The Future of Philadelphia Hoops

Right now, the future of Philadelphia high school hoops looks pretty solid. Three kids – a sophomore and two juniors – are making their moves up the national charts and keeping Philadelphia hoops in the headlines.

Philadelphia high school basketball fans are going to have a ton of choices this winter. They can spend their time watching a pair of all-american juniors at Episcopal or venture out to St. John Neumann where a sophomore is quickly rising up the charts.

Either way, Philly has itself a trio of potential big timers that insure the City of Brotherly Love is going to be front and center in the basketball world the next few seasons. Following a magical run by St. Joe's in the college ranks last year, its Wayne Ellington, Gerald Henderson and Antonio Jardine's turn in the spotlight.

Ellington, the 6-foot-4 Episcopal wing is really good and showing signs of getting better each time out. He was the MVP in the inaugural Eddie Griffin Challenge last year and two weeks ago at the same event, Ellington dazzled with his 32-point, seven 3-pointer performance to lead his Philly crew past the Jersey boys.

So, how does Ellington do it? Athleticism, smarts and the ability to make it all happen while playing team basketball. Ellington's gift is that he can play multiple positions. He's a good enough athlete that you must account for him all the time, even at the rim. In big game settings he's got the look of a guy who is going to command the basketball.

It's hard to believe that Ellington and Henderson are in the same high school backcourt but it's true. Ellington, ranked No. 7 and Henderson No. 14 in the latest Top 50, are both on the upswing in their careers.

Sure, each had pretty big reputations early during their high school careers, but at the halfway point, they are steadily improving and it looks like neither is complacent. Some kids peak early, but not Henderson and Ellington. In fact, working together and competing against one another seems to keep them hungry and fresh.

"I honestly don't think I would be as good [without Gerald]," Ellington said. "We go at it every time we play each other. We drive each other to be better. We're both real competitive."

Henderson echoed the same sentiments. "I think we both drive off each other. It makes us play better. Especially this summer we both played better."

Whether it was at NBA Camp or USA Basketball, Henderson had the look of a much older, more mature player. At the recent Griffin Challenge, he too sparkled.

Henderson's scoring package is that of an older, more skilled guard. He's got the athleticism to take it all the way to the rack and finish strong. On the perimeter, the 6-foot-5 guard is becoming a threat from mid-range and deep. Throw in his NBA genes, academic success and you have the makings for one of the better recruits in the country.

And, Henderson isn't afraid to work. The son of a former VCU standout and NBA guard worked on his game whenever he could this summer. "I think going to the rim with my off hand [improved]; I worked on that a lot. I knew I could get to the rim, I just needed to get better at it."

While Ellington and Henderson carry the torch in the 2006 class, Jardine is emerging as the heir apparent in 2007. At 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, "Scoop" isn't a scary looking guard. But his slick handle, ability to find the bottom of the net off the drive and the accuracy to keep you honest from the perimeter ranks him right up there with the best guards in his class.

Arizona, North Carolina, St. Joe's, Syracuse, Connecticut, Villanova, North Carolina State and Wake Forest are just some of the litany of schools Jardine is willing to rattle off early in the process. If he continues working hard, he'll have his pick of those one day.

Philadelphia has its share of hoops legends. Many of which Jardine listens to on a regular basis and they all pretty much send the same message.

"They just tell me to be humble and everything will come," Jardine said. "They tell me to stay humble and be a leader."

As humble as Jardine is – and he is that – the sophomore still looks at Ellington and Henderson with respect but says there is room to compete with them in the city. "Even though they're not in my class I still want to work to get better than them. They're still competition."

And competition is what drives this trio of Philadelphia standouts to continue getting better.

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