By Jordan Ingram
If you wanted to see some of high school basketball’s future movers and shakers, look no further than Roman Catholic High School.
Organized by local Sonny Hill League coach Rasool Nasr Hajj, the First Annual Youth Clinic invited some of the top grade school talents in the area.
During the event, the young up-and-comers also had the opportunity to hear other youth coaches, Abu Jabbar and Jerome Smith, speak about the importance of education.
Nasr Hajj, who also coached Interstate Realty to the 2007 Cosby League Championship, thought that education was the key message being expressed.
“We want to make sure that the kids are academically prepared for high school and college,” Nasr Hajj said. “We really used the basketball to draw them down to Roman Catholic so that we could really talk about academics.”
The first day of the clinic was focused on the youngsters attending classes at Roman where they received lectures about achieving good scores on the PSAT and SAT exams. Some of the top future talents that were in attendance included 6-foot-3 eighth grade guard Miles Overton (the son of New Jersey Nets assistant coach Doug Overton) and 5-foot-6 seventh grader Malik Tyndale (younger brother of former Temple star Mark Tyndale).
Nasr Hajj also was impressed that former NBA players like Pervis Ellison and Lari Ketner were in attendance to support the event.
“I felt great that I actually had Doug Overton’s son at the clinic, Marshall Taylor’s son, and Malik Tyndale because we think they’ll become good athletes but even better students,” said Nasr Hajj. “They were excellent kids that gave me zero problems during the weekend.”
When it came time for the kids to show-and-prove on the hardwood, the young athletes failed to disappoint. Nasr Hajj organized drills in order to focus on offensive and defensive fundamentals.
The younger Tyndale took a workmanlike approach to the defensive approach and his competitive demeanor at times mirrored his older brother. Even at a young age Malik, who attends Gesu School, understands that defense is vital.
“It all starts on defense first,” said Malik. “You have to do everything on defense before you start shooting the ball and scoring. My brother taught me a couple of moves and my dad taught us how to play basketball.”
The kids participated in five-on-five competition where Jabbar and Smith served as coaches of the respective teams. Though the game didn’t attract the large, unruly crowd of a Friday night Roman vs. Neumann-Gorretti showdown, but it gave onlookers a strong indication that Philly basketball has a bright future.
In the two quarters he played, it was hard for parents to take their eyes off of 6-foot-3 eighth grade center Amir Maddred. Maddred scored over double-figures and displayed a good feel for scoring that will make any coach happy. The Talley Middle School (Wilmington, Del.) big man was overjoyed to play against such top-notch competition.
“I got a really good experience playing against great competition and I thought it really helped my game out a lot,” said Maddred.
Eighth grade MVP Britton Lee impressed onlookers the most during the weekend. The 5-foot-8 combo guard from Woodrow Wilson Middle School seemed like a man among boys with his effortless drives to the basket and smooth, no look passes. Already inked to Roman in 2009, Lee was happy to play on the floor where he eventually hopes to become a star.
“It felt good to play here because I know a lot of great players played at Roman,” Lee said. “I understand that academics are important because if I didn’t have that I wouldn’t be able to get into Roman at all.”