Philadelphia High School Basketball

A Look at Franklin Learning Center's
1991-92 Public League Champions . . .

This page includes stories, special lists, record breakdown and recaps of postseason games.

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   Thanks to Tom Taylor for his help.

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  FLC point guard Sean Colson, who advanced to the NBA and is now the coach at Martin Luther King, cans a reverse layup in the championship game vs. Gratz.

Coach Pete Merlino


@-Latrobe Tourney (PA)
*-City of Palms Tourney (FL)
#-Altoona Rotary (PA)
73 Frankford 47
82 @Hempfield 61
51 @Roman 43
88 Olney 65
87 SJ Prep 43
77 *Clewiston (FL) 60
61 *Cohen (LA) 40
75 *Oak Hill (VA) 74
49 *Miami Senrior (FL) 69
42 #Gonzaga (DC) 50
69 #Half Hollow Hills E.  (NY) 59
  PL Regular Season  
88 Dobbins 66
88 West Phila. 57
84 University City 71
82 Bok 72
75 Bartram 63
71 Franklin  48
94 Mstabum 64
76 Southern 72
66 Overbrook 51
94 Penn 66
86 Straw. Mansion 62
  PL Playoffs  
95 Audenried 63
78 University City 67
70 Parkway 45
63 Gratz 50


Daily News All-City
  FIRST TEAM: Faron "Meatball Hand
  FIRST TEAM: Tyrone Weeks
Daily News All-Public 
  FIRST TEAM: Faron "Meatball Hand
  FIRST TEAM: Tyrone Weeks
  THIRD TEAM: Isaiah Russell
  FOURTH TEAM: Sean Colson
Coaches All-Pubic
  FIRST TEAM: Faron "Meatball Hand
  FIRST TEAM: Tyrone Weeks
   SECOND TEAM: Isaiah Russell
  THIRD TEAM: Sean Colson


Coach: Pete Merlino
Record: 11-0, 24-2
  Faron "Meatball" Hand
  Tyrone Weeks
  Isaiah Russell
  Sean Colson
  Cliff Dunn
Key Subs
  Paul Whiting
  Nevaugn Beasley
Tribute Page for FLC's
1991-92 Public League Champs

This story was written after the Bobcats defeated Gratz, 63-50, to win the championship. It was the only time in superstar Rasheed Wallace's four-year career (1990-93) that the Bulldogs failed to own the Pub. Gratz went 31-0 in Wallace's senior year. So this loss was their only one against local opposition.

