young poor students and student-athletes an opportunity to improve their life opportunities.

For a quarter century, I watched John Chaney carve out a Hall of Fame coaching career at Temple’s, all the while loudly proclaiming that he was giving opportunity to the less fortunate among us. I bore witness to the example Coach Chaney set by confronting racial discrimination in a most direct and forceful manner. For instance, in January 1989, Coach Chaney emphatically declared, “The NCAA is a racist organization of the highest order… On this day, it instituted a new punishment on black kids who have already been punished because they are poor. Any time the NCAA, which is 90 percent white, considers the youngsters in Division I basketball and football, it discriminates, because 89 percent of the kids are black… I wonder what message they are sending. It’s another hardship for black kids made by white folk.”

That, for me, is Temple University.

Throughout my lifetime, Temple has represented the vanguard for racial equality and opportunity for advancement for Blacks in college sports.

Temple hired an African-American football coach when people were still wondering if we could play the quarterback position. Temple gave Dawn Staley, a product of the Raymond Rosen Housing Development in North Philly and her first opportunity to coach at the collegiate level. Right now, Temple has one of a few major college athletic programs headed by an African-American.

More than any other University in the region, Temple has provided opportunities for young poor and working class Black students and student-athletes.

xmas

Dionte Christmas

It’s hard to understand how Temple alums that came of age during the aforementioned eras allow a handful of alums and Temple sports fans to publicly spew bitter and racist vitriol aimed at the community surrounding Temple and it’s residents.  That’s NOT the Temple way.

Temple featured a Black back court of Guy Rodgers and Hal Lear in the mid-1950s. Jim Williams led Temple in scoring and rebounding in 1963-64, 1964-65, and 1965-66.  John Baum did the same in 1967-68 and 1968-69.  Ollie Johnson starred for the Owls throughout the early 1970s.

In 1978, Temple reached out grabbed a poor Black boy from Darby Township and gave him a chance to perform on the big stage.  As a result, the rest of the town embraced Temple and scores of young Black boys would go on to play sports and graduate from college.  At 13, I old took notice and embraced the dream of attending college and beyond.  Throughout my twenties and thirties, I wholeheartedly embraced everything John Chaney and the Temple basketball program represented.

As I approach 50, it pains me to see some Temple alums adopting perspectives that would have absolutely killed the spirit of that impressionable 13 year old boy.

But what hurts even more is the apparent unwillingness of the majority of Temple alums to confront racist, bigoted and homophobic statements in a way that affects change.  It needs to cease.

Hopefully, good will prevail and those articulating negative ideas will be made to feel uncomfortable.

One can only imagine what would have been written on a Temple message board when Rodgers and Lear played in the 1950’s.  Would Temple fans support the aforementioned position and statements of Coach Chaney?  I prefer to believe that the Temple community, as a whole, would have embraced their Black students and student-athletes.  After all, that’s the image Temple has cultivated over the course of it’s distinguished history.  It’s a legacy that is both admirable and valuable.

To a large extent, the impressions of contemporary high school students and student-athletes have of colleges and universities are driven by television and social media.  Thirty-seven years ago, my understanding of what Temple University represents was forged by extensive direct contact with and first hand observation of young men from the University’s athletic department.  I wanted to be like those guys.  I wanted to play college basketball.  As I got older, I wanted to follow the example set by Coach Chaney and confront bigotry, racism and discrimination head on.  I remain committed to that task.

To me… that’s the Temple way of doing things.  Maybe things have changed more than I thought on North Broad Street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NJ Playaz, Team Final and WE R1: AAU Done Right

Steve Kerr-page-0

Is Steve Kerr correct?  Has the process of becoming a better team basketball player “become completely lost” within the now dominant world of AAU basketball?  Kerr’s sentiments have been echoed by many within the basketball hierarchy.  Detroit Piston’s Head Coach, Stan Van Gundy says, “[AAU] is a bad system for developing players… They aren’t learning to handle the ball, they aren’t learning to make plays against pressure. The emphasis with our high-school players is to get exposure and play as many games as you can and show everybody how great you are.”

The deeply held pessimism is enough to make one wonder if there are any redeeming aspects of AAU/grassroots basketball.  Nonetheless, any knowledgeable basketball person will tell you AAU/grassroots circuits (NIKE, Under Armour and Adidas) have superseded high school in importance for aspiring collegiate and professional players.  Hence, parents face a quandary, do they forgo the most significant platform in terms of exposure and high level competition because of the concerns expressed by coaches like Kerr and Van Gundy?  Or, do they try to identify AAU programs doing the things the “right” way?  I’m going to assume that virtually every parent will choose the latter course of action.

This begs the question:  What does AAU/grassroots basketball look like when it’s done right? Of course, first and foremost the program must be competitive.  Of course, a good AAU program has to win tournaments.  Kerr complains that winning is devalued.  He significantly overstates his case.  Winning matters and it matter a lot.  No one wants to play for a program that get’s smoked game after game. Nobody wants to be on the wrong end of 20, 30 even 40 point blow outs in front of ACC, Big East, Big 10, SEC and A10 coaches. Good AAU programs win games. Some of the very best AAU programs are in the mid-Atlantic region. NJ Playaz, Team Final and WE R1 are doing AAU/Grassroots basketball the right way. They win and their players consistently go on to play at next level.

These are grassroots organizations with well-established support structures and developmental programs that have improved the quality play among their participants. It should be noted that high quality programs enhance the athletic, educational, and social development of the student-athletes. It can’t be all about winning AAU games and tournaments. But, make no mistake these programs win a lot of AAU games and tournaments.

Playaz Peach Jam2014 NIKE Peach Jam Champions, NJ Playaz

In 2014, Team Final, led by Rob Brown, was the regular season champion of the NIKE EYBL circuit. Their 14-2 record was the finest in what is widely considered the most competitive grassroots league. Jimmy Salmon’s NJ Playaz (pictured above), led by All-American Isaiah Briscoe (Roselle Catholic HS) won the prestigious Peach Jam title. The Peach Jam Tournament provides a culmination for teams playing on the NIKE sponsored the travel team circuit and allows 40 teams to compete for an ultimate goal each summer. It is the premier tournament of the summer. The Final Four of the Peach Jam wan nationally televised by ESPNU (see below).

