If you had a chance to watch Martin Luther King and Constitution high schools play in the Philadelphia Public League semifinals, then you know the championship matchup between these two powerhouse teams should be a good one. MLK and Constitution will battle for the Public League championship on Sunday, Feb. 23, at the Liacouras Center. The tipoff will be at 3 p.m.
MLK punched its ticket to the finals by defeating Math, Civics & Sciences, 75-56. Constitution nipped Philadelphia Electrical Technology Charter, 69-65 in a down-to-the-wire contest. MLK received some terrific scoring from its guards Sammy Foreman and Jabri McCall, who tallied 17 points each. Gregory Bennett, a 6-foot-3 senior, had 16 points for the Cougars. Chase Rodgers also contributed 12 points.
Rodgers, a 6-foot-6 junior, connected from long range with a couple three-pointers to open things up for the MLK offense. He’s looking forward to playing for the league championship. His brother, Scott Rodgers, former Drexel basketball star, helped Central High School win a Public League title in 2005.
“I grew up in West Oak Lane,” Rodgers said. “My brother is Scott Rodgers. He worked me out a lot. He made me a better player. I’m just glad I have him in my life. That’s my role model. He’s playing (professional basketball) overseas.”
The Cougars (21-4, 7-3) are playing great basketball right now. Rodgers always believed MLK had the potential to reach the league championship game.
“This is what we expected,” Rodgers said. “Before the school year happended a lot of people were committed, and this is the commitment paying off. We play as a team. Our goal is to win a championship. Last year’s team was good, but we set higher expectations.”
Sean Colson, MLK head coach, has been impressed with Rodgers’s shooting touch from the perimeter. However, Colson feels his defense has really improved this season.
“Chase is a really good player,” Colson said. “He’s a great shooter. But Chase is really concentrating on the defensive end. He’s also rebounding. He’s letting his offense come to him.”
This will be MLK’s first trip to the league championship game. Constitution won the league crown in 2012. The Generals (22-4, 8-2) were loaded with talent that year. They had Savon Goodman, Daiquan Walker, Faijion Jones, Craig Slad and Tamir Bolger. This year’s club has a number of great players, too. That was evident in the win over PET with 6-foot senior guard Floyd Preito (19 points) and 6-foot-6 junior forward Ahmad Gilbert (15 points). Gilbert was a member of that championship team. He was hoping to make another trip to the title game.
“It’s like a dream come true,” Gilbert said. “I’ve been waiting all summer. This is what I’ve been talking about all summer. I’m just happy it came. I’ve been playing hard. I think free throws will be the key for us. We have to come out and play hard. King is a really good team.”
Rob Moore, Generals head coach, knows this year’s team has to grind it out a little more than the club that captured the league crown two years ago.
“Most of my guys on this team are juniors like Ahmad and Kimar (Williams),” Moore said. “That team was all seniors like Savon (Goodman), Daiquan (Walker), Faijion (Jones), Tamir (Bolger) and (Craig) Slade. It was a senior heavy team, but they learned a lot from them. It’s like anything they have to mature. They’re learning step-by-step of how to be better and how they emulate what they saw a couple years ago. You can’t expect a 10th grader to do it even though they saw it the year before. You still have to go through the growing pains. You still have to learn on the court. I think they spent last year learning on the court.”
This year they’re back in the championship game.
There weren’t many fans who knew a lot about Tony Wroten when the Philadelphia 76ers acquired him in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies at the beginning of the season. The Sixers sent the Grizzlies future draft considerations in return for Wroten, and a trade exception was arranged for Memphis in the transaction.
In 2012, Wroten was the 25th overall pick in the first round of the NBA draft by the Grizzlies. He didn’t play a great deal for Memphis. He appeared in only 35 regular season games as a rookie. Wroten also saw some playing time in the team’s run to the Western Conference Finals. In addition, he played for the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development League.
