I must admit that I am a huge high-school basketball fan. I grew up in New Jersey, which arguably has the best high-school basketball in the country. I remember the great Camden high-school teams and the great Shawnee basketball teams thru the 80’s and the 90’s. the Milt Wagners and his son Dajuan Wagner who share the title of #1 player in the country with fellow Panther great Billy Thompson. Also, the Earl brother’s Danny and Brian, also known as the assistant coaches at Penn State and Princeton. I remember the Crispin brothers at Pitman high-school. Younger brother Joe went on to play for the LA Lakers.
I bring up these guys because they all had one thing in common; they played for the public high-school in their neighborhoods. The troubling thought is that the high school basketball that I grew to love is no longer the same and the time of playing in the school yard or park with the goal of making the varsity team in your neighborhood public high school no longer exists.
In the last 10 years, there has been a major up rise in private schools that recruit all of the public school talent from all over the country. Last, year, HBO did a documentary on the St. Patrick’s Celtics basketball team out of Elizabeth New Jersey. Upon some research, I realized that not one player on that team has been from Elizabeth, NJ. In fact, they had as many players that were from out of the state then they did players that where from in state. They even had a player that was from Memphis Tennessee who has since transferred to another private school here in Florida when the former coach at St. Pats took the coaching job at Montverdy Preparatory School in Florida.
Sadly, this is going on everywhere. Think about this, the top 8 rated players in the country this year, all go to private or preparatory schools, and my research shows that none of those players play in the neighborhood they grew up in. Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas NV), St. Anthonys (Jersey City NJ), Brewster Academy (NH), Notre Dame(MA), Finley prep(NV), and how about the Upper Room Christian Academy (NC). There are tons of these schools and they are growing year by year. There was a school in Philadelphia a couple years back and rumor has it the only students where the basketball player, I have no evidence but Lutheran was the name of the school.
With all that being said, I am disgusted at where high-school basketball has gone over the last ten to fifteen years. The public school athletic programs suffer and the neighborhood fans suffer. Most important to me is the neighborhood pride that motivates our young players that are no longer the same. What do you think?