By Ted Silary
Sometimes a victor couldn't care less about such obvious spoils as trophies, jackets and non-stop pats on the back.
  What he cherishes most is the chance for a forum.
  He wants to be surrounded by note pads, tape recorders and cameras, so all can hear and see when he vents his frustration.
  For two seasons, and the first three months of a third, Franklin Learning Center had to settle - very much against its will - for second-best status in the Public League behind mighty Simon Gratz.
  Then came yesterday.
  First, the Bobcats defeated Gratz, 63-50, before 4,000 at the Civic Center to keep the Bulldogs from winning a third consecutive Public League championship.
  Then, they gloated.
  "All year I've been saying that we're 10 points better than Gratz. And we are," Pete Merlino, FLC's coach, roared above the pandemonium in a third- floor locker room. "They have one basketball player, Rasheed Wallace. They showed that today."
  Nearby, Merlino's twin brother, John, who coaches FLC's girls varsity, asked with obvious sarcasm, "Who's No. 1 in the city now, Cardinal O'Hara?"
  Not quite.
  "This was our year, baby," yelled 6-6 junior center Tyrone Weeks. "Gratz knew it from the beginning of the season. They knew it. No three-peat was happening this year."
  Added guard Cliff Dunn: "We weren't losing. We just weren't. It wasn't going to be one of those Denver Bronco jobs. You know, get to the Super Bowl and always lose."
  By shooting 13-for-18 from the floor, en route to 27 points, and by adding 12 rebounds and nine blocked shots, the 6-10 Wallace, a junior center, proved to all that he was worthy of being listed yesterday on Parade magazine's 10- man All-America first team.
  But one-against-two never works - assuming that all three players are quality - and Wallace's herculean efforts were negated by FLC's co-franchise players. Weeks had eight points and 18 rebounds. Faron "Meatball" Hand, a 6-6 senior forward, contributed 14 points and 16 boards.
  Aside from Wallace, whose showing inspired Ben Franklin coach Ken Hamilton to call him "a walking pro," the Bulldogs shot 7-for-42 from the floor (17 percent) and 1-for-11 from three-point land (9 percent), while falling behind by as many as 17 points. And their rebounding disadvantage was 49-28.
  "That's why we're the best team in the city," Pete Merlino said, referring to rebounding strength. "How's Rasheed going to handle both of my guys?"
  In the first half, FLC (24-2) seemed to experience its best success on offense after Wallace recorded a block. There were eight, but Hand alone managed three put-backs.
  "Rasheed's great. You gotta give him that," said Hand, who finished his career with 1,622 points. "But when he blocks it, I feel I'm quicker to the ball the second time around."
  If the Bobcats had any feelings of apprehension, they vanished in the early moments of the third quarter. Dunn and forward Isaiah Russell both took the ball directly at Wallace and - surprise, surprise - were able to score.
  "When Gratz played Overbrook (in the semifinals), everybody was trying to bank it in against Rasheed," Dunn said. "I tried to make it look like that and get him jumping, then take it straight up."
  Dunn, a 5-10 senior who made sacrifices all season, played a prominent role with 13 points and three assists.
  Dunn made only one mistake - a dunk attempt on a fastbreak with 1:15 left and FLC ahead, 59-50. But when Gratz guard Contrell Scott missed a right- corner three-pointer at the other end, the Bulldogs (26-4) were history.
  "Gratz thought Cliff couldn't do anything," Merlino said. "They were talking to him all week, saying he lost last year's game (by missing a late trey). Cliff was focused. He was super."
  Said Dunn: "All the talk was about how (Scott) was going to shut me down. I wasn't having any of that. He can't stick me. I was using my tricks - spin moves, crossovers, etc. My father, my coach, my teammates, they all were telling me, 'In a big game, it's going to come down to you. ' In the right situation, everybody on this team could average 40. But we needed to be a team to win, and we were."
  With 1:13 left in the third quarter, Gratz's dim hopes were all but extinguished when Wallace incurred his fourth personal while attempting to block Hand's lefthanded leaner.
  Hand sank one free throw to make it 43-32, then converted a three-point play 13 seconds into the fourth quarter. Wallace returned at that juncture, but he was not the same player. Understandably, he was no longer aggressive on defense and he did not attempt a field goal until 4:30 remained.
  For Gratz, which had not lost to a city opponent since the 1989 Public League title game (75-66 to Frankford), defeat was hard to swallow.
  continued right below . . .


  Because there are only two seniors on this year's roster, Scott and starting forward Corey Griffin, coach Bill Ellerbee already feels confident about the 1992-93 season. If the Bulldogs had won yesterday, they could have started to dream about matching West Philadelphia's modern Public League record of five consecutive titles (1974 to '78).
  Outside the locker room, as his disconsolate players filed past, Ellerbee gave FLC qualified credit.
  "They were better today," he said, "but I still think we're the better team.
"We needed to have more than Rasheed to beat them, but we didn't shoot well from the perimeter. With the way they can rebound, that's a killer."
  When Merlino's comment about Gratz being a one-player team was relayed to Ellerbee, he bristled.
  "Is that so?" he asked. "That must make me the hands-down Coach of the Year if I can win 26 games with one player, and make it all the way to the championship game. "
  Call that the final touche of the season between hot rivals.
  Or maybe the first of next season.
  When the Simon Gratz Bulldogs fell yesterday to Franklin Learning Center, 63-50, in the Public League boys basketball championship game, it was their first loss to a city team since March 5, 1989.
  That day, the Bulldogs lost the title game to Frankford, 75-66.
  In the interim, all eight of their losses had occurred in out-of-town tournaments. The breakdown:
Dec. 21, 1989 Las Vegas St. Monica's (Calif.) 56-50
Dec. 22, 1989 Las Vegas Timpview (Provo, Utah) 65-55
Dec. 27, 1989 Atlanta Savannah (Ga.) 66-61
Dec. 29, 1989 Atlanta Doss (Ky.) 70-51
Dec. 21, 1990 Kissimmee, Fla. Oak Hill (Va.) 67-59
Dec. 7, 1991 Baltimore Dunbar (Balt.) 52-49
Dec. 22, 1991 Kissimmee, Fla. St. Raymond's (Bronx) 68-67
Dec. 30, 1991 Myrtle Beach, S.C. Dunbar (Balt.) 55-53


