Philly gives Pennsylvania hoops its clout

To truly understand the glorious past of Pennsylvania scholastic basketball, you must realize its epicenter is Philadelphia.

Historically, the state's largest city (more than 1.4 million residents) has been defined by its distinctive neighborhoods, incorporated townships, districts and boroughs. It is in those areas that gymnasiums, recreation centers and playgrounds provide budding players a chance to hone their skills.

Philadelphia players are known for their gritty style and "never back down" attitude. Meaning, if you back down on the playground, you might not see the court for the rest of the day.

Philadelphia's Catholic and Public leagues have produced a bulk of the state's all-time top players. According to Ted Silary, noted Philadelphia preps writer, there have been 71 players from the Public League who have played in the NBA, 25 from the Catholic League and six from the heralded Inter-Academic League.

Notables from the Public League include Wilt Chamberlain, Walt Hazard, Rasheed Wallace, Joe Bryant (Kobe's dad), Fred Carter, Mardy Collins, Wayne Hightower, Bo Kimble, Earl "The Pearl" Monroe, Guy Rodgers, Malik Rose and Lionel Simmons.

Catholic League players include Paul Arizin, Mike Bantom, Michael Brooks, Tom Gola, Cuttino "Cat" Mobley, Matt Guokas Jr., Kyle Lowry and Eddie Griffin. Sean Singletary and Matt Walsh played in the Inter-Ac. Additionally, countless players from all three leagues have played overseas.

Greatness is not reserved for Philadelphia. Here are a few more players from around the commonwealth: John Allen, Richard "Rip" Hamilton, Donyell Marshall, Bob Davies, Maurice Lucas, Geoff Petrie, Tom McMillan, Peter Maravich, Jack Twyman, Jack Marin, Dick Groat, Len Chappell, Kobe Bryant, Joe Fukes, Jeff Lebo, Billy Owens, Johnny Moore, Doug West, Maurice Stokes, Danny Fortson, Bobby Sura, Dave Twardzik, Barry Parkhill, Don Hennon and Jameer Nelson.

Rising stars: Check out Pennsylvania's top five seniors, according to ESPNU's Scouts Inc.: 6-3 Maalik Wayns of Roman Catholic (Philadelphia), 6-11 Aaric Murray of Glen Mills (Concordville), 6-11 Zeke Marshall of McKeesport, 6-5 Dalton Pepper of Pennsbury (Fairless Hills) and 6-8 Andre Gillette of Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia). The top four are ESPNU 100 players. Wayns is a strong candidate for the McDonald's All-American Game on April 1 in Coral Gables, Fla.

Pittsburgh-bound forward Lamar Patterson plays for St. Benedict's in Newark, N.J., but is from Lancaster.

Two of the top three juniors also attend New Jersey schools. Guard Dion Waiters, a Syracuse recruit, attends Life Center (Burlington), and 6-9 Markus Kennedy is at Apex Academies (Cherry Hill). The No. 2 recruit is 6-3 Tony Chennault of Neumann-Goretti, who will sign with Wake Forest.

Rakeem Christmas, a 6-9 center from North Catholic (Philadelphia), and 6-3 Juan'ya Green of Archbishop Carroll (Radnor) are the top sophomore prospects.