Bringing It Home: Jameer Nelson and Youth Interlock Showcase Area Talent

By Michael Tillery
Updated: September 16, 2005

from left mike bacon, dr. earl pearsall jr., ricketta adams, shep garner

from left mike bacon, dr. earl pearsall jr., ricketta adams, shep garner

Dr. Earl Pearsall, the director of Youth Interlock, wished that the event be properly characterized. He offered a description of the program:

Dr. Pearsall: “The Youth Interlock Society has been going on since 1988. It was an academic program. In 1999, we implemented basketball. We found that many we proposed funding to claim they were more interested in academics. They were others interested in athletics. Once we got into more athletics, we then got more responses to our proposals and grants. We view ourselves as a Delaware Valley organization with emphasis on academics, academic enrichment and athletic development. We want to play competitive basketball, but we are more interested in developing our kids, because we feel they can go to high school and play a competitive schedule and get recruited on their high school performance. That’s how it used to be. Now coaches are going to the AAU and sanctioned events. They can see more kids, but we still try to provide exposure for our kids to receive scholarships. We tell our kids that every kid can’t be a Division 1 prospect. We have to fill division two and division three programs. Those kids are our focus. They’re many strong division three schools that have superior academic programs. That’s where most of our kids go. All of our kids from 1992 to the present have gone to four-year schools except one who went the junior college route and eventually enrolled in a four-year school. We have a lot of alumni that are still visible. We have Jameer of the Magic, Dwayne Jones of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Kevin Jones of the Detroit Lions. They are the ones that we want to emphasize. We want them to come back to our community, contribute and become leaders. Jameer is a big part of our program. His many accolades at St. Joe’s have given him a great reputation. This event used to be called Youth Interlock’s Midnite Madness, but because of Jameer’s support we changed it to Jameer Nelson’s Basketball Showcase. Youth Interlock has fourteen teams. Players range in age from seven to eighteen.”

When you speak of a Chester Clipper team, adjectives like scrappy, courageous, athletic, and ball smart come to mind.

There is no other Clipper that exemplifies those complimentary words like Jameer Nelson. Jameer is a homegrown legend. Any returning prodigal son can be viewed as such, but Jameer is Chester High.

The success he experienced here was entrenched eons before Jameer went to elementary school, almost as if the ghosts of Clipper past handpicked him to continue their legacy.

One of the banners that fly here conceivably could bear his likeness. When he played here, this was his team. If Chester needed a bucket, be it a scrimmage or the championship, the ball was in his hands and whoever was in his path was at his mercy. His NBA ability never overshadowed what his team goals were.

Recently Nelson, the talented point guard of the Orlando Magic, hosted Jameer Nelson’s Basketball Showcase, an event that has become a tool of exposure for talented area youth. I was amazed how serious the talent is here. Any college recruiter would love to watch just for the love of the game. It brings talent from all over the Mid-Atlantic region. This area has become a consistent hot bed for basketball.

The format of the showcase is akin to being picked for an all-star game. It brings out the competitive nature in these kids. Individuals who choose to play are placed on teams based on age and are coached by the numerous volunteers who are more than willing to provide their time.

dunkMany of these kids know each other from local sports programs, so it was an easy transition for them, but to see teamwork and unselfishness in such an atmosphere wasn’t something usual. Some of these kids have NBA hops and jump shots that fall like water. It was normal to see the point guard attempt to bang it on whoever was centered under the basket. Sometimes they were successful, other times the ball handler ended up on his back; the result of a block or a message sending foul. It wasn’t an event for the less than courageous that’s for sure. Every player looked as if he/she was coming to work with hard hat and lunch pail in hand.

The hard hat wasn’t a part of Jameer’s apparel today. He looked more like he was on his lunch break. He walked around at a leisurely pace, taking part in pictures, signing autographs and giving hugs to young and old alike. My nine-year old daughter, Taylor, served as my assistant. She watched every move Jameer made. This is the effect he has on these kids. I heard all day. “Daddy, there he is! Did he leave Daddy? Daddy I don’t know if he’s still here. Oh there he is Daddy, you better talk to him before he leaves.” She kept me grounded and determined to work my way around the gym, without being in awe of the sheer raw ability that surrounded us. My trusty and beautiful assistant located Jameer. It was about time that I got a couple of quotes from him before she pulled my arm out of the socket.

MT: “How did this even come about and what is your affiliation to Youth Interlock?”

Jameer Nelson: “Youth Interlock is the A.A.U. program that brought me up. Being as though I made it, I feel it’s very important to give back to the community. I’m have no problem putting my name on such a great event.”

MT: “How did you enjoy your time at Chester?”

JM: “I love Chester. It’s my city and I’ll always have fun in Chester.”

MT: “What was the transition for Saint Joseph’s to the NBA? How do you enjoy your Orlando Magic teammates? What are your future goals?”

JM: “It’s all about really getting in there, getting your feet wet and getting confidence. It’s great! My coaches and my teammates treat me well and give me a lot of respect. In terms of my future goals, I’m just trying to be a successful man.”

I noticed another celebrity working the crowd. It was Aaron Owens, a.k.a. AO. He is a Philly native, and one of the stars of the AND 1 tour. He bears a distinct resemblance to music mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs.