Despite the limited playing time, Wroten, a 6-foot-6, 205-pound shooting guard, has been a pleasant addition for the Sixers this season. In a season where the Sixers have a nine-game losing streak right now and a 15-40 overall record, Wroten has given the fans something to cheer about. He is averaging 12.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists a game.
“Last year, I wasn’t playing a lot and being able to come here, talking to the coaches and my agent, they told me I was going to get an opportunity,” Wroten said. “That’s all I needed. I knew all the hard work I put in during the summer, I knew it would help me get to where I am now.”
Wroten has been able to knock down a variety shots. He has displayed a nice touch from the outside. He can explode to the basket. Wroten has also filled the lanes on the fastbreak with some great finishes around the basket.
“I tried to work on everything,” Wroten said. “I knew what I was capable of doing. I knew how much work I put in the gym. I have a great supporting cast. My close friends kept me level-headed. My friends Tony Allen, Mike Conley and Zac Randolph, they always kept me level-headed and told me to never give up. It’s a process. So, when I got the opportunity I wouldn’t let anything get in between it.”
Wroten has learned a lot from Sixers veteran Thaddeus Young. He has noticed the spectacular play and development of Sixers rookie sensation Michael Carter-Williams.
“It’s a great group of guys,” he said. “I like playing with them. Everybody sees what Mike is doing. I’ve been knowing Mike since high school. So, we got a great bond. He’s a very good player.”
Wroten grew up in Seattle, Washington. He went to Garfield High School where he was a basketball star. Wroten, 20, played his college basketball at the University of Washington. He comes from a sports family. His father (Tony) played football at Washington. His mother (Shirley) ran track at Washington and Arizona State. His cousin, Nate Robinson plays for the Denver Nuggets. His aunt (Joyce Walker) was a two-time All-American basketball player at LSU. She played for the Harlem Globetrotters, too.
During the offseason, Wroten plays a lot of basketball in his hometown.
“Basketball is the best in Seattle,” he said. “We got a lot of good guys. Our summers are really good. We have Nate Robinson, Jamal Crawford, Brandon Roy and Martell Webster. We play some good basketball there.”
Wroten and the Sixers will try to end their nine-game losing streak when they host the Dallas Mavericks this evening, Friday at the Wells Fargo Center at 7 p.m.
Two years ago, former Temple University basketball players LaMont Ferrell and Darrin Pearsall, organized a special luncheon to honor John Chaney, the Owls’ head basketball coach for 24 seasons.
Now, Ferrell and Pearsall are paying an even bigger tribute to Chaney in a upcoming documentary titled ‘The Wise Old Owl’, which highlights the career of the former Temple basketball legend and Hall of Fame coach.
“I was watching ESPN’s ‘30 for 30’ about a year ago and all the documentaries on there,” Ferrell said. “I was looking at the one on Nolan Richardson [former Arkansas head basketball coach]. At that moment, the documentary I wanted to see was the John Chaney documentary. Coach Chaney would be perfect for the documentary.
“I just had a light bulb go off,” Ferrell said. “I said I had to do this. I did a little reserach. There weren’t any documentaries exclusively done on Coach Chaney. I knew he was a part of Black Magic and some other documentaries, but none of them were done on him.
“So, I called Darrin,” Ferrell continued. “He was the first person I called. He helped me with the surprise banquet for Coach Chaney a couple years ago. I called him up and said, ‘Hey man, this is our next big thing.’ We just had to get Coach on board.”
Ferrell and Pearsall have known each other from their high school days before coming to Temple. Ferrell had an oustanding basketball career at Yeadon High and Penn Wood High School. Pearsall was a sensational player at Chester High School. They both competed against each other in high school. They both organized another luncheon to speak directly to Chaney about the project.
“Darrin and I got together with Aaron McKie, Vic Carstarphen, Lynn Greer, Coach [Bill] Ellerbee [formerly the head coach at Simon Gratz High School], Mardy Collins and some others to meet with Coach Chaney,” Ferrell said. “We sat down to lunch. We talked to him about the documentary. Of course, he didn’t want to do it at first. He didn’t think anybody would be interested in his story. We told him what type of angle that we would take in the documentary. After that, Darrin and I called him a month later, and he decided to let us do the documentary.”
