Updates from the City of Brotherly Love
A top prospect’s off-the-court battle and a guest recap of the Rasual Butler All-City Classic.
by Aggrey Sam
As regular readers of this column (should) know, I’m former resident of Philadelphia. After attending Temple University, mentoring numerous high school and college ballplayers and ensconcing myself into the city’s basketball community, I have a strong connection to Philly’s hoops scene, even though I moved to New Orleans in January of ’08 (time flies). While I hear enough about what’s going on back in Philly to be able to write daily updates, not everything is worthy of your time. Here’s hoping
One of the kids who used to come to the gym and work out with me from time to time in Philly was Will Adams. I first met Will when he was in eighth grade, at the same charter school where some of the older kids I worked with attended and where I worked briefly, around the same time I started writing for SLAM.
My favorite memory of Will, who lived within walking distance of my alma mater, Temple University, where I held the workouts, is one Saturday afternoon, when I only had three kids in the gym: Will, Lewis Leonard (a junior-to-be at St. Bonaventure University) and possibly the most talented kid I worked with, Marquise Davis, the now-incarcerated son of former NBA player Emanuel “Vel” Davis. The two older kids absolutely killed Will, but he kept going hard, earned their respect and they both left the gym saying, “He’s gonna be the deal,” the ultimate compliment from an older cat.
Anyway, as he got older, Will developed into a 6-4, athletic wing with a nice stroke and good range. He became one of the better players in the city, a Division I prospect and in the fall, he signed with Towson. Will wasn’t the most naturally-gifted student and didn’t have the easiest life growing up, but he plugged away in the classroom, always was respectful and nobody that knows him could ever say he was an unpleasant kid to be around.
This past season, while his school, Imhotep Charter, won both the city and state championship, Will didn’t have quite the senior year most people expected. I got reports that Will was overrated and he wasn’t stepping up to the plate. I heard he was battling injuries, too. Regardless, all of that was overshadowed by the team’s success. I figured he’d get his game right in the summer, playing against the best comp Philly has to offer, and have a solid career at Towson.
Later in the spring, I got a call from another kid I worked with in Philly, Mike Ringgold of Rider University. He asked me if I heard Will Adams had cancer. I was shocked, thought he must be mistaken, heard a bad rumor or was playing around. I called my man Rasool, Will’s mentor, and it turned out to be true. However, it’s a treatable form of the illness and because Will is an athlete, young and in such great shape, he should be fine after treatment. Unfortunately, that won’t be in time to play his freshman season at Towson, but to the program’s credit, they’re willing to honor his scholarship and wait for his full recovery. I ask that you give him your best wishes, but knowing Will, he’s already on the road back to good health and I know I’ll be seeing him knocking down treys and banging on some unsuspecting dude on the break in the near future.
On another, more positive note, this time of year in Philly was always a great time for me. With the graduating seniors (mostly) situated for the fall, it was time to focus on the rising underclassmen stars. Philly is a great place for having game that pit the so-called best of the best, and one annual event I always attended was my man Rasual Butler’s All-City Classic. Usually in a hot gym like Ben Franklin High School (Pooh Richardson’s alma mater) or Sual’s neighborhood South Philly High (home of Lionel Simmons; Rasual attended Roman Catholic himself),my fellow N.O. resident waited until I left Philly to have it in Community College of Philadelphia’s (shout out to my man Dondi Deshields) air-conditioned gym. My man Jordan Ingram, a ex-ballplayer at Fairleigh Dickinson University and a writer for the Philadelphia Tribune, where I started my journalism career was there, and has a report on Philly’s finest, some of whom may end up being typical City of Brotherly Love sleepers and having a major impact on the college level. Enjoy his take on a great event that the Hornets’ swingman puts on for his city yearly out of his own pocket.
By Jordan Ingram
The 2009 Rasual Butler All-City Classic featured many of the top high school basketball players from Philadelphia and South Jersey. Ever since 2001, the tripleheader–the games featured Philly’s top freshmen, sophomores and juniors–has spotlighted such future stars as Sean Singletary, Gerry McNamara, Kyle Lowry, and Mark Tyndale. Whether they received game MVP honors or not, the individual play of the following players helped open eyes and generate buzz heading into July.
Freshman Game: Team One 76- Team Two 59
Missing Westtown’s 6-9 center Daniel Ochufu due to injury, the other players took advantage of their time to shine. The game was a see-saw battle that could’ve gone either way. With Team One only up 29-22 at halftime, a strong second half from Neshaminy’s Ryan Arcidiacano and Malvern Prep’s Brendan Kilpatrick proved to be the deciding factor in the victory.
Team One MVP: Arcidiacano, 6-2 point guard
Best Defender: Derrick Stewart, 6-5 power forward, Neumann- Goretti
Most Unselfish: Amile Jefferson, 6-5 power forward, Friends’ Central
Team Two MVP: Savon Goodman, 6-5 power forward, Academy of the New Church
Arcidiacano: A casual fan should have left the game thinking that the multi-faceted point guard, nicknamed “Ryan Arc”, was the best player on the floor that night. After a quiet first stanza, the first team Suburban One League selection asserted himself more in the second half. The facilitator of many baskets scored by Kilpatrick and Jefferson, he displayed the ability to be flashy on offense when needed, but more often opted to make the right plays. On one occasion, Arcidiacano could’ve engaged in a one-on-one showdown with Boys Latin’s Maurice Watson (13 points) but he chose to dribble over to the wing and engage in two-man game action with Jefferson in the post.
