Anyone can appreciate the wealth of basketball talent produced by large metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, Chicago, or the Borough of Brooklyn. Recent documentaries about figures such as Ben Wilson have brought these hotbeds to light. What distinguishes D.C. basketball, is that, unlike population centers of 3 million plus such as Brooklyn and Chicago, even small pockets of D.C. have been hoop factories.
To truly appreciate the concentration of talented basketball players the Washington area has produced, one must take into account the legacy in some pockets of the city alone. For example, if one drew a line from 4th St., N.E. in and near the Edgewood neighborhood, to 22nd St., N.E. in Woodridge, three blocks wide on each side, it would encompass the childhood homes of Stan Kernan, Sid Catlett, JoJo Hunter, James Brown, Aubrey Nash, Skip McDaniels, Kevin Tatum, Tom Sluby, John Battle, Jeffrey Bossard, “Apple” Milan, Tom Little, Ed and Mike Tapscott, Delonte Taylor, Tony Ellis, “Monk” Malloy, Billy Martin, Stacy Battle, Jack Sullivan, Ronald “Igor” Curtis, Merlin and Gary Wilson, Diane Tolliver, Michael McRae, Denise Armstrong, John and Ernie Austin, Pernell Shands, Angie Scott, Darren Campbell, Curtis Daniels, Dietra Primus, “Chip” Austin and a host of other scholastic talents, (primarily) for Archbishop Carroll, McKinley Tech, DeMatha, and St. Anthony’s.
Few experts have pointed out that if all the basketball players in McKinley Tech’s school zone had played for Tech, the Trainers, just to name one school, would have had, during the era McKinley Armstrong coached city champions there, Sid Catlett, Aubrey Nash, James Brown, Skip McDaniels, Ed Tapscott, Adrian Dantley, Merlin Wilson, Felix Yeoman, Kenny Carr, and JoJo Hunter. If that had been the case, national basketball writers would be talking about a McKinley Tech dynasty, and not DeWitt Clinton, Verbum Dei, Overbrook, or Detroit Pershing. Even without the aforementioned players, McKinley ran the table in the Interhigh in both 1968 and 1969, winning a conference record 33 straight, and placing four players on the first team 1968-69 Washington Post and Washington Star All-Met teams.
McKinley already had those great “Fabulous Five” teams right before Brown vs. Board of Education integrated the school in 1954. Irish kids who grew up together playing at Turkey Thicket Playground. But what if their friend Jack Sullivan, the St. Anthony’s All-Met (and future Mount Saint Mary’s national scoring leader/All-American) had run with them? What if Tom Little, who grew up at 14th and Monroe Streets, N.E., had attended Tech rather than Mackin? He would have teamed with some pretty strong players too.
When it comes to basketball strength in the Washington metropolitan area, we need not always reach out to the Dulles Corridor (David Robinson) or Southern Prince George’s County (Sonny Proctor) to make our case. We can point to a little stretch of real estate between “The Stronghold” (where JoJo grew up) and Edgewood (Sid Catlett) on the south and west, to Woodridge (Skip McDaniels, Aubrey Nash, Kevin Tatum, the Tapscott brothers, Tony Ellis) on the north and east, to prove Washington has produced more elite basketball players than any similarly sized area on the planet. More of these young men and women have made their mark on America’s top college basketball programs, than any combination of athletes from L.A., Philly, NYC or Chicago.