Blogs > Gettin' Schooled

A boys basketball blog hosted by Daily Times reporter Christopher A. Vito

Thursday, October 22, 2009


For hoop-heads like myself, it's always good to see a story like the one that appears in Friday's Daily Times.

Sports editor Rob Parent takes a look at Chester's Laquan Robinson and Mo Nelson (pictured) - basketball players at heart who are suiting up for their school's football team, too. Robinson and Nelson, who represent the backcourt for Clippers coach Larry Yarbray, are expected to carry Chester High beyond the PIAA Class AAAA basketball quarterfinals.

Parent also caught up with Penn Wood junior Shawn Oakman, a huge (and we mean huge) piece of football coach Sam Mormando's team. Oakman, who measures to 6-9, was the starting center on hoops coach Clyde Jones' PIAA Class AAAA state-championship team last winter. On the football field, he lines up at tight end and defensive end.

It's an interesting look at how, in an era that pushes student-athletes to specialize in one sport, several players are taking a pass on the norm. ...Only in Friday's Daily Times.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009


An unfortunate incident plagued the Chester Clippers basketball team this winter. One of their players - freshman reserve Kareem Robinson - was wounded in the lower back by gunfire Feb. 10.

Robinson, who missed the remainder of the Clippers' season, spoke to the Daily Times for an exclusive look into his recovery process.

According to Robinson, it won't be an arduous one for the 5-7, 125-pound point guard, who is already back in the gym shooting and has a tremendous support system behind him. Fans, coaches and teammates met Robinson in his hospital room the night of the shooting, and have been by his side ever since.

Kareem's big brother Laquan Robinson (pictured, background) misses playing with Kareem. So did the rest of the Clippers. "Because I couldn't play," Kareem Robinson said, "we talked basketball all the time. That's all we could do."

Kareem Robinson was on the bench for the Clippers' seven playoff games (five district, two state), including their season-ending 62-49 loss to Williamsport March 11. Who knows how far the Clippers could have gone with their sparkplug freshman in the rotation? He posted some strong numbers in his first season at Chester. Here are his per-game averages: 6.1 points, 2.8 steals, 2.2 assists, 2.0 rebounds.

Robinson is on his way to a complete recovery.

"We missed him a lot," Chester coach Larry Yarbray said, "but he'll be back for us next year. He's still smiling. ... The important thing for him was understanding that he's in the Chester Clippers' family. Once you're in the family, you're always in the family."

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Thursday, February 12, 2009


Chester freshman Kareem Robinson, recovering from two gunshot wounds suffered Wednesday, was released from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Thursday and plans on attending the Clippers' playoff game Friday.

Robinson, according to Chester coach Larry Yarbray and a report filed by Chester Police, was an innocent bystander and the victim of a random act of violence. He is extremely fortunate the two bullets did not pierce a major artery or major organ. The injuries were not life-threatening, though Robinson will not play again this season.

For more on Robinson, check out Friday's Daily Times.


ALSO IN FRIDAY'S NEWSPAPER: A full preview of the District One Class AAAA playoffs, featuring a little something on all seven Delco teams involved. The weekly feature story is on Chester's Rahlir Jefferson emerging not only as a scoring leader but as a vocal leader.


Something else to keep an eye on is the release of the District One Class AAA playoff bracket, which will be announced Friday. A safe guess is that Marple Newtown, Strath Haven and Springfield make the cut. Sun Valley could have an outside chance, too.

Check back to Gettin' Schooled Friday for the latest on the seedings.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009


By now, you probably know that Penn Wood pulled off the upset of Chester Tuesday night. (Junior point guard Tyree Johnson, pictured, was the hero. He scored 26 points, hauled in six rebounds and dished out six assists in the 53-52 win.)

But what you don't know is what else went down before, during and after the game. Here are some observations:

1. Chester's Laquan Robinson must like Beyonce, because he was singing the words to 'Single Ladies' in pregame warmups as the top-40 hit was being played in the gym.

2. The DJ manning the table slipped up, then made up for it. In bad taste, he let some expletive-laced songs play in a gym filled with children. Later on, though, he had the Penn Wood fan base in stitches as he played music over the Chester cheerleaders.

3. As Chester's Learon Pray lined up for the playing of the national anthem, there was one small problem: there was no flag in the gym. He mouthed to Chester coach Larry Yarbray, 'Which way do we face?'

