Around the netless playgrounds and dimly lit high school gyms of Philadelphia, they're known collectively as the Warley Brothers. They're still teenagers, yet they're already part of Philly's considerable basketball lore. On Sunday they led their team, Frankford High, to a second straight Public League championship. Their coach played his high school ball with Wilt Chamberlain. Their father played for the 76ers. Carlin Warley, 18, a 6'7", 235-pound junior center, is regarded as the best schoolboy player in the city. He is, as the kids say, fresh—the ultimate. Jason, a 6'4" senior forward, 10 months older than Carlin and a notch or two below his sibling in ability, is the Public League's preeminent dunker. And the word is out: The Warley Brothers are determined to attend college together.
"We're best friends," says Carlin. "We've always played together, we've always won and had fun together, so why stop a good thing now?"
This fraternal bonding has college recruiters confused, for while Carlin is regarded as having big league potential, Jason's skills are better suited to the smaller end of Philadelphia's Big Five. And while a college cannot entice a player by promising to tender a scholarship to a younger sibling, there's nothing to prevent that younger player from announcing to recruiters that he would like to join his brother. The upshot is that Carlin will likely follow Jason's lead and end up gracing the roster of a less glamorous team than he otherwise might.
"If Carlin insists on following his brother, I don't know that he'll raise Jason's level of recruitment," says Tom Konchalski, editor of High School Basketball Illustrated and an expert on college recruiting. "He might wind up lowering his own."
March 13, 1989
That's the scenario. But it doesn't bother the Warleys, who seem motivated mostly by their hearts—and their stomachs. They want to attend school together in the Northeast, to remain within driving distance of their mother Charlene's cooking. Over the past year the Warleys' list of favored schools has remained largely unchanged: The Big East's Providence, Syracuse, Pitt and Villanova, and St. Joseph's University, a small Division I school in Philadelphia with a lustrous basketball past but an unprepossessing present. Playing together for a Big East team is a dream for the brothers; getting the Warleys would be a dream come true for St. Joe's.
Jimmy Black, an assistant coach at St. Joe's, believes the Warleys could reopen the doors to the NCAA tournament for the Hawks, who haven't been there since 1986. "Jason can get you to 20 wins," says Black, "and Carlin can get you to 25."
The Warleys' coach at Frankford, Vince Miller, thinks St. Joe's, or a similar school, would be ideal for Jason, but too small for Carlin. "I can't see holding Carlin back to keep the brothers together," says Miller. "That's depriving him. I know what they're going through. Wilt and I were best friends in high school. But college was the time for us, as players, to find our own way. The friendship remains."
Miller believes that Carlin needs to be challenged. "He plays only as hard as he needs to play to win," he says. It's the harshest, and most accurate, criticism one can make of Carlin's game. "He wants to play in the NBA someday, right? Then he's got to play his college ball in the ACC or the Big East, somewhere where he'll be pushed."
"There's no saying for sure what Carlin will do," says Charlene Warley, a kindergarten teacher who stands six feet tall. "One minute he wants a hoagie for dinner, the next it's a sirloin steak. He'll do what's best for him, what he thinks is right. Usually, that's being with Jason."
Even while the Warleys create a dilemma for college coaches, they're the reigning princes in the cloistered world of Philadelphia basketball, the ultimate insiders in an outdoor-basketball town, where Gene Banks is better remembered for what he did on the concrete courts of the old Haddington playground in West Philadelphia than for what he did at Duke or in the NBA.
"The Philadelphia basketball community is like a highly selective fraternity," says Ken Hamilton, who coaches at Benjamin Franklin High, a Frankford rival in the Public League. "To get in, you've got to come up through the basketball wars. Right now Carlin and Jason are at the heart of it. Jason's the vice-president and Carlin's the president. Everybody's talking about them."
In Carlin's bedroom, decorated with three posters of the Sixers' Charles Barkley, there are bags of mail from colleges. He's wanted. He has power moves, finesse, and he can dribble and shoot jumpers too. Carlin averaged 23.4 points and 14.3 rebounds per game this year, and he's a B student with an 850 on the PSATs.
