When Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson isn’t playing basketball for the Temple Owls, he’s usually watching his brother Rondae Jefferson play for Chester High’s powerhouse basketball team. Rondae is one of the best high school players in the country.
In fact, Rahlir was there when Rondae had a spectacular dunk where he threw the ball up against the backboard, caught it and slammed it home in a game during the Christmas holidays. The play made ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays. It was No. 2 that day. He received national attention for that play.
“I was there,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “I got to see it live. It was way better live than what you saw on TV. He was able to make a good play. He lobbed it to himself on the backboard and threw it down.”
Rahlir, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound senior, has been throwing down for the Owls. He’s averaging 8.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists a game. Hollis-Jefferson has been a solid player throughout his college career.
Like his brother, Rondae, he was a huge star at Chester High. He led Chester High to a PIAA Class AAAA state championship as a junior. Hollis-Jefferson led the Clippers to a big state title win over Norristown, which had Khalif Wyatt, who is now a teammate of Hollis-Jefferson at Temple.
Hollis-Jefferson is one of the veteran players for the Owls. He has helped them become one of the best teams in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
“We have a lot of senior leaders,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “We have Scootie (Randall), Khalif (Wyatt) and T.J. (DiLeo). Scootie leads by example. He’s our leading rebounder. Khalif is our leader on offense. He helps our offense. T.J. comes in off the bench. They do what they do. I just try to get better and do what I do best. I try to do a little bit of everything.”
Temple has been really tested this season. The Owls have faced some of the best teams in the nation in Duke, Kansas and Syracuse. They beat the Orange a month ago in a nationally televised game in New York City’s Madison Square Garden.
“Games like that really help us when the tournament comes around later in the season,” he said. “We’ve played these games in places other than our own gym. We’re playing against some great teams, too.”
March should be busy for Rahlir and Rondae. They’ll both be playing a lot of basketball during that month. Meanwhile, they’ll be watching each other play as much as possible.
“He’s been to a few of my games,” Rondae said. “He gets out when he can. He plays a national schedule. I enjoy seeing him. I’m one of his biggest fans.”
Before Chester High heads to the PIAA tournament to defend its Class AAAA state title, it has a big game with Catholic League power Neumann-Goretti on Feb. 10 on ESPN2. Rondae was a member of the 2011-12 USA Basketball Development National team. He will play his college basketball for the University of Arizona next season.
Rahlir will lead the Temple Owls against Saint Louis in an Atlantic 10 Conference matchup on Saturday, Jan. 12 at the Liacouras Center. The tipoff is 6 p.m.
Herb Douglas recently celebrated his birthday. This just wasn’t any birthday party. He became 90 years old on March 9, 2012. Douglas had a big bash in his hometown of Pittsburgh at the Senator John Heinz History Center. He had a number of sports legends at this party. Douglas said Joe Cosgrove, chairman of Pentec Health, and Randy LeTang, president, Wellbridge Capital, sponsored the event.
Douglas, who resides in the Wynnefield section of Philadelphia, has become the oldest African-American Olympic medalist. In 1948, he won a bronze medal at the Olympics in London. That’s where the Olympics will be held this summer.
Douglas has been quite a pioneer throughout his life. In 1942, he teamed with William Morton, Clarence Doak and Howard Mitchell to make Xavier University (New Orleans, La.) the first HBCU (historically Black college and university) to win a relay at the Penn Relays. The team captured the 440-yard relay in 41.7 seconds.
After two years, he left and came home to help his father, who was blind and had a parking garage business. Right after World II in 1945, he went back to college. He decided to attend to the University of Pittsburgh. He played football and set a school record in the long jump (24-4.88) which lasted 23 years.
Douglas joined Schieffelin & Company (now Moet/Hennessy USA) in 1963 where he became the third African-American to reach the level of vice president of a national company.
Temple-Syracuse to headline inaugural Gotham Classic
Two of the top college basketball programs in the country, Temple and Syracuse, will headline the field of the inaugural Gotham Classic, which culminates with the two teams facing each other at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Dec. 22. Temple, the sixth winningest Division I program with 1,790 wins, returns two starters from last year’s team in junior guard Khalif Wyatt (17.1 ppg) and junior forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (9.3 ppg).
The Owls, who posted a 24-8 record in a 2011–12 season highlighted by the Atlantic 10 Conference regular season championship and a fifth straight NCAA appearance, also will return fifth-year senior forward Scootie Randall and junior forward Dalton Pepper, both of whom red-shirted last season.
