Camden vs. Imhotep: Two Teams from Across The Ben Franklin Bridge Duel It Out In Game of the Year

Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint.

By David Cordova

One thing that can be said about the city of Philadelphia is that it’s definitely a city that loves its basketball. It is something that can’t fully be explained unless you’re of the culture. Whether it’s the Philadelphia Catholic League, the Philadelphia Public League, the Big 5, the Philadelphia 76ers, the Rumph Classic and even the Chosen League games during the summertime, the general public always comes out to support.

Just three weeks ago, on January 28th, a beautiful Saturday afternoon, a matchup between two of the best programs in the nation took place at Hagan Arena on the campus of St. Joseph’s University in the Wynnefield section of Philadelphia. This matchup was one of the best to ever happen in the City of Brotherly Love’s rich basketball history. This game was between Imhotep Charter Institute High School and Camden High School, two high schools that are only 14 miles apart from each other and just under 40 minutes away.

But before we get to that, we must first talk about two games that impacted the city of Philadelphia in the 21st century.

Camden senior point guard Cian Medley tries to make a move against Imhotep on Jan. 28th, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint)

On January 2nd, 2000, there was a matchup between Camden and Roman Catholic High School, a powerhouse school out of the Philadelphia Catholic League, which pitted the two best players in the nation against each other in Dajuan Wagner, then a junior, and the late Eddie Griffin, then one of the nation’s best seniors. The game took place at the Apollo of Temple, which was later renamed to its current name, the Liacouras Center. In that game, 9,339 spectators saw what wound up being a one-sided affair, as Wagner, hobbled by an injured ankle, scored eight points and Griffin scored 29 points in a 72-47 win for the Cahillites over the Panthers

Two years later, on December 22nd, 2002, another great matchup took place in Philly, this time between Strawberry Mansion High School and their star, Maureece Rice, and Akron, Ohio’s St. Vincent-St. Mary and the NBA all-time leading scorer, LeBron James. In this game, James would leave Philly with the win of the game (St. Vincent-St. Mary won convincingly, 85-47) and the battle (he scored with 26 points and Rice scored 13).

Imhotep Charter senior guard Rahmir Barno goes to the lane against Camden on Jan. 28th, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint)

Now with this current matchup, there were at least a dozen Division I standouts on-hand for this matchup. From the boys from North 21st Street in North Philadelphia, they had a great crew of players starting with their All-American in 6-foot-7 senior forward Justin Edwards, who is rated as the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2023 by ESPN, and is signed to play at the University of Kentucky. Other talented players on Imhotep’s squad is senior point guard Rahmir Barno, who is signed to play at Florida Gulf Coast University and they also had junior guard Ahmad Nowell, junior forward Makye Taylor, senior forward Yahmir Satterfield, senior guard Baasil Saunders and a promising young freshman guard in R.J. Smith.

For Camden, they had their own gems in their senior leaders, four of whom are currently signed to Division I colleges. They have two nationally-ranked players in guard Dajuan “DJ” Wagner, Jr. (rated No. 2 in the country by ESPN) and center Aaron Bradshaw (rated No. 4 in the country by ESPN), both of whom are also signed to Kentucky and will be playing with Edwards as freshmen next season. Camden also had other seniors such as point guard Cian Medley (who is signed to play at Saint Louis), forward Cornelius “Boog” Robinson, Jr. (who is signed to play at the University of Albany) and forward Dasear Haskins, a talented and unsigned recruit who has caught the attention of many coaches around the country. They also have a terrific underclassman in junior forward Billy Richmond, who is also catching the attention of high-major programs such as Kentucky.

But this game was also a battle of coaches. It was the battle of a veteran coach vs. the new kid on the block.

On Imhotep’s side, longtime head coach Bro. Andre Noble has built quite a resume at the charter school on North 21st Street. In 19 seasons, he has won over 400 games, 10 Philadelphia Public League championships, eight state championships and six city championships. He also coached some highly-regarded players such as Ameen Tanksley (Hofstra), Daron Russell (Maryland), Jaekwon Carlyle (Hampton), David Beatty (North Carolina A&T), Koby Thomas (Coppin State) and Donta Scott (Maryland). Under Noble’s direction, the Panthers have been rated nationally in the top-15 spot every year for more than 10 years.