  FLC Leading Scorer Pts
Frankford 73 Faron Hand 21
Hempfield 82 Tyrone Weeks 20
Roman 51 Faron Hand 19
Olney 88 Faron Hand 21
SJ Prep 87 Faron Hand 23
Clewiston (FL) 77 Isaiah Russell 23
Cohen (LA) 61 Faron Hand 20
Oak Hill (VA) 75 Sean Colson 20
Miami Senrior (FL) 49 Isaiah Russell 18
Gonzaga (DC) 42 Faron Hand 14
Half Hollow Hills E (NY) 69 Faron Hand 25
PL Regular Season      
Dobbins 88 Tyrone Weeks 24
West Phila. 88 Faron Hand 25
University City 84 Tyrone Weeks 32
Bok 82 Sean Colson 21
Bartram 75 Tyrone Weeks 29
Franklin  71 Isaiah Russsell 17
Mstabum 94 Tyrone Weeks 21
Southern 76 Tyrone Weeks 19
Overbrook 66 Tyrone Weeks 21
Penn 94 Isaiah Russsell 20
Straw. Mansion 86 Tyrone Weeks 22
PL Playoffs      
Audenried 95 Sean Colson 21
University City 78 Tyrone Weeks 23
Parkway 70 Faron Hand 22
Gratz 63 Faron Hand 14


  This story was written after the Bobcats took advantage of a no-light delay to stage a comeback win over Southern . . . 

