Philadelphia Voices: Andre McCarter on Monday Memories!


Screenshot_2017-07-05-11-13-23 (1) During the seventies when I was a sportswriter for the Philadelphia Bulletin I enjoyed writing feature stories on high school athletes. I wrote my first feature story for the Philadelphia Bulletin about this young man when he won the Markward Award in 1971.
Monday Memories: “Seven Questions from the Seventies” you will learn a little bit more about what made these Philly athletes incredible athletes and players. Today former All-America basketball guard Andre (Magician) from Overbrook High School, one of the all-time great Philly basketball players will answer seven questions about his basketball experiences from the seventies.
Enjoy this trip down memory lane with Andre (Magician) McCarter. I called him that because he was a wizard with the basketball. Andre had super handles!!!
JT: What is your favorite seventies basketball memory?
Andre: Our home on the corner of 22nd and Manton in South Philadelphia was right behind Landreth Elementary School Playground. It had one short full court, but basketball history took place there. Saturday and Sunday morning during the summer, as a ten year old kid, I would wake up early. I was the first one on the court playing by myself and I would stay on the court shooting around until the first game was officially started. They would run me off the court. The Old Heads would shout “Get off the court young boy”. Then right in front of my eyes; Players from Wilt Chamberlain, Guy Rodgers, Al Attles, Ray (Chink) Scott, Earl (The Pearl) Monroe, Dave (My Ball) Riddick and college guys like Kenny Durrett, “Fatty Taylor” and the names went on and on as basketball royalty would show up. It was a wonder to see! I was blessed, as I saw the crowd come to the playground. Landreth was surrounded by cars and players walking from all directions. I would dream as I watched every play year after year. I practiced and dreamed, practiced and dreamed that I would be able to play on the court tone day. I was age fourteen on the Landreth court and I heard these words. “Come on young boy, are you ready?” and I said, “I’m ready!” I was in the land called basketball heaven!

JT: What is your best experience from playing at Overbrook?
Andre: My best experience at Overbrook was helping my great teammates and our Coach Paul Ward win back to back Philadelphia City Championships. Coach was smart enough to give me the basketball straight from Barrett Jr. High school to start with all seniors. My first year we made the playoff, but we lost to a good Southern team led by Roland Tree Grant and “The Beast” Elgrin Green, but that experience taught me what I needed to do if I was going to be ready to reach my goal, championships and we did it!

JT: Give us some of your favorite Paul Ward and John Wooden stories.

Andre: Coach Ward was a wonderful man and a great basketball coach. I loved him. I was so glad I was a part of winning championships that brought him a little of the recognition he deserved. He never sought fame. His greatness helped prepare me for the hand off to my next great person/ coach. John Wooden, whom I also loved, and was blessed to help lead his team where he would witness his last team win the NCAA National Championship in the last game of his legendary career! In conversations years past and playing for them, both Coach Ward and Coach Wooden let me know they loved me too!

JT: Tell us some of your favorite sonny hill league stories?

Andre: Most of my Sonny Hill league memories involved my Sonny Hill league Coach Claude Gross. Watching him interact with each of the many South Philly players was like a Broadway Show. We had characters and Coach Gross was about getting the maximum out of all that talent. There was resistance in some cases, so let the battles begin. From the older guys like Eddie Simon ,Tyrone Davis, Skip Brown to Roland Tree Grant, Willie Cook, Elgin Green, Aaron Sexton, Snuffy Smith, Arthur Mitchell, Joe Bryant and Mo Howard, it was a battle. I was the goodie two shoes. I did not want Coach Gross to holler and rant at me because I wasn’t in shape, did not play hard all the time, did not know my roll on the team or the court or did not play team ball. I figured Coach Gross out almost immediately, he wanted us to follow him and he knew what it took for a team to be winners on the court and tried to get us to be good and smart people making good decisions off the court. Shakespeare’s characters had nothing on the stage presence of Coach Claude Gross’ and his dialogue with his characters (players), He got us to win!
JT: What was it like going from Philly to Los Angeles?
Andre: I was a dreamer as I grew up. I loved Philly my home but I dreamed of other places. Philly to Los Angeles was one of those dreams coming to pass. It was a new world of adventure and and beaches, My Degree from where Jackie Robinson was a four letter sportsman and banners of championships flew in Pauley ( I am going to participate in new banners hanging) Mountains (for snow). The weather was always right for training outside where the Olympians practiced. A dream turned into real moments, now great memories.
JT: Give us some funny moments with your Overbrook teammates?
Andre: It was funny watching a senior laden team realize their beloved legendary head coach Paul Ward had handed them over to be led by a crumb snatching, little, just fresh from Junior high school mug. I eventually won them over, but what they did not realize is that this junior high mug’s goal was to win three straight city championships.