Peach Jam ESPNUAnother nationally recognized AAU program has emerged out of Middletown, Delaware. Under the direction of Terrell Myers, WE R1 took home both the regular season and UAA Tournament championships in 2014.  Led by Derrick Jones and Malik Ellison We R1 defeated highly regarded Sports U to capture the Under Armour Association title (pictured below).  WE R1, like NJ Playaz and Team Finals, is generally considered one of the most competitive grassroots programs in the nation. All three are consensus top 25 teams, with NJ Playaz and WE R1 coming in 1, 2 in most national rankings.

2014 Under Armour Association Finals2014 Under Armour Association Champions, WE R1

So, they win big games and bring home hardware from the biggest tournaments.  What else makes these programs special?  Some obvious questions immediately come to mind: Do their players get recruited? Do they get scholarships? The track record of Jimmy Salmon and the NJ Playaz in this area is beyond reproach. Tim Thomas (Villanova), Wayne Ellington (North Carolina), Gerald Henderson (Duke), Eddie Griffin (Seton Hall), Marcus Toney-El (Seton Hall), Vince Carter (North Carolina), Kenneth Faried (Morehead St.), Dahntay Jones (Duke), Sean Singletary (Virginia), Earl Clark (Louisville), Jeremiah King (Drexel) and Kyle Anderson (UCLA). Of course J.R. Smith and Kobe Bryant would have been included had they elected to play collegiately instead of jumping straight to the NBA. Another Playaz alum is NY Giants ALL-PRO wide receiver Victor Cruz.

Kyle AndersonKyle Anderson, NJ Playaz

Team Final alumni roster includes NBA lottery picks Tyreke Evans (Memphis), Mike Gilchrist (Kentucky) and Dion Waiters (Syracuse). This year alone, seven Team Final players have committed to NCAA Division 1 programs. This list includes Malachi Richardson (Syracuse), Donte DiVincenzo (Villanova), TreVaughn Wilkerson (Hartford), Trey Lowe (Temple), LaMarr “Fresh” Kimble (St. Joseph’s), Ahmad Gilbert (Geaorge Mason) and Levan Alston, Jr. (Temple). Khaif Wyatt (Temple) and JaQuan Newton (Miami) are also recent high profile Team Final Alums.

dion waiters

Dion Waiters, Team Final

We R1 alums include Dexter Strickland (North Carolina), Ben Bentil (Providence), Markus Kennedy (SMU), Jaylen Bond (Temple), Jared Mann (Stanford), Charles Cooke (Dayton), Khalid Lewis-El (LaSalle), Isaiah Washington (Penn St), Austin Tilghman (Monmouth). This year’s UAA Championship team featured Tim Delany (Villanova-commit) and Derrick Jones (ESPN #22, 2015). Also in the program is Sedee Keita (ESPN #34, 2016).

Ben BentilBen Bentil, WE R1

By any reasonable measure, these programs produce kids that get recruited at the highest levels.  But, what else should you look for in a “good” AAU program?  Well, a good AAU/grassroots program build social cohesion and and increase social capital among young people and adults in their respective communities. The younger kids in the program and the larger community should benefit from the success of the older kids.  By the time the players participate on the 16u and 17u teams, they are generally very well known and look up to by younger players in the program and the surrounding community. Pay attention to the twitter and instagram accounts of the players in the program.  Read what they write.  Look at the images they project.  Is this how you want your child to portray himself publicly?  Watch how the student-athletes interact with younger kids and other members of the increasing AAU fan base. For programs like NJ Playaz, Team Final and WE R1, basketball is used as a practical tool to engage young people in their communities through volunteering, resulting in higher levels of leadership, community engagement and altruism among young people.

Dion book bag 2Dion Waiters, Team Final, interacting with youth during Book Bag Giveaway

Another indicator of a good program is the intensity of the relationships between the players and level of respect players (and former players) have for the coaches.  The relationships between AAU teammates are just as strong, perhaps even stronger, than those among high school teammates. Young people regularly spend 7,8 or 9 hours in vans traveling out of state to play in tournaments. They eat and sleep together on the road. In each of the highlighted programs, positive peer relationships are encouraged through coaching. If you spend anytime watching the teams practice and play it becomes apparent that social inclusion is very important to the coaches.  Talk to the kids that aren’t the stars on the team.  How do they feel about the program?  Of course, the guys getting all the attention and limelight are likely to be happy.  Are the non-starters benefiting as well?  Do they speak highly of the coaches and their teammates?

Social inclusion also relates to offering equal opportunities to educational programs regardless of ethnicity or basketball ability. There is a great deal of attention paid to ensuring Division 2, Division 3 and NAIA level players are academically eligible.  Rob Brown, Jimmy Salmon and Terrell Myers are consistently monitoring report cards, arranging SAT tutors and tracking GPAs.  Each treats the low D1, D2 and NAIA recruits the same way they treat the ESPN top 50 kids.  When evaluating programs, find out how the last man on the bench is treated.  That is a true indicator of the quality of the program.

Sedee

Sedee Keita, WE R1, ESPN #34 (2016)

Lastly, find out if their players exhibit a pattern a negative acting out behaviors.  Do they get suspended from high school or college?  Are there allegations or accusations of sexual misconduct or assault? Have their alums been arrested while in college?  Given the recent explosion in the number of criminal incidents involving high profile athletes, it is important to know the people you trust with your children.  There can be little doubt that NJ Playaz, Team Final and WE R1  have a positive impact on character-building in their participating players. The thugh element is virtually non-existent in these programs.  These young men go off to college and the overwhelming majority are highly successful on the court and they graduate.