Syracuse, which made its eighth NCAA Elite Eight appearance in 2011–12, ranks fifth on the NCAA wins list with 1,844 victories. The regular season Big East champions return three starters from a team that posted a 34-3 record. The Orange lead the all-time series with Temple, 16-13, but the schools have not met on the court since Temple defeated Syracuse, 65-54, in the NIT third place game at Madison Square Garden in 2002.
The format for the inaugural Gotham Classic sees both Temple and Syracuse playing three games on campus beginning Dec. 15 before taking on each other at Madison Square Garden. The other three teams in the event will travel to both Syracuse and Temple before facing each other, with one game at home and the other on the road.
The Phoenix Club of Philadelphia announces 2012 Phoenix Awards winners
Maurice Watson Jr., Boys’ Latin standout and Kahleah Copper, Prep Charter star, have been named winners of the 2012 Phoenix Awards. The Phoenix Club of Philadelphia was established in 2008 by Michael G. Horsey, a local certified public accountant, to recognize the “most outstanding” senior male and female basketball players in the Public League.
There are many great college basketball players around the country. Pendarvis Williams is certainly one of them. Williams, a former William Bodine High School for International Affairs standout, is a huge star for Norfolk State’s basketball team.
Williams, a 6-foot-6, 195-pound junior, has been named the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year. He averaged 14.1 points and 4.6 rebounds to lead the defending MEAC champion Spartans to an undefeated 16-0 mark in conference play and 21-10 record overall. He was also named first-team All-MEAC.
After losing four starters from last year’s NCAA tournament team, including Kyle O’Quinn from the NBA’s Orlando Magic, the Spartans got a big season from Williams. He is shooting 81.9 percent from the free throw line, 45.7 percent from the field and 39.9 from three-point range. Anthony Evans, Norfolk State head coach, who was named the MEAC Coach of the Year, has watched Williams improve his game over the years.
“Last year he played the point, but Kyle O’Quinn was the feature guy and then Chris McEachin was the next guy,” Evans said. “Penny [Williams] got his shots based on the defense focusing on them. This year he was our best returning player and teams were focusing on him. He had to get used to that attention. He’s worked on his game. He watches film. He’s one of the top players in our league as well as one of the best in the country.”
The Spartans became the first team to post an undefeated record in conference play since Coppin State in 1993-94 under head coach Ron “Fang” Mitchell. Norfolk State is guaranteed a bid to the NIT with its regular season championship. There’s a lot of excitement around the Spartans.
Last year, they sent shock waves through the NCAA tournament as the No. 15 seed upsetting the No. 2 seed Missouri,86-84 in the first round of the tournament. Williams put on quite a show in that big victory. He had 20 points, shooting 7-for-9 from the field and 4-for-4 from three-point range, and grabbing four rebounds. He had a good taste of national publicity. The experience really helped him this season.
“That win put Norfolk State on the map,” Williams said. “When you think about it, it made us known worldwide. We were up for an ESPY award. It’s been a great season this year. We lost four starters. I was one of the most experienced players. I know my coaches and teammates believe in me and depend on me to step up. And that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do.”
Williams played some great basketball in the Public League during his career at Bodine. He also starred for the Hun School in New Jersey. Evans will never forget the recruiting trip to see Williams play.
“The year I recruited him we were trying to get some impact players around Kyle (O’Quinn),” Evans said. “I drove up in a snow storm to watch him play. It’s funny, when I watched him, I thought, ‘There’s no way this guy is a point guard.’ As soon as Penny started playing, I could see that he could do whatever he wanted to do.”
In spite of his talents, Williams didn’t receive a lot of Division I interest. He played against a number of college players from the Public and Catholic leagues. He also honed his skills in the Sonny Hill League during the summer months. Nevertheless, he wasn’t a household name at the time.
“We had a lot of great players like Tony Chennault (Neumann-Goretti, Villanova), Tyrone Garland (Bartram, La Salle), Khalif Wyatt (Norristown, Temple) and Scootie Randall (Communications Tech, Temple),” said Williams, who eclipsed the 1,000-point mark this season. “I felt like I could play anywhere. I just didn’t get a lot of exposure. But everything worked out for me anyway.
“When I went home over the summer, everybody was talking about our win in the NCAA tournament. I got so much love at home and around the city. It was great.”
The Spartans earned a bye and will open play in the MEAC tournament on Wednesday, March 13, in the quarterfinal round at the Scope Arena in Norfolk. Williams is looking forward to defending the conference championship not too far from the Spartans campus.
