Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mt. Vernon and JR/Jeron Situation

Mount Vernon Tradition

At one time The Bronx NY was a true hot bed of HS basketball in the United States. They had a great public school program at Dewitt Clinton which turned out future pros in Dolph Schayes and Tiny Archibald, both who have been elected to the NBA Hall of Fame. Many other's have come through those doors including former NBA great Tom Henderson and NBA star Rick Sobers who never even played for the HS team and made the NBA via junior college and UNLV. His story is the story of many inner city players who have gone on to stardom.

Dewitt Clinton is no longer a power but for many years they and Boys High from Brooklyn were the top HS teams in NYC and known nationally. Because Clinton was very close to the Westchester Boarder, and many families seeked better lives in the suburbs, Mount Vernon became a basketball hotbed from the NYC influence. Very similar to Camden HS in NJ based on Philadelphia being so close. I am sure the closeness to the Bronx had much to do with this as did the kids there having relatives still living in the boro and venturing there to play summer ball..

Side bar. As a kid my youth team coached by Leroy Otis was called Young Life. Still remember those great Christmas Tournaments held at The Mount Vernon Boys Club. One year as 12 year olds we played Post 104, which was sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. I remember it like it was yesterday. The Barn shaped facility was very crowded as we won the game 109 to 9. Yes you heard it right. 109 to 9. And we were only 12 year old kids. Fast forward. I am playing in the Montifiore (sp) tournament after my jr. year in HS and we are playing a great team that had many MT. Vernon Players including Gus Williams, Ray Williams, Earl Tatum, and Mike Young. All went on to NCAA D 1 schools and a few to the NBA. Well they beat us by 30 points. After the game as we were leaving Mike Young came over and said to us, including many who were on that 12 year old team, "You guys thought we forgot that 100 point loss you gave us when we were kids?" We were stunned that they never forgot that. But that is how MT. Vernon kids treat the game. They work hard to improve each year.

Back to the story. Because of the Bronx influence I think MT. Vernon always took the game more serious than the other towns in Westchester County. Kids in Scarsdale were not hungry (even though the Graves Family with Brooklyn ties, and John Revelli took them far into the counties years later), Yonkers had so many high schools that it was hard to compete against MT. Vernon although Gorton with a true HS All American Bernard Tombs did a great job for many years. Other great Yonkers players were Jim Bostic and Charlie Criss, both who had stints in the NBA But MT. Vernon was just a factory for great players while continuing to play games at 3 PM. Not sure if games are now at night but they were afternoon games for many years. But when Mount Vernon played at the County Center in White Plains, the place often sold Mount.

I remember Bill Pleas who went on to star at The University of Detroit. He had a partner in Dave Gray, who was the first real great guard at MT. Vernon. Bill was famous for his jumping ability. He was known to dunk up to 3 basketballs in warm ups before the game. I still remember watching him play in the Wagner Center Easter Tournament in Spanish Harlem when he was in HS. Came out with huge glasses on and looking like anything but a player. When the game started it was a different story. He dominated! Dave Gray was a MT. Vernon version of Oscar Robertson. Gray, who they called Doc, could do it all and was a great guy as well.

Their play inspired the future teams and even future coaches. The Williams Brothers including about 3 or 4 not mentioned (Scat, Dave, etc.) become great MT. Vernon Players. We also saw Earl Tatum who was called The Black Jerry West, Lowes Moore, Mike Young, The McCray Brothers, and Rudy Hackett (I Think) who is now an Asst.. at USC after staring at Syracuse, That leads to the newer players including Ben Gordon and all the others who have gone to Pitt, SJU, Rutgers, Iona, etc.

