30 Jan THE CITY OF BROTHERLY LOVE
*Dedicated to Sonny Hill who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame on Sept. 5, 2008, as co-recipient of the Mannie Jackson Basketball Human Spirit Award for his many contributions to basketball including but not limited to the Baker League in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia with the Delaware River on its east and the Schuylkill River running through part of it on the west is home to Independence Hall. This is where John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Ben Franklin signed the Declaration of Independence. This great city is also famous for its delicious cheese steak and hoagie sandwiches and the famous Reading Terminal Farmers Market. Even Rocky, the mythical heavyweight champion got his start in Philadelphia. However, this story is about high school basketball and its contribution to the National Basketball Association.
When Ben Franklin was flying his kite, he knew that he was on to something. But, not in his wildest dreams or inventive genius could he have envisioned that his beloved city would produce human sky walkers with such interplanetary funkmenship. Nor could he have known that a high school would be named after him that produces outstanding basketball players. In 1951, one of its students was the Public High School Player of the Year; none other than former Temple University coach, John Chaney.
With respect to interplanetary funkmenship, I am referring to Wilt Chamberlain, Joe Anderson, Hank Gathers, and a few others. In today’s basketball parlance, players with serious “ups” or “hops” in rebounding and shot blocking. When it comes to vertical leap, two players from nearby Chester, Pennsylvania are at the absolute top of the list. Horace Walker at 6’ 3” in 1956 could almost jump out of the building. He went to Michigan State and terrorized the Big “10” and then to the NBA. Next is Emerson Baynard at 6’ 4’’ in 1961 who was a whirling dervish player with all kinds of moves in the air. He was Dr.” J” before Julius with a significantly better jump shot. When it comes to the best all-around three-sport star student/ athlete at Chester H. S. that distinction belongs to Bo Ryan former Head Basketball Coach at the University of Wisconsin.
Here are the best High School Basketeers in Philadelphia history from 1951-2008. The selections are based on what they accomplished in high school and in their time, which is the true measure of their skill. Peers lionized them.
Tom Gola LaSalle H.S. 1951 NBA
John Chaney Ben Franklin 1951
Hal Lear Overbrook 1952
Guy Rogers Northeast 1954 NBA (Deceased)
Wilt Chamberlain Overbrook 1955 NBA (Deceased)
Jimmy (Tee) Parham Northeast 1955
Ray (Chink) Scott West 1956 NBA
Walt Hazzard Overbrook 1960 NBA (Deceased)
Larry Cannon Lincoln 1965 ABA
Andre McCarter Overbrook 1971 NBA
Jimmy Baker Olney 1971
Joe (Jellybean) Bryant Bartram 1972 NBA
Gene (Tinkerbell) Banks West 1977 NBA
Jeffery Clark Frankford 1977
Clarence (Egie) Tillman West 1978
Jadeane Day West 1981
Rico Washington Ben Franklin 1983
Jerome (Pooh) Richardson Ben Franklin 1985 NBA
Eric (Hank) Gathers Dobbins Tech 1985 (Deceased)
Brian Shorter Simon Gratz 1986
Lionel (L-Train) Simmons South 1986 NBA
Dawn Staley Dobbins Tech 1988 WNBA
Aaron Mckie Simon Gratz 1990
Jason Lawson Olney 1993
Rasheed Wallace Simon Gratz 1993 NBA
Maureen Costello Nazareth Acad. 1994
Rasual Butler Roman Cath. 1998 NBA
Kyle Lowry Cardinal Dough. 2004 NBA
Mary Kate McDade Nazareth Acad. 2005
Maurice Rice Lutheran Acad. 2008
The above players were selected among hundreds. Consider the following outstanding high school players (and others to numerous to mention) clearly in the mix, but not chosen, in the top 30, namely:
Sonny Hill Northeast 1955 Central State U.
Joe Ryan St Joseph 1955
Wayne Hightower Overbrook 1958 NBA
Ralph Heywood Overbrook 1959 NBA
Wally Jones Overbrook 1960 NBA
Matt Guokas, Jr St. Joseph 1962 NBA
Earl (The Pearl) Monroe Bartram 1962 NBA
Lewis (Black Magic) Lloyd Overbrook 1977 NBA
Michael Brooks West Catholic 1985 NBA
Bo Kimble Dobbins Tech 1985 NBA
If any reader does not recognize many of the names in the 1950’s – 1960’s take my word for it, as a basketball cognoscente – these players were off the chain. A few players were sidetracked for various reasons and fell through the asphalt cracks. Contemporaries might say: “if he had only”—–every time his name comes up. Most went on to college and many to the NBA, ABA and the Eastern League, the predecessor to the Continental Basketball Association. All of the above players attained legendary status in the City of Brotherly Love and beyond. I cannot tell which players wore P. F. Flyers, Keds, Converse (Chuck Taylor-“All-Star”—-high top or low cut), Adidas, Puma, Nike Air Jordan’s or Reebok, but I can tell you all brought palms together.
To those deserving, but omitted, please accept my apology. This is not an exact science, but certainly, a bona fide ALL TIME-ALL TIME, Philadelphia High School Roster. In the final analysis, Grantland Rice, The Dean of Sports Journalist said it best, for all players, “When the one Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, it matters not, if you won or lost but how you the played the game.”
If you are wondering why Kobe Bryant of the NBA Lakers is not listed in this article it is because he played high school ball in Ardmore, PA. But, his father Joe (Jellybean) Bryant is mentioned herein.
The following is a short list of Philly’s playground legends:
Maurice Rice – broke Wilt Chamberlain’s high school scoring record with 2,206 points.
Ronald “Flip Murray –has serious “hops” & now played in the NBA.
Galen Baker – a North Philly playground legend.
Reggie Wells – a dunking machine.
Sad Eyes Watson – a guard who can fill it up.
Emmanuel “Vel” Davis –now playing in the NBA.
Aron “AO” Owens – a North Philly playground legend.
Get this: Micah Mason of Highlands H. S. in Natrona Heights, PA. in 2011 scored 64 points on 17 of 19 from the floor and 23 of 24 from the foul line. This is the second highest scoring performance in the history of the WPIAL League.
Get this: Amir Hinton of Abington, PA, 6’5” guard now playing for Shaw Univ. in Raleigh, N. C. is averaging over 30 ppg., shooting 50 percent from the floor and 89 percent from the foul line. I suggest that the NBA scouts should keep an eye on Amir Hinton.
About the Author
James A. Johnson is a basketball cognoscente and an accomplished Trial Lawyer. Jim is an active member of the Massachusetts, Michigan, Texas and U.S. Supreme Court Bars. He concentrates on serious Personal Injury, Sports & Entertainment Law, Insurance Coverages and be reached at www.JamesAJohnsonEsq.com
© 2019 James A. Johnson