This can be largely attributed to the respective roles Jimmy Salmon, Rob Brown and Terrell Myers  play within their respective organizations.  Plainly stated, they have high expectations and as a result have a positive influence on the degree of ‘character-building’ within their programs.  Research suggests that participation in organized athletics such as AAU basketball can be used as a means to reduce delinquent behavior. But it’s important to understand that playing basketball alone does not directly impact on negative behavior. Accordingly, good AAU programs combine basketball activities with academic, leadership and job-skills development and training to address risk factors in children and youth.

If you want to see AAU done right visit any one of these programs.

Ask AAU and HS Coaches the Hard Questions!!

Young fella:
It’s hard… I know… believe me, I know. You are just trying to find your way. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I flunked one year in school at 13. I was arrested at 16. I was a teenage father at 17. I lived in subsidized housing. I was raised by a single mother. In my early 20s, I smoked blunt after blunt after blunt… I played high school ball. I played college ball. My homies moved weight. I have been profiled by police several times. I have been strip searched for no reason. My car has been searched on the side of the road. My close friends have done bids in the penitentiary. By 23, the University of Michigan, the University of Delaware, The Ohio State University and the University of California were offering to pay me to attend their graduate programs.  As I approach 50, I have gained some perspective that may be of use to you as you begin your journey.  But, you gotta pay attention and listen closely…

Philly Pride Triple Threat LogoMore than anything else… More than exposure… More than playing time… More than trips to Vegas… More than fly gear… you need to surround your self with people that are knowledgeable about the ever changing NCAA eligibility process.  Make sure you participate in AAU and high school programs that genuinely care about college preparation.  Good programs have early-alert systems that flag student-athletes with spotty attendance, low test PSAT, SAT and ACT scores, too few core courses and low GPA’s.  Great programs will reward you for meeting academic goals and implement  consequences when you come up short.  Young fella, that’s the ONLY way to avoid being one of the thousands of young Black men who will inevitably fail to meet NCAA eligibility requirements in 2016.  Time is short, you have to grow up quickly.

As you embark on your journey, you will find yourself struggling with the conflicting ways the larger society views Black males. The relationship between America and Black males is really complex and can really be confusing for young men such as yourself. On one hand, for the better part of 400 years, Black males have been viewed as a menacing threat to all that is good about American society. Deeply ingrained white supremacist and racist traditions led to the exclusion of Black males from many major collegiate athletic programs up to the late 1960s and early 1970s.  To this day, young Black men can be literally shot in the face or choked to death in the middle of American streets while armed with only Black skin, loose cigarettes, iced tea and a bag of skittles. On the other hand, Black male athletes and hip hop performance artists are revered and rewarded with multimillion dollar contracts and enormous endorsement deals. Under Armour and Nike just emerged from an unprecedented battle over who gets to pay Kevin Durant $300 million over the next decade.  Of course, you want access to the latter, but everyday you have to navigate the reality of former. It ain’t gonna be an easy journey young fella…

Odds-of-Making-the-NBAIn the immortal words of Run-DMC, “It’s Tricky”…. But, for now, you just wanna play ball… You just wanna go to college, preferably D1. You know the odds are more than stacked against you. You have heard it all before. You fully understand that only 0.03% of high school players make it to the NBA. You realize that there are about 546,000 high school players and every year only about 48 college players are drafted into the league. But, shit… you could be one of the 48. I get that… I really do… As you see it, all you need is one coach in the right program, in the right conference to give you a chance. If they let you on that stage, you know you’re gonna shine. In your mind, you are better than many of the guys playing college ball right now! Given a fair chance, you will have the NBA contract and the massive endorsement deal. Maybe… Maybe you will young fella, but then, again, maybe you won’t. Be ready either way!

Mark MaconMark Macon, Temple/NBA

It’s possible… I’ve seen a lot of Philly high school and college players make to the NBA. Maurice Martin (St. Joseph’s), Lionel Simmons (LaSalle), Doug Overton (LaSalle), Randy Woods (LaSalle), Bo Kimble (Dobbins), Tim Perry (Temple), Mark Macon (Temple), Aaron McKie (Temple), Eddie Jones (Temple), Jameer Nelson (St. Joseph’s), Delonte West (St. Joseph’s), Kerry Kittles (Villanova), Rasheed Wallace (Gratz), Marcus & Markeiff Morris (Prep Charter) and Dion Waiters (Syracuse) were all 1st round picks.

I must also tell you, I’ve also seen guys who were good enough suffer injuries and illnesses that curtailed their NBA dreams. Rap Curry (St. Joseph’s), Bernard Blunt (St. Joseph’s), Bernard Jones (St. Joseph’s), Donnie Carr (LaSalle), Jason Frazier (Villanova) and Granger Hall (Temple) were fantastic collegiate players denied an opportunity in the NBA because of health issues. You have to simultaneously prepare to play at the highest level and get ready for the day the ball stops bouncing. It could stop bouncing at any time. First and foremost, we have to get you through high school and off to college.

donnie carrDonnie Carr, LaSalle University

Young fella… The first thing you have to do is become aware of and avoid the traps that have been set for you. Your future, your freedom and in some cases your life are at-risk every time venture outside your home. Every year, somewhere between 8,000 and 9,000 African Americans are murdered annually in the United States. The overwhelming majority of these victims are young males. You should know that 93% of these murders are in fact perpetrated by other blacks.  Black people account for about half of all homicide victims in the US almost exclusively at the hands of other African-Americans. Every year Black men kill more Black men than the total number of U.S. service men and women that been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined over the course of decade-long wars fought in those nations.

I know… I know… You know your way around the “hood.” You know the gun-toters. You know the killers. They respect your game. You don’t have nothing to do with the neighborhood “beefs.” You ain’t really worried about dying in the streets at the hands of other Black men. But, you should be. Be careful. Be respectful. I can’t expect you to avoid all interaction with real “thugs.” Some of them are your uncles, cousins, neighbors, friends. In many cases, they love you and you love them. Nonetheless, you have to exercise extreme caution when interacting with them. Don’t take no rides. Don’t hold no packs. Don’t stash no burners in your crib. Be smart. You have other more important things to worry about.

