Meet the Junior Generals

Posted: March 11, 2014

AS THE Constitution High basketball season has progressed, the Generals have found themselves thriving under the stewardship of a collection of juniors in classification only.

Little is "junior" about this bunch and each adds something significant. In fact, the group that enrolled together as freshmen tallied most of the Generals' points in Saturday's 61-45 PIAA first-round victory against Columbia.

Senior among the juniors is Akeem King, a 6-1 guard, who logged significant minutes as a freshman on ConHigh's 2012 Public League and state title team.

King has a habit of making liars out of stat sheets, and Saturday at Southern was no exception. The North Philadelphia native (Woodstock and Diamond) finished with just six points and didn't tally in the second half, but his defensive signature was all over the court.

"He's always been one of the most selfless kids we have on the team," said coach Rob Moore. "His older brother played for me a few years ago and he was the same way. He was the leader of the team while not being the most talented, but being the kid who worked hard.

"When anything goes wrong, people will look to [Akeem]. He was the only kid out of that group that came in as ninth-graders to play any significant minutes as a freshman."

The 11th-grade Generals scored all but 14 of the team's points. The only other scorers were senior Raheem Liggins (five) and sophomore Anthony Satchell (nine).

Kimar Williams, a 6-1 guard who has led the Generals (24-5) in scoring in the last three games, finished with a game-high 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting and 2-for-4 from three. Chad Andrews had a team-best seven boards and added seven points, while talented wing Ahmad Gilbert (3-for-13) notched seven points off the bench and Haneef Vaughn contributed six points and sticky defense.

King, nicknamed "Buddah," earned his defensive bones in battles with big brother. Former General Abdul King is now a junior guard at Slippery Rock University after spending two seasons at Kutztown.

"Growing up, I always wanted to be better than him, so he just pushed me to my limit," King said. "That's where my heart came from. He always told me that without defense you won't win. And defense turns into offense and easy baskets."

Little brother listened.

After a 28-23 edge at the half, ConHigh's defensive Dobermans snarled and started a 13-0 spurt that stymied the No. 3 seed from District 3. The Crimson Tide finished with fewer turnovers (17) than the Generals (21), but Columbia shriveled with King and Co. hounding its best guard, Marqel Wansley (16 points, 4-for-13).

"Our defense has held us down all year and that's what we hang our hat on," Moore said. "Guys like Haneef and Lincoln [Kpokuyou], Chad and Buddah, those guys held us down defensively and that's what will get us past these teams in states."

The somewhat sluggish defensive start could be attributable to a shakeup in the starting rotation.

"There was a point where Chad got two fouls with about 1:30 left in the third quarter and I looked down the bench and I had nobody I could sub in because they had all missed or been late to a practice," Moore said. "Even my bench players. Even my 15th man."

Typical starters Gilbert and senior guard Floyd Preito played support roles off the bench. "I think Ahmad struggled a little in the city title game and he was holding his head down," Moore continued. "I told him today he played a great game for me . . . and I told him to build off that and get ready for the next game."

Gilbert netted three of his five steals after he resumed his starting role in the third quarter.

As for King, who endured a recent family tragedy that he was not ready to talk about postgame, he is leaning on his mother and teammates for support.

"Our team is basically the same team from last year, so we've built a bond since last year," he said. "These guys are like my brothers."

Later, of his mother, Tenise Johnson, with whom he lives, he added: "My mom is my motivation. Growing up in a single-parent home, she just tried to give us everything we wanted, working double-, triple-shifts, day and night. I just want to pay her back for all her hard work.

"I don't think she's missed a game since I was 9 years old. She's my best friend, my mom, my super woman. I just want to pay her back for all of her hard work. I'd go to hell and back with her."

On Twitter: @AceCarterDN

comments powered by Disqus