- Mo Bamba is a future All-Star! Cam Reddish is Tracy McGrady meets Penny Hardaway! Ahead of the release of Sports Illustrated's new documentary, We Town, which premieres on SI TV on Friday, Westtown high school coach Seth Berger breaks down the starting five of the 2016-17 Westtown High School basketball team, considered to be one of the greatest high school teams in history.
On Friday, Sports Illustrated will premiere its new full-length original documentary, We Town, only on SI TV. The documentary follows the story of Westtown High School, a small quaker school in Pennsylvania that's better-known for its academics than its athletics, that also happens to be home to one of the greatest high school basketball teams of all time. Mo Bamba and Cam Reddish, two players considered to be NBA lottery picks when they go pro, were the most recognizable stars, but Brandon Randolph, Anthony Ochefu and Jake Forrester round out a starting five that is arguably the greatest in high school basketball history. And together, the team won a state championship and put together a season that Westtown head coach Seth Berger describes as "a dream season."
What should you know about the cast of characters before you dive into the documentary? We've asked someone who knows them all very well—their coach, Berger—to provide us with some insight about the players at the heart of the We Town story.
Mohamed Bamba: "A Future NBA All-Star"
Height: 7' 0" | Age: 19 | School: University of Texas
THE BASICS: "If there were a genetic powerball, Mo Bamba hit the lottery. He is tall. He is handsome. He is charismatic. He’s coordinated. He’s athletic and he’s insanely intelligent. So as a basketball player if you were creating one of the perfect basketball players, Mo would be it. As a kid, he is very thoughtful. He is really smart and he’s also fiercely independent. And so, he’s a really interesting kid to coach and to have a relationship with. He’s mature beyond his years. In some games, some of the best coaching on our team had come from what Mo said, not from what I said. Back in the state final when we were tied with Episcopal, we came to the bench and as everyone was sitting down, Mo said ‘guys we just need to get three stops in a row and we’ll be fine.’ And everyone listened to him, and low and behold we got three stops in a row and we ended up winning the game. We would be in a zone defense against a team that could shoot and instead of standing in the middle of the zone, he would say ‘hey let me go play one of the forward spots so I can get out and do a better job of contesting shooters with my length.’"
"In five years he'll be signing a max contract and will have already been an All-Star two or three times."
"When Mo came to Westtown he was the 54th-ranked player in his class. I have literally seen one clip of him catching a lob, so I didn’t know how good he could be or how good he could not be. When he came to Westtown, they told us he was 6’8” and that he would be an Ivy kid, which was perfect for Westtown with our academics. After the first practice I called his AAU coach and said ‘we’re wrong, he’s not an Ivy kid, he’s a high major.’ And then after a week I called and said ‘we’re wrong, he’s not a high major, he’s a one-and-done lottery pick,’ because he processes information so quickly.”
THE FUTURE: “I think he’s going to be one of the best defensive centers to play the game. I think his downside is that he’s going to be as good as Dwight Howard. And he can pretty much fit in any offense because he can space the floor, guard positions on the perimeter, and also protect the rim. So I think in five years he’ll be signing a max contract and will have already been an All-Star two or three times.”
Cam Reddish: "The No. 1 Pick in the 2019 NBA Draft"
Height: 6' 7" | Age: 18 | School: Committed to Duke
THE BASICS: "Cam is a kid who can be on the ball, off the ball, and whenever he’s on the court he’s a threat. He's a super smart kid also. His basketball intelligence is not surprising given his natural intelligence. His family—he’s really really tight with his family—is in a lot of ways the source of his strength and quite frankly, his work ethic. Cam is the hardest working player I’ve ever had; it’s not close. He’s in the gym by himself almost every single morning at 6 a.m., and then usually at least one other time during the day outside of practice. Everyone’s like ‘he’s really talented, he’s really smooth,’ and I’m like ‘no Cam’s really skilled.’ He’s put in an incredible amount of work and you’ll never see him try a move that he hasn’t practiced in the gym by himself."
"I think, when he's done, people are going to look at him as a combination of Penny Hardaway and Tracy McGrady."
HIS PERSONALITY: “One thing that Cam and I share, believe it or not is we’re introverts—Cam’s an introvert. Cam, he has a great heart and has great character. He doesn’t necessarily let everyone in to see that because he’s really shy. So he’s a great teammate in that he’s really supportive of his teammates, but he’s not an incredibly vocal “ra ra” kind of kid.”
HIS BEST SKILL: "Thinking. His ability to know what the right play is—based on mismatches, spacing, time and score—it’s really impressive to watch him play. You know, when he was a kid he was a great Pop Warner quarterback, and so I kind of think he plays basketball with a quarterback’s IQ."