6446-000031Young fella… there is a drug arrest every 19 seconds in the U.S. In 2009 alone, there were more than 1.6 million drug arrests and 82 percent of those were for possession alone. Despite the unquestioned fact that white boys use drugs just as much, if not more, than your homies, they are focusing their policing efforts on our community. As Blacks, we are only 13 percent of the U.S. population and we proportionately account for 13 percent of the nation’s drug users. Yet, Blacks represent 34 percent of those arrested for drug offenses and 45 percent of those held in state prisons for drug offenses. We are the enemy in the “War on Drugs.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice, in 2008, there were over 846,000 black men in prison, making up 40.2 percent of all inmates in the system. The brilliant Michelle Alexander notes that “More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began.” We are drastically overrepresented in the courtrooms, jails and prisons. We are about six times more likely to spend time in prison or jail than whites. According to recent research, we receive up to 60% longer federal prison sentences than whites who commit similar offenses, and 20% longer prison sentences than whites who commit the same offenses.  It’s so easy to get tripped up.

Keep these statistics in mind while you listen to multimillionaire hip hop artists promoting violence, misogyny, drug abuse and crass materialism. Jay Z, Young Jeezy, 50 Cent, Lil’ Wayne and all the rest have bloody hands. They are purposely filling your head destructive messages, while accepting payments for lyrics that extol alcohol and drug use. A recent study by Dartmouth Medical School, analyzed 793 songs from Billboard charts starting in 2005 and found that 160 songs (about 21%) referred explicitly to alcohol.  The study found that the majority of songs that referenced alcohol were rap, followed by R&B/hip-hop and country.  Approximately 42 percent of the lyrics referred to alcohol in a positive way and mentioned specific alcohol brands.  The brands in most cases are associated with advertising that depicts a luxury lifestyle of drug use, partying, sex, and wealth.

Another study by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that music listened to by teenagers aged 15 to 18 affects long-term attitudes and behaviors.  That study looked at 279 top Billboard songs and found that 33 percent included explicit substance abuse references.  Be strong young fella, they are after you.  The majority of these songs linked substance abuse with positive sexual, financial and emotional rewards.  There are very consistent messages within corporate-sponsored hip-hop that promote the murder of young black men, sexual irresponsibility, excessive consumerism, drug/alcohol abuse and other forms of illegal behavior.  The plan is to convert you into a blunt smoking, drug addled, liquor drinking corporate consumer for life.

Wiz KhalifaIn 2002, Busta Rhymes and P. Diddy released “Pass the Courvoisier.”  That song led to a 19 percent increase in sales for Allied Domecq, maker of Courvoisier. Young Jeezy has an endorsement deal with Belvedere Vodka. A number of hip hop artists are creating their own alcohol labels.  Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Christian Perez, is part owner of the Voli Vodka brand.  Other rap artists who are part owners of liquor brands include Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg and Ludacris.

LudaThe myth is bullshit, Young fella… They tell you, “Jay Z sold drugs, he came up… 50 Cent sold drugs, he came up.” That’s the narrative being repeatedly fed to you and your homies through the media and the hip hop lyrics. Meanwhile, one of every three black American males born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime compared to one out of every seventeen white males. Most will go to prison for the same “hustlin” behaviors celebrated in hip hop. I need you be discerning. I need you to see what they are doing. For every Kanye, there are 100,000 Nates, Bruces and Jamals on probation, parole or in prison.

The aim, the goal must ALWAYS be to hone and leverage your athletic ability and gain access to higher education. Then use education to improve your life and the lives of your family members. Once this goal is achieved, you have won. A professional basketball contract is the gravy.  The college degree and the knowledge gained along the way constitute the nourishing meal.

Playaz logoToward that end, you have to exercise solid judgement in selecting AAU and High School programs. Don’t sell yourself for a mere pittance. When the AAU guys come around offering a couple dollars, a new cell phone bill and 5 new pairs of KD’s, ask then the tough questions: How many of the guys in your program did NOT meet NCAA eligibility requirements? How many of your guys in the past 5 years had to go JUCO? Exactly, what does your program do to make sure guys are eligible? Does your program have homework assistance and/or SAT/Prep? Do you provide practice SAT exams to see where I stand?

We R 1 logoReally good AAU programs won’t have a problem answering these questions. Really good program administrators understand what you are up against. They do everything they can to get you in college. Some of the best programs I have encountered are NJ Playaz, Philly Pride/Triple Threat, WE R 1, Baltimore’s Finest and Mississippi Basketball Association. These programs focus on academics as well basketball preparation.

Mississippi Basketball AssociationMany of these same questions must be directed to high school coaches. This is especially true for kids attending urban public schools. In urban districts across the country, budget cuts have eliminated guidance counselor and assistant principal positions. You must ask the coach: What is the “eligibility plan” for me? Exactly what courses will I take that will lead to you being eligible? Can I see the list of NCAA approved courses for your school? What is the average SAT score at your school? What scores did your players get over the past few years? Does your school offer summer school courses? What is the grading scale at your school? How many of your players have gone onto play Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA?

As young Black “baller” you may find yourself struggling to attain self-conscious manhood while avoiding traps permeating the landscapes you traverse everyday. As you inch closer to becoming an elite basketball player, the “love-hate” relationship America has with Black males will become more and more apparent. Your challenge is to both keep it “real” and represent your family and your “hood” while simultaneously accessing institutions of high education and playing at the highest collegiate level. Shit ain’t easy. But, it can done, but, you must start right now by asking the right questions.

Sincerely,

Delgreco K. Wilson

 

Yo man… y’all really NEED AAU guys: An Open Letter to College Coaches

Coach… Coach…. I hear it all the time. “Why do I have to call his “guy”? Why does he listen to him? I’m paying his bills… I’m the one that gave him a scholarship… It’s because of me that he’s on national TV 25 times a year…” A lot of college coaches hate AAU/grassroots guys. It’s no secret. Y’all despise the close relationships players have with AAU/grassroots coaches. In your eyes, they are trying to “come up” off the kids. Y’all resent the powerful influence that that AAU coaches have on the recruiting process. Y’all wish you didn’t have to deal with these street savvy dudes.  It really bothers you that they can tell players to leave school early.