4. According to a couple sources, only 250 presale tickets were made available to Chester fans. Which made for a mess at the front door, as a couple hundred more were turned away before the game.

5. I'm a big fan of high school mascots. Who isn't? But Penn Wood's version of the colonial patriot was weak. The person in the costume had rhythm and energy but the shabby suit was too big and the giant head kept falling off. Thumbs down to that.

The Daily Times was there Tuesday, with columnist Jack McCaffery turning in a great piece on the level of trust Penn Wood coach Clyde Jones has in Johnson. I handled the game story duties, and photographer Julia Wilkinson grabbed pictures and some video footage.

(Photo of Tyree Johnson by the Philadelphia Daily News)


Marple Newtown's Soutiri Sapnas needed 13 points Tuesday to break the 1,000-point plateau for his career. He scored that much in the first quarter.

Sapnas, on the fast track to becoming the school's all-time leading scorer, became the third player in Delaware County this season to crack 1,000 points. The others were Sun Valley's Tom Brennan and Strath Haven's Calvin Newell.


From the night's crazy-upset file, Harriton (6-13, 3-11) knocked off Penncrest (15-4, 10-4), 47-43. The loss to Harriton, a Class AAA team, does serious damage to Penncrest's hopes of attaining a top-10 seed in the District One Class AAAA bracket, which is announced Feb. 8.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008


Yesterday was a day to remember for fans seated in the bleachers of Widener's Schwartz Center. For me, well... let's just say I had my fill of basketball.

The Jameer Nelson/Pete Nelson Classic kicked off Friday with all three Delaware County teams involved walking away with wins:

Chester extended its dominance over Norristown, 58-47 ... Rahlir Jefferson (pictured) had a dominant outing against the team the Clippers beat for the District One and PIAA Class AAAA titles. So did Maurice Nelson, the younger brother of Chester legend Jameer.

Daily Times photographer Bob Gurecki was on hand for some video coverage of the game, so let me know what you think of it: e-mail me or post your thoughts on the blog.


Penn Wood led the whole way against North Catholic, 78-65 ... Reserve Chris White hit six big-time 3-pointers for the Patriots, who went nine-deep but never lost the lead against the Falcons.


Archbishop Carroll topped Life Center Academy, 55-49 ... Junior D.J. Irving had the big game for the Patriots, winning the MVP award in his hometown of Chester. The game was closer than it should have been considering LCA was without four players who were declared post-graduates. Among them was Jon DeShields, who played last year at Delco Christian.

Had LCA played all of its post-grads, who knows whether Carroll's district- and state-playoff eligibility would have been called into question down the road? The result of this game might have even been forfeited. It's a good thing this was dealt with appropriately.


A couple other tidbits from the Nelson Classic:
  • DeShields, who watched his LCA teammates from the bench, was walking with a limp. He said its the product of a toe contusion. DeShields led the county with 24.4 points per game in 2007.
  • Freshly retired coach Fred Pickett was on hand throughout the day and was seen videotaping the Penn Wood game for Chester coach Larry Yarbray. "I'm a scout now," he said with a smile. Pickett took in the Chester-Norristown game from the far end of the Clippers' bench.
  • Penn Wood looks like it has its most success when it rotates players in and out of the game with regularity. The Pats scored 10 points in the second quarter, when coach Clyde Jones stuck with a six-man set. "With foul trouble, you have to do that sometimes," Jones said. "The game of basketball is a lot easier when you have the players you want on the court all the time, but it doesn't work like that."

There's more to come Saturday from the Nelson Classic. Staffer Matt Smith is there for the Chester-Atlantic City game.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008


While covering the Villanova-La Salle game Sunday, I caught up with two Delco players who will be pivotal in La Salle's resurgence - Aaric Murray and Karon Burton.

Burton, the reigning Daily Times Player of the Year, is a redshirt freshman at La Salle who is working toward becoming academically eligible for the 2009-10 season. The Chester product's point guard skills are needed desperately by the Explorers, who had 15 turnovers to nine assists Sunday.

Daily Times: What are you up to right now?
Karon Burton: Nothing right now with the team, but it’s all individual workouts and weight training and everything. I’m just working on my grades right now and I’m getting good ones, too. I have to keep waiting. After next semester, I can start practicing with the team. I have to wait for the summertime to practice, but I’m getting stronger and quicker.