This moment was not funny at the time it happened but later it was funny as time went on. We had lost an important game (well it wasn’t that important of a game but we hated losing to Gratz because they were good) against the rugged Coach John Cheney, Joe Anderson, (A man against boys at just 6″5″ but you thought you were playing a 6’11” 270 pound chiseled strong man), Leon White, who also played above his height and Clarence (Rock) Taylor a small but slick scoring guard. We had lost the game by one point; we did not like the refereeing: no excuses. The whole game in that run into the wall on a layup, cracker-box gym was the type of game a true warrior basketball player loves. The crowd is literally up on you so close you think they are in the game with you. It was a heavyweight championship bout and more than that-the game was on the line. Your manhood or should I say boyhood was on the line and I loved every second of it even though we lost. The locker room or should I say, room, we were in was down these stairs. It was a volatile moment as we exited the court while fans were exiting; there was a verbal barrage as we were mixed in the crowd. The tension in the game and fans being close up to me and my teammates under these conditions got out of hand. I was threatened, I responded in kind which was out of character for me. It was on! Coach Ward dragged me up the stairs as I tried to break lose to confront the hecklers. Later, we all would laugh about what was I going to do against all those crazy fans if I had broken loose from Coach Ward. It was a funny topic when we needed to loosen the tension and it was a bonding laugh at me for our team.

JT: Tell us a favorite basketball moment from growing up in your Philly neighborhood.

Andre: The Christian Street YMCA had a Gray-Y league for elementary schools. The baskets were lowered for that age group. I played for Landreth. We pretty much wiped up the league primarily because I was one of the tallest players and I had the gift of dribble, seeing and passing. So I would just dribble around everyone dunk or get any shot or set up my teammates and we had a few other players. Well, in the championship game things were different. This team had a few players too and they had a plan. They slowed the game down, they had a zone defense and they were focused on me. They were in the denial mode. They wanted this championship bad, and we could sense it, but we fought. We were down by one with about three seconds left on the clock and we were taking the ball out at the far end of the court. I still remember in the time out, everyone knew I was getting the ball and so did the other team. I faked one way, went the other way they threw me the ball I took two long dribbles near the half court and let it fly. You know what happen! that is why I am telling you this story. We won!!! That shot changed my life, ever since then I played hard every minute in games and practice to the end no matter what the score is in basketball and in life.
JT: What is your favorite seventies basketball memory?

Andre: Our home on the corner of 22nd and Manton in South Philadelphia was right behind Landreth Elementary School Playground. It had one short full court, but basketball history took place there. Saturday and Sunday morning during the summer, as a ten year old kid, I would wake up early. I was the first one on the court playing by myself and I would stay on the court shooting around until the first game was officially started. They would run me off the court. The Old Heads would shout “Get off the court young boy”. Then right in front of my eyes; Players from Wilt Chamberlain, Guy Rodgers, Al Attles, Ray (Chink) Scott, Earl (The Pearl) Monroe, Dave (My Ball) Riddick and college guys like Kenny Durrett, “Fatty Taylor” and the names went on and on as basketball royalty would show up. It was a wonder to see! I was blessed, as I saw the crowd come to the playground. Landreth was surrounded by cars and players walking from all directions. I would dream as I watched every play year after year. I practiced and dreamed, practiced and dreamed that I would be able to play on the court one day. I was age fourteen on the Landreth court and I heard these words. “Come on young boy, are you ready?” and I said, “I’m ready!” I was in the land called basketball heaven!

