Big Hoops Weekend

Classic powerhouses and new contenders on display at tournaments

(Photo Left) Jayre Davis, 15, of Sanford, Delaware is a 6’6’’ shooting guard and a member of Team USA 16U basketball. Photographed at Black Cager Fall Classic at Girard College. Photo by Sarah J. Glover.

Many pre-season high school basketball events have taken place this fall. On Oct. 14 and 15, at the Black Cager Classic at Girard College Liberty City Press went to see the talent first hand. Top national teams collided with our area’s top teams making for an exceptionally  fun showcase.

Current NBA guard Maalik Wayns (Houston Rockets), and former NBAers: DaJuan Wagner (Cleveland), Marc Jackson (76ers), Lynn Greer (Milwaukee) and 7-foot 7-inch Romanian Gheorghe Muresan (Washington) joined many former top college players and top AAU coaches on the East Coast to witness the event.

“I couldn’t be happier with the way things went,” said Delgreco Wilson, organizer of the event. “The games were good, people had a good time, and coaches and players told me they wanted to come back.”

Many of LCP’s top-rated teams competed. This season’s rosters are arguably the best teams this area has seen for decades.

LCP predicts that 35 area schools have the talent to legitimately win league, city, district, or state titles.

One of those teams, Roman Catholic, is a team that got bumped in the first round of the PIAA 6A state tournament last year. But the Cahillites now possess the most talent of any area team with the possible exceptions of Westtown and Imhotep Charter. It is one of 10 teams that can compete for a Catholic League title.

Coach Matt Griffin has four Division I players, the most highly touted being Lynn Greer III, son and namesake of the former Temple great. He is recognized as a top 30 sophomore in the country. “I definitely see all these good teams in our league and it is very exciting and we are looking forward to the challenge of the season,” Greer said. “I think it is the best league in the whole country. I really think we are the best team. We have the best and most talent. But we also have to do it together, and blend as a team, and show it on the court. I know that Neumann-Goretti and Archbishop Wood played for the title last year in the Catholic League, but I really think many people see us as the team to beat. I know I am going to do everything I can to make it happen. We have a lot of big goals for the season.”

Greer’s team went 2-1 in the Black Cager Classic, losing by one point to St. Frances of Maryland on Oct. 14. “Everyone is going to learn to play with each other and our roles better as the season starts. We are relatively young and still a little new to each other. I love playing with these guys. We all play hard and unselfishly.”

Greer said he learned everything about hoops from his father, who was a quiet but efficient and crafty star who led Temple to the Elite Eight in 1999 and 2001, and made it to the pros, mostly in Europe, where he earned huge contracts in Greece and other countries.

“I think I am a combination guard,” said Greer, who can score and pass equally well. “I have to work on my shot and defense. My dad is a [calming influence] but he really has been encouraging and supportive.”

If Roman wins a Catholic League title, that means it will outlast Neumann, Archbishop Wood (last year’s league, city, and 5A state champs), St. Joseph’s Prep, La Salle, Archbishop Ryan, Archbishop Carroll and upstart Bonner-Prendergast to name a few.

Wood senior star Tyree Pickron, a recent Quinnipiac commit, thinks good things will be full steam ahead for his team, too, despite the loss of Villanova signee Colin Gillespie.  “It’s definitely very possible that we can be better than last year,” he said. “We have the right pieces and a great coaching staff to do so, but being better is not our goal. It’s repeating everything that our team did in 2017.” Pickron, who led his team to wins in the Warm-Up — another event the same weekend — as well as the Cager Classic, will see his role heighten in 2018.

“My role is changing a little, just taking that leadership role with my fellow seniors and working on being a playmaker for other guys this year. That is something that has me excited.”

Pickron is also excited and relieved to have made his college decision already. He earned a full scholarship to the small Connecticut University at the end of the summer. “It feels great to commit,” he said. “Especially to a coach like [former Villanova assistant] Baker Dunleavy and the great coaching staff he has. I am looking forward to playing for him.”

But first, he is thinking about the season ahead. “Every team’s key to success is different,” he said. “Ours is the brotherly bond we have, from the first guy to the last guy. I feel all those guys are my family and that’s how we treat each other and that’s the culture we have, and that’s why we win.”

The newest area star is Bonner-Prendergast guard Isaiah Wong, a 6’3” junior who is a top 50 player in his class. His transfer to Bonner had made the team a legitimate and instant contender. He averaged over 20 points in 4 games over that Oct. 13-15 weekend at two events. He played for Notre Dame Prep in New Jersey the past two seasons. “It’s a lot different here,” he said. “There’s just great basketball and camps and clinics and events everywhere. I’m aware I am playing in what may be the top league around. There are so many great players everywhere. It’s very exciting.”

Wong said he enjoys the attention that has come his way and says most of it is probably his ability to have a mid-range game, which is considered a lost art among basketball players. “My dad always stressed for me to have a mid-range game, to make decisions about the ball from 15 feet out, and work on my shooting and passing from there. I am not sure why more people don’t work on the mid-range game but I love it. I know I have to work on my three-point shooting. I am not as good of a long range shooter as some of the other top guards in the area and in the country.”

Wong is the perfect piece for Bonner. The team has two 6-foot-9-inch big men for him to work with. “Oh, it’s going to be so fun,” he said. “It will make my job easy at times. But in general, I like the basketball climate so far. I am happy to be in Philly.”

Imhotep Charter graduated a super backcourt in David Beatty (South Carolina) and Daron Russell (Rhode Island) but the Panthers may still be the top overall team in the area. Last year, they ended the season ranked second in the country. This year’s squad features junior superstar Donta Scott and classmates Chereef Knox and Dahmir Bishop, as well as a host of college prospects in the freshman and sophomore classes.

Bernard Lightsey is the senior who is expected to provide the most impact. “I know it sounds funny but I do think we can have the same results and be just as good as last year,” said Scott. “Many of us, like me, have to step up our roles and produce more. There are a lot of good young players on this team. We will battle in practice every day under coach Andre Noble and get better. This area for basketball is just great. When our program was getting started and we were making a name for ourselves, we were coming after people. Now, everybody is trying to knock off Imhotep. Personally, I like it. We know we have to be ready every game because great teams are treating us like it’s [their] Super Bowl.”


Big Hoops Weekend
Jeremy Treatman - Contributor

Jeremy Treatman is the founder and co-director of the Scholastic Play-by-Play Classics and Sports Broadcasting Camps. Over 50 NBA players, including Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Rajon Rondo played in his events when they were in high school. Jeremy wrote high school sports for the INQUIRER for 10 years, and was the first TV reporter for the HIgh School Sports Show on Channel 29 from 1994-2001. He currently is Comcast's announcer for all high school games.


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