On the south side of Philadelphia, hidden among the brick row houses along 10th and 11th streets where it is impossible to find a streetside parking spot, there is Saints John Neumann & Maria Goretti Catholic High School, a private Catholic school in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Neumann-Goretti was created in 2004 by a merger of Saint John Neumann High School and Saint Maria Goretti High School, and it proudly calls itself a co-ed college prep school that focuses on inspiring young men and women to achieve academically and to exhibit high character and moral integrity.
But on a cold and rainy Friday night in early February, Neumann-Goretti was more than a south side private school; it was the place to be for fans of Philly high school basketball.
It was Quade Green night.
Neumann-Goretti was hosting St. Joe’s Prep, where Phil Martelli once coached, in the final home game of the regular season.
The final home game of 2016-17 marked the final home game for Quade Green, one of John Calipari’s prized signees in Kentucky basketball’s Class of 2017.
Green was escorted to the court by his mother, Tameka Johnson, while wearing a USA Basketball t-shirt.
Adding more pageantry to Green’s final game, a representative from the Jordan brand was in attendance to present him with his “DREAM Championship” plaque, in recognition of his inclusion in the 2017 Jordan Brand Classic, at halftime.
Green changed into a Kentucky shooting shirt for the Jordan presentation.
Along with the DREAM plaque, a banner hung on the gym’s back wall to commemorate Green’s achievement as Nuemann-Goretti’s All-American point guard.
Like I said, it was Quade Green night.
As for the action, Green played a decent game but didn’t have to assert himself too much against the struggling St. Joe’s team. He got off to a slow start in the first quarter, which he attributed to senior night jitters, and went on to finish with 14 points in a runaway win for the Saints.
Meanwhile, Green’s teammate, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, a Villanova commit, handled most of the scoring with 27 points inside. At one point he was overheard yelling, “He can’t guard me,” which was clear to everyone in the gym. Green mostly deferred to Cosby-Roundtree the entire night.
Afterwards, Green was kind enough to step aside from his busy, special night to chat with me about his upcoming move to Lexington to be the next point guard under John Calipari, who he credits as the deciding factor in the decision to attend Kentucky.
“What made me decide Kentucky was Coach Cal because he was honest with me,” Green told KSR, when asked why the Cats over Syracuse, the heavy favorite in his recruitment until the very end. “I think Coach Cal can really develop me and help me. He told me, ‘If you want to come here, you have to work,’ and that’s what I want to do. I want to be around good people I can play with so when the games come it’ll be easy.”
Green also said he has had conversations with Tyler Ulis, the Harrison twins, and John Wall about what it is like to be in the Kentucky backcourt under Calipari, but he doesn’t plan to follow their exact footsteps, despite some early comparisons to Ulis.
“I’m going to be my own point guard, my own version of me,” he said. “That’s what Cal explained to me and that is what I am going to do for myself.”
Green’s head coach at Neumann-Goretti, Carl Arrigale, says Kentucky is getting a competitor with all the ingredients to be an elite point guard.
Coach Arrigale told me, “You’re getting a super, super competitive kid. He might have some growing pains early, like a lot of them do, but he’s no quitter, he’s a fighter, and he’s a good player. He wants it and I think Cal will get it out of him. I’m expecting him to go there and do well.”
When I asked about any weaknesses in Green’s game, Arrigale gave me a complete breakdown of what Kentucky is getting: “If he’s going to be a guard at his size and at that level where he wants to end up playing — it’s not Kentucky, he wants to play in the NBA — he has gotta be in tiptop shape and he’s gotta be able to be a better on-ball defender. I know he can do it. He’s gotta be able to do everything, and with so many good players around him, you’ll see his passing skills are off the charts. And he’s really a good shooter. He doesn’t get enough credit for what a good shooter he is — he is a high-40s three-point shooter in high school. And he’s a great closer, at the end of games he shoots 90 percent from the line. He’s got all the ingredients to be a leader and a great point guard with the right group of guys.”
Of course, I couldn’t leave South Philly without asking Green’s mother if she is excited about joining Big Blue Nation. She said she can’t wait for her son to get to UK and she plans to attend every game, as her son “develops into a good player and a good person into his adulthood” within the Kentucky program.
And Green’s excitement for life in Lexington?