Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
As a Boston transplant, Imhotep Charter boys basketball coach Andre Noble knows there are plenty of big moments in Philadelphia high school hoops he wasn’t around for.
Still, after two-plus decades coaching Philly hoops, Noble also knows Saturday is setting up as an all-timer.
That’s when the match up that area hoop heads have been talking about for months will finally take place. Noble’s Panthers squad will face Camden at 2 p.m. in Saint Joseph's sold out Hagan Arena.
“I think there’s been some other super historical games, but this is up there in terms of all the implications of the game,” Noble said. “Two Top 10 teams in the country, multiple highly ranked players on both teams, three Kentucky commits, it’s just got a lot of substories to it.”
Imhotep senior Justin Edwards is ESPN's No. 1 player in the country. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
When Noble was listing some of the other historical matchups, he mentioned when Lebron James and St. Vincent-St. Mary (Ohio) played Strawberry Mansion and Maureece Rice at the Palestra in 2002 and when DaJuan Wagner and Camden played Roman Catholic and Eddie Griffin — Griffin then the top senior in the country and Wagner the top junior.
Camden and Imhotep will be another star-studded match up.
Imhotep features ESPN’s 2023 No.1 ranked recruit Justin Edwards (6-7), a future Kentucky Wildcat, against No. 2 DJ Wagner (6-2), DaJuan’s son, and No. 4 Aaron Bradshaw (7-0), who will both be Edwards’ future college teammates. All three were just named McDonald’s All-Americans this week, and they’ll team up for the East squad on March 29 in Houston.
“This was a long time of working to get to this point to play this game, so our kids are really excited to be able to play Camden and I think this is the first time in our city’s history that we have No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the area,” Noble said. “That’s cool and then it’s even cooler for us that they flipped No. 1 and No. 2 and now Justin’s No. 1 and DJ’s No. 2 in the country by ranking. They’re excited and it’s gonna be a great turnout because the venue’s already sold out.”
The talent doesn’t stop there: Imhotep guard Rahmir Barno (Florida Gulf Coast) is another D1-bound senior; Panthers’ junior guard Ahmad Nowell is one of the top-ranked guards in the Class of 2024; junior forwards Makye Taylor and Jeremiah White both have Division I offers. Seniors Yahmir Satterfield and Baasil Saunders are two more college-level talents.
Along with its two Kentucky recruits, Camden counters with senior guard Cian Medley (St. Louis), senior wing Cornelius 'Boog' Robinson (Albany), senior forward DaSear Haskins (a 6-8 D1 prospect) and junior Billy Richmond (6-6), a Top 60 2023 recruit.
“We’ve done our homework, we feel like we got a good feel for them,” Noble said. “I think the thing that stands the most out about Camden is their individual talent is really impressive. They play seven guys and all seven of them are Division I basketball players. That’s not normal, but that’s what they have.
“And not even Division I basketball players and freshmen and sophomores who are still figuring it out. They’re team is almost strictly seniors. That just tells you the depth, the length and size, the experience, the talent that they have individually on their team.”
MaxPreps, ESPN and USA Today have both programs in their Top 25s. Imhotep (16-2) is ranked No. 6 by MaxPreps and has a resume that includes a victory over No. 7 Columbus (Fla.) in the City of Palms title game in December. The Panthers’ two losses came against Simeon (Ill.) and Long Island Lutheran, ranked No. 4 and No. 5, respectively.
Camden took down nationally ranked No. 11 Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) earlier this month and their lone blemishes came to No. 7 Columbus (Fla.) and No. 8 Centennial (Cal.).
Noble expects the environment at Hagan Arena, which seats 4,200, shouldn’t be too much for either squad as they’ve both played in plenty of big-time matchups already. However, the local flair to this one is sure to make it special.
“There’s been a lot of trash talking in this one, way more than when you’re going away and playing in the City of Palms,” Noble said. “You don’t really know those guys. You know they’re good. You play them and it’s over. This one’s had like five, six, seven, eight months of build up. I think it’s a little bit more on edge about this game.”
“We’re excited about getting the chance to finally have this game. It’s taken on a lot, and I’m just glad this is finally going to happen and both teams are going to be able to move on and finish their seasons out.”
Other Games to Watch
Boys: Blair Academy (N.J.) vs. George School, 2 PM
While certainly not the marquee PA vs. NJ matchup of the day, George travels to Blair for some high-level hoops. Blair point guard Carnegie Johnson (Navy) and senior forward Ian Imegwu are veteran D1 talents and 6-9 sophomore wing Jack Bailey, who recently picked up an offer from Georgia Tech.
Girls: Haverford vs. Conestoga, 2:30 PM
Undefeated Haverford’s toughest test to date was a 43-41 OT win over Conestoga on Dec. 13. The Pioneers have won 10 of their last 11 since and brings a seven-game win streak into Saturday’s contest, which is also an opportunity to match the Fords for first place in the Central League.
Boys: Cristo Rey vs. Life Center (N.J.), 6:30 PM
Cristo Rey sits a game behind Life Center in the Penn-Jersey League standings after a 77-75 loss on Jan. 17. The Blue Pride get a chance for revenge on Saturday and an opportunity to into a first-place tie when they host a ‘White Out’ game in North Philly.
Boys: La Salle HS vs. St. Joe’s Prep, 12:30 PM
Coming off a big tilt Friday night against Neumann-Goretti, the Hawks get the rival Explorers on Sunday. La Salle, currently in 11th place in the PCL is in desperate need of an upset win while the young Hawks hope to continue proving they’re a true contender.
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