Baker League movie chronicles history of Philly summer hoops scene

Baker League movie chronicles history of Philly summer hoops scene

Growing up in Philly, you only need to walk by a basketball court and you will probably see or hear something about the storied hoops history in the City of Brotherly Love. 

On May 22, many of the people who helped build that tradition were all in one place, laughing uninhibitedly, reliving old stories and relishing in the camaraderie born from hard-fought battles on the hardwood. 

The Baker League movie gives the viewer a capsule in the time of an era when local NBA, semi-pro, college and select high school players helped mold their own games in a crucible of summertime roundball battles that simultaneously shaped and defined what Philadelphia basketball is all about.

After starring in the same backcourt at Northeast High in the 1950s, Sonny Hill and James "Tee" Parham helped found the Charles Baker Memorial League in 1960. The Baker League began at 25th and Diamond Streets before moving to Bright Hope Baptist Church until its final home at McGonigle Hall at Temple University. 

It was surreal seeing and shaking hands with some of the names and faces in attendance at the movie premiere. La Salle legend Lionel Simmons was just one of the former players who reflected on his unparalleled experience with the Baker League. The "L-Train" put it simply, saying that there were no "nights off." 

Players showed up with something to prove because this was the epicenter of earning your name among the Philly basketball elite. The games were tough and tightly contested. Seeing Earl Monroe show up at halftime and go for 50 points was not uncommon. Neither was the presence of Wilt Chamberlain, or later on, 76ers like Charles Barkley and Maurice Cheeks.  

It may be a popular saying now, but the Baker League movie premiere proved ball is life for many of the people who put Philly basketball on the map.

It debuts on CSN on Thursday at 9 p.m. and also will air Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (TCN), Friday June 9 at 6:30 p.m. (CSN) and Saturday June 10 at 6 p.m. (TCN).

Penn State's James Franklin talks expectations for 2017, stars Trace McSorley, Saquon Barkley

Penn State's James Franklin talks expectations for 2017, stars Trace McSorley, Saquon Barkley

With all the cachet of Gladys Knight and the Pips, James Franklin and the Penn State Coaches Caravan on Monday rolled into Valley Forge, one of seven stops across the commonwealth.

The Nittany Lions' front man spoke openly about the strength of his team this coming season. Penn State returns 16 starters, but the spotlight will particularly be on the two potential Heisman Trophy candidates in the backfield, junior quarterback Trace McSorley and junior running back Saquon Barkley.

Some are calling the pair the best quarterback-running back duo in the Big Ten and maybe the entire nation.

Franklin is much more measured in his expectations for the stars and stressed the type of students and people each are as the true standard they should be held to.

I even got Franklin to channel his inner Allen Iverson and talk about "practice!"

Expectations and the pressure to perform well will be high in Happy Valley for the 2017 season. Franklin is taking the "one-day-at-a-time approach," but as the coach put it, oftentimes when dealing with 18- to- 22-year-olds, dealing with adversity is often harder than handling the success.

For more from Franklin, watch the video above.

An NFL prospect, Villanova's Tanoh Kpassagnon has brawn with brains to match

An NFL prospect, Villanova's Tanoh Kpassagnon has brawn with brains to match

A physical specimen, with the brains to match.

It's hard to understate the impression you get from meeting Tanoh Kpassagnon in person.

I read an article before meeting him that said his "abs had abs" and that he sported a minuscule 4 percent body fat. He laughed when I brought it up to him and said he wasn't so sure about the 4 percent body fat but that he loves to work out and get stronger, and he has been that way since high school.

Besides being a gym rat in the weight room, the 'Nova product was down to earth and easy to talk to. So much so we talked about what food we liked to cook and exchanged some tips on how to keep your mashed potatoes smooth and silky.

Kpassagnon moved from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Philly in the sixth grade and partly got turned on to football by watching the Donovan McNabb, Brian Dawkins and Brian Westbrook Eagles in the 2000s.

His proud parents don't know much about pigskin but are over the moon about his success and growing notoriety. He said he just wants to join an NFL team and build a bond with a new group of guys.

With his skill set, I imagine it won't be long before his name is called on Day 2 and his impact could go well beyond his draft position.