Nonetheless, the fact remains that in many, if not most, instances a player’s truest allegiance, his strongest alliance is with his AAU coach. This really gets under your skin and that of a lot of other college coaches. You want waaaaay more control over the players.  I get that.

Philly Pride Triple Threat Poster-page-0Rysheed Jordan, Philly Pride & Triple Threat

No disrespect Coach, but you’re DEAD WRONG on this one! You just don’t get it…. AAU/grassroots guys are not “THE” problem, they are not even “a” problem. In low income neighborhoods throughout America’s inner-cities, these guys are making positive life altering contributions to the lives of young Black men in desperate need of guidance and direction.  Yeah… yeah… I know Curtis Malone was just convicted for second time on drug-related offenses and sentenced to 100 months in federal prison last May.  So what Coach?  That’s just one man in one program.  Truth be told, despite Malone’s transgressions, he helped many who players from the “hood” who would have fallen through the cracks if not for his assistance.

Yo man… y’all really need those AAU/grassroots dudes.  Without them, a lot of these kids would have absolutely no shot at making it to college.

With all due respect coach, you don’t understand the crucial role AAU/grassroots coaches actually play in helping players deal with growing up in places like Philadelphia, Paterson, Newark, Brooklyn, Chicago, Baltimore, Washington, DC and Houston. Young Black boys are immersed in woefully under-performing, dysfunctional and underfunded public schools during the day. After school, their home lives feature poverty, hunger, substandard housing and in some extreme cases, homelessness. On a daily basis, they confront persistent frustration associated with parental abandonment and/or incarceration.  AAU/grassroots coaches use basketball as a means of helping these boys remain engaged in high school and accessing higher educational opportunities.  If a select few can make money playing basketball it’s a blessing.

A lot of effort is required to produce a college ready young Black man in contemporary American inner cities.  Shit doesn’t just happen.  Coach, by the time you show up looking for tough “Philly” guard or a “super athletic” wing, literally thousands of hours have been invested by AAU/grassroots coaches into developing a young man prepared to deal with all aspects of collegiate life.

Playaz Poster-page-0Isaiah Brisoce, Playaz Basketball Club

AAU/grassroots coaches, especially in low-income urban areas, are filling a void. In many cases, they are fathering the fatherless. Without these guys, many of the young men you are trying to recruit wouldn’t even finish high school. They would be lost in the streets, like many of those who came before them.  The 80’s wasn’t that long ago.  Try to remember Coach.  The parents of current recruits came of age during the War on Drugs (1980-present) and they begat descendants who live, survive and play ball today in poverty stricken, hard scrabble urban centers. Some of the boys you’re recruiting are “crack babies.”  Most of them are products of what polite society refers to as alternative marital and familial forms.

Many came into being through “promiscuous” sexual relationships or long ago severed “common-law” marriages. Some are the “illegitimate” children of fathers with other families and quite a few have been “abandoned” by the biological fathers.  Fortunately, AAU/grasroots coaches step in, step up, embrace and try to help raise these young men. The players intrinsically understand and appreciate the role these men play in their life, even if you don’t or won’t.

JaQuan Newton-page-0JaQuan Newton, Team Final

My main objective here is to help you understand that relationship. I really want you to realize the AAU/grassroots coach is NOT the bad guy.

Let’s put this situation in a historical perspective. Think about how the parents, especially the fathers, grew up.  Beginning in 1980, under President Ronald Reagan, the situation for the urban poor began to worsen dramatically.  In the 1980s, while the number of arrests for all crimes had risen by 28%, the number of arrests for drug offenses rose 126%. While Nancy Reagan told Americans to “just say no”, her husband’s “War on Drugs” evolved into a War on Black males. According to the the US Department of Justice, from 1990 through 2000, “the increasing number of drug offenses accounted for 27% of the total growth among black inmates, 7% of the total growth among Hispanic inmates, and 15% of the growth among white inmates.”

The “war” resulted in an unprecedented amount of casualties in urban Black communities. Coach, think about it…. these are the same communities producing many of the elite basketball players today. In 1994, the New England Journal of Medicine noted that the “War on Drugs” resulted in the incarceration of one million Americans each year. The overwhelming majority of these prisoners were Black males. In 2008, the Washington Post reported that of 1.5 million Americans arrested each year for drug offenses, half a million would be incarcerated. In addition, one in five black Americans would spend time behind bars due to drug laws.  These are the fathers, the uncles, the cousins and the older brothers.

Mississippi Basketball Association Poster-page-0Mississippi Basketball Association, Jackson, Mississippi

With so many Black men in prison, on probation or on parole, who is gonna raise the boys? Who Coach?  Who’s gonna step up?  Well, in too many instances, no one is raising the boys.  To a large extent, that explains why less than half of the Black boys in America’s major cities graduate from high school. In Philly and NYC only 28% graduate from public high school in 4 years. Of the more than 50% that don’t graduate, more than a third are in jail or prison. Only 26% of Black male HS drop outs are gainfully employed. It’s real out here coach. We ain’t got time to be pointing fingers because you don’t like the way guys handle their business.  AAU/grassroots coaches are a literally saving lives. Most importantly, they do it because others won’t or can’t.

Coach, you do understand that being incarcerated wasn’t the only consequence of the War on Drugs.  Time after time, federal and state policies imposed collateral consequences on those convicted of drug offenses. So even when their fathers, grandfathers, uncles, cousins and big brothers are released from prison they are still very much limited by their drug-related convictions. To this day, they are subjected to restrictions and conditions that are not applicable to those convicted of other types of crime. As result of the War on Drugs, millions of Black men face restrictions in obtaining various professional licenses, ineligibility for public funds including welfare benefits and student loans, loss of voting rights, ineligibility for jury duty, and deportation for immigrants. How are they supposed to rebuild their lives?  How are they supposed to take care of their families?  It’s real out here coach.