“We’re defending champions, and having it right in Norfolk should be great for the school and the fans,” Williams said. “Every day in practice we just come out and work hard. We know what it takes. We’ve done it before and we want to get back to the tournament.”
Scootie Randall has played in some big games at Temple. Randall, Owls senior guard, just finished playing in a huge game against No. 6 ranked Kansas, which Temple lost by an eyelash 69-62 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan. on Sunday.
The game was on national television and received a great deal of media attention. But what should get a lot of exposure is Randall earning his bachelor of arts degree in sociology. He successfully completed his coursework following the fall semester.
For Randall, this is a significant accomplishment. The former All-Public and All-City standout from Communications Tech now joins teammates T.J. DiLeo and Jake O’Brien who have undergraduate degrees.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” said Randall, who had eight points and nine rebounds against Kansas. “It’s been a struggle, but being here under Coach (Fran) Dunphy, he came from Penn so he’s real big on education. We had every resource that we possibly can to help us out. It’s been a long fight. It’s been a long five years. But I’m happy I got it done.”
Randall, a 6-foot- 6, 225-pound senior, is the Owls’ second leading scorer (12.5 ppg) and leading rebounder (7.5 rpg). He’s a big reason why the Owls (10-3) are one of the top college basketball teams in the country. Randall has succeeded on and off the court. Dunphy, Temple head coach, is very impressed with his recent achievement.
“It means a lot to the program,” Dunphy said. “It means a lot to him and his family. I think it makes a great statement to what Temple’s mission is. We run the gamut from honor students to some at risk students that are given opportunities at Temple. Here’s another case where Temple gave Scootie an opportunity and he’s absolutely met the challenge. He was up to the task. It also says a lot about Temple. It’s a great nurturing environment and a great mentoring environment. It put its arms around Scootie a couple years back. It’s been a great team process.”
In the past four years, Temple has had six players complete their undergraduate work while still playing for the Owls. In addition to DiLeo (’11) and O’Brien (a 2011 graduate from Boston University), Randall joins former Temple star Micheal Eric (’11), Dutch Gaitley (2010–11 team, a 2009 graduate of Monmouth) and Luis Guzman (’09) as Temple players who also earned degrees while still having eligibility left.
Randall plans to attend graduation exercises in May. Temple will play at Xavier on Thursday, Jan. 10, at 7 p.m.
Temple’s basketball team is off to a terrific 5-0 start, its best start since the 1987-88 season 25 years ago. There are a lot of reasons the Owls have been playing extremely well. And one of them is Scootie Randall, who returned to the starting lineup after redshirting the 2011-12 season because of a knee injury.
Randall, a 6-foot-6, 225-pound senior, has come back in great shape. Moreover, he looks like the player who captured the Atlantic 10 and Big 5 Most Improved honors during the 2010-11 season. The former Communications Tech star leads the team in scoring (15.8 ppg) and rebounding (7.2 rpg).
“I feel good to be able to go out there and play with my guys again,” Randall said. “They give me the confidence and encouragement to go out each and every day to play better. That means so much to me.”
“It takes work each and every day. You can’t take a day off and working with the right people and having the right people to motivate you. I think that’s pretty key to have those people who know what they’re talking about in your ear. You just [listen] to what they have to say and go out there and do what you have to do.”
Randall showed everybody how well he bounced back from the injury right away. In the Owls’ first game of the season, he had career-highs of 31 points (10-of-18 shooting from the field and 5-for-12 from three point range) and four steals in a win over Kent State. He had his first career double-double (16 points, career high 12 rebounds) in a win over Rice. He had 18 points and eight rebounds in the victory over Delaware. Randall is really excited about the Owls potential this season.
“I feel real good about our team,” he said. “I don’t think we’re even at our best yet. We still have a lot to do. We still have to beat tougher programs. So far so good, each game you have to be prepared. I think with this group of guys we can make history.”
Temple has a big week in front of it beginning Wednesday night, Dec. 5 against Villanova (4-3) at The Pavilion on the Main Line. The tip-off will be at 9 p.m. on ESPN2. After that, Temple will play No. 2 ranked Duke (6-0) on Dec. 8 at the Izod Center in the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, N.J. The game will begin at 3:15 p.m. on ESPN2.
“We got a tough stretch,” said Randall, who scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the 70-62 win over Wagner last weekend. “All you can do is prepare, coaches don’t know what you’re capable of each and every night. The only person who knows that is you. As long as you come out with a team mindset you can get the job done.”