By Ted Silary

Let there be darkness.
  None of Franklin Learning Center's basketball players prayed for such an occurrence with 2:55 remaining in a Public League classic yesterday. But when the lights did conk out at Cunningham Community Center, 10th and Wallace, there was widespread rejoicing.
  "We knew the Lord was on our side," said 6-6 junior center Tyrone Weeks.
  From behind the next row of lockers, using a voice that made him sound like Muhammad Ali, 6-6 senior forward Faron "Meatball" Hand insisted, "It was a message from above. "
  FLC trailed Southern, 68-61, when someone in the office brushed against the light switch. After the Bobcats won, 76-72, coach Pete Merlino said the delay had helped his team see the light.
  "It worked in our favor," Merlino said. "We had to do something about getting aggressive. We weren't aggressive for the first 30 minutes. I wanted them to do that for the last two.
  "Our kids are strange. You know what they said going back out? They said, 'This is our house. No one's comin' in here and beatin' us. ' They may have looked like their heads were down, but they said they were going to win. I never doubted it. "
  Merlino's primary wish was for a quick bucket. He got it, too, as Weeks scored low on Sean Colson's assist.
  Said Merlino: "Southern was probably thinking, 'The lights went out . . . They did it on purpose . . . They just scored . . . We're going to lose. ' "
  Actually, the Rams were still ruing the loss of star guard Jeffery "Jay" Myers, who had fouled out with 3:52 left after collecting 22 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists.
  "Losing Jeffery hurt us more than the lights," coach Fred Campisi said.
  What incensed Campisi, meanwhile, was the way Myers fouled out, on what looked to be a combination of ticky-tacks and all-ball blocked shots.
  "I'm not going to say what I really feel like saying," he raged, ''because it doesn't belong in print. "
  FLC went ahead for good, 71-70, with 1:10 left as South Philly resident Isaiah Russell converted a one-and-one. Guard Anthony Duren, who packed 10 of his 15 points into the fourth quarter, had a chance to put the Rams ahead at 0:16, but his left-side, on-the-move jumper was short. Hand made a front end for a 74-72 lead at 0:14 and Weeks made a one-and-one after grabbing the rebound of Hand's missed second shot.
  The Rams were reeling down the stretch, just as FLC had been before the delay.
  "We needed a miracle," said Weeks, who had 19 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocked shots. "We got some rest, talked to each other and came out intensified. We were playing like there was a minute left, instead of five. We had to take our time and get good shots. Nobody realized that. "
  For Hand, the day was a mishmash. He was happy with the victory, but he expressed distress about continuing to occupy a prominent spot in Merlino's doghouse.
  Hand never slipped into foul trouble, but was benched three times for a total of seven minutes. While watching, he grumbled and seethed.
  "We're on different wavelengths," Hand said, of his relationship with Merlino. Both are quite strong-willed. "We'll get it together. "
  FLC (17-2) was ranked No. 2 in the city. Southern (11-3) was sixth.
  "Doesn't matter," Hand said. "As long as I've been around, games like this always happen with Southern. Athletically and physically, we're better than they are. But it's never easy to beat them. "
  On that point, don't ever be in the dark.


FRANKLIN LC              
Coach - Pete Merlino              
Record - 11-0, 24-2        16 Qtr Semi Final
Starters  GS Pts PPG Aud UC Pky Gtz
Tyrone Weeks 11 214 19.5 14 23 12 8
Sean Colson 11 172 15.6 21 11 14 13
Faron "Meatball" Hand 9 152 16.9 16 22 22 14
Isaiah Russell 11 152 13.8 18 10 16 13
Cliff Dunn 11 105 9.5 15 10 2 13
Key Subs              
Paul Whiting 9 54 6.0   2   2
Nevaughn Beasley 7 29 4.1 6   2  
Rashaan Morris 3 9 3.0 2      
Joe Brown       3      
Mukit Wali 4 9 2.3     2  
Satu Divine 1 2 2.0        
  11 898 81.6 95 78 70 63


  This story was written about the challenges facing junior star Tyrone Weeks. (He remained at FLC and was part of the Daily News' "Fab Five" in 1993 along with Rasheed Wallace (Gratz), Jason Lawson (Olney), Marc Jackson (Roman) and Alvin Williams (Germantown Academy)  . .