HIS FUTURE: "I think Cam is going to be the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft. He’s the best high school player. He’s the best offensive player I’ve ever seen in high school. I never saw LeBron or Kobe live, but I’ve seen pretty much every other high level player for the last 12 years since I’ve been coaching, and he’s unquestionably the best combination of skill, size, athleticism and intelligence. He’s just an unstoppable offensive player. He can play I think three positions—he can play the one, two or three in the league—and he can probably guard three positions in the league. So whoever is drafting first, whether they need a one, two or three, they’re going to take Cam in 2019. I think he’s going to be, when he gets done,I think people are going to look at him as a combination of Penny Hardaway and Tracy McGrady and kind of reinventing the 1 slash 2.
Brandon Randolph: "The Fire Behind the Team"
Height: 6' 6" | Age: 20 | School: Arizona |
THE BASICS: "Brandon plays with a level of fearlessness that I have not seen since Dion Waiters. When he’s on the court, he is giving everything he’s got without any fear of what might go wrong. He has an incredible confidence in his own ability, plays extremely hard and he was our team’s MVP last year. When you think about, you know, you’ve got two projected top five picks, this kid who showed up at Westtown with an offer from Manhattan College—by the end of the year he had offers from everywhere pretty much other than Duke and Carolina and that was because he’s just a freight train that no one expected to show up.
THE PLAY: "He made a play in the playoffs—it was in the second round—where he was in the right corner and he kept running in to offensive rebounds, and it was a shot that missed on the left side of the basket, and he went up and reverse tomahawked a putback on the other side. It was unbelievable. It was the kind of play that you didn’t even think anyone could make. So my kids all have the green light, but Brandon took full advantage of it. I would say Brandon played with a neon green light.”
THE FUTURE: "I watched him play this summer and early this season—he looked great. I think Sean [Miller, coach of Arizona], for whatever reason, has decided to go with veterans, which I don’t blame him for, but I think when Brandon’s been on the court he’s been really impressive. I can tell you he’s certainly Bill Walton’s favorite college player."
Anthony Ochefu: "The Most Important Personality on the Team"
Height: 6' 8" | School: Stony Brook
THE BASICS: "In a lot of ways Anthony was the most important personality of the team. Everybody loves Anthony and Anthony’s got this big personality and extends it to everybody in his space. When you’re around him he’s incredibly warm, he’s incredibly supportive and therefore the kids were like that with him and with each other. He is a kid that could have left Westtown and played a bigger role on a different team and chose to come back to be with his teammates because he loves his teammates and wanted to be a part of Westtown’s State Championship--and he was a huge part of it."
"He is a kid who could have left Westtown and played a bigger role on a different team, but chose to come back to be with his teammates because he loves them."
THE GROWTH: "When you see him play against someone who’s not named Mo Bamba, you realize how good he is. He grew up—he’s one of those kids who’s a late bloomer—and his junior and senior year you saw this kid that grew from a little bit insecure and maybe not as confident, to realize all the things he can do on and off the court. He became a leader and a superstar player.”
Jake Forrester: "Playing Hard is a Skill"
Height: 6' 8" | School: Committed to Indiana
THE BASICS: "Jake showed up to Westtown again like similar to Brandon. Brandon cam to Westtown with one offer—Manhattan College—and Mo came with no scholarship offers and they ended up where they ended up and Jake is a similar story. He had an offer form North Florida, an offer from Stony Brook and by the end of the year I think he had 35 Division I offers. He’s committed to Indiana."
THE SKILLS: "Jake plays super super super hard, and playing hard is a skill. He’s always playing a 10 out of 10 hard. He’s running, he’s rebounding, he’s defending, he’s protecting the rim and his improvement last year was a really big part of the reason that we not only won State, but that we won 32 games.”
The Coach: Seth Berger on Seth Berger
"My first year as an assistant, our team was 11-9 and my second year as an assistant our team was 3-15, we had only won one league title and that was in 1986—but quite frankly when I got there all I really wanted to do was coach kids that wanted to be the best players they could be. I didn’t then, and I don’t care today, what level that means whether you’re going to play Division III basketball or go to the NBA. I just want to coach kids that love basketball and when they come to practice, they want to work as hard as they can. I love basketball and I wanted to make a difference in kids’ lives—and Westtown is a community that I believe in."
"Last year's team was special because it had a great mix of talent. We were clearly uber talented. We were very balanced at all positions, had a lot of size, and had senior leadership and a team that was really together. When I see pictures of my starting five walking out there before the games, they’re always locking arms. When you put three or four NBA players on a court together and five Division I players, all of whom I think will make money playing basketball, and that team wants to play together, they’re going to win a lot of games."