Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
SPRING GARDEN — “Q” Jones has been there from the start with the LOE group that made its Rumph Classic debut this year.
From youth leagues to Philly Triple Threat to Team Final, to Abington Friends and Roman Catholic and even Penn State, he’s coached and watched his college roommate Tony Carr’s son and his friends succeed just about everywhere they go.
There’s been AAU trophies, a Friends Schools League championship, two Philadelphia Catholic League titles and a pair of state gold medals among many other accomplishments Jones made sure to note the group won at the Donofrio Classic in Conshohocken as well.
LOE, led by co-MVPS Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens, added another core memory on Monday night in the Rumph Classic championship, taking down 8EYE, 97-82, to capture the title in their first year playing together at the event.
Tony Carr, left, and Lamar Stevens stand with the Rumph Classic MVP trophy. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
“I think this was the icing on the cake,” said a beaming Jones, who was once again coaching on the sidelines this weekend, after Monday's championship celebration. “It’s good to see once they branch out, some overseas, some in the NBA, different colleges … to come back and win it together that shows the friendship and the love. It’s still love. They all come back to play together and win together. That’s what they do.”
LOE’s Rumph Classic debut was a reunion — or actually multiple reunions.
The squad reunited former teammates from the youth, high school and college level who are all a few years into their professional careers.
“It’s beautiful. It means everything,” Tony Carr, who had 13 points in the title game, said after the semifinal round on Sunday. “We all know how each other play. We all know how each other are, so for us to come together and do something special like this means everything.”
Carr is one of the most recognizable faces of the group from winning a pair of Philadelphia Catholic League and state titles at Roman before a standout career at Penn State. The 2023 Rumph Classic is his first time competing in the event since beginning his professional career in 2018.
The 25-year-old played with the Bakken Bears of the Danish Basketligaen and Hapoel Gilboa Galil in the Israeli Basketball Premier League last season. He said playing in the Rumph is something he and the rest of his LOE teammates have always talked about. The event’s dates and the timing of everyone being back in the city finally aligned this summer to make it possible.
Carr’s former Roman and Nittany Lions teammates Stevens and Nazeer Bostick, who both previously played with other teams in the Rumph, were two of the others on the squad.
Josh Sharkey goes up for a layup Monday in the Rumph Classic championship. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
Stevens put up 33 points and multiple highlight dunks in the title game, tossing one down on the fastbreak for the final points of the game.
“We all came together,” Stevens, a 26-year-old who played 62 games (25 starts) for the Cleveland Cavaliers last season, said Sunday. “We all had this feeling that we wanted to come together and win this tournament. We won everything else in the city, so we just wanted to add this to our resume.”
The connections go beyond the Roman-Penn State trio. Da'Kquan Davis and D'Andre Vilmar were on the 2015-16 Roman championship team. Their former coach Chris McNesby noted they all had their same numbers from back in the day when he showed up for the title game. (McNesby’s assistant Bill Goebig correctly pointed out earlier during the tournament that Stevens was the exception, wearing 24 instead of 11)
Stevens and Carr started their high school careers at Abington Friends along with Josh Sharkey, where they won a Friends Schools League championship as freshmen before going their separate ways. Sharkey, who played at Archbishop Carroll before becoming the all-time assists and steals leader at Samford, teamed with Carr, Stevens, Bostick and Paul Newman (Bucknell/Albany) for Team Final in 2015 as well.
Eight years later they all teamed up again.
Mike Watkins, right, blocks a shot by Austin Tilghman on Monday. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
“This is our first year playing together since then, so it just felt good to have some guys that we grew up with,” Sharkey, who said he has professional opportunities in Turkey and France for the upcoming season, said on opening night. “It was a great experience. This was my first time playing in front of the city since I was in high school, so it’s good to be out there with them.”
Bostick is one of the few who isn’t still playing. Recurring injuries during his college career guided him elsewhere after he finished his career at St. Peter’s. He’s a third grade teacher in the city at Math, Civics & Sciences Charter. He got banged up earlier in the tournament and wasn’t on the floor Monday, but relished the chance to reunite with the rest of the group on Thursday and Friday.
“It’s a good experience to have everybody just come out and watch and support and to compete at a high level with your friends, there’s nothing better,” Bostick said.
“It felt like the old days.”
Though the group said they were a bit rusty in an opening loss to 8EYE on Thursday night, the connections of years playing together were apparent during wins Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Carr and Stevens in particular connected multiple times for alley-oops.
“That doesn’t go anywhere,” Stevens said. “We’ve had that chemistry since we were 10 years old. That’s lifelong.”
Levan ‘Shizz’ Alston Jr., the former Temple star who played with Stevens at the Haverford School for two seasons, showed up and played for LOE on Friday. Mike Watkins, the MCS product who was with Stevens and Carr at Penn State, helped the run to the championship game as well. Julian Moore played at Penn State too.
Ahmad Gilbert shoots a three Monday at the Rumph Classic. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
Ahmad Gilbert, a standout at Constitution who went on to play at Rider, was strong throughout the tournament as well, which included a 23-point outing Monday as he knocked down seven threes. He was on the 2015 Donofrio championship team with Carr. (Sharkey, Stevens and Davis actually took down Carr and Bostick in an epic 3OT title came in Conshohocken the next year.)
Monday night’s championship game against 8EYE — which was led by 22 points from Vinny Simpson, 19 points from Austin Tilghman and 17 points from Khalif Meares — was a throwback to their high school days when they filled up gyms throughout the city.
Stevens and Carr had the opportunity to play at the Palestra while at Penn State, but the weekend gave a chance for family and friends and the upcoming generation of Philadelphia basketball talent — many of whom filed into the Community College of Philadelphia throughout the weekend — to see the homegrown talents for the first time in many years.
“I think it’s big-time just to come and show the younger generation what you’re capable of and what you can do,” Stevens said. “We played in the same leagues, in the same gyms as everybody else in the city. Coming back and making our faces seen and putting ourselves out there in front of the city is good for the culture.”
The group hopefully will have some staying power as one of the regulars in the Rumph Classic as their careers take them far and wide both around the U.S. and internationally. They do have a championship now to defend.
“It’s just great to be blessed enough to create more memories with my brothers on the basketball court,” Carr said. “I can’t ask for anything more.”