By Amauro Austin Sr
The once storied Philadelphia Public League, Locally known as the “Pub”, will have its boys basketball playoffs kick off this Tuesday February 7th.. The 38-team playoff field condenses down to the Final 4 & Championship on Feb 21 & 25 at Temple’s 10K seat Liacouras Center.. There was once a time when the Liacouras would be close to sold out for both of those events but for many reasons in todays time just moderately filling the lower bowl will be a success for the Pub.. Why is that AA??? Well in short, even the comprehensive, neighborhood high schools have on average about a third of the enrollment that they once had in our city and otherwise the small school, open enrollment Charter schools have stepped to the forefront in sports and most of those schools don’t have more than 20 years in existence.. I’d bet some of these schools haven’t even reached 3,000 total graduates in their history.. And lastly, we live in an era where people in general rather watch from home and only show up to major events. I’d say 70% of the games I attend on the regular are lightly to moderately attended these days.. So it’s simply one of those, “Is what it is” scenarios..
What do we know about the 38 team field? Who are the favorites? Playas to watch? Teams that could go on a run? And ect..
Well the overwhelming favorite to win it is Imhotep by 3 country miles.. Imhotep has been the shining gem of the league over the last 15 years carrying the banner all over the country every winter. This year they’ve been ranked as high as Top 10 Nationally.. They have 2 seniors on the roster that have signed with D1 schools, one of which has been recently named a McDonalds All-American which is the highest individual honor in this genre. At least 2 juniors will likely join them. And the cupboard is stocked with talented young players for the foreseeable future.. The question probably should be whose gonna come out of the other 3 quadrants to face the mighty Panthers later this month..
So who else could make a little noise? Let’s start with Constitution.. I haven’t seen them live this season just yet but they are the true #2 in the field only losing to Tep in league play.. I know that Coach Rob Moore’s Generals are a mostly Junior led team that’ll contend for a 2A state title in March.. West Philly played a very challenging schedule with hopes of being prepared late.. They are led by a senior backcourt that’s flanked by a strong Freshman front court that closed the season winning 7 of their last 8 after beginning 4-9 with the lone L in the final 8 coming at the hands of Imhotep.. The final #1 seed belongs to MC&S.. The Mighty Elephants will have to get through Imhotep to get to the Final after dropping league games to both Con High & the Speedboys.. However, MCS has the most talent in the league outside of Tep.. Chemistry has been an ongoing issue that has hopefully subsided after winning 6 of their final 7.. 6-6 Jr SF Naseem Wright is considered one of the top 5 juniors in the league.. The lone wildcard is a 1-loss Dobbins team that ran through the underrated “B” Division (11-0) like a hot knife through a stick of butter. 6-5 sr wing Kareem Diaz is one of the hidden gems of the league as is his wingman 6-3 Jr wing Zach Campbell.. They combine to score nearly 40 points a night in Mustangs run and gun quick-striking offense.. 6-2 Jr PG Saleem Hudson (7apg) is sneaky good in his own right.. A matchup vs MCS in the quarters could be the game of the tournament..
So what other potential games stand out in the Tournament? A 2nd round game between neighborhood rivals Olney & Fels looks like a good potential bump.. The high powered Dobbins offense could test themselves against Imhotep in the Semis if they can get by MCS or MCS could get another crack at Tep if they win. In my opinion Dobbins & MCS are the 2nd and 3rd best teams in the league from a talent aspect.. A Boys Latin at West Philly Quarterfinal game would no doubt draw a spirited crowd in a battle of neighborhood rivals.. BL would have the tall task of getting past Sankofa to get there..
I plan to see a few games during this Pub Playoff season especially since I have yet to see quite a few teams during the Regular season. I’ll always have a big soft spot for the Pub.. I made my bones covering and advocating for the league.. A majority of my fondest high school hoops memories took place on Tuesday & Thursday afternoons in old gyms with stands on one side.. — AA
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