Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Watching the Abington Friends freshman trio of Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens and Josh Sharkey play together at the 2013 All-City Classic, two things were rather obvious.
First, the three of them really, really enjoy playing basketball with one another. Secondly, the rest of the Friends League has quite a handful to deal with over the next three years.
Their chemistry was on full display at the All-City Classic, where the three started together for the White squad, which would go on to win a game whose result had very little meaning. While passing was at a minimum for most of the players at the all-star showcase, the three Kangaroos kept finding each other on the court.
A Sharkey steal became an outlet to Carr, who found Stevens wide open for a layup. Another Sharkey steal found its way to Stevens, who dropped it off to Carr in the corner for a 3. A Carr rebound got to Sharkey in the open court, who dropped off a nifty behind-the-back pass to Stevens in the lane.
“I think we have pretty good chemistry,” Sharkey said. “We know each other’s games and put each other in a great place to succeed and make the right play. Each and every one of us knows what we like to do.”
Sharkey is the smallest of the three, at 5-foot-8 and maybe 150 pounds soaking wet. He makes his mark on the defensive end as a man-to-man stopper, using his long arms and quickness to force turnovers and start the break in the opposite direction.
Carr, on Sharkey: “His defensive skills are fantastic, he can change the whole outcome of a game with just his hustle and determination on defense. He’s a good player and I love having him as a teammate.”
Carr, at around 6 feet tall, is a point guard and the only one who ended up starting the majority of his freshman season. Blessed with a great basketball IQ and court vision, he’s also a great 3-point shooter who loves finding open spots around the perimeter.
Stevens, on Carr: “Tony can do everything. He’s an especially good shooter, he’s a really good shooter, and he’s a great leader. Very vocal, he leads by example, he’s good all over the map.”
Then there’s Stevens--a 6-6, 210-pound wing who’s got the highest ceiling of the three if only for his obvious Division I body. Long and athletic, he loves attacking the basket off the bounce and does a great job of getting to the foul line.
Sharkey, on Stevens: “Lamar brings a lot of heart to the team. He’s not afraid of anything, not going to back down from anybody. Loves to attack the basket. He’s big, strong, and finishes.”
“They really blend well together, they also blend well with their teammates,” Abington Friends coach Steve Chadwin told CoBL. “And they’re fearless, they’ll play against anybody, it doesn’t matter if they’re seniors or what, if they have reputations or what, they don’t really care.”
And it was no accident that the three ended up playing together at AFS.
The group’s friendship began back in 2009, when Carr, Stevens and Shockey played together as 10-year-olds on a Philly Triple Threat AAU team that went on to place third at the DII AAU Nationals in 2010. Stevens had joined the Triple Threat program first, back during the 2007-08 season, while Carr and Sharkey--friends since they were eight--joined a year later. However, since Carr had always played with kids a year older, the three weren’t on the same team until that 2009-10 season.
“The three of them, the chemistry was there almost immediately,” Triple Threat founder Eric Worley told CoBL. “You could really see all the potential in those young guys at a really, really early age.”
By 2011, Stevens had left Triple Threat for the Nike-sponsored Team Final, but the three already knew they would be teammates again. It was Carr who went to Abington Friends in seventh grade, persuading the other two to join him at the school a year later. There, they would have the opportunity to play under Chadwin, the legendary coach who’s sent numerous players off to the Division I ranks in his 30-plus years at the school.
“It wasn’t hard to convince them,” Carr said.
After an undefeated season as eighth graders, the three moved up to the varsity level as freshmen, playing on a team that went 20-7 overall and won the Friends’ League tournament title. The Kangaroos had plenty of upperclass talent--seniors Montana Mayfield (NJIT) and Jerimyjah Batts, along with junior Jordan Green, all played big roles on the squad--but the freshman made their mark.
“Tony started the majority of the games, they all started some games...I had them starting for various reasons,” Chadwin said. “But let’s put it this way--it really isn’t a matter of starting, they were a highly integral part of our success this year and winning a Friends’ School League championship. They all had their fingerprints all over it.
“I don’t remember having three (freshmen) at the same time that really impacted our team, so that to me is something pretty cool, pretty nice to coach.”
Now as rising sophomores, the program is clearly square on the hands of Carr, Sharkey and Stevens, and they’re clearly ready for the opportunity to lead. Rarely does a group like this have a chance to make an impact for three seasons, but the Kangaroos’ fate through the 2015-16 year likely lies mainly on the shoulders of these three players. There’s certainly room for improvement as individuals and as teammates, but the future looks bright at AFS.
“I think we have a great future,” Carr said. “I think we have the potential to win many more championships if we stick together and play as a team.”
Added Stevens: “We want back-to-back-to-back Friends League championships, and a couple of state championships, that’s our goal.”