I respectfully submit, that it just ain’t fair.  The deck was stack against their fathers.  In 1986, the U.S. Congress passed laws that created a 100 to 1 sentencing disparity for the possession or trafficking of crack cocaine when compared to penalties for trafficking of powder cocaine. This law was blatantly discriminatory against minorities, mostly blacks, who were more likely to use crack than powder cocaine. As a result, persons convicted in federal court of possession of 5 grams of crack cocaine received a mandatory of 5 years in federal prison. On the other hand, possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine carries the same sentence. Do you know how many of the family members of the players you recruit got caught up in this mess?  A whole helluva a LOT…

AAU/grassroots coaches are fighting and struggling to keep these young men from following the crime riddled path of their oldheads. But Coach, you’ve gotta understand that this battle is not easily won. Crime statistics show that—in the United States in 1999—compared to non-minorities, African Americans were far more likely to be arrested for drug crimes, and received much stiffer penalties and sentences. Statistics from 1998 show that there were wide racial disparities in arrests, prosecutions, sentencing and deaths. African-American drug users made up for 35% of drug arrests, 55% of convictions, and 74% of people sent to prison for drug possession crimes. Nationwide African-Americans were sent to state prisons for drug offenses 13 times more often than other races, even though they only supposedly comprised 13% of regular drug users.

Now coach… you are recruiting the sons, grandsons, nephews, cousins, Godsons, young brothers and youngbuls of Black men that came of age during this era. Of course, to some degree the trails and tribulations of the elders have shaped the behaviors and outlooks of the progeny? If we compare the young Black males of the 1980’s and the contemporary young Black men you are recruiting, we find alarming similarities. Indeed, in many ways things are worse.  Basketball is all too often the saving grace.

We R 1 Poster-page-0

Derrick Jones, WE R1

Coach, in many cases, the AAU/grassroots coaches are the only thing standing between the players and the participation in illegal street crime. That’s why so many AAU/grassroots coaches keep the kids extra close to them. That’s why they allow them stay in their homes. That’s why they informally “adopt” them. That’s why their wives put up with 6’8” 235 lb dinner guests almost every night. The families of the AAU/grassroots coaches know how precarious the situation is for many poor inner city males.

AAU/grassroots coaches understand the odds.  Most of the time, they are from the “hood.”  In many cases, their linguistic skills aren’t polished and refined.  Don’t mistake that for ignorance.  These guys are very adept at using basketball to beat the staggering odds. Quite frankly Coach, rather than complaining about the AAU/grassroots guys, you should be grateful that their kids that are recruitable athletes. The peers of the recruits not in the AAU program would never gain admission to your school.  You know and I know most Black males in urban school districts don’t graduate in four years. We also know the overwhelming majority of young Black men have absolutely no shot at meeting NCAA eligibility standards.

So, let’s keep it 100, as the kids say, coach… Most players in urban areas need an AAU/grassroots coach to help him understand what’s expected of him and keep him on track. You might say: Why not the guidance counselor or the assistant principal? After I finish chuckling…. I would note that, in many cases, they are gone. Their jobs have been eliminated.  We must face the truth Coach, as a society, we have more or less given up on funding urban education. In 2013, the Philadelphia school system laid off 3,783 employees, including 676 teachers and 283 counselors. Along with teachers and counselors, those losing their jobs included 127 assistant principals and 1,202 aides who monitor the cafeteria and playgrounds.

So you see, in many ways urban black male athletes attending public schools are set up for failure. AAU/grassroots coaches enable kids to have shot at college. They are the ones that find tutors for the SAT. They are the ones checking the grades. If they weren’t there the pool of qualified recruits would be much, much smaller.

In 2016, the NCAA will establish a 2.3 gpa and a 900 SAT score as a minimum requirement for freshman eligibility. As you can see on the chart below, 39 of 58 (67.2%) of Philadelphia’s public schools have average SAT scores below 800. Only 9 of 58 (15.5%) have average scores above 900. All nine of those schools are special-admit magnet schools. There aren’t too many elite athletes at those schools. Young Black boys attending neighborhood schools are pretty much screwed. The system is structurally determined to result in ineligible Black male athletes.  They will have to score 200-250 points above the average score for their respective schools to meet minimum NCAA standards. Coach, you are gonna need the AAU/grassroots coach more than ever.

Philly Public School SAT scores

They have been doing it for years.  I have a lot of faith in their ability to continue getting guys through the NCAA eligibility center labyrinth.  AAU/grassroots coaches help impressionable, very “rough around the edges” young men deal with life situations face by the urban poor. They offer a guiding hand as the young men as they deal with the daily experience of inexorable pressure, unsolvable problems and overwhelming frustrations. If they give a kid a ride to your campus, you should find a way to help out his program. Buy a couple directories at his tournament. If he brings kids to your campus at your request, break him off a “lil sumthin.”  Gas and tolls add up.

Coach… you have stop complaining that AAU guys are “in it for the money.” At the elite program level, there is some money to be made. Some guys do alright. The tournaments themselves bring in some revenue.

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Let’s look at 2 typical “Big AAU” events. The first will cost, say, $550 for a team to register with play in the 14-under, 15-under, 16-under and 17-under divisions. The second will cost $650 and will be open to teams that play 15U-17U. Major events average between 40 and 60 teams per age division. “Big AAU” events also charge between $175-$300 for coaches packets that provide information on the players to college recruiters.  Event organizers can generate significant revenue. Joy of the Game’s Chicago summer classic charges $495 for boys teams from 15U-17U. Boys from 9U-14U pay $350. Adidas Super 64 in Las Vegas charges $700 per team.

Some program charge fees to participate. AAU basketball does not come cheap. Depending on the team, families can expect to pay $400 to $4,000 per summer to play, including uniforms. In many cases, that does not include transportation to and from practice or games, hotel rooms, food, gas or admission for those not playing. Most programs offer financial assistance for players who need it, but normally it only covers the cost to join the team, not the peripherals.

But, Coach you know a LOT of the programs in the “hood” get by on the “muscle.” They can’t possible get $4,000 from a Mom on public assistance, living in Section 8 housing. Ain’t gonna happen, no way no how. These guys will have 50/50 raffles and a “fish fry” to raise enough money to travel hundreds of miles in cramped vans so you can see his kids play.

