SAMMY FOREMAN had a decision to make, and his choice was Sean Colson.
After winning a Class A state championship last season with now-closed Roberts Vaux High, the 6-1 junior guard needed somewhere to land, and he wanted this move to be his last.
Foreman had already spent his freshman year and part of his sophomore year taking the bus across town to the Haverford School, a trip he said could take as long as 2 hours.
A chance to play alongside Rysheed Jordan at Vaux, about a mile from Foreman's home near 23rd and Diamond, was the remedy back then.
After Vaux closed, familiarity won again, as Foreman chose Martin Luther King High and its second-year head basketball coach, Colson, who is also a North Philadelphia product.
"I know he's been through what I've been through," Foreman said. "So, basically I can just follow his lead and more than likely, good things will be the outcome."
Led by Foreman's 18 points, the Cougars are now 6-0 after knocking off Susquehanna Township, 54-41, in the ninth annual Jameer and Pete Nelson Scholastic Play-By-Play Holiday Classic on Saturday at Widener University.
Lest you claim lip service, Colson brought the 17-year-old off the bench in that, after Foreman, the team's leading scorer this season, started the previous five games.
"I just take everything like there's a purpose behind it," said Foreman, who won the game's MVP trophy. "There's a reason behind what he's doing because he's been through it and he's seen it all, so I just follow his lead."
An ancillary piece last year at Vaux with Jordan - now a freshman guard at St. John's - Foreman has been tagged as a leader at King.
"It's really like a [good] example, to be honest," said Colson, who made Foreman a team captain. "So, when they see Sammy come off the bench, and they say, 'Damn, Sammy's not crying or pouting, then I better not say anything.' "
Colson, who grew up on Gratz (near 17th) and Oxford, graduated from Franklin Learning Center in 1992 and played briefly with the Atlanta Hawks and Houston Rockets before playing several years overseas in various locales.
"People told me, 'Oh, you'll have a tough time with Sammy because he's just difficult on the court,' " Colson said. "But, he listens to everything. And I think it's because I made it. Not that I was a 10-year NBA player and All-Star, but I made the NBA and played overseas. I've done things, and he knows that I've been successful."
So, as Foreman sat on the bench Saturday and watched his team fall behind early, he didn't panic.
"I have to get us a rhythm," he recalled thinking. "Go out there and be a leader. I was trying from the bench, but it's easier when you're on the court."
With long arms and stretched legs, the Indians' 3-2 zone defense resembled a chain-link fence, cordoning off the paint and forcing the Cougars to prowl the perimeter.
"We took a lot of jump shots and we weren't good in transition defense," Foreman said. "Our rotations on defense were bad and we weren't getting any ball movement."
He may have overpenetrated at times, but Foreman routinely perforated the zone, created for teammates and helped cut a 14-9 deficit.
In the second half, Colson began the third with a disruptive 2-2-1, three-quarter-court trap that ignited a 9-3 momentum-seizing run that the Indians never recovered from. They went without a field goal from about 2 minutes left in the third to 4:40 remaining in the fourth.
Susquehanna sophomore Nehemiah Mack finished with 19 points on 5-for-14 shooting.
Tyheem Harmon was the other Cougar in double figures with 12 points (2-for-4 from three). Jahmir Taylor added eight points and four blocks.
Foreman shot 7-for-13 from the field with three of six coming from three, an area he says has improved under Colson's tutelage.
"I just felt like coach Sean could get me where I need to be," he said of choosing MLK. "Go to college and to be a good D-1 level player. I felt like he could get me where I needed to be."
Foreman still remembers being the chubby kid at Hank Gathers Recreation Center who shot by himself from morning to night because he was rarely chosen in pickup games.
"There are a lot of bad things that go on in my neighborhood," he said, "but I'd rather take the right way out. So, that was basketball."
After early-season victories against powers such as Imhotep Charter and Math Civics & Sciences, Foreman has led King to a surprising start. Well, only to some.
"We expected it," he said. "We work hard. That's what we pictured before the season even started. We ain't surprised. Other people are surprised, but we ain't surprised."
But, he knows that plenty of work remains. "It's early in the season," Foreman said. "I'm not going to say it doesn't mean anything, but it's nice to pass some early-season tests. But, it's still early in the season. We still have [many] games to go."