Newton latest city star to leave for college

Neuman-Goretti's Ja'Quan Newton about to grab a pass driving against Carroll's during the 4th quarter during playoff action at the Palestra in Philadelphia, Wednesday, February 20, 2013. Neuman-Goretti wins 57-34. ( Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer )
Neuman-Goretti's Ja'Quan Newton about to grab a pass driving against Carroll's during the 4th quarter during playoff action at the Palestra in Philadelphia, Wednesday, February 20, 2013. Neuman-Goretti wins 57-34. ( Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer ) (Steven M. Falk)
Posted: November 14, 2013

Ja'Quan Newton has his Wednesday morning planned. He will wake up around 7 on the first day of basketball's signing period and hop in the shower. There's no time for breakfast, as he will leave home in 20 minutes for the 15-minute drive to Neumann-Goretti. First period starts at 7:50.

Later that morning, the 6-foot-2 guard will sign his scholarship offer, which was already mailed to his Southwest Philadelphia home, and use the school's fax machine to send it to the University of Miami as fast as possible.

And in eight months, in what has become the norm, Philadelphia's best high school basketball player will leave the city.

If Newton is named the Markward Club's Philadelphia player of the year - which is expected - he will be the fourth straight player of the year to leave the city for college and the seventh in nine seasons.

Since 2000, 75 percent of the city's high school players of the year have committed to college outside the city. It is the highest rate in the award's 60-year history.

"I just wanted to get out, get out of the city," said Newton, who was heavily recruited by La Salle, St. Joseph's, Temple, and Villanova. "I want to experience new things and see different places."

From 1947 to 1992, 64 percent of the Markward Award winners stayed home for college. And then in 1993, Simon Gratz's Rasheed Wallace - the nation's top player - chose North Carolina over Temple. The Big Five rebounded from Wallace's departure, scooping up three of the next five winners.

But a trend was set.

In February 2000, Roman Catholic's Eddie Griffin - also the nation's top player, who died in a car accident near Houston in 2007 - chose Seton Hall over Temple. Seven of the next nine Markward winners followed Griffin's path out of town.

"We all still get some good local players. And there are some really good [high school and AAU] coaches who believe in the Big Five," said La Salle coach John Giannini. "And there's some other people who have their kids go to the highest level, whether that's in Philly or elsewhere.

"When you send kids to the highest level every time, it looks impressive on paper even if the kid ends up transferring or it doesn't work out. But it sounds impressive."

As the player of the year tends to leave, La Salle has done one of the best jobs of securing the city's remaining top players. Giannini said one of the first things he did after being hired in 2004 was to add three assistants with strong Philadelphia connections. He landed Jerrell Wright in 2011, the last Markward winner to stay home for college. And his Sweet 16 squad was the first Big Five team since 1981 to reach the Sweet 16 with four city players.

The Explorers have four city players again this year. Villanova has two city players, Drexel and St. Joseph's have one. Penn and Temple have none.

"One of the things we try not to do is take Philly kids that we're not sure about," Giannini said. "Sometimes we miss out on some really good kids. But if we recruit a Philly player, we want to know 100 percent for sure that he's a perfect fit. Because we want to keep our credibility high."

Like Newton, Griffin saw his stock rise the summer before his senior year after excelling at camps sponsored by sneaker companies. He was in the first wave of top-flight recruits to receive year-round exposure. Now that's the norm.

Almost every high school player with college aspirations plays on an AAU team. Many of the teams are sponsored by the same sneaker companies that outfit college programs. They travel up and down the East Coast, playing in summer weekend tournaments. College coaches pack the stands.

"And now you have high schools like Roman and Neumann traveling to Florida and other places for tournaments," said Charles Monroe, who coached Griffin's AAU team and organizes the All-City Classic, an annual all-star game of the city's top talent. "And at those tournaments are college coaches. So it's not just on the AAU circuit anymore that players are getting that exposure."

No longer do city colleges compete with just each other over local talent. They compete with almost everyone as the summer trail allows coaches from across the country to see players from everywhere. It turned recruiting into a national game.

Newton said Big Five coaches were at almost all of his high school games. But, quite often, so were coaches from the likes of Miami, Minnesota, and Syracuse. And they were there in the summer, too. Villanova was one of Newton's first offers, but the Wildcats were left out of his final six choices a week after they landed a Washington guard. Temple felt too much like the city, Newton said.

As Miami opened its season last Friday with a four-point loss at home, Newton watched on a laptop from his home thanks to an online stream. He said he can watch almost all of the Hurricanes games, either online or on television. Newton did the same last year as he studied the college hoops landscape looking for the perfect team. The four-star recruit wants to play as a freshman.

Cable television and Internet streaming bring college programs from all over the country into recruits' living rooms, laptops, and smartphones. Now they see everyone play just as much or even more than local schools.

Newton's father, Joe, who played college ball at the University of Central Oklahoma, told his son the decision was his to make. His mother, Lisa Brown, was a bit upset, Newton said, but still wanted him to experience new things.

And for the city's top recruit, experiencing new things usually comes with the territory.


Boys' and Girls' Basketball Commitments

Boys' Basketball

Player   High school   College   

Eric Anderson   Haverford School   Yale   

Mikal Bridges   Great Valley   Villanova   

Shep Garner   Roman Catholic   Penn State   

Troy Harper   Neumann-Goretti   Campbell   

Rashaan Holloway   Schalick   Massachusetts   

Matt Klinewski   Eastern   Lafayette   

Terry Larrier   Phelps   Va. Commonwealth   

Rashann London   Roman Catholic   Drexel   

Justin McFadden   Lower Merion   Binghamton   

Louis Myers   Math, Civics & Sci.   Norfolk State   

Ja'Quan Newton   Neumann-Goretti   Miami   

Jared Nickens   Westtown   Maryland   

Sean O'Brien   Penn Charter   Colgate   

Pat Smith   Archbishop Wood   Cornell   

Tyrell Sturdivant   Chester   Stony Brook   

Basil Thompson   Imhotep Charter   St. Francis (Pa.)   

Girls' Basketball

Sox Alexander   Shipley   St. John's   

Olivia Askin   Shawnee   Hofstra   

Sajanna Bethea   Pennsbury   St. Peter's   

Alliya Butts   Holy Cross   Temple   

Mia Farmer   Cardinal O'Hara   Geo. Washington   

Adashia Franklyn   W.C. Rustin   St. Joseph's   

Kennedy Johnson   Wildwood Cath.   Michigan State   

Jocelynne Jones   Winslow Twp.   Robert Morris   

Jess Kaminski   Archbishop Wood   Philadelphia U.   

Alex Louin   Mount St. Joseph   Villanova   

Jada Matthews   Winslow Twp.   Geo. Washington   

Carly Monzo   Mount St. Joseph   Loyola (Md.)   

Lauren Moses   Rancocas Valley   Virginia   

Ashley Murray   Imhotep Charter   Iona   

Tyler Raysor   Haddon Heights   Rhode Island   

Sammy Stipa   Spring-Ford   Lafayette   

Maddy Tessier-Kay   Conestoga   Harvard   

Hannah Timmons   Coatesville   Howard   

Dominique Ward   Rancocas Valley   Rhode Island   

Chelsea Woods   Freire Charter   St. Joseph's   

Aaliyah Worley   Eng. & Science   Stony Brook   

Kiana Ye    Paul VI   Sacred Heart   


mbreen@phillynews.com

@matt_breen

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