Coach… y’all really need to stop calling AAU/grassroots coaches “greedy” and money-hungry. Too many of you complain that AAU/grassroots guys are in it for the money.  They rightfully resent that accusation.  Stop… Just stop! The AAU guys know that Coach K made $9,682,032 last year. They know that’s $806,836 per month. It’s not a secret that Rick Pitino made $5,758,338 last year. Calipari came in at $5,511,381 and Bill Self earned $4,960,763. Overall, they know that 32 college coaches made more than a million dollars. They know about the private jets, the 3 company cars and the country club memberships. They really don’t understand the allegation that they are “pimping” players.

under-armour logoIn most AAU urban programs, coaches feed players. Coaches clothe players. Coaches even pay medical expenses for players with no insurance. Coaches pay for SAT test Prep.  Coaches pay for educational testing.  I know some of the best programs have sponsorship deals with Nike, Under Armour and Adidas. Others rely on Aunt Sadies’s fried whiting, collard greens and candied yams moving every other Friday night.

Coach, in many instances Daddy is locked up. Even if he’s not locked up, he’s not involved. Momma doesn’t understand the process. She’s just grateful that the AAU coach is involved with her son. She’s seen her nephews, cousins and the neighbor’s boys hustling, playing with guns, getting locked, dropping out of school, making babies and being unemployed. She’s worried about the guys on the street and she’s worried about the boys in blue.  Momma saw what happened to Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Amadou Diallo and score of other young men armed with their Black skin.

Through basketball, she hopes her son can maintain a level of focus and complete high school. The AAU coaches reinforce the importance of attending and completing school.  He’s an asset.   Through basketball, she’s hoping that her son can access higher education. She knows she can’t pay your school $40,000 -$60,000 per year for her son to attend. The AAU coach has been there. He’s helped her when her son started talking back. He’s kept him off the street. She knows he’s safe with the AAU coach.

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She’s grateful for the 3,4 or 5 pair of sneakers per year. Coach, I know you can’t relate, but $125-$175 is a LOT of money to some people. Before her son began playing AAU/grassroots basketball, he never left his hometown except for an occasional long drive down south for a family reunion or funeral. Momma appreciates the opportunities for he son to visit Las Vegas, California, Chicago, Houston, Miami, Atlanta and Charlotte. His friends “around the way” don’t get those opportunities. The boy knows he can’t count on his father. His Momma and her Momma have told him for 17-18 years, “that man ain’t sh*t.”  But, her son is special. The AAU/grassroots coaches made that happen.  Straight up Coach… y’all NEED those AAU guys…..

 

 

Psssssst… Let me Holla at ya for a minute: An Open Letter to HS Ballers

Young fella, I’ve been watching…. I’ve seen you fly all over the country playing in Adidas, Under Armour and Nike events. I’ve seen you attending “workouts.” I’ve seen the Chosen League highlights on youtube. The videos of you dribbling two balls through the cones, I’ve seen that. You running on the track with the parachute attached to your hip, I’ve seen that too. The killer crossover set to Meek Mills and the dunk backed up by Rick Ross, I’ve seen that too. Like I said, I’ve been watching. I watch because I LOVE you!

Because I LOVE you, I have to tell you the truth. You ain’t supposed to make it!

Let me say it again, I don’t want there to be any confusion. You ain’t supposed to make it.

Scoop

Scoop Jardine, Syracuse University

You see, these are confusing times.  A lot of Philly ballers have made it.  Please understand that I have had this same conversation with the overwhelming majority of area Division I players over the past 15 years or so.  I know exactly how they managed to meet NCAA eligibility requirements.  Scoop Jardine and Rick Jackson are graduates of Syracuse University.  I sat them down as 11th graders and we had this conversation.  Samme Givens and Chaz Crawford graduated from Drexel, but first we had to develop a plan to meet eligibility criteria.  Before Marcus and Markeiff Morris were able to accept scholarships from Kansas, they had to get through the Clearinghouse.  This is the same conversation I had with Dion Waiters, below (Syracuse), Rysheed Jordan (St. John’s), John Davis (Towson), “Biggie” Minnis (Rhode Island), Ja’Quan Newton (Miami), Anthony Durham (Rider), Carrington Ward (North Texas) and many others.

waiters

Dion Waiters, Syracuse University/Cleveland Cavs

Society at large and the American sports media are sending you mixed messages. On the one hand, corporate America (Nike, Under Armour and Adidas) makes it possible for you to fly to Atlanta, Vegas, Los Angeles, Indiana, Ohio, Miami and many other cities to play basketball in front of hundreds of college coaches. You play game after game all summer against some of the best players in the land.

At these events, you have been able to fully display your considerable athletic skills. The jumper is wet! The handle is tight! The vision is outstanding! All the skill development and strength training has finally come together.  You know it, your AAU coaches know it, your “handler” knows it and the college coaches know it, you are a BALLER!

On the other hand there’s what you don’t know and what they won’t tell you is: You ain’t supposed to make it!

I know that you are focused and working relentlessly toward earning an NCAA Division 1 scholarship. Now, what you need to know is that the odds are stacked heavily against you even graduating from high school.  In 2010, a major study found that Philadelphia, along with New York was the worst performing district in the nation with regard to Black male graduation rates. The five worst performing districts with large Black male student enrollment (exceeding 40,000) were New York City, N.Y. (28%); Philadelphia, Pa. (28%); Detroit, Mich. (27%); Broward County, Fla. (39%); Dade County, Fla. (27%).

2013 NBA Players Association Top 100 CampJaQuan Newton, Miami University

Think about that for a minute. Out of every 100 NYC, Philly and Detroit kids you that played with and against in those “Invitational”, “Elite” and “Exposure” camps only 28 will graduate high school in 4 years. That means 72 out of every 100 won’t earn a high school diploma on schedule.

