They chanted it early and often: "

Ballllll hog

! . . .

Ballllll hog

!"

Of course, Maalik Wayns heard the student rooters from St. Joseph's Prep. His hearing skills do match his court sense.

Part of him wanted to laugh or even make a friendly gesture toward those guys. But you know how things are for athletes under a giant-sized microscope. Some might have taken acknowledgement as a sign of distraction, or even weakness.

"I know I'm not a ballhog," Wayns said. "They might have been saying that because I have been scoring a lot of points this season. But I get my teammates involved. I love doing that."

The pre-Christmas occasion yesterday at 17th and Girard was a Catholic South game between the Prep and Roman Catholic.

The Cahillites are Wayns' squad, pretty much literally, and by the end of the contest, which was OK but never off-the-charts exciting, his numbers were decent - 21 points, six rebounds, four assists and 5-for-9 sniping on treys in Roman's 55-42 victory.

At halftime, due in large part to Sean Dooley's aggressive defense, Wayns was only 1-for-7 from the floor and some folks were nudging others.

"This is the guy who already committed to Villanova? Looks kind of average."

The 6-1, 190-pound junior point guard did not hear the doubters. He was downstairs in the locker room, mixing rest with plans to play better. Anyway . . .

"I don't go out there thinking about any of that extra pressure," he said, referring to people's expectations. "I just try to play to the best of my ability, not to make an impression.

"I learned that approach from all the people in my inner circle. From my coaches and friends to my grandma. Once I committed, everybody said people would be coming after me. I just have to play my game, stay humble and remember where I came from."

Wayns lives with his grandmother, Arlene Wayns, in West Oak Lane. She guides and chides and, deep down, Maalik knows he owes her everything. A trip to the mall, for one.

"I'm going to get her something special [today]," he said, smiling. "Whatever she wants, really. She makes me what I am. She keeps me on course with basketball and my grades and social life."

And what would Maalik prefer to receive?

"Doesn't matter," he said. "I'm easy. I'm just a big kid. I'm supposed to be getting an iPhone, though. Don't know that I am, but I probably will."

Once Wayns began cookin', so did Roman.

As the third quarter started, he grabbed a rebound, raced upcourt and made a pass to sophomore guard Rakeem Brookins for an easy layup and a 23-18 lead. Soon, he was helping the spread hit six with a left-wing trey and then seven with another threeball from out front.

Right before the end of the session, he drove hard toward the right wing and then fired a pass to the straight-on spot beyond the arc. Wes Kirkland swished a trey and the score was 37-27.

Roman's students chanted, "Wayns' World! . . . Wayns' World!"

Maalik gets the reference. He even saw the movie. So, how are things in this version of Wayns' World?

"Wonderful," he said. "I'm living a great life. I'm having fun with my teammates and family. Just enjoying the process."

Roman coach Dennis Seddon said he enjoyed catching a glimpse of 'Nova assistant Pat Chambers.

"I like it when Villanova's staff comes to our games. Maalik seems to do his best," Seddon said. He added, dryly, "We're hoping to change around their schedule to adapt more to ours."

As for the game itself . . .

"Early it seemed like Maalik was kind of feeling his way, trying to see what he could or couldn't do," Seddon said. "We finally told him, 'Just be Maalik.' Once he did that, he was fine."

Brookins, who went 3-for-4 on treys, finished with 15 points. Wing guard Courtney Stanley, a Loyola Chicago signee, had eight points, nine boards and three assists. Will Kirkland, Wes' twin, grabbed seven boards.

The Prep, which is still missing Lafayette-bound sniper Jim Mower (broken hand), launched jumpers almost exclusively. It went 16-for-52 total and 7-for-25 on threeballs and did not visit the foul line until 5:12 remained.

No one scored in double figures. Joe Meehan dealt six assists while Mike Bradley totaled 10 boards and three blocks.

On Thursday at 2:30 at Philadelphia University, Roman will meet recent nemesis, Ss. Neumann-Goretti.

Multiple defenders will likely visit Wayns' World.

"I just have to keep finding ways to get open," he said. "When I do take shots, hopefully they fall." *