Randall knows a little something about winning basketball games. It goes all the way back to his playing days at Communications Tech. In 2008, he guided his school to the Public League championship. He is the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,735 points. He averaged 21 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two blocks his senior year.
He played with some great players such as Manny Jordan, Antonio “Gee” Monroe and Chris Jones. Communications Tech had a sensational 14-1 record in the Public League and a 28-4 report card overall. Randall led Communications Tech to the league title at the Liacouras Center, where he plays his college games. There are still plenty of people who remember those glory days.
“I still have a lot of family support,” Randall said. “I have a lot of friends who come to the games. I really value every person who comes out to see me play. I have a lot of loyal people in my corner and it’s going to continue to grow.”
Kevin Burwell spent a lot of time working on his game and getting into top physical condition last summer for a big season at Mississippi Valley State. For the former Imhotep Charter basketball star, the hard work has certainly paid off. Burwell has helped the Delta Devils win the Southwestern Athletic Conference and conference tournament championships. As a result, MSVU will have its dancing shoes on Tuesday, March 13 at 5:30 p.m. when they face Western Kentucky in the NCAA play in game in Dayton, Ohio.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior guard led MSVU to a 71-69 win over Texas Southern in the SWAC championship game at the Special Events Center in Garland, Texas. Burwell scored a team-high 19 points in the victory, shooting 6-for-11 from the field and 3-for-8 from three-point range and 4-for-7 from the free throw line.
“I definitely worked hard over the summer,” Burwell said. “I was at home getting into shape and playing basketball. It certainly helped me. I’m really excited about being in the NCAA tournament. We beat Texas Southern in the championship game. Everybody down here is really happy. I’ve always dreamed of playing in the NCAA tournament. Now, it’s here.”
The ex-Public League standout has helped to bring some national attention at MSVU, which is known for producing Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice. Burwell feels head coach Sean Woods, who was a star basketball player for the University of Kentucky, has done a great job of preparing them for the tournament. The Delta Devils had a tremendous non-conference schedule playing North Carolina, Florida, Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Florida. MSVU won the SWAC regular season championship with an 11-1 record. The Delta Devils only loss was to Arkansas-Pine Bluff. They finished the season with an overall 21-12 record.
“We played a lot of good teams,” Burwell said. “We had to go on the road to play them. The competition really helped us in the conference. It helped us in the SWAC championship game. We’re looking forward to playing against Western Kentucky. It’s going to be a big game for both teams.”
Burwell averaged 9.3 points, 4.5 assists and 3.4 rebounds a game. He has received a lot of attention for his basketball prowess. He’s been staying in touch with all of his friends and colleagues in Philly.
“I talked to a lot of people from Philly,” Burwell said. “I’m in touch with D.J. Rivera, Scootie Randall and Malik Alvin. I talked to Curt Jackson. I have a lot of support from Philly. That’s good, too. I’ve been calling everybody. I’ve been on national television before. I always hear from somebody whenever our team is on TV. Hopefully, they’ll be able to watch me against Western Kentucky.”
The winner of the MSVU/Western Kentucky game will be a 16 seed in the South region and face top seeded Kentucky on Thursday, March 15 in Louisville, Ky. Western Kentucky (15-18) won the Sun Belt Conference tournament championship.
Scootie Randall knows Temple will have its hands full against North Carolina State, a powerhouse team from the Atlantic Coast Conference on Friday, March 22. Nevertheless, Randall, the Owls senior forward, would like to grab a big win over the Wolfpack and make a huge impact in the NCAA tournament.
Temple (23-9), seeded No. 9, will face North Carolina State, seeded No. 8 (24-10), at UD Arena in Dayton, Ohio in the East Region. The game will begin at 1:40 p.m. on TBS. Randall, a 6-foot-6, 225-pounder, is averaging 11.8 points and 6.1 rebounds a game for the Owls.
“We got five seniors,” Randall said. “I think we have a chance to make a run in the tournament. I think it takes time and we’re here. This is an opportunity to redeem ourselves from Friday.”
Temple dropped a 79-74 decision to Massachusetts in the Atlantic 10 Conference quarterfinals. Randall had 12 points on 5-for-11 shooting that game. Randall, former Communications Tech star, is one of five seniors including Khalif Wyatt (19.8 ppg), Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (8.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.8 spg), Jake O’Brien (9.3 ppg) and T.J. DiLeo (3.0 ppg). These players have plenty of experience.
He knows this is an important time for college basketball. The Wolfpack are coming off a pretty good year. NC State has some talented players such as 6-foot-9 junior forward C.J. Leslie (15.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg), 6-foot-8 senior forward Richard Howell (12.8 ppg, 10.7 rpg) and 6-foot-5 junior guard Lorenzo Brown (12.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg).
