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Strawberry Mansion triumphs over Prep Charter

The numbers on stat sheets are not always those that make a guy turn cartwheels. Sometimes, an important number arrives at your house in an envelope and when you see it, a deep sigh of relief is matched with a wonderful feeling of pride.

The numbers on stat sheets are not always those that make a guy turn cartwheels.

Sometimes, an important number arrives at your house in an envelope and when you see it, a deep sigh of relief is matched with a wonderful feeling of pride.

Say hello to Devonté "DJ" Newbill, a 6-4, 195-pound senior at Strawberry Mansion High who boasts numerous Division I basketball offers. Now, though he's still in no hurry, he can say yes and know that all will work out.

"I took my SAT on Dec. 5 and recently got back my score. I'm qualified," Newbill said. "It feels nice."

Newbill mentioned that nugget a shade after 5 o'clock yesterday in a nearly empty gym at Prep Charter. That was nothing new for the afternoon because the gym had resembled a ghost town all along.

Remember last Public League season when PC's round-of-16 trip to Mansion was marred by a major postgame disturbance involving fans? Well, for this Division C rematch, all spectators - well, almost all - were barred.

"It was strange playing in front of nobody," Newbill said. "But I wasn't focused on how empty the gym was. My mind was on the court, and how we had to find ways to win."

One of the best? Let Newbill do his thing.

As Mansion triumphed, 91-79, in a fast-paced fray filled with entertaining moments, Newbill turned in a classic performance. While pouring in 36 points, he shot 10-for-18 from the floor (3-for-5 on treys) and 13-for-15 at the line. But he also contributed 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 steals and 2 blocks as if to remind folks, hey, I'm more than a scorer.

Except for PC's female players, who practiced afterward, no non-essential folks were permitted to watch. One who made it inside was LaSalle assistant Ashley Howard. Afterward, he could be spotted chatting away on his cell phone, perhaps spreading the news about the show he'd just witnessed.

LaSalle, Drexel, Marquette, Florida State, Niagara, James Madison, Rider and East Carolina have made offers to Newbill. Others are trying to make inroads and that number should increase once word of his qualified status spreads.

It's kind of funny how things have worked out.

Newbill first attended Imhotep Charter and he said coach Andre Noble emphasized to him how the school would help him academically and enable him to avoid the prep school/JUCO trail.

Well, as it turned out, the Mansion people did right by him, too.

"When I was going to Imhotep," said Newbill, who transferred after his sophomore year, "I was living in Nicetown. I could get there with only one bus. But then I moved back to Mansion's area, where I grew up anyway, to live with my grandmom and it just made sense to go to my neighborhood school.

"It's really fun playing for Mansion. The neighborhood supports the team a whole lot. We all look out for each other. In the Mansion area, period. Not just for basketball."

When Newbill keeps his shoulders squared, he owns a death-and-taxes jumpers. He also exhibits good body control and see-the-big-picture skills and his foul line marksmanship is evidence of his ability to concentrate.

"I know my team feeds off me," Newbill said, "so it's important for me to play the right way."

Smiling all the while, he then launched into a commercial extolling the virtues of his fellow starters.

"Khyree can slash through everything," he said. "And 'E' hits those jumpers. And Marque and Khahil, they're the best backcourt in the city...We've got our threats."

Khyree Wooten, just a sophomore, totaled 25 points. Eric Jefferson mixed 15 points, 12 boards and three blocks. Marque Griffin and Khalil Meadows halved eight assists while Cedrick Powell, whose skinny legs have been likened to a Wiffleball bat, came off the bench to register five steals.

"We had to do our own pumping up," Newbill said. "No fans were here to rally us.

"It was also strange because we weren't playing with the usual [brand of] game ball. That thing was a little slippery. Even felt bigger than a regular ball. Had to get used to it."

Prep Charter, which claimed AA state titles in 2006 and '07 and won 62 of 67 league games over the last five seasons, is off to an 0-3 division start.

Five Huskies scored in double figures, however. Mark Wilmer, a strong 6-5 junior, led the way with 24 points while Akhir Frazier (15), Abraham Massaley (13), Byron Whiting (11) and Matt Hankerson (10) followed behind. Frazier added seven assists.

The first half ended at 33-33. Mansion reeled off 11 of the next 12 points and Newbill, all in the flow, garnered 10 of 'em.

Newbill, who lives near 32nd and Huntingdon, is not sure what college course of study he wants to follow. He knows other things, though.

"For my college," he said, "I just want a place with a good overall environment with quality people. I also want good coaching and teammates so I can learn and get better, and a place that will help me get my degree in 4 years."

He smiled. "Even faster, if that's possible."

That'll depend on his numbers, of course.

"My coaches [Gerald Hendricks, Stan Laws] always stressed to me how important it was to take care of my academics," Newbill said. "All this basketball improvement wouldn't mean much without the grades to be able to do something with it."