Garner, Carter, and the Cahillites

On Tuesday afternoon, I stopped by Philadelphia's Roman Catholic High School. The Cahillites have a talented, deep squad this year, led by junior Shep Garner. Hawk Hill Hardwood caught up with Garner, sophomore Traci Carter, and Roman head coach Chris McNesby.

Only a sophomore, six-foot guard Traci Carter is already making quite a name for himself within basketball circles. Carter attended Prep Charter as a freshman, but missed the entire season with a knee injury.

This past summer, Carter ran with Team Philly on the AAU circuit, an experience that garnered him college interest. Carter told Hawk Hill Hardwood that "Rutgers, St. Joe's, Penn State, and Xavier" are the schools that have already expressed interest. Carter went on to call his experience playing on the travel circuit this summer as a "great experience."

This year, Traci will lace them up at Roman alongside guards Shep Garner, Britton Lee, and Rashann London. Traci explained that his decision to attend Roman Catholic was because he "loved the guys" and thought that he would get "a better experience in a great atmosphere." For the Cahillites, Traci expanded on his expected role. "I can play whatever role to help the team. I'll play the point or be a scorer."

One of the guards that Traci will be playing with this year at Roman Catholic is junior Shep Garner. Garner also spoke with Hawk Hill Hardwood on Tuesday afternoon.

"This is going to be a huge year," Shep began. "We're very talented and have some new guys like Manny (sophomore post Manny Taylor) who are going to help." South Philadelphia's Neumann-Goretti has been a powerhouse in the Philadelphia Catholic League over recent memory, and Shep stated that he is well aware of this. "They've been great," Garner continued. Beating Neumann, according to Shep, would be a "really big deal."

Over the summer, Garner played on the Team Final 16u squad, where he continued to impress scouts and college coaches. "The Nike circuit is great. All the college coaches come out. We play in great facilities. It's a chance to bond and build friendships too," he explained.

Last weekend, Garner and Traci Carter both tripped unofficially to Penn State. "It was awesome," Garner described. "We toured the whole campus and saw the facilities and stopped in and saw some of the football game (PSU-Navy)." According to Garner, Penn State assistant Keith Urgo has been one of the pointpeople in his recruitment, along with PSU head coach Pat Chambers. On Tuesday, Penn State assistant Brian Daly was in the gym.

In addition to Penn State, Shep listed, "St. Joe's, Xavier, Arizona, Memphis, Florida, and Miami" as schools involved in his recruitment. In July, Garner listed "St. Joe's, Florida, and Miami" as the three schools recruiting him the hardest. According to Roman head coach Chris McNesby, St. Joe's head coach Phil Martelli popped into Roman to watch open gym a few weeks ago and SJU assistant Geoff Arnold was in last week.

When looking at schools, Garner has a few things in mind. "I want a place that I feel is best for me, a place that I know that I can be successful." With schools from all across the country currently involved in his recruitment, Garner said that "location isn't really a major factor."

Roman Catholic's head coach, Chris McNesby also took time on Tuesday to speak with Hawk Hill Hardwood about this year's team. "We have Matt Simon, a shooter, and Britton Lee as our two seniors," McNesby began. Lee has given Robert Morris a verbal commitment already. In addition to those seniors, he has junior guards Shep Garner and Rashann London, and sophomores Manny Taylor, Traci Carter, and TreVaughn Wilkerson.

The Cahillites have a difficult schedule this year, including participation in the Gonzaga DC Classic at the beginning of December, the Hoop Group Tip-Off, and the Primetime Shootout. All of that is prior to the start of the difficult Catholic League schedule.

"The Catholic league is loaded this year. It just looks like one of those years," McNesby explained. "There's not just talent either, now we're older too." He went on, saying, "I would put this league up there with anyone."

Traci Carter and Shep Garner are just two pieces on a loaded, deep, athletic Roman Catholic team this year. Neumann-Goretti has been running through the league over recent years, but this year, Roman Catholic looks poised to give the Saints a run for the league title.

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