For Camden, the new kid on the block is none other than Maalik Wayns, a native of Philadelphia, who was a standout player at Roman Catholic High School, where he graduated in 2009 and was selected to play in the 2009 McDonald’s All-Ametican and was a two-time Philadelphia Catholic League Player of the Year winner. After high school, he went on to play for three seasons at Villanova University in the Big East under Naismith Hall of Fame member and former head coach Jay Wright, before leaving to play professional basketball after his junior season. He went on to play for nine seasons overseas and in the NBA G-League and even had a couple of stints with the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Clippers. After his playing days ended, he coached for the New Jersey Scholars, which plays on the Nike EYBL circuit and which several of Camden’s players play for during the spring & summer. Just last season, Wayns went back to Villanova and served as part of the Student-Athlete Development squad and graduated last May with his bachelor’s degree.

The question now would be, which coach would develop the best strategy and get the win? The next 32 minutes of the game would show that.

Imhotep Charter senior forward Justin Edwards goes up for a dunk against Camden on Jan. 28th, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint)

From the beginning of the game, both teams started firing on all cylinders and the first quarter ended with Camden in the lead, 13-11. With 4:13 to go in the second quarter, Barno went on attack mode with a killer crossover that got the attention of the crowd and then would wind up with a basket and drawing foul and would end up completing a three-point play to tie the game at 18-18. But Camden would stay on top going into halftime, leading 36-24.

The second half started with a battle on both ends of the court, as both teams were putting up a good fight on both ends of the court, but the third quarter would end up finishing with Wagner getting a three-point play and Edwards hit a buzzer-beater to complete the third quarter.

Camden senior guard D.J. Wagner looks to drive to the basket against Imhotep Charter on Jan. 28th, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint)

During the fourth quarter, the momentum was high for both teams. With 1:10 left in the game, Medley hit a three to put Camden up 55-48. Then with 57.1 seconds left, Nowell drained a three to bring Imhotep within 55-51. Around 17 seconds later, Medley was fouled and then went to the free-throw line. He would then hit one of two free-throws to put Camden up 56-51.

At around 36 seconds left in the game, Nowell hit a three to cut the Imhotep deficit to 56-54. Then Wagner would counter with a layup to put Camden ahead, 58-54. Then Edwards made a layup at the other end & was fouled, and would then complete a three-point play to bring Imhotep within one, 58-57. But just a short time later, Medley would be fouled once again, and would successfully hit two free throws to seal the deal, and the Panthers from Camden, would emerge victorious, winning this interstate battle, 60-57.

Camden head coach Maalik Wayns and the Panthers celebrate in the waning seconds of the game, as they knew that victory was near. (Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint)

As the game ended, Camden supporters rushed the court and celebrated. It was an epic victory on this cold, Saturday afternoon on 54th & Overbrook in Philadelphia. On this date, there were plenty of media outlets in the building, as well as many luminaries from the Philadelphia basketball community and even a couple of stars in the building, most notably, Kahleah Copper, a Philly native who was a standout at Prep Charter in high school and then would go on to play four years of collegiate basketball at Rutgers University, and is now in the WNBA with the Chicago Sky.

Today, there is plenty of footage out of the game from content creators such as Rare Footage Sports, Jay Doe Films & Raw Sports Films. But unless you were physically present at Hagan Arena, you will never be able to fully grasp the magnitude of that game. For those that couldn’t be there, they missed out on something special. With no major cable network like ESPN present, it makes things exclusive for those that want to cover it.

The legacy of this game will forever be felt by those who witnessed. There aren’t too many games were three players in the top-five of the senior class all played and showed out. However, January 28th, 2023 will forever be a game to be remembered as the day that Camden took down Imhotep.

Footage of the game:

Courtesy of SLAM.

Courtesy of NJ Hoop Recruit.

Courtesy of Rare Footage Sports.

Courtesy of Raw Sports Films.

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