Rick O'Brien: Chester High's future is uncertain

Posted: January 12, 2012

Kareem and Darius Robinson are continuing a family tradition of attending Chester High and playing for the school's juggernaut hoops program.

In 2007-08, their brother Nasir helped the Clippers to a 33-1 record and the squad's sixth PIAA state championship. He is now a senior forward at the University of Pittsburgh.

More recently, another brother, Laquan, was a two-sport catalyst at the school. Opting to play football in college, the speedy defensive back and kick returner recently completed his sophomore season at Widener.

"It's just a natural thing that you go to Chester," said Kareem Robinson, a 5-foot-7 senior point guard. "It's pretty much in your blood."

Unless the Chester Upland School District sorts out its financial woes, area youngsters might not get the chance to move up the ranks and join a team that regularly vies for supremacy in Southeastern Pennsylvania and beyond.

Acting Assistant Superintendent Thomas Persing said the district owes "millions" to a long list of creditors. An infusion of cash, to pay teachers and vendors, is in desperate need.

"It's something I try not to think about too much," said Darius Robinson, a 6-2 junior wing guard. "We just take it one day at a time. I think that's what a lot of people in the district are doing right now."

On Tuesday night, the visiting Clippers, with another balanced scoring effort, pulled away from Del-Val League rival Academy Park in the second half and easily triumphed, 64-42.

"It's sad to think about there one day possibly not being a Chester High," said 6-7 junior swingman Rondae Jefferson, a Division I recruit.

Jefferson's brother, Rahlir, starred for Chester. Now a 6-6 junior forward at Temple, he was averaging 5.6 points and 4.4 rebounds entering Wednesday night's contest at St. Louis.

"When you come from where we do, it's all about Chester basketball," Rondae Jefferson said. "You just wait your turn to be part of it. It's something you feel like you have to experience."

Of the financially strapped school district, Clippers fourth-year coach Larry Yarbray said: "We're not going to let it bother us. We're on a mission to get back up to states."

Last season, Yarbray, who is not a district employee, guided the Clippers to a 31-1 mark, their second PIAA Class AAAA state crown in four seasons, and the area's No. 1 ranking.

"We'll continue to play no matter what happens," Yarbray said. "If we don't have buses and the coaches have to drive the kids to games, that's what will happen. This is all about the kids and giving them an opportunity to succeed."

And if Yarbray's coaching stipend goes by the wayside?

"You don't get paid that much to coach anyway," he said. "It ain't about the money. We'll do whatever we have to do until they fix that situation."

Could Yarbray, with an 81-17 record at the helm, imagine a day when the doors close for good at Ninth and Barclay Streets?

"I don't even entertain that thought," he said. "It's something that I'm not contemplating."

Quotable. Frankford coach Dave Huzzard, on his team's 66-57 home loss Tuesday to Public League Division A rival Constitution:

"We had a meltdown there in the third quarter, and it absolutely killed us. We hung around with them, but we're tired of 'hanging around.' That's getting old."

Rick O'Brien: The Inquirer TOP 10


Team Record

Records are through Tuesday.

Last week's rankings in parentheses.

1. Chester (1) 10-0

2. Neumann-Goretti (2) 8-2

3. Malvern Prep (4) 15-0

4. Lower Merion (6) 11-2

5. Friends' Central (3) 10-2

6. Wissahickon (7) 11-1

7. St. Joseph's Prep (8) 9-2

8. Westtown (NR) 12-7

9. Roman Catholic (5) 5-3

10. Ac. New Church (10) 10-3

Under consideration (listed alphabetically): Archbishop Carroll (6-4), Boys' Latin (9-2), Father Judge (9-2), Germantown Academy (10-4), Imhotep Charter (7-3), Perkiomen School (8-2).

- Rick O'Brien

Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019, robrien@phillynews.com, or @ozoneinq on Twitter. Read his blog, "The O'Zone," at www.philly.com/ozone

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