Philadelphia High School Basketball
A Look at
Career at Overbrook High
... And Its Lasting Effect
page includes stories, special lists, Wilt's scoring breakdown, recaps of
games, coaches/starters on his teams, etc..
Wilt -- often known as "Wilt the Stilt" (hated it) and "Dippy" (loved it) -- played at
Overbrook for three seasons (1952-53 through 1954-55). In that time frame, ninth
grade was still part of junior high.
**Thanks to Tom Taylor, who provided final scores/Wilt's individual totals.**
Vince Miller (RIP), who coached
Frankford to Public League championships in 1988
and 1989, was a key performer for Overbrook's 1955 squad and Wilt's best friend since
elementary school. He offered a story about their relationship after Wilt passed away
in 1999. Click here.
. . . To provide additions/corrections:email@example.com. Thanks!
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This story was written in 1991, when Wilt returned to Overbrook to become part of the school's first sports Hall of Fame induction class.
By Ted Silary
There are ways to make a grown man cry. Even a man who has grown to
hard- to-fathom proportions.
In time, Cecil Mosenson, 'Brook's coach in Wilt's junior and senior years, summoned the courage to approach Chamberlain
and pull him aside near the back of the room. The two had a chance to speak briefly, alone, before autograph seekers again
In more than 30 years, the pair had exchanged very few words. They hadn't seen each other since 1976 at the Montreal
"It was important that we spoke," said an obviously emotional Mosenson, ''and cleared the air about some
misunderstandings that had occurred years ago, when Wilt was in college (at Kansas).
"It had troubled me all this time. I needed to talk to him. It's all resolved. That's all I can say. It's all resolved."
With that, Wilt and the others were off to the old gym, where they happened to walk in on a class.
Ignoring chants of "dunk one," Wilt picked up a rubber basketball and made a short bank shot. He then backed off as
Moore took a shot. Quickly, he embarked on a short walk around the closet-sized gym. He seemed oblivious to the students,
the cameras, everything. It was just Wilt and 1,000 memories, all flooding back at once.
When he stopped, someone suggested he autograph the mat attached to the wall behind the basket. There was even a No. 5,
for gym-class purposes, painted on the mat. That was his high school number. Again, Wilt whipped out the Sharpie and
signed "Wilt" - with two bold lines underneath.
No need for a last name, don't you know.
Soon, Wilton Norman Chamberlain was heading down the school's front steps, into a waiting limo.
It had been a morning to remember.
"Did you see Wilt up there, near tears? " Vince Miller asked. "I know the man. This has to be one of the greatest
moments of his life."
Right below is the beginning of a story that was written in February 1955 after Wilt
torched Roxborough for 90 points . . . after scoring 71 and 74 points in earlier
games against that same opponent . . .
By Les Ribler
Wilt (The Stilt) Chamberlain, Overbrook High School's seven-foot basketball star, yesterday erased lingering
doubt to who holds the State scholastic individual record for points scored in one game. In an almost unbelievable
performance, Wilt settled the issue by registering a record-shattering 90 points yesterday.
The amazing 18-year-old senior paced the Hilltoppers to a 123-21 romp over Roxborough High -- their 11th
victory in an unbeaten Public Conference season -- and added a host of records to his mounting collection.
His 90-point total broke the unofficial Stae mark of 85 set by Ray Pauley, Sinking Springs High, on Feb. 12,
1954, and surpased the district mark of 78 by Jenkintown's Stodie Watts on Feb. 1, 1955. It erased
Chamberlain's conference mark of 74 set last Jan. 15 against Roxborough.
This story was written in 1993 after Simon Gratz, powered by Rasheed
Wallace, f inished the season with a 31-0 record . . .
By Ted Silary
Bill Ellerbee is not by nature a greedy man.
But now, as he basks in the warm glow provided by a 31-0 season and a third Public League championship in
four years for his Simon Gratz basketball team, there is something more that Ellerbee wants.
Access to a computer.
Like many others, Ellerbee wants answers to burning questions.
"It would be nice," he said, "to put the info into a computer and see what it spits out."
The man in the street, mindful that Gratz won by an average score of 69-39 and had a superstar giant in 6-11
Rasheed Wallace, wonders how lofty a perch in city scholastic history should be awarded to these Bulldogs.
First things first, says the man on the bench, mindful that Gratz also was exceedingly strong in 1990 and '91.
Two years ago, when the Daily News ranked the Top 10 teams in city history, the '91 Bulldogs (27-1) placed
No. 6. The starters were Wallace, Andre Griffin, Calvin Wingfield, Levan Alston and Contrell Scott, although
6-9 Wilfred Kirkaldy (who went to West Virginia and then suffered life-threatening injuries in an automobile
ccident) played extensively off the bench.
Because they finished 26-4 overall, the '90 Bulldogs were not ranked. But check out this starting lineup of
all-Division I players: Wallace (undecided), Alston (New Orleans) and Griffin (Delaware State), along with
Aaron McKie (Temple) and Harry Moore (St. Bonaventure), two of the top performers in the Atlantic 10.
All four losses occurred in December while Moore, who had been shot in the thigh that November, was
either sidelined or seeing limited duty.
"If I was going to compare the '90 and '91 teams, I might go with '90," Ellerbee said. "They got off to a
slow start with Harry being out. But by the end, they were playing so well it was frightening. "
When asked to compare his '91 and '93 teams, Ellerbee said, "This team was bigger and stronger, but that
team might have been smarter. A lot of those guys were true students of the game, including Rasheed, even
at that age. Anything I wanted those guys to do, it was done right, right away. "
Ellerbee's thoughts notwithstanding, it's likely that the '93 Bulldogs would have the best shot at dumping
the all-time biggies.