MT: “What brings you here?”

AO: “I came down here to support Jameer. It’s a good thing and a couple of young guys from my part of town, Scoop, and DJ Rivera. Just to see the young guys and the talent.

MT: “Where is the AND 1 Tour headed next? What’s going on with you?”

AO: “We go to Europe on September 19th, Germany and Italy. I’m trying to do some TV and some radio stuff right now.”

MT: “How do you rate this event?”

AO: “It’s a good event. To especially get all this caliber of players on the same court, the same day? Man! The girls are doing their thing too. They are going at it. They are nice!”

half time showIn this event, there is no talent that goes unnoticed. Chester kids performed a dance routine that had every person in attendence dancing and nodding their heads. The kids danced so good that you were almost upset when they were finished. In short, they kicked it!

I noticed a capable spectator near the scorer’s table. It was the head coach of Chester, Fred Pickett. He holds the reigns of a big time program. Everyone is so down to earth here and he is no exception.

MT: “How would you describe Chester’s program?”

Coach Pickett: “Our kids work hard. They have a love for the game. They come with a lot of confidence, and they learn how to play the game.”

MT: “How long have you been here?”

Coach Pickett: “I’ve been a paid coach for twenty one years. I was a volunteer before that for three years.”

MT: ” How many championships have you won? What’s your team looking like for the upcoming season?”

Coach Pickett: “I’ve been an assistant for two, I’ve been the head coach for the last two, and I was a volunteer for the other one. So I’ve been here for all five. We are going to be young initially. We have a lot of talent, a lot of young talent that needs to be proven. If our kids get in the weight room, pay attention to what we teach them, put the time in with especially the clinical stuff that we’re going to be doing for the next three months, we’ll be fine.

MT: “What’s the greatest joy that you get out of coaching such a successful program?”

Coach Pickett: “Seeing the kids turn the corner and become fine young men. We strive for them all to go to college, but every kid isn’t college bound or ready for what their goal is. We try to teach them to learn what’s expected of them as young adults, and we try to prepare them for what’s out there in the world, and what they must do to become successful.

MT: “Comment on Jameer’s time here”

Coach Pickett: “He was a great kid number one. He was a good student that worked real hard to be a good student. He was well liked by teachers and peers in the classroom and always showed respect for other people. He was a student of the game that really took it serious and worked hard, real hard to get his game where it is. He was just so determined.

MT: “What does the future hold for you?”

Coach Pickett: “I take it one day at a time. Our job really starts with young teams like we have now. I have a large coaching staff and everybody plays a role. That’s what we do.”

I asked the many refs who seemed to be enjoying the fact that their whistles didn’t have to be blown as much. All seemed happy to lend a helping hand in assuring the kids played the right way. Veteran ref Deveral Wilson offered this opinion:

DV: “I’ve been a ref for twenty years. I wanted to give back to the community and be a part of a great program. I get to officiate good basketball and stay in shape. Earl Pearsall and Mark Freeman have been asking me to come here the last couple of years. I’ve been coaching on the side at Delaware’s Dickinson High, so it’s also a great opportunity for me to get some players in Delaware some needed exposure.

There weren’t any kids that I had problems conversing with. Players like eighteen-year old Matt Robertson of Philly’s Lutheran Academy was used to having reporters asked them questions. He was very poised and looked forward to achieving a scholarship based on the exposure he received here. He was very humble in noting that he wasn’t picky when it came to going to school. He did mention Penn State. His future aspirations include communications. He has division one abilities and wanted me to mention that cat’s in Philly are real.

Sixteen-year old Kadija Rushdan was another impressive talent. Her 3.6 grade point average spoke for itself. “I want to attend Duke University and help them win a national championship.”

Mike Sheppard of nearby Delaware brings kids to these series of games every year. He was one of many A.A.U. coaches that sought exposure for the numerous skillful players they teach on a daily basis. “I brought Daryl Johnson from Howard, Joe Seymour from Hodson, and Edward Santiago from Sanford. I’ve coached PAL of Delaware Moody Construction for thirteen years. We try to keep the kids focused and out of trouble and put them in line for scholarships. People like Dr. Pearsall and Mike Bacon do a great job here and I’m sure the program will be successful for years to come.”

Frederic Douglas impressed me with his vast knowledge of basketball and sports in general. He runs pro and college workouts along with John Hartnett. He has been doing so for fifteen years: “We’ve gotten involved in Youth Interlock and consider this a great avenue for both academics and athletics. Youth Interlock is doing a great, great job. First these kids have to get great grades in school. Then they can go into society prepared as a doctor, a lawyer, a politician or an athlete. They will go into their desired vocation with a strong background. You see what’s going on in the southern gulf states and if we were more mentally prepared, then many casualties would have been avoided. This type of program helps prepare the future leaders of our society for the difficulties in life.

I was more than a little disappointed that I was one of the few members of the media here. I wouldn’t mind traveling the globe to have the opportunity to see great young and hungry talent. My son Michael Jr. might one day have the opportunity to play in such an event. This was great exposure for my children who were present, Michael, Gaston and Taylor. I got no greater joy than to see their eyes light up when the future leaders of our world performed like the model student athletes they have become. Thanks Jameer Nelson and Youth Interlock for providing a true instrument for success.