“I was actually watching them play the other day and they play really hard,” Randall said. “They like to get up and down the floor. Leslie is a phenomenal athlete. They just work hard. I think it’s time for us to work hard. We just have to come out and compete.”
Will Cummings, Temple’s sophomore guard, who grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., is looking forward to playing in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Although Cummings has played some good basketball in Philadelphia for the Owls on North Broad Street, he knows there’s something magical about playing in New York.
“It’s going to be crazy just being in New York to play basketball,” he said. “It’s something, being from Florida, you always wanted to do when you get older and have the opportunity to do. So just being in New York and playing basketball in Brooklyn is just like playing in Madison Square Garden.”
Earlier this season Temple defeated Syracuse in Madison Square Garden. Now, the Owls (23-8 overall, 11-5 A-10), seeded No. 3 in the A-10 tourney, will be playing on Friday, March 15 at 9 p.m. (the Comcast Network).
Temple will face the winner of last night’s game between Massachusetts and George Washington, which ended too late for this edition.
A year ago, Temple was eliminated by UMass in the A-10 quarterfinals. But the Owls still received an NCAA tournament bid. Cummings remembers last season and wants to see his team bounce back and win the A-10 championship.
“I want to win it,” he said. “Last year, we had an early exit. I was a part of that, being able to watch and see what happened. This year, we’re more focused than we were last year. We’re more rested and prepared to go up there and win it.”
Temple is coming off an impressive 84-76 win over Virginia Commonwealth at the Liacouras Center on Sunday. The 6-foot-2 point guard had a fine all-around game against VCU, shooting 3-for-4 from the field, 1-for-2 from three-point range and 6-for-6 from the free throw line while scoring 13 points. He also handed out five assists.
Cummings has done a good job of getting the ball to shooting guard Khalif Wyatt, the Owls’ leading scorer and the conference player of the year, and small forward Scootie Randall. He realizes Temple is capable of putting the ball in the basket. But defense will determine how well they perform in the tournament.
“Play defense, that’s what we’ve been doing for the last eight games or so,” said Cummings, who averages 6.0 points and 2.0 assists a game. “Making sure we’re playing defense. That’s where we got kind of messed up early. We were worried about outscoring teams. You can’t do that. It’s real hard to do. We have to make g sure we get stops and then do it at the offensive end. That’s how we can win games.”
Selection Sunday is just two days away. It’s one of the biggest days of the year for college basketball fans when the NCAA tournament selects its participants. On Sunday, March 17, there will be a lot of fans sitting in front of their TV sets to see if their team has been invited to the big dance.
There could be three local teams in the tournament this year –Villanova, Temple and La Salle. Joe Lunardi is the resident bracketologist for ESPN. Lunardi invented bracketology and has been selecting teams for ESPN.com since its inception. Each year, he breaks down the tournament field.
Lunardi believes the city could be well-represented in the NCAA tournament. However, he feels La Salle needs to win its first round matchup in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament to secure its bid.
“I just did a new bracket and Temple and Villanova went to the 10 line,” Lunardi said. “I have La Salle is still in that first four group. I think the Explorers are going to have to beat Butler on Friday in the A-10 quarterfinals.
“I think that is essentially a play-in game for La Salle. If they win, they’re in. If they lose, I believe they could be out. They’ve had a great season obviously, but the bubble is starting to shrink. And the number of quality wins posted by Temple and Villanova puts both of them ahead of La Salle at this point. As does the fact, that Temple finished ahead of La Salle in the Atlantic 10 seedings.”
Butler defeated Dayton, 73-67, on Thursday and the Bulldogs now advance to face the Explorers at 2:30 p.m. on Friday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
La Salle (21-8 overall, 11-5 A-10) already has victories over Butler and VCU. But another win in the tournament would enhance its NCAA resume. The Explorers are led by all-conference standouts Ramon Galloway and Tyreek Duren.
Temple will rely on senior guard Khalif Wyatt, the Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year, to help them advance in the conference tournament. Wyatt is the A-10’s leading scorer averaging 19.9 points a game. The Owls also have a solid player in small forward Scootie Randall.
Villanova appears to be in good shape. The Wildcats have leaned on freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono, sophomore guard Darrun Hilliard and senior center Mouphtaou Yarou for outside scoring and consistent play around the basket this season.
It should be interesting to see if three teams from the Big 5 can get to the NCAA tournament.