What makes Mount Vernon so good? Tradition is one reason. Kids want to go and be part of a real program that will provide them an opportunity to get exposure while traveling and winning. Another is great coaching. I still remember current Miami Heat Assistant Tony Fioretino (sp) when he was the Head Coach at Mount Vernon. He was OUTSTANDING! That has continued with Bob Camino. This guy works his butt off for those kids, He is a 24/7 Coach and does it because he loves the game. He takes his kids everywhere during the summer depending on skill level. Some go to Riverside. Some play for the Westchester Hawks. Some play for Dyckmam. But rest assured they will play somewhere if they want to play for Mount Vernon! Bob has been able to keep all the players in Mount Vernon and this has been the case for many years. It would not be hard for a kid to walk from his home in Mount Vernon to the Number 2 train on White Plains Road in the Bronx because for some of them, it is that close. Those kids could attend Rice, St. Raymond's, or any of the other power schools in NYC. But they elect to stay right in Mount Vernon to play because Mount Vernon is a REAL HS PROGRAM as good as any program in the entire country.

And now it seems with the assistance of many, the tradition will continue. But I never doubted it would. Because one thing about Mount Vernon, They Never Stop Working!

More on RU Suspensions

Did some research and have to give credit to FHJ on his way of handling the Jeron and JR situations. I hope many families examine how College Coaches treat student Athletes in the press and away from the court when choosing schools. It is so important. I honestly have to look twice when I see certain kids considering certain schools. All they have to do is look at how others are treated and have been treated. So without naming names of the bad guys. Let me say kids who stay close and attend schools like Rutgers, SHU, St. Johns. and Villanova, ARE IN GREAT HANDS!


ExplorersAreBack said...

Billy Pleas originally started his college career at La Salle University and played alongside Kenny Durrett and current Temple coach Fran Dunphy for one season. Without a doubt, the best leaper I've ever seen. I saw every home game he played at La Salle. If he had stayed, the 1970-71 team might have went to the Final Four. They beat two of the teams to make the Final Four that year (Villanova with Howard Porter and Western Kentucky with Jim McDaniels). And LF, you should give a shout out to Dr John Giannini who is reviving the program at La Salle. There are 6 North Jersey/New York guys on the roster (Yves Mbala and Ruben G from St Pat's, the Williams twins and Kimmani Barrett from Paterson Catholic, and Vernon Goodridge from Brooklyn). Dr. G is another class act who treats his players like family.

LFBall said...

You are 100% right about Dr. Giannini. The man can flat out coach! He is also getting great talent to LaSalle. I saw him coach at maine as well and he also did a tremendous job there.

Never knew Pleas attended LaSalle. I thought it was Just U of Detroit. Great catch on your part. AND PLEASE COME BACK because your comment is the type needed on here. And yes, expect good things at LaSalle. Tom Gola Arena will rock!

ExplorersAreBack said...

LF, yes, Billy and those horn-rimmed glasses played for us during the '69-70 season. What a disappointment when he transferred out.

Glad you feel the same way about Dr G.

I've read your posts on the SHU and RU boards over the years with interest. We actually met one time when your son was transferring from Wisconsin. You and Deon Jones father sat next to me when you were checking out La Salle as a possible destination but it didn't work out and he ended up at Delaware. We could have used him.

If you want to check out info on the La Salle program now, visit my blog sometime. Youre blog has been added to my links section.

LFBall said...

Hey I remember that. Deon was on the LaSalle Team and his dad was very excited. We drove down together just looking around. My son was still at Wisconsin but we knew he would be leaving.

LaSalle has a great tradition in the Big 5 (or 6 with Drexel) and it was great walking on that campus again after many years. Believe it or not I was there as a 13 year old player participating in an all star NYC vs Philly game. Philly's star was Andre McCarter.

Lastly, I think Dr. G., is a very underated coach and program builder. He also knows how to recruit and does not waste time on chasing kids he has little chance to get. When you can teach and coach like he can, that works. If I can figure out how to link your site I will do the same. Thanks again and contact me anytime for great bball discussion. I LOVE THE GAME!

LFBall said...

Just saw your Blog. OUTSTANDING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
How did you get it to look so great? WOW!
And the information is exceptional!