I have to be honest with you young fella, I see Philadelphia’s 28% graduation rate declining significantly over the next few years. Let’s keep it real. Philadelphia is the midst of an unprecedented series of budget cuts. In 2013, the Philadelphia school system laid off 3,783 employees, including 676 teachers and 283 counselors. Along with teachers and counselors, those losing their jobs included 127 assistant principals and 1,202 aides who monitor the cafeteria and playgrounds.

CarringtonCarrington Ward, North Texas

In 2014, it was announced that high school students who live within two miles of school will not receive transportation support (an increase from 1.5 miles), impacting approximately 7,500 students at district, charter, and non-public schools. There will also be reduced services in alternative education programs, which will result in fewer higher-quality options for approximately 300 students. There will be less frequent cleaning of schools, fewer cleaning supplies, and delayed repairs at schools. The district will not fill 34 school police officer vacancies, reducing the number of officers available to support school climate and safety.

In the past year, the state of Pennsylvania (which controls Philadelphia’s public schools) and the city of Philadelphia have closed 23 schools, laid off teachers, guidance counselors, principals and school aides. They have decided to eliminate transportation support and 300 alternative education slots for your peers trying to earn credits toward graduation. They have openly declared they will provide you with dirtier and less safer educational settings this year.

Young fella, you ain’t supposed to make it!

It is important that you understand, they do have plans for your future. I don’t want you to think that they are not preparing to “serve” you. While your schools will be dirty and unsafe because of budgetary concerns, there’s a gleaming new state of the art $400 million prison under construction just outside of the city.

graterfordSCI Graterford

While only 28% of Black males graduate from Philadelphia’s high school on time, Pennsylvania Correctional (Prison) system is operating at approximately 105% percent capacity. This new prison will sit proximate to SCI Graterford. A few years ago, Mayor Michael Nutter noted, “Of the 2010 homicides, 86.9 percent were African-American males. African-American males were 65.5 percent of the admissions into the Philadelphia Prison System in 2010. About one-third of all PA DOC prisoners committed their crimes in Philadelphia County. Graterford is the nearest prison to Philadelphia. A lot of Philly offenders serve time there.

Young fella, they know you ain’t supposed to make it….

Nonetheless, you can do it. You can go to college. You can earn a scholarship. But there are some things you need to know. Who’s gonna give you this information? They are cutting assistant principals and guidance counselors to hire more prison guards. So, I’m gonna try to give you some useful information on this website.

TraciTraci Carter, Life Center Academy, 2015

Class of 2015 (Seniors)
You are the last class that has a wide range of options available to meet NCAA eligibility guidelines. Even without full-time guidance counselors in many schools, there are some moves you can make to increase your chances of being NCAA eligible. For example, if you have a few Ds on your transcript from 9th, 10th or 11th grade you should retake those classes. Take them online or in the evening, but retake them! If your school won’t allow you to retake the classes because you already “passed” and earned the credit, pay to take the classes at another school.  It is important to make sure the other school’s courses are listed and accepted by the NCAA Eligibility Center. By increasing your GPA, you place much less pressure on your SAT/ACT score.

If you are a high major recruit, NCAA DI coaches began calling July 1st after your Junior year. Coaches can make unlimited phone calls/texts during the contact period. This means a coach can call/text you if he wants you. The rules still allow a coach to speak with a recruit anytime you make the phone call.

Young fella, if you are not talking to DI coaches on the phone by this point in your senior year it is time to consider DII, DIII or NAIA schools.

If DI schools wanted you, you would know.  They would have reached out to your AAU coach, your HS coach, your “guy” or your parents by now.  They are not under any restrictions.  Off-Campus contact is allowed.  Coaches are allowed to begin visiting off of their campus. Have they come to your school? Have they come to your home?

Coaches can bring you in on Official Visits starting the first day of classes. On Official Visits coaches pay to bring you in on a visit, host you on campus and pay for meals and game tickets.  Remember, you only get 5 official visits.  Be prudent in how you use them.  You should have already been making Unofficial Visits to D1 campuses if you plan to play at that level.

Class of 2016 (Juniors)
Everything is different for you. You have have meet far more stringent requirements. College bound student athletes first entering an NCAA Division I college or university on or after August 1, 2016 will need to meet new academic rules in order to receive athletics aid (scholarship), practice or compete during their first year.

You will still have to complete 16 Core Courses. However, ten (10) of the 16 core courses must be complete before the seventh semester (senior year) of high school. That is a new rule. You need to look at your transcript right now. Make sure you will have 10 cores before your senior year. Also, you must make sure seven (7) of the 10 core courses are in English, Math, or Science. These are requirements and if they are not met you will not qualify under new NCAA rules.

Also, the new minimum Core-Course GPA is 2.300. It is no longer 2.000. This is a significant increase. Many, if not most, student-athletes I have encountered over the past 15 years would not have met a 2.300 GPA requirement.

Moreover, and most importantly after this (your Junior) year, your grades are “locked in.” Unlike current seniors, you will not be able to retake classes in which you received Ds during your senior year. Every year, thousands of high school seniors retake classes to improve their core course GPAs. The NCAA is eliminating this option beginning with your class.

If you are an NCAA DI level recruit, You will begin receiving recruiting materials starting September 1st. Coaches will begin sending you letters or emailing you. The rules do not prevent you from emailing coaches, something you should have been doing since your sophomore year at least.

Basketball coaches can have off-campus contact at the start of classes your Junior year. Official Visits are allowed at the start of the school year. For women, they can begin making visits the Thursday after the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Class of 2017 and 2018 (Freshmen and Sophomores)
If you plan on playing at the NCAA DI level, watch your grades! Do NOT earn Ds. They are unacceptable. Those Ds will make you NCAA ineligible.  Men’s Basketball coaches can begin calling, sending letters to and emailing recruits June 15th after your sophomore year.

Quick_Reference_Sheet-page-0 Above please find the new 2016 NCAA guidelines. Below please find the new 2016 NCAA Sliding Scale.  Young fella, it won’t be easy.  It will take a LOT of planning and dedication to hitting the books.  But, you can make it.

Quick_Reference_Sheet-page-1You certainly cannot say “ain’t nobody give you a heads up”!