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Prepping for Preps '22-23: Imhotep Charter (Boys)

11/18/2022, 9:45am EST
By Joseph Santoliquito

By Joseph Santoliquito (@JSantoliquito)

(Ed. Note: This story is part of CoBL’s “Prepping for Preps” series, which will take a look at many of the top high school programs in the region as part of our 2022-23 season preview coverage. The complete list of schools previewed thus far can be found here.)


Andre Noble doesn’t change. The legendary Imhotep Charter coach doesn’t need to. He expects his teams to be consistent, work hard, dedicated and expects them to win. It’s that stark. It’s that emphatic. It’s the reason why, under Noble, all the Panthers have done is win.

Last year, Imhotep won the PIAA Class 5A state championship — the program’s eighth state title under Noble — and finished 28-4 overall. The Panthers won the District 12 title and won their second-straight Philadelphia Public League championship.

Noble enters his 22nd season, and on the court, has guided Imhotep to four-straight state championships, collecting titles in 2017, 2018 and 2019 as a Class 4A school, and in 5A last year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Panthers’ state tournament run was cut short in 2020 and weren’t able to compete in the state playoffs 2021.

Imhotep senior Justin Edwards, a Kentucky recruit, is one of the top players in the Class of 2023. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

The last time the Panthers lost a state playoff game was as a Class 3A school while the PIAA was still running a 4A system in 2016. The loss came to Philadelphia rival and eventual state champion Neumann-Goretti that year in the Class 3A state semifinals.

The Panthers enter this season owners of a 20-game, seven-year state playoff winning streak, dating back to March 15, 2016.

With every key player back from last season, it looks like it’s a run that promises to continue, led by Kentucky-bound 6-foot-7 senior star wing Justin Edwards, the nation’s No. 2 player who averaged 18 points a game last season, 6-2 junior guard Ahmad Nowell, among the top 30 juniors in the nation, and FGCU-bound 6-foot-1 senior point guard Rahmir Barno.

It’s a loaded team that will again be the No. 1 team in the city and among the top teams in the country.

Edwards, Nowell and Barno will be supported by 6-2 senior guard Yahmir Satterfield, 6-4 senior wing Baasil Saunders, 6-7 junior forward Makye Taylor and 6-6 junior forward Jeremiah White, who could explode this winter after missing all of last year with a foot injury suffered in the first quarter of last year’s season opener.

That group will get help from freshmen R.J. Smith, a 5-7 point guard, and Milak Myatt, a 6-2 guard.

“We’ve liked this senior group since they were sophomores,” Noble said. “We have six seniors on this team, and five of the six have started since ninth grade. Their character and the culture that we’ve been able to develop with this group has been solid. We feel really good about them as both students and people.

“For us, it’s the same things every year. We’re not going to watch MaxPreps or watch USA Today (for national rankings). We’re playing the best teams we can. We can’t control what they say, we can only control the games in which we play. That’s our focus. Whether people feel great about our team or not, we want to be able to look each other in the eyes and know the work that we put in maximized our potential we had in our gym.”

Imhotep senior guard Rahmir Barno is headed to Florida Gulf Coast next season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Which begs the question, is this the best team Noble has ever had?

“I don’t look at that, these guys have to accomplish some things to be in the category of some of our best teams,” Noble said. “Our 2017 team that finished No. 2 in the country, that’s the best team that we ever had here. We’ll be able to talk about where this team stands after this season. We’re going to have to look back and see what this team accomplishes. We have a super hard schedule.”

The Panthers’ non-league schedule includes St. Frances Academy (Md.), King's Fork (Va.), Newman (La.), Long Island Lutheran (NY), Simeon (Ill.), Cardinal Hayes (NY) and Roselle Catholic (NJ). (To put those names in perspective, three of them are in ESPN’s Top 25, where the Panthers rank No. 11).

“We’ll see how we perform in those games,” Noble said. “We have Roselle Catholic, we play Simeon, from Chicago, we have Long Island Lutheran, Cardinal Hayes, so there will be a lot of expectations with this group. I feel good about this team. I would like to play Camden.

“Right now, that’s at an impasse, but we’re talking. I can’t remember the last time the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the nation were within 10 miles apart. I would love to see that game happen. It would be great for the area.”

The one glaring area Noble will battle is complacency. He pointed out his 2017 team was player led. The Panthers had a great leader, Noble noted, in Daron “Fatts” Russell and a staunch support system in his teammate, Dave Beatty.

Noble stressed for the players to fend off complacency, he and his coaching staff will need to do the same.

“That starts with me,” he said. “I don’t change, but we have to keep our group on edge. The best teams we had were player-led. We have some great leaders on this team. Ahmad is one of them. Our high-character kids won’t be complacent.

“We’ve been good at focusing on game-by-game. We very rarely look ahead at opponents and it’s something that we’ve done a good job with. We had two bad practices going into the state quarterfinals and almost lost to a very good, senior-led Marple Newtown team.

Imhotep junior guard Ahmad Nowell, above, is one of the team captains along with Justin Edwards, Rahmir Barno and Yahmir Satterfield. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

“They played so much harder than we did in that game (a 44-39 Imhotep win, and the only time an opponent came within single digits of the Panthers in the state playoffs). They woke us up. That game helped us. We were super locked in for Chester.”

Edwards, Satterfield, Barno and Nowell will be the team captains. It’s rare the Panthers have four captains.

“I love our chemistry, I love our bond and how focused we are going into this year, all with the same goal of winning the Public League, the district and the states again,” said Nowell, who has over 25 offers. “I think the only team that could beat us is us. We learned a lesson last year (in the Marple Newtown game).

“Personally, I need to be more vocal on the court and push through fatigue late in games. The national attention is nice, but our highest priority is to be the best Imhotep team ever.”

Edwards is the hub. His unselfishness makes Imhotep that much better, sacrificing portions of his game for the overall good of his teammates. When things get tense, he has the ability to flick a switch and completely dominate.

Still, he feels he has room for improvement.

“I have to do better with leading through adversity, and I need to do better uplifting my teammates,” Edwards said. “I have to be more vocal and be more of an even leader, instead of snapping on my teammates.”

As for goals, a game against Camden is a high priority for Edwards before he graduates.

“I speak to the Camden guys all of the time and it’s something we all would like to have,” he said. “Aaron (Bradshaw, Camden’s 7-foot center) is already coming (to Kentucky) and I talk to DJ (Wagner, Camden’s star guard and the nation’s No. 1 player who also just committed to Kentucky) about coming along.

“It’s a game everyone wants to see.”


Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who began writing for CoBL in 2021 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter here .

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