JT: What is your best experience from playing at Overbrook?
Andre: My best experience at Overbrook was helping my great teammates and our Coach Paul Ward win back to back Philadelphia City Championships. Coach was smart enough to give me the basketball straight from Barrett Jr. High school to start with all seniors. My first year we made the playoff, but we lost to a good Southern team led by Roland Tree Grant and “The Beast” Elgrin Green, but that experience taught me what I needed to do if I was going to be ready to reach my goal, championships and we did it!

JT: Give us some of your favorite Paul Ward and John Wooden stories.

Andre: Coach Ward was a wonderful man and a great basketball coach. I loved him. I was so glad I was a part of winning championships that brought him a little of the recognition he deserved. He never sought fame. His greatness helped prepare me for the hand off to my next great person/ coach. John Wooden, whom I also loved, and was blessed to help lead his team where he would witness his last team win the NCAA National Championship in the last game of his legendary career! In conversations years past and playing for them, both Coach Ward and Coach Wooden let me know they loved me too!

JT: Tell us some of your favorite sonny hill league stories?

Andre: Most of my Sonny Hill league memories involved my Sonny Hill league Coach Claude Gross. Watching him interact with each of the many South Philly players was like a Broadway Show. We had characters and Coach Gross was about getting the maximum out of all that talent. There was resistance in some cases, so let the battles begin. From the older guys like Eddie Simon ,Tyrone Davis, Skip Brown to Roland Tree Grant, Willie Cook, Elgin Green, Aaron Sexton, Snuffy Smith, Arthur Mitchell, Joe Bryant Mo Howard, and Maurice Lucas. It was a battle to get harmony among so many talented players. I was the goodie two shoes. I did not want Coach Gross to holler and rant at me because I wasn’t in shape, did not play hard all the time, did not know my roll on the team or the court or did not play team ball. I figured Coach Gross out almost immediately, he wanted us to follow him and he knew what it took for a team to be winners on the court and tried to get us to be good and smart people making good decisions off the court.

Coach Claude”s best theatrical performance was not dialog with the referees ,but at a game in the rec center gym at 21 st and Chew. A player who I will not reveal got up off the bench during the game and went across to the seats, he sat down and began staring and talking to this pretty girl. There is not enough space to write what Claude did; he yelled, had to be held back and jumped up and down, all of that and more. Claude won the Oscar,Tony and Emmy that evening!
Shakespeare’s characters have nothing on the stage presence of Coach Claude Gross’ and his dialogue with his characters (players), He got us to win!
JT: What was it like going from Philly to Los Angeles?
Andre: I was a dreamer as I grew up. I loved Philly my home but I dreamed of other places. Philly to Los Angeles was one of those dreams coming to pass. It was a new world of adventure and and beaches, My Degree from where Jackie Robinson was a four letter sportsman and banners of championships flew in Pauley ( I am going to participate in new banners hanging) Mountains (for snow). The weather was always right for training outside where the Olympians practiced. A dream turned into real moments, now great memories.
JT: Give us some funny moments with your Overbrook teammates?
Andre: It was funny watching a senior laden team realize their beloved legendary head coach Paul Ward had handed them over to be led by a crumb snatching, little, just fresh from Junior high school mug. I eventually won them over, but what they did not realize is that this junior high mug’s goal was to win three straight city championships.
This moment was not funny at the time it happened but later it was funny as time went on. We had lost an important game (well it wasn’t that important of a game but we hated losing to Gratz because they were good) against the rugged Coach John Cheney, Joe Anderson, (A man against boys at just 6″5″ but you thought you were playing a 6’11” 270 pound chiseled strong man), Leon White, who also played above his height and Clarence (Rock) Taylor a small but slick scoring guard. We had lost the game by one point; we did not like the refereeing: no excuses. The whole game in that run into the wall on a layup, cracker-box gym was the type of game a true warrior basketball player loves. The crowd is literally up on you so close you think they are in the game with you. It was a heavyweight championship bout and more than that-the game was on the line. Your manhood or should I say boyhood was on the line and I loved every second of it even though we lost. The locker room or should I say, room, we were in was up these stairs. It was a volatile moment as we exited the court while fans were exiting; there was a verbal barrage as we were mixed in the crowd. The tension in the game and fans being close up to me and my teammates under these conditions got out of hand. I was threatened, I responded in kind which was out of character for me. It was on! Coach Ward dragged

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