His shot was off. His team was out of sorts.
It was a tough day for Ibrahim Kane and the Academy at Palumbo basketball team.
“Easily our worst performance of the season,” Academy at Palumbo coach Frank Schneider said of a 63-53 loss to Roxborough last week in a Philadelphia Public League C Division clash in the Griffins’ tiny gym off 12th and Catherine Streets in South Philadelphia.
Kane, a 6-foot-5 senior swingman, collected 18 points with 11 rebounds and 2 steals. He got to the foul line 11 times, making 8, and strived to keep up his teammates’ spirits with a steady stream of hand-slaps and encouraging words.
It was clear in the course of a rough game why Schneider and athletic director Erik Goldstein regard Kane as one the best leaders in the program’s history.
“Next play,” Kane said of his reaction to the crowd noise and wild swings of momentum in a typical Public League game. “We’re all human. We all make mistakes.”
Kane’s cool demeanor and positive approach — along with his burgeoning skills as a versatile shot-maker, rebounder, and distributor — have helped turn Academy at Palumbo into a team to watch in the C Division.
Kane averages 19.2 points and 8.9 rebounds. But it’s his unflappable air and can-do pep that are most valuable to the program, Schneider said.
“He lives our program values better than any player we’ve ever had,” said Schneider, who in his eighth season.
Kane has earned a scholarship offer from Bloomfield College, an NCAA Division II program that competes in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference with Philadelphia-based programs such as Jefferson, Chestnut Hill, and University of the Sciences.
Kane, who lives in the University City section of Philadelphia, couldn’t wait to alert his family to his first scholarship offer.
“That was big time,” Kane said. “I was able to call my parents that night and I was like, ‘Mom, you don’t have to worry about paying for college.’ ”
Kane said he’s the first person in his family, which traces its heritage to Mali in Africa, to play basketball. He didn’t take the sport seriously until seventh or eighth grade.
“I’m a late bloomer,” Kane said.
Kane has made steady improvement during his career, thanks to an offseason regimen that included daily workouts in the summer in the school’s little gym with its broad sweep of windows and protective padding on the radiators.
“He represents all that is good about Philadelphia city high school sports, the Public League, and our program,” Schneider said. “Ibrahim is the most influential captain we’ve had in our program’s history.”
Kane carries a 3.76 grade point average. He said excellence in the classroom is a prerequisite to leadership on the court.
“My parents always said, ‘Grades first,’ ” Kane said. “Basketball isn’t everything. You have to be able to do everything. For me to be a leader on the court, I have to have my books right.”
Kane said the Bloomfield offer was validation of his hard work.
“I wasn’t that good in seventh and eighth grade,” Kane said. “I was like, ‘You know what, my parents work so hard.’ I can put my focus on the basketball and if I can combine that with my grades ...”
Schneider said Kane is a mentor to younger players and a leader in service projects at Philabundance and Hub of Hope kitchen. Kane often gathers his teammates before practice, offering an “idea or words of encouragement that gives energy and focus,” the coach said.
But true leadership shines brightest in tough times.
For Kane, a 5-for-14 individual shooting performance and a fourth-quarter letdown that led to the loss to Roxborough was no cause for alarm: