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Rumph Classic: Women's pro showcase makes its debut

08/08/2023, 10:30am EDT
By Owen McCue

Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)

SPRING GARDEN — Ayana Howard has been a fixture at the Rumph Classic since it started back in 2006. 

She’s seen the stars from the city come back and put on a show for their hometown in the annual event that’s part of the Danny Rumph Foundation’s mission to bring bring awareness to sudden cardiac arrest as well bring Philadelphia’s basketball community together for a weekend each summer.

There was one part missing in the event’s first 17 years though.

Howard, who played at Cardinal O’Hara before playing volleyball at La Salle, currently trains some of the top young girls talent in the city and she wanted to make sure there was a platform in Philly for women’s hoops at the Rumph as well.

“I run a women’s league at Elite Sports factory, For the Love, and I train a lot of the high school girls,” Howard said. “To me, it was really important that in its 18th year that we really started pushing and moving forward the narrative that ‘The Next Bright Star’ could be a girl too. Like the men’s side.”

Daisy Wilson dribbles up the court in the first Rumph Classic women's pro showcase on Sunday. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)

Howard played with and against many of the 16 women who took the court for the Rumph Classic’s first women’s pro showcase on Sunday at the Community College of Philadelphia — preceding the two men’s semifinals later in the day.

She also runs the For the Love women’s basketball league at the Elite Sports factory in Manayunk, so she’s well connected with plenty of the top women’s players who call Philadelphia home.

Former Engineering & Sciences star Brittany Hrynko, who was an All-American at DePaul before spending time in the WNBA, overseas and with the Harlem Globetrotters was one of the veteran stars to come out. She grew up playing against the boys, and said event director Mike Morak has even asked her if she wanted to come play in the event before.

Hrynko hasn’t played professionally in a few seasons but she was excited to be a part of the first women’s showcase at the Rumph.

“It was a great opportunity for Mo to have the females in this showcase and I appreciate him 100 percent,” Hyrnko said. “He always told me, ‘Yo, Britt you want to play on one of the Rumph teams?’ I was like, ‘Nah, I don’t want to play.’ Him being able to put a whole female showcase together was a great opportunity for us.”

Myneshia McKenzie, left, goes up for a shot. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)

The athletes included some younger talent like Amiyah Edney-Holmes, a state champion at West Catholic who just finished her sophomore season at Monroe College, and Angela Sanders, a Mastery North product headed into her senior season at Penn State-Abington; as well as those like Hyrnko and Springfield-Delco product Myneshia McKenzie (currently an assistant at Rider), who are a few years removed from their final pro seasons.

Others are still in the midst of pro careers. Brandi Harvey-Carr, a Camden native, played at DePaul and Pitt and most recently suited up in Sweden this past season. Shante Evans, a West Chester Henderson product, played in both Spain and Poland this past year. Ayanna Mazyck, a Mastery North grad, played in Portugal this past season. Aliyah Jeune, a Life Center Academy product who played at Rutgers, Morehead State and USC before starting her pro career in Italy in 2021-22, was the Game MVP.

“I would love to tell you this long sad story that it was super hard, but it really wasn’t,” Howard said of getting players. “I’ve known Mike my entire life. I’ve been coming to the Rumph since it first started, and a lot of these women have been coming to support the Rumph year after year. Being able to say to them, ‘Listen they’re going to give us a game. What’s up?’ They were all for it. I didn’t have any no’s. It was cool.”

“I’m very, very thankful because I do know there was a New York tournament and a lot of these women said, ‘Nah. It’s the first women’s Rumph game and we want to be a part of history.’ Everyone keeps giving me credit, but my women, my sisters, they showed up. They showed up for the city. I just gave them a platform. They did everything else.”

Ayanna Mazyck dribbles the ball at the women's pro showcase. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)

There were noticeably plenty of young girls players in the stands for Sunday’s showcase event. Some of them even had a chance to suit up in the youth girls game before Monday’s championship.

That’s something Brianna Butler, a King of Prussia native who played at Penn Charter before heading to Syracuse and making professional stops in Israel, Australia and Spain, noted was important about the event.

“I think it’s big not even just for us but to have the younger female athletes out here and seeing that there’s a platform for them,” said Butler, who was excited to team with Hrynko as the two grew up playing together. “It gives more exposure to not just female sports but basketball in general, and for the younger kids it gives them something to look forward to.”

It seems that platform will continue on in future years after a success in Year One.

“There’s so much talent in the area,” Howard said. “For me, it’s always something to keep in my mind that I train a lot of the next bright stars. There’s so much talent in the 2026 class and the 2027 class and in order for them to know where they came from they need to be able to see these women play, the same way. 

“The same way the men have a platform, they should be able to come out every year and know that the women are going to play. Mike seems happy, Sharif (Bray) seems happy, everybody seems happy, so I guess I’ll be back on board next year.”

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