By Ted Silary
  Tyrone Weeks finds himself at a crossroads.
  His basketball talents are those of a big-time college prospect. But due to past academic shortcomings, it is unclear how quickly he will be able to avail  himself of the opportunity.
  Weeks, a 6-7 junior man-child at Franklin Learning Center, which on Saturday muffled Parkway, 70-45, in a Public League semifinal at the Civic Center, has one more season of scholastic eligibility. However, Weeks's roster still includes two sophomore-level courses, a lingering effect of having floundered in junior high, and could keep him from graduating on time.
  With that in mind, Tennis Young, a Department of Recreation worker who is Weeks's legal guardian, is looking hard at prep school in an effort to accelerate the young man's progress.
  Young and Weeks have visited La Salle High. A pair of national powers in Virginia - Oak Hill Academy and Harker Prep - are also possibilities, as is Maine Central Institute.
  "I'm only thinking of doing what anybody would do for his kid - put him in the best school possible," Young said. "I wanted to do this two years ago, but finances wouldn't allow it. Now that Tyrone is established as a basketball player, he could go to Oak Hill, for example, for an extremely low fee.
  "They have faculty on campus, very few students, all the help he would need. And he sure wouldn't be hurt basketballwise playing there. There wouldn't be many drawbacks, except for being away from home. I don't really want that, but I'll have to let him go if that's what's best. "
  Pete Merlino, FLC's coach, was clearly uncomfortable Saturday while discussing Weeks's possible departure.
  "Tyrone and I have gotten really close," Merlino said. "We've always talked about what's going on (in his life). He told me he was staying at FLC and I believe him. "
  As an offshoot, Merlino and Simon Gratz coach Bill Ellerbee bristle at the mere mention of Oak Hill, which just completed a 32-2 season and is ranked No. 6 in the country by USA Today.
  Both men said their players have been approached by members of Oak Hill's coaching staff while participating in tournaments. And yesterday, Gratz guard Terrell Stokes, a promising freshman, told Ellerbee and the Daily News that an Oak Hill representative had contacted him about transferring.
  "Nobody here would do that," Steve Smith, Oak Hill's coach, said last night by telephone. "Except for Tyrone Weeks's guardian, about a month ago, I haven't talked to a soul in Philadelphia since the 1987 season (when Gratz star Brian Shorter fled to Oak Hill).
  "This stuff goes on, unfortunately. I got a call the other day from a high school coach in California. He said we were tampering with his star sophomore. I never heard of the kid. We only make a move when we're contacted first. "
  Against Parkway, Weeks collected 12 points, 18 rebounds and 5 blocks. Also, he used his strength and cunning to limit the Hoyas' franchise, Amiri ''Ralph" Johnson, to 12 points and 11 boards.
  Faron "Meatball" Hand (22 points, 17 rebounds), Sean Colson (14 points, 10 assists) and Isaiah Russell (16 points) also starred for the Bobcats, who will meet Simon Gratz in the championship game - 1 p.m. Sunday at the Civic Center - for the third consecutive season.
  Villanova and Massachusetts, according to Young, have made Weeks a recruiting priority for next season. This summer, Weeks intends to take several clases so he can position himself to tackle a strictly senior-level
roster next September.
  "I hung out with big shots in junior high, goofed off too much," said Weeks, whose demeanor and work habits make him a favorite among those associated with the Public League. "I'd go to school, but I wouldn't do any work. Now I'm paying for it.
  "I've been talking with Tennis (Young) about prep school. I might have to leave FLC, so I could get more individual attention. I've been thinking about this day and night. It's important for me to graduate in 1993. I don't want to leave my friends and family (Tyrone has regular contact with his mother and father), but if I have to do it to get out of high school on time . . . "
  Said Young: "A lot is going to depend on how well Tyrone does the rest of this school year (academically). If he passes everything, that would tell me he's really serious about graduating on time."


Recaps of Public League playoffs . . .

Franklin LC 95, Audenried 63
  Sean Colson hit five threes en route to 21 points and dished 15 assists. Isaiah Russell had 18 points and Tyrone Weeks had 14 points, 14 boards. Richard “Rob” Cerdan (18) topped Audenried.
Franklin LC 78, Univ. City 67
  Tyrone Weeks (23) and Faron “Meatball” Hand (22) had 11 rebounds each and Sean Colson dealt eight assists. UC’s Rondell Turner had 22 points, 16 rebounds.
At the Civic Center
Franklin LC 70, Parkway 45
  Most of the damage was done by Faron “Meatball” Hand (22, 17 rebounds), Tyrone Weeks (12, 18) and Sean Colson (14, 10 assists). Parkway’s Amiri “Ralph” Johnson had 12 points, 11 boards.
At the Civic Center
Franklin LC 63, Gratz 50
Faron "Meatball" Hand (14 points, 16 rebounds), Tyrone Weeks (eight points, 18 rebounds) and Sean Colson (13 points, six assists) led the way for FLC, which won its first championship. Gratz was held to 33 percent shooting from the field and was outrebounded, 49-28. Rasheed Wallace had 27 points, 12 rebounds and nine blocked shots.