They possessed the attributes most common to blockbuster teams: good overall height and the presence of a
tall superstar, a swagger mixed with dedication to hard work, and depth.
In actuality, this team had seven starters. Joining Wallace in the first five were senior forwards Jamahal
edmond and Alem Watson and two underclassmen guards, junior Shawn "Reds" Smith and sophomore
Terrell Stokes. The primary subs were 6-8 senior Rondell Turner, who finished fifth in the coaches'
All-Public voting, and 6-7 junior Lynard Stewart, who scored 14 points in Sunday's 63-45 title-game
squashing of Franklin Learning Center.
In '91, the Daily News ranked the '55 Overbrook team, featuring Wilt Chamberlain and Vince Miller (now
Frankford High's coach), No. 1 in city history.
No. 2 went to the '58 Overbrook team, which had three future pros (Wayne Hightower, Walt Hazzard
and Wally Jones) in its lineup and a player, Ralph Heyward, who was a high school All-America the following
No. 3 was the '77 West Philadelphia team. Its headliners were 6-6 All- America Gene Banks, whose career
produced a 79-2 overall record, and 6-7 Clarence Tillman, who was an All-America in '78.
Man-about-basketball Sonny Hill, who has witnessed all of the city's great teams and players since the early
1950s, feels that the '55 and '58 Overbrook squads must remain one-two.
"But I would think," he said, "that this Gratz team would be able to beat Gene's team. As great as Gene was,
he would have a difficult time, at 6-6, against someone as tall and as good as Rasheed. I mean, he just closes
the inside off.
"Then, there's the depth factor. Gene's team didn't have people coming off the bench like Turner and
tewart. With them, you're talking some heavy artillery. "
Hill got excited watching these Bulldogs play defense.
"That's what leaped out at me. That's what I'll always remember about them," he said. "Coach Ellerbee
eserves so much credit for the excellent job he did in selling those kids on the benefits of playing that style."
Vince Miller agrees with Hill.
"When two teams are equal, which Gene's team and Rasheed's team basically were, you have to look at the
big guys," Miller said. "A good 6-11 player is always going to dominate a good 6-6 player.
"Rasheed, potentially, is the best big guy to come out of this city since Wilt. Some of my contemporaries
don't agree. They don't get to games, but they're always asking me, 'If he's so great, why doesn't he score
ore? ' I don't worry about that. I saw him three times this year. The boy can play. "
Could Wallace have neutralized Chamberlain?
"Forget that one, buddy," Miller said, laughing. "There will never be another Wilt."
But Wilt had incredible advantages in '55. The foul lane was only 6-foot wide. Goaltending was permitted
n offense and defense. Heck, he was as slender as Wallace is now. Pit their teams against each other with
today's rules in effect and . . .
"Give it up," Miller said.
Joe Goldenberg, who coached Banks at West Philly, was hesitant to make comparisons.
"Gene's team would be much too old for these Gratz guys now," he kidded. ''It's good food for thought,
but how can you really say?
"This Gratz team has to be grouped with the teams at the top of the list . . . But I will say this: Gene was a
strong 6-6, and played bigger than 6-6. He still would have been able to go inside against Rasheed. And his
supporting cast wasn't too bad. We had size and shooting ability, which was often overlooked."
For matchup purposes, perhaps the Daily News's No. 4 team, the Overbrook Panthers of '79, would
stand a better chance against Gratz. Four starters (Ricky Tucker, Joe Washington, Richard Congo and 6-10
Tony Costner, then a junior) earned Division I scholarships. After playing junior college ball, so did Jeffrey
"The one thing Gratz had that we didn't have was a strong bench," said Mark "Max" Levin, who coached
that team. "When Gratz took starters out, there wasn't any measurable drop. In fact, the skill level might
have gotten higher.
"Also, if this Gratz team wasn't the best defensive team in Public League history, I'd like to see who was.
They had quickness and strength and played tough. You could tell that just by looking at their scores."
Dennis Seddon, Roman's coach for seven years and an assistant for five before that, loved these Bulldogs.
Roman, which is a strong contender for the Catholic League championship, was pounded by Gratz, 60-29,
in the final of an early-season tournament in Johnstown, Pa.
"There is no doubt in my mind. That was the best team we've played in my years at Roman," said Seddon,
whose teams play a national schedule and have faced a number of future pros. "This Gratz team had the best
player in the country, yet they weren't a whole lot worse with him off the court. That puts things into
perspective, I think.
"It was an honor to play against them. It just wasn't much fun."
GRATZ NO. 3 ALL-TIME
In April 1991, the Daily News ranked the Top 10 scholastic teams in city basketball history. The 1992-93
Simon Gratz Bulldogs now deserve the No. 3 spot, we figure. Here is the revised list:
RK. SEASON TEAM W-L
1. 1954-55 Overbrook 18-1
2. 1957-58 Overbrook 22-0
3. 1992-93 Simon Gratz 31-0
4. 1976-77 West Philadelphia 30-0
5. 1978-79 Overbrook 34-1
6. 1984-85 Murrell Dobbins 28-2
7. 1990-91 Simon Gratz 27-1
8. 1990-91 Roman Catholic 28-3
9. 1949-50 La Salle 24-1
10. 1964-65 Bishop Neumann 22-1
Formerly No. 10 was Thomas Edison, 1968-69.
Recaps of Public League Playoffs/City Titles . . .