DT: Do you like what you see in this year’s team?
KB: Yeah, we just have to be more patient and capitalize I guess. We look good, but we’ve got to be patient.

DT: What’s the hardest part of college life?
KB: The hardest part? It’s being on your own. You’ve got to hold yourself accountable. It’s all about time management.

DT: What’s your workout plan like?
KB: I lift weights everyday and then I come in here (Tom Gola Arena) and shoot after I lift. Sometimes I come in here later on at night and shoot something like 1,000 shots a day. Some of the trainers, they have me on resistance ropes and have me working on my quickness like that.

DT: What does coach John Giannini say about all of this you’re doing?
KB: Well, I think he’s just excited to have me. He’s looking real forward to next year.

DT: Have you been back to Chester to see coach Larry Yarbray?
KB: I worked out there (Saturday). I went to their first game, too. I think people are underestimating them. We’re 3-0 right now and we’re beating people by 20.

DT: You’re saying ‘we’ as if you’re a part of the team.
KB: I’m an alumni now. I’m always going to be part of the team.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Chester's Jefferson chooses Temple

Another day, another Big 5 college commitment.

Chester senior forward Rahlir Jefferson gave his word Thursday night to Temple and coach Fran Dunphy that he will continue his career with the Owls. This comes on the heels of Glen Mills' Aaric Murray and Jefferson's Chester teammate Karon Burton picking La Salle.

I spoke with Jefferson, former Chester coach Fred Pickett and first-year coach Larry Yarbray tonight and here are some the extras from the interview with Pickett and Yarbray. (Look for a full report in Friday's edition of the Daily Times):

FRED PICKETT ... On Rahlir's mode of picking Temple:
"At the end of the day, I was shocked he committed like that. I'm happy for him, because we teach our kids to really thoroughly look at this and be selfish with it. We tell them to have a relationship with the head coach and know the style of play and the players they're bringing in and that you have to fit into it."

On Rahlir's role at Chester:
"For this team to be as good as they became, they all had to sacrifice something. He sacrificed a whole lot. He was quite often the third, fourth or fifth option and that's basically because (of where) he kind of just would fit in with our game. There were times when he would go a quarter or a quarter-and-a-half without getting any shots up. He was the consummate team player."

On getting extra looks because of his teammates:
"No question about it. When those guys were being recruited, (the coaches) would come to see them and they'd be impressed with Rahlir. It worked out for him because he loves Temple. Something clicked with him and coach Dunphy. Temple is a marvelous school, very diverse. They have everything."
LARRY YARBRAY ... On Rahlir's decision:
"You take a lot of visits and hear a lot of coaches talking. He heard what GW and Penn State had to say and liked Temple's pitch more. He's a quiet guy who doesn't give you a lead as to where he's leaning toward, but something told us he always had Temple at the top."
On making his choice before the season:
"I think a lot of guys want to get it out of the way before you start working out (for the upcoming season). That was his intention, I guess."

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Thursday, June 5, 2008

American Christian folds high school, teams

American Christian Academy, the tiny prep school in Aston that earned so much national attention in the last couple years, is no more.

Earlier this week, administrators at the school announced that it will end its middle-school and high-school services and maintain only its elementary-school operations, primarily serving as a school for Baptist-church-related education.

The decision ends American Christian's run atop the national prep-school landscape. Players like Dwayne Jones (St. Joseph's U, Cleveland Cavaliers) all the way to Tyreke Evans (Memphis U) made their home with the Eagles. Reasons for the decision were not made official, though it's believed that the closing of the middle and high schools is related to finances or the school's always-in-question academic standards.

Said former coach Ray Carroll, in a 2006 interview with the Daily Times: "They sit in a classroom where there's no reading, no writing and no teaching taking place. ...These kids are great kids who want to learn, but don't know how. I often walk by their classrooms and see them sleeping."

For more on American Christian, check out the story from earlier this week.

The boys basketball program at Chester High has been without a coach long enough. Mere minutes after the leading the Clippers to their sixth big-school state title, 13-year coach Fred Pickett announced his retirement, which means the spot has been vacant for nearly three months.

It is believed that longtime assistant Larry Yarbray will take Pickett's spot on the bench. That decision, which has been confirmed by multiple sources, will be confirmed tonight at a Chester Upland School Board meeting.

More to come when everything's official. Until then, check out today's story.

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