Former 'Nova guard Maalik Wayns (above) is still trying to find his place at the professional level. (Photo: Josh Verlin)
The 10th annual Danny Rumph Classic entered its third session of play on Saturday afternoon, with six of the eight teams still alive for for the title of the charity tournament.
Named after former Parkway HS and Eastern Kentucky star Danny Rumph, who tragically passed away from a heart condition following a rec league game back in 2005, the Rumph Classic raises money to help fund heart tests and the placement of Automatic External Defibrilators (AEDs) in rec gyms around the city.
Here are three short features on players taking place in the event:
Wayns embracing professional challenges
All one has to in order to see how much the F.O.E. movement truly means to Maalik Wayns is take a look at his left bicep.
Right there, in large black ink, are those three letters that Wayns, in addition to those he keeps close to him, has come to live by.
Family Over Everything.
At the Danny Rumph Classic, the Team F.O.E. sideline is consistently filled with nearly a dozen acquaintances of Wayns and fellow Philly natives Marcus and Markieff Morris, all wearing apparel sporting their trademark F.O.E. triangle logo.
“Really it’s just a bunch of guys who grew up together, and it just so happened that a couple of us made the NBA,” Wayns said after leading Team F.O.E. to Monday’s championship game. “It’s just really a group of friends who look at each other as family, or really more than family. We’re deeper than blood.”
While playing alongside his childhood friends at the Rumph Classic has become an annual tradition for the Roman Catholic and Villanova alum, Wayns might have a bit more on his mind during this year’s event than he has in years past.
Right now, he’s mulling his options for the upcoming season. Wayns had a strong showing in the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League, averaging 10.2 points and 3.2 assists per game for the Dallas Mavericks, and he’s caught the attention of a few NBA teams looking for help at the point guard spot.
“A couple partial deals in the NBA, a couple overseas offers. Just different things,” he said of his choices, citing Italy, Russia, and Turkey as specific countries in which he could potentially suit up. “Right now I’m not really sure yet. I’m just still weighing different options. I had a pretty good summer league, so I’ve got a couple options.”
This isn’t Wayns first opportunity to play in the world’s top league. In fact, after leaving Villanova one year early, he spent the first two seasons of his career playing in the NBA, first for his hometown Sixers and then for the Los Angeles Clippers, seeing minutes in 29 games.
Since injuring his knee with the Clippers, then being forced to have a second surgery on the same knee, Wayns has bounced around the D-League. But whether he ultimately makes it all the way back to the NBA or not, he’s holding his head high, remaining appreciative of the precious opportunities he’s already been granted.
“I just embrace it,” he said of fighting for a roster spot. “There's certain things where you just have to embrace your situation. You can’t dwell on making the NBA. I made the NBA, and I played in the NBA. A lot of guys don’t do that. I’ve been blessed and have just got to stay thankful.”
McKee not giving up on NBA dream
The Danny Rumph Classic has a slightly different significance to everyone involved.
For former Bartram and Coppin State star Tywain McKee, the annual tournament represents a yearly opportunity to fine tune his game in advance of the professional season.
McKee has been playing professionally since graduating from Coppin State in 2009, and for the last four years, has taken advantage of the chance the Rumph Classic provides to play with and against a laundry list of fellow pros, especially those from the NBA.
Joining him on his Southside squad this year is Rasual Butler, a Philly native who has played in the NBA since 2002 and who is showing McKee the ropes of what it takes to play at the highest level.
“It’s actually a perfect thing for me, getting me in game shape. It keeps me in shape, so it’s a perfect little tune up,” McKee said. “It’s good to see the NBA guys come back. I want to go to the NBA, and then to see Rasual, the way he can play the game, showing me the little tricks and the NBA skills. He’s helped out big time.”
Over the past six years, McKee has made professional stops in Australia, Russia, Germany, and Israel. He’s already agreed to a deal to play with Le Mans Sarthe of the French League.
Although he hasn’t quite made the NBA in the time since he left school, it remains a goal of his, though he admits he’s not there just yet.
“Of course, it’s always a goal to make the NBA,” McKee said. “I’ve been close but I wasn’t ready. I’ll be prepared for next season for sure though...the NBA is a different level. I’ll be ready. Give me a year and I’ll be cool.”
While it’s easy for him to say it, McKee’s words are more than just lip service. He’s making a concerted effort to change his habits and lifestyle over the next year, all to make himself more amenable to NBA teams.
“Changing my off court habits,” he said of what he needs to do to make the league. “Being more professional and focused. Training harder. Just be more professional, just to go at it seriously.”
Mike Green headed back to Europe
The death of a friend is never easy to deal with, but for former Franklin Learning Center and Butler star Mike Green, Danny Rumph’s passing back in 2005 wasn’t just something he heard about.
“I was there when Danny passed,” he said. “I was on the court. I was sitting right next to him when he passed, and that was pretty scary.”
Green remembers his longtime friend not just for a horrible tragedy, but also for his basketball skills.
“Not too many people in the new era saw Danny, but I saw him on the AAU circuit. Danny was really really good. He was a big guard and just a really good player,” he said.
In addition to the great causes the Rumph Classic benefits, the 6-foot point guard pointed out how the tournament has been helping him get back into basketball shape for the upcoming season.
“It’s tough when you play ten months straight then you come home for two months,” he said after playing the first of two games on Saturday. “Then you’ve gotta go to the most important tournament in Philly, so it’s pretty tough, but each game I’m getting my wind back.”
Green will play this upcoming season for Reyer Venezia Mestre, an Italian first division team, after spending last season in France, an experience that he described as “very good.”
He was also quick to note how much better the French League was than a few of the other places he’s played in, and implied that his previous stop in Russia was not as enjoyable to due some organizational issues.
Green has had a very successful professional career thus far and credited a lot of his current success to former Butler coach Todd Lickliter. He had to sit out the 2005-06 season, transferring to the Indianapolis school after two strong years at Towson.
The one season he spent on the bench was critical to his development.
“[Coach Lickliter] was really really big. I had to sit out a year. I sat right there on the bench. They talked to me, kept me in the game. It was a really huge success,” he said. “I really learned a lot in my off-season. I got a smarter and lot stronger.”
The Bulldogs advanced to the Sweet 16 in Green’s junior season, and he had an outstanding stat line of 13.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg, and 4.0 apg.
However, Lickliter left for the vacant Iowa job before Green’s final season, meaning the North Philadelphia native was onto his fourth collegiate head coach. He had also played for two coaches in two years at Towson.
Butler quickly hired assistant Brad Stevens as coach, and he picked up right where Lickliter had left off.
“[Coach Stevens] was a guy that was always had been in the system, so the step-up was nothing for him. He was right there, he was the top assistant. We pretty much voted Brad up. He definitely made us love it. He took care of everybody. It was a great year for me,” Green said.
The Bulldogs finished the 2007-08 season 30-4 and lost a close NCAA Tournament second round game to a very good Tennessee squad. Green, for his efforts, was named Horizon League Player of the Year after finishing with 14.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 5.1 APG.
The great success that Green, and other players displayed under Lickliter and Stevens paved the way for consecutive championship game berths, leading to an invite from the Big East.
“When you have that much success, you move up and [Butler] deserved it,” he said.