Jason is among the top eight players in the city, coaches say, but he's too short for a college forward, and inside is where Jason does most of his playing. He's also dyslexic and, as a result, struggled on his initial attempt at the SATs. He will retake the tests this week. He also hasn't demonstrated that he can make 15-footers. He is, however, extremely quick, a ferocious competitor, a hard worker and a leader.
Jason has had the same girlfriend and has been employed at the same Popeyes chicken restaurant for more than three years. He is hard on himself. Reviewing his numbers for the season (17.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game), he said, "I should have done better than that. At least we made our goal [to average better than 40 points and 20 rebounds between the brothers]. Carlin did his job."
The brothers' numbers reveal merely fragments of what they have done for Frankford. The chemistry between them has resulted in wins. Since the Warleys transferred there, in the fall of 1987 from the suburban Phil-Mont Christian Academy, the Pioneers have gone 49-2. The brothers have been oh a dozen organized teams and have played hours and hours of two-on-two together at local playgrounds on hot summer nights. Each knows how the other thinks, how the other moves.
Once or twice a game, Jason will see an opposing player on the verge of attempting a jumper not bound for success. He'll sense Carlin's position under the basket and break for the Frankford hoop as Carlin grabs the rebound and throws a long outlet pass to his brother, who then slams the ball home. Routinely, the Warleys dismantle full-court presses with sprinting give-and-go's and score on Jason-to-Carlin backdoor passes and Carlin-to-Jason alley-oops. Sometimes Jason, a strapping 200-pounder, clears the lane for Carlin; other times Carlin paves the way for Jason.
When Carlin is at the free throw line, Jason stands at half court to guard against the fast break. If Carlin, a 75% foul shooter, misses the first of two, Jason will charge up to his brother and whisper, "Stay on the line," a reminder to keep his feet still.
All the while, their father, Ben, can be found fidgeting about near the Frankford bench, wearing a sweatsuit, recording the action on either videotape or a scoring sheet. Warley played for six teams during his eight years in the NBA and ABA and now works evenings as the recreation director for Baptist Children's Services in Philadelphia. That leaves his days free. He attends nearly all of his sons' practices and has missed only one game in the past two years.
Warley is an unofficial assistant to Miller, whom he first met in 1956, when Miller was playing at North Carolina A & T and Warley, a Washington, D.C., native, was looking at colleges. (He and his younger brother, Elliott, wound up playing for Tennessee State.) A decade later, when Warley was playing for the 76ers, Miller was a Sixer scout.
During the 1960s Warley also played in Philadelphia's summer pro circuit, the Baker League. His coach was John Chaney, now at Temple. Today the two men are tennis partners and good friends. But Chaney isn't interested in coaching both of Ben's sons. "I just don't believe in recruiting brothers for the same team," says Chaney. "My philosophy is that each youngster must seek his own level and start his own life."
Chaney's pronouncement doesn't faze the Warley family. "I love John dearly," says Charlene. "We respect and value his opinion; we just don't happen to agree with it."
"I think I can do all right wherever I go," says Carlin. "I play basketball because it's fun. If it ever stopped being fun, I'd stop playing."
The Warleys are quick to point out that brothers have played together on several recent big-time college basketball powers: Scooter and Rodney McCray played forward and center, respectively, on the dominating Louisville teams of the early 1980s; from '82-83 through '84-85, Waymon and William Tisdale formed the nucleus of strong Oklahoma teams. And Villanova has a good freshman point guard in David Miller this year, and next year his brother, Lance, a highly promising shooting guard, will join the Wildcats.
"I love having brothers on the same team," says Rollie Massimino, the Villanova coach whose scouts have watched the Warleys this season. "Brothers extend the sense of family on a team, and that's what we're all about." The brothers would like to be Wildcats; whether the feeling is mutual is not yet known.
In the end, say Ben and Charlene, their sons will decide for themselves. "Jason can go to any school he wants," says Charlene as she sