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Philly-area players aim at Jameer Nelson Classic

To see some of the best high school boys' basketball in Southeastern Pennsylvania this season, you can scour the area every week for two or three of the best games.

To see some of the best high school boys' basketball in Southeastern Pennsylvania this season, you can scour the area every week for two or three of the best games.

Or you can buy a ticket to the sixth annual Jameer Nelson/Pete Nelson Scholastic Play by Play Classic tournament and get your fill in one four-day span.

Named for the former Chester High School star, now with the Orlando Magic, and his late father, Pete, the Nelson Classic gets under way Saturday at 1 p.m. with Girard College playing Strawberry Mansion.

Overall, 19 games are spread across four days at three local locations - Widener University (Saturday and Monday), Gwynedd-Mercy College (Sunday and Wednesday), and North Catholic High School (Wednesday).

This will create a geographical triangle of top-notch high school hoops this holiday season, featuring - take a deep breath - 30 teams representing 14 different leagues (plus one independent), hailing from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.

"I think all kids that play in these kinds of events get excited," said Plymouth Whitemarsh coach Jim Donofrio, whose Colonials are one of this year's main attractions with 6-foot-9 Division-I bound center C.J. Aiken (St. Joseph's) and 6-7 junior forward Jaylen Bond.

"They gave us the 8 o'clock game [on Saturday] against Chester at Widener, which is essentially a home game for them," Donofrio said. "But if you can't get excited about playing Chester, one of the perennial greats, then you've got to do something else."

Chester coach Larry Yarbray, whose Clippers also will face 6-foot-1 guard Tyrone Garland (Virginia Tech) and Bartram of the Public League at 8 p.m. Monday, acknowledged the tournament carries special meaning with 10 of the 19 games scheduled in their backyard at Widener.

"The expectation is you always want to play well," Yarbray said. "But with it being in Jameer's name and being a Chester tournament, we always want to represent well and carry on the tradition of what Chester's all about."

Aiken, Bond and Garland are only three of a long list of top players who will compete in the showcase.

As for the teams, the Clippers and seven other clubs will play two games apiece.

The Catholic League, which has seven teams in the field - St. Joseph's Prep is scheduled to play twice - will have the strongest representation of any conference, followed by the Suburban One League (five teams), the Public League (three), and the Del-Val, Central and Friends Leagues (two each).

South Jersey will be represented by Atlantic Christian, Life Center, Atlantic City and Camden. And coming from out of the local area are Bishop Loughlin and Robeson of New York City, while Susquehanna Township hails from Central Pennsylvania.

The tournament includes seven of The Inquirer's top 10 preseason picks for Southeastern Pennsylvania.

"You get to see a great player and a great team almost every game," said Jeremy Treatman, the president of Scholastic Play-by-Play Network and the founder of the Nelson Classic. "Every game has intrigue, and I just think from top to bottom this is one of the strongest fields we've had."

Treatman said hosting showcases, as opposed to multiple-day tournaments, is an important attraction to teams as they seek to manage their holiday schedule.

Donofrio, whose team is ranked third in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer, called the Nelson Classic a "household name" for attracting top teams.

"You have an obligation every year looking at your team, seeing what level they are and determining what challenges they should take on," Donofrio said. "And this particular year, I don't think we have a choice."

Several coaches agreed that such steep competition can only help as the season grows longer.

"It's a good opportunity for a veteran team to get to play some of the top teams in the area," Bartram coach James Brown said, "which basically will give us a good idea of where we're at . . . and prepare us for postseason play."

Nelson Classic Schedule

Here is the schedule for the sixth annual Jameer Nelson/Pete Nelson Scholastic Play By Play Classic boys' basketball tournament:

Saturday at Widener University

Girard College vs. Strawberry Mansion, 1 p.m.

West Chester Rustin vs. Norristown, 2:45

Archbishop Carroll vs. Bartram, 4:30

Friends' Central vs. Life Center (N.J.), 6:15

Plymouth Whitemarsh vs. Chester, 8

Sunday at Gwynedd-Mercy College

Wissahickon vs. St. Joseph's Prep, noon

Cheltenham vs. La Salle, 1:45 p.m.

Girard College vs. Archbishop Wood, 3:30

Monday at Widener University

Lower Merion vs. Neshaminy, 1 p.m.

Marple Newtown vs. St Joseph's Prep, 2:30

Atlantic Christian (N.J.) vs. Life Center (N.J.), 4:15

Penn Wood vs. Academy of the New Church, 6

Chester vs. Bartram, 8

Wednesday at Gwynedd-Mercy College

Lower Merion vs. Atlantic City (N.J.), 4:30 p.m.

Plymouth Whitemarsh vs. Academy of the New

Church, 6:15

Neumann-Goretti vs. Conwell Egan, 8 p.m.

Wednesday at North Catholic High School

Robeson (N.Y.) vs. Olney, 3:30 p.m.

Camden (N.J.) vs. Bishop Loughlin (N.Y.), 5:15

North Catholic vs. Susquehanna Township, 7

Stars Are Out

Here are some of the star players expected to compete in the Jameer Nelson/Pete Nelson Scholastic Play by Play Classic:

Dion Waiters (Life Center)

Amile Jefferson (Friends' Central)

Rakeem Christmas (Academy of the New Church)

Savon Lloyd-Goodman (Academy of the New Church)

C.J. Aiken (Plymouth Whitemarsh)

Jaylen Bond (Plymouth Whitemarsh)

Aaron Brown (Penn Wood)

Ryan Arcidiacono (Neshaminy)

Tony Chennault (Neumann-Goretti)

Ty Garland (Bartram)

Soutiri Sapnas (Marple Newtown)

Maurice Nelson (Chester)

John Johnson (Girard College)

Khyree Wooten (Strawberry Mansion)