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Monday, February 23, 2009
Updated: March 16, 10:49 AM ET
Philly and Detroit rep for their states

By Mark Tennis and Doug Huff

In basketball terms, Pennsylvania and Michigan are home to two of the top American cities.

Philadelphia and Detroit both have storied hoops histories. So who's better? That's what we here at ESPN RISE wanted to know, as we pitted the Great Lake and Keystone states in the first round of the Great State Debate.

If voters look at it strictly as a Philadelphia versus Detroit matchup, then Michigan would be in big trouble. While Detroit does have a strong basketball tradition, Philly has the clear edge in that comparison. In the Great State Debate, however, the entire spectrum of a state's basketball résumé should be considered. Does the rest of Michigan make up the difference and then some? We'll find out in this No. 4 (Pennsylvania) versus No. 5 (Michigan) battle.

The winner will go up against No. 1 seed New York in the semifinals next week.

The case for Michigan

Being the home of the NBA's Pistons and an impressive list of local players, Detroit would appear to be the epicenter of Michigan basketball.

On the high school level, however, Michigan basketball is arguably better outside Detroit. You'll find many of the state's most successful programs -- Saginaw High, St. Mary's of Orchard Lake, Benton Harbor and Northwestern of Flint -- elsewhere.

Lansing is the hometown of Michigan's greatest player, legendary point guard Earvin "Magic" Johnson. Johnson averaged 25.8 points per game throughout his prep career at Everett High School from 1974 through 1977.

Magic Johnson
Earvin "Magic" Johnson led a 27-1 Everett team to the 1977 Michigan state championship.

Flint and Saginaw have been particularly dominant. Flint is the home of sweet-shooting guard Glen Rice, and Phoenix Suns guard Jason Richardson attended Saginaw's Arthur Hill High.

But Detroit still annually produces a team or two for the national rankings, and its list of elite basketball products is tough to beat.

All-time best Michigan players
Shane Battier (Detroit Country Day, Birmingham)
Derrick Coleman (Northern, Detroit)
Mel Daniels (Pershing, Detroit)
Dave DeBusschere (Austin Catholic, Detroit)
George Gervin (Martin Luther King, Detroit)
Spencer Haywood (Pershing, Detroit)
Earvin "Magic" Johnson (Everett, Lansing)
Antoine Joubert (Southwestern, Detroit)
Chris Kaman (Tri-Unity Christian, Wyoming)
Dan Majerle (Traverse City)
Glen Rice (Northwestern, Flint)
Jason Richardson (Arthur Hill, Saginaw)
Jalen Rose (Southwestern, Detroit)
Steve Smith (Pershing, Detroit)
Ralph Simpson (Pershing, Detroit)
Rudy Tomjanovich (Hamtramck)
Chet Walker (Benton Harbor)
Chris Webber (Detroit Country Day, Beverly Hills)

Top five current Michigan players
(Based on ESPNU Scouts Inc. recruiting rankings)
1. DaShonte Riley (Detroit Country Day) 6-foot-11, senior
2. Donnavan Kirk (Detroit Country Day) 6-8, senior
3. Derrick Nix (Pershing, Detroit) 6-9, senior
4. Ray McCallum (Detroit Country Day) 6-1, junior
5. Trey Ziegler (Mount Pleasant) 6-5, junior

Top current Michigan teams
(Based on ESPN RISE FAB 50)
1. Detroit Country Day (Beverly Hills)
2. Pershing (Detroit)
3. Clarkston
4. Southeastern (Detroit)

The case for Pennsylvania

Why should Pennsylvania basketball be considered in the Great State Debate? Because any state that produces arguably the greatest big man in NBA history as well as one of the league's top current players has to be in the conversation.

Kobe Bryant
Lower Merion retired Kobe Byrant's jersey in 2002.

Wilt Chamberlain was already a hoops legend when he left Overbrook High in Philadelphia in 1955. Four decades later, in the Philadelphia suburb of Ardmore, Kobe Bryant started his career at Lower Merion High School.

Philadelphia alone has produced enough talent to compete with many states, and several prominent names aren't included in the list below because they weren't major players in high school.

"Some of the name players from Philly were late bloomers," veteran prep writer Ted Silary of the Philadelphia Daily News points out. "Earl Monroe was only a one-year starter at Bartram High, and another Hall of Famer, Paul Arizin, was cut all four years at La Salle High before he came on strong at Villanova and with the Philadelphia Warriors. But Philadelphia basketball has still produced enough talent to challenge about any city in the land for bragging rights."

In Western Pennsylvania, players like Maurice Lucas, Dick Groat and Norm Van Lier all gained notoriety in national hoops circles.

And since the quality of talent at the high school level is the key factor in determining our Great State Debate champion, it should be noted that 6-11 Tom McMillen of Mansfield was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 1970 prep standout.

In some quarters, Pennsylvania is considered a "football state," but there's enough talent -- especially in the Philadelphia area -- to make a strong case in the Great State Debate for basketball as well.

All-time best Pennsylvania players
Gene Banks (West Philadelphia)
Ernie Beck (West Catholic, Philadelphia)
Sam Bowie (Lebanon)
Michael Brooks (West Catholic, Philadelphia)
Kobe Bryant (Lower Merion, Ardmore)
Larry Cannon (Lincoln, Philadelphia)
Wilt Chamberlain (Overbrook, Philadelphia)
Brad Davis (Monaca)
Dick DeVenzio (Ambridge)
Larry Foust (South Catholic, Philadelphia)
Tom Gola (La Salle, Philadelphia)
Eddie Griffin (Roman Catholic, Philadelphia)
Dick Groat (Swissvale)
Rip Hamilton (Coatesville Area)
Walt Hazzard (Overbrook, Philadelphia)
Don Hennon (Wampum)
Simmie Hill (Lincoln, Midland)
Wally Jones (Overbrook, Philadelphia)
Maurice Lucas (Schenley, Pittsburgh)
Andre McCarter (Overbrook, Philadelphia)
Tom McMillen (Mansfield)
Larry Miller (Catasauqua)
Jameer Nelson (Chester)
Billy Owens (Carlisle)
Guy Rodgers (Northeast, Philadelphia)
Ray Scott (West Philadelphia)
Lionel Simmons (SouthPhiladelphia)
Norm Van Lier (Midland)
Rasheed Wallace (Simon Gratz, Philadelphia)
Dennis Wuycik (Ambridge)

Maalik Wayns
Maalik Wayns is a 2009 McDonald's All-American.

Top five current Pennsylvania players
(Based on ESPNU Scouts Inc. recruiting rankings)
1. Maalik Wayns (Roman Catholic, Philadelphia) 6-0, senior
2. Aaric Murray (Glen Mills School) 6-11, senior
3. Zeke Marshall (McKeesport) 6-11, senior
4. Dalton Pepper (Pennsbury, Fairless Hills) 6-5, senior
5. Tony Chennault (Neumann-Goretti, Philadelphia) 6-1, senior

Top current high school teams
(Based on ESPN RISE FAB 50)
1. Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia)
2. Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia)
3. Pennsbury (Fairless Hills)
4. Chester
5. Friends Central (Wynnewood)

Mark Tennis is the deputy sports editor for Doug Huff is a senior editor for