Kilpatrick, 6-4 wing, Malvern Prep
Playing more of a complimentary role in the Friars’ 22-9 season, the dynamic wing displayed the makings of a future star. With strong layup finishes against shot blockers like Stewart, Kilpatrick showed surprising athleticism. Fundamentally sound on both ends, he made his presence felt on the defensive end with three blocks including a rejection of Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Damien Williams dunk attempt. In his diverse repertoire, but not fully shown in his game, is his proficiency from 3-point range which helped doom Abington Friends’ chance of defeating Malvern Prep in the private school state playoffs.
Stewart: For the Saints, who won the 2009 Catholic League Championship, much more will be expected from the young big man next season. If Stewart, the younger brother of 6-foot-6 junior power forward Danny Stewart, grows another two to three inches he could be a dominant post player going forward. With good athleticism, he blocked many shots and even caught a tip-dunk over a crowd during the second half of the game.
Goodman: Ranked among the nation’s top rising sophomores by most high school basketball pundits, Goodman didn’t hurt his status. Drastically overmatched offensively by Team One, Goodman carried the load along with starting point guard Watson. Displaying versatility on a late-game coast-to-coast finish and persistence on follow-up layups, he fought the good fight in the game, although his efforts eventually were in vain.
Jefferson: With Jefferson and Goodman, the competitive Friends Schools League have two future faces of the conference. He displayed a poise in the post that’s usually reserved for a senior, with his ability to manipulate double-teams to find open shooters or waiting for the defensive activity to slow down in order for him to operate in the post. No slouch on the perimeter, he was able to drive past 6-4 Council Rock forward Aaron Goodman with ease for baskets, as well.
Sophomore Game: Team One 77- Team Two 71
In one of the deepest classes in the area, the game failed to disappoint. Even the players that didn’t produce double-figure games could turn into Division I prospects. A great deal of these players might be playing their college basketball on ESPN.
Team One MVP: Juan’ya Green, 6-3 point guard, Archbishop Carroll
Best Defender: Aquil Younger-, 5-10 point guard, West Catholic
Team Two MVP: John Johnson-, 6-1 guard, Girard College
Most Unselfish: Rashawn Cunningham-, 5-9 point guard, Life Center
Keith Coleman, 6-8 power forward, Cheltenham: With a bunch of follow-up dunks and a yeoman’s job inside, Coleman displayed just a small portion of his talent in his 11-point effort. Known more in the local Positive Image summer league circles for mixing his freakish athleticism with his perimeter exploits, including the occasional 3-pointer.
Younger: What can’t the cat-quick Parkside native do offensively when he’s headed to the basket? Whether he’s effortlessly driving past defenders, curling off of picks using his body to finish over the trees for a layup, or getting easy steals for dunks on the fast break, Younger can do it all. A ball hawk defensively, he looked to take advantage of any miscommunication by the opposing teams with the tenacity he played passing lanes.
Jerrell Wright, 6-7 power forward, Dobbins: The son of former Fairleigh Dickinson forward Gerald Wright, Jerrell had a competitive battle inside against Coleman. Another jumping jack, he had a nice one-hand dunk off vertical after a missed free throw. Though still raw offensively, he contains a great upside and with a father that’s 6-foot-8, he could grow more in the coming years.
Ameen Tanksley, 6-5 guard/ forward, Prep Charter: Though he didn’t leave the game with any hardware, the versatile wing guard garnered much respect with his performance. Early on, the lefty looked like the early MVP vote with a bank-shot 3-pointer, a behind-the-back wrap-around layup and displaying his ball handling abilities by running the point for the team at times.
Junior Game: Team Two 96- Team One 95
Team One MVP: Tony Chennault, 6-3 shooting guard, Neumann-Goretti
Best Defender: Rakeem Brookins, 6-1 shooting guard, Roman Catholic
Team Two MVP: Jamir Hanner, 6-7 power forward, Southern
Most Unselfish: Tyree Johnson, 5-10 point guard, Penn Wood
Shaquille Duncan, 6-9 power forward, Frankford: The outgoing Duncan took full advantage of his opportunity to bask in the spotlight. Looking to dunk early and often, he was the recipient of nice assists from guards like Johnson and Archbishop Carroll’s D.J. Irving. He also showed the ability to create his own dunk opportunities with tip-jams in the halfcourt. As his overall skill in the post and strength improves, his game will blossom greatly.
Deshon Minnis, 6-2 point guard, Southern: The tall, stocky point guard asserted himself early and was instrumental in teammate Hanner securing MVP honors with his assists later. Many times during the game he used his big-bodied frame to bully his way to the basket. His solid ball handling allowed him to get past slick defenders for layups in the halfcourt.
Hanner: Even though Division I coaches weren’t allowed in the building, the player nicknamed “Jigga” plays like he’s trying to get a scholarship every day of the week. Describing his fast-break dunks would only be telling half of the story. With a solid post arsenal already, his perimeter game is in the embryonic stages, but shows potential of turning him into a full-time small forward down the road.
Chennault: If being relentless was a sport, the Wake Forest commitment would be the champion by now. His 23-point performance wasn’t pretty, but he got the job done. While players in other games felt content trying to get style points, Chennault’s greatest strength is that he constantly plays hard on the offensive end which led to him getting a lot of points that others missed out on.