Pearsall works fulltime as a youth program supervisor in Wilmington, Del. Ferrell is directing the documentary through his company, Just Jokes Entertainment. He has a long history in television, having written and produced more than a dozen sitcoms such as Girlfriends, House of Payne and Let’s Stay Together. Christopher Kelsey, a staff member at BET, is producing the documentary. They started interviewing people for the documentary on Feb. 1, which was the same weekend Temple unveiled the statues of Chaney and former Temple basketball coach Harry Litwack at the Liacouras Center.
“I think both of us are really happy that this project is really takming off,” Pearsall said. “We knew that it would be something that folks would buy into. We’re just excited about what we can for Coach Chaney. We wanted to include as many of his former players at Cheyney State and Temple. We wanted this project to be all inclusive and get as many people (as possible) who have known Coach Chaney over the years. The response has been great. As we continue, we’ve found out how many people he’s touched over the years.”
Chaney was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001, having posted a 516-253 mark as the program’s head coach from 1982 to 2006. He guided his teams to 23 post-season appearances (17 NCAA, 6 NIT), including five Elite Eight finishes. He was twice named National Coach of the Year, and his 1987-88 squad is the only Temple team to end the season ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press national poll.
Prior to coming to Temple, Chaney was the head coach at Cheyney State from 1972-1982. In 1978, he led the Wolves to a NCAA Division II championship. He compiled a 232-56 record during his 10 years at Cheyney State. He has an overall 741-312 record throughout his college coaching career.
However, Chaney has been more than just a coach to his players. He has inspired his players to succeed beyond the basketball court. His coaching as well as his life lessons have made a big impact on the lives of his players.
Ferrell and Pearsall have received a lot of positive response from the project. But they need some financial contributions and sponsors to put the documentary together.
“We want to screen it and to invite not just the Temple community, but the enterainment community, and from that screening get some interest from ESPN or HBO Sports for distribution,” Ferrell said. “Then, we want to get it licensed and have it put on DVD to be available for the Temple alumni and fans when they come to the basketball games.”
To learn more about the documentary and to make a contribution, go to www.facebook.com/TheWiseOldOwlDocumentary.
The Public League playoffs is down to the final four. The league semifinals will have Martin Luther King facing Math, Civics & Sciences at 5 p.m. In the first game of a doubleheader at Southern High School, Broad Street and Snyder Avenue. The second game will feature Constitution and Philadelphia Electrical and Technology Charter. The tip-off will be at 6:30 p.m. for this contest.
Math, Civics & Sciences advanced to the semifinals with a 64-49 win over New Media. The Elephants were led by Samir Doughty, who is one of the top juniors in the city. Doughty, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, had 17 points and 10 rebounds in the victory over New Media. His overall play has moved Math, Civics & Sciences closer to a league championship.
“It feels good,” Doughty said. “We just have to keep working as a team. It’s a lot of hard work. But we’re in the Final Four. I play a tough role for us. I have to score the ball. Whatever it takes to win that’s where they put me on offense.”
Doughty averages 14.9 points a game. He has been one of the Elephants most consistent players this season. Danny Jackson, Math, Civics & Sciences head coach, has been impressed with his versatility and overall play in the backcourt.
“He’s very unselfish,” Jackson said. “He doesn’t demand the ball. He will rebound. He tries to defend the other team’s best player. He’s been setting a precedence as a leader. Overall, he’s a leader of this basketball team as a junior.”
In addition to Doughty, MC&S is loaded with talent. They have 6-foot-3 senior Louis Myers, 6-foot-9 junior Mike Watkins, 5-foot-11 junior Tyrese Hester, 5-foot-10 junior Donavan Barnes, 5-foot-9 junior Calil Moultrie and 6-foot-6 sophomore Terquin Mott.
