- Dana O'Neil, ESPN Senior Writer
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PHILADELPHIA -- Jonathan Severe is a rising prospect, a small forward ESPN calls, “one of the top young swingmen in the New York City area in the class of 2013.’’
And no matter how hard he tried, Severe could not beat the guy in the other layup line.
When Severe had the ball, the other kid swatted it away. When the other kid was on offense, Severe -- considered a pretty good defender -- simply could not keep up. Which normally would make for a pretty lousy day at the Reebok Breakout Challenge.
Only no one in the stands was holding it against Severe.
He was trying to handle John Wall.
The Breakout Challenge has a special place in Wall’s heart. It was there, on the Philadelphia University courts in 2007, that he blossomed, going from just another kid from North Carolina to a future All-American at Kentucky and the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
And so when Reebok brought their camp back to Philadelphia after a brief hiatus, Wall wanted to do more than attend.
He wanted to inspire.
“When I came here, I wasn’t anything special,’’ Wall said. “And I want these guys to know about that. If they come here and they work hard, you never know what could happen.’’
But Wall is doing more than talking a good game. He’s playing one, too. From 10 a.m. until mid-afternoon, Wall took his place in the layup line, participating in the drills during the training sessions like one of the campers.
With little kids using their phones to record videos from the stands, Wall did some dribble work through a pair of chairs, worked on his pull-up jumper and fought just as hard as the high schoolers for the ball during one drill.
And he wasn’t taking it easy. Far from it. Wall went at the campers hard and they came back at him equally tough, though none got the best of him.
“I showed them a few things,’’ he said with a grin.
Wall plans to stay in Philly all week and has every intention of working out with the players while he’s there.
“It wasn’t that long ago that I was one of them,’’ he said. “Hard to believe.’’
Sure, Wall is a Reebok endorser so he was technically only doing his job by showing up. And of course, with a lockout on, the practices give him a nice workout.
But Wall went above and beyond. There wasn’t an ounce of diva in the gym (if Wall gets dunked on before week’s end, I’m pretty sure no one will be confiscating the tape).
He acted like one of the guys, high-fiving and patting guys on the back after good plays, and listening as intently to the instructors as the campers.
And now a handful of guys will go home with great stories about how they went one-on-one with John Wall.
Da plane, da plane: New Penn State coach Patrick Chambers drove the three hours from State College to Philadelphia but from there, he was flying to Indianapolis, Cleveland, Boston, Augusta and Newark.
On a private plane. Which in the typical world of big-time college basketball isn’t a very big deal.
But Penn State basketball isn’t typically part of that world.
The administration pledged that, with Chambers’ hire, it was going to make more of a commitment to the men’s basketball program, so long Happy Valley’s ugly stepchild.
Giving their new coach a plane during the recruiting period is definitely a step in that direction.
Basketball is about keeping up with your peers as much as it is beating your peers and in order to compete in the Big Ten, Penn State needs a Big Ten commitment from its administration.
Tip-ins: There weren’t a lot of high-profile head coaches on hand Wednesday. I spied Chambers, Cuonzo Martin (Tennessee), Fran Dunphy (Temple) and Fran O’Hanlon (Lafayette) in the stands. … Villanova missed a good photo op. At one point, former assistants Chambers, Fred Hill (now an assistant at Northwestern), Andrew Francis (now at Siena) and Doug West (back at Villanova after a one-year break) all stood atop the bleachers on Court 1, watching the action on Court 2.