For the basketball players on display at Northeastern University’s Cabot Center, Saturday afternoon was certainly one to remember. Liberated from the pressures of the regular season and MIAA tournament, some of the most gifted athletes — academically and athletically — in the City of Boston put on a show for the fans at the annual Dr. Joseph Warren Memorial Classic.
Without their high school coaches in their ears about making the extra pass or slowing down the pace, the players treated everyone in attendance to a variety of long-range threes, fancy dribble moves and high-flying layups and dunks that made fans wish the Cabot Center featured an instant-replay videoboard.
Founded in 2009 by Suffolk Construction CEO John Fish, the Scholar Athletes program is a multi-million dollar non-profit initiative intended to address chronic deficiencies in Boston’s school athletics system. For the 3,000 students involved in the initiative, Scholar Athletes boasts a 94% high school graduation rate, and an 85% college acceptance rate.
In the two games on the afternoon, the Girls’ South team defeated the Girls’ North team, 51-43, and the Boys’ North team defeated the Boys’ South team, 100-83.
Led by Fenway forward Me’Ara Carter (13 points), the Girls’ South squad erased a double-digit second-half deficit to come away with the victory. South head coach Malcolm Andrews, the Tech Boston Academy mentor who this season was named one of the Boston City League coaches of the year, said he was was humbled by the opportunity to represent the City League at such an important event.
“Honestly, to be here is an honor,” he said. “To even be asked, and to be recognized by my peers as someone who is capable of coaching these girls that are incredibly talented athletes is really humbling.”
Andrews added those same peers have been a part of a shift in the culture of Boston city basketball that has had a positive impact on participating players. He said the showcase event was a manifestation of their efforts.
“A lot of coaches in the city are doing a better job to create a better basketball culture and create more invested girls,” he says. “I think a lot of times athletics is something our young women are overlooked on and I think that’s something that’s really beginning to change . . . For these young ladies to look into the crowd and see their communities supporting them is a statement that’s going to undercut any other type of negativity.”
The boys’ game featured plenty of athletic theatrics, highlighted by O’Bryant’s Rivaldo Soares’ pair of thunderous first-half dunks that ignited the packed house at the Cabot Center. Charlie and Charles Mitchell, the twin guards from New Mission, combined to pour in 39 points to lead their North team to a 17-point win.
North head coach Drew Brock of O’Bryant, who was coaching in his third City League All-Star game, said he wanted to make sure his players had fun on the floor.
“I just told my guys, ‘Everyone is very talented, just make sure we pass the ball,’” he said. “And on defense the strategy was to just run, jump and trap everything to try and create some turnovers.”
Like Andrews, Brock stressed how important it was for both the players and the community to participate in an event like the Dr. Joseph Warren Memorial Classic. “Its very important,” he said. “You see the crowd out here today. A lot of people wanted to come out to see an event like this, which puts our kids on display. And that’s what they need.”