“It feels good to have other people who can handle the ball and take a load off me,” Doughty said. “If I get tired, I can come out knowing that we’re going to be all right. We have a good team. We’re in a good position right now.”
Sammy Foreman, Martin Luther King’s talented shooting guard, has the Cougars in a great spot as well. Foreman, a 6-foot-1 junior, had 13 points and five rebounds to lead MLK to a 50-48 win over Central in a game that went down to the wire. He feels a close postseason victory will prepare them for the next game.
“It was a tough one right there,” Foreman said after the win. “We’re trying to win and get to the championship.”
Foreman, a 6-foot-1 junior averages 13.0 points game. He has the ability to penetrate, look for the open man and connect from the outside. He credits Sean Colson, Cougars head coach, for his development this year.
“He’s helped me so much,” Foreman said. “He’s helped me with my shooting and decision making. I’m taking better shots. I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s helped Tyheem [Harmon], too.”
Harmon, a 5-foot-10 junior, picks up some of the ballhandling responsibilities. The Cougars other standouts include 6-foot-8 senior Jahmir Taylor, 6-foot sophomore Jabri McCall, 6-foot-3 senior Gregory Bennett, 6-foot-5 sophomore Brandon McNair and 6-foot-6 junior Chase Rodgers.
“We have some great players on our team,” Foreman said. “We just have to keep playing together. We have to continue to move the ball and play good defense. That’s what you need to do to win in the playoffs.”
Philadelphia Electrical and Technology Charter pulled off a big upset defeating Imhotep Charter, the league’s defending champion. PET’s 53-48 victory puts them in semifinals. The Chargers 6-foot-3 junior Devante Triutt had a team-high 12 points.
Constitution had a big 79-75 win over Delaware Valley Charter to move the semifinals. The Generals were paced by 6-foot senior Floyd Preito who led the team with 17 points. Constitution other double figure scorers were 6-foot-1 junior Kimar Williams and 6-foot-6 junior Ahmad Gilbert who both chipped in 15 points.
The Catholic League semifinals will feature two great matchups on Wednesday night, Feb. 19 at The Palestra. In the first game of the twinbill, La Salle will play Roman Catholic at 7 p.m. The second game will have defending league champion Neumann-Goretti against Archbishop Carroll at 8:30 p.m.
La Salle is coming off a tough 38-33 win over St. Joseph’s Prep. The Explorers solid performances from Dave Krmpotich (17 points) and Najee Walls (nine points). Krmpotich, a 6-foot-7 junior, leads the team in scoring. He averages 11.9 points a game. Walls, a 5-foot-11 junior, is the Explorers’ second leading scorer, tallying 11.8 points a game.
Roman Catholic posted a 84-56 win over Bishop McDevitt to get to the semifinal round. The Cahillites have one of the top backcourts in the city with 6-foot-2 seniors Shep Garner and Rashann London. Garner had a team-high 17 points while London contributed 16 in the victory. Roman Catholic’s strength is with its guards. Garner and London will play Division I basketball next season at Penn State and Drexel respectively.
Neumann-Goretti appears to be picking up a lot of steam for this playoff contest. N-G crushed West Catholic, 98-57 in its playoff game. The Saints were led by Ja’Quan Newton with 26 points. Newton, a 6-foot-2 senior, will play his college basketball at the University of Miami next season. The Saints scoring parade also included Quade Green (15 points), Troy Harper (13 points) and Lamarr Kimble (12 points). Harper, a 6-foot-1 senior, will play Division I basketball at Campbell University next year.
Archbishop Carroll didn’t waste a lot of time putting Archbishop Wood away defeating them 64-44. The Patriots received tremendous play from 6-foot-6 junior Derrick Jones (24 points) and 6-foot-1 senior Austin Tilghman (12 points). Jones is a major Division-I prospect. He’s a terrific player around the basket. Archbishop Carroll also has 6-foot-9 junior Ernest Alfakpui inside.
The winners will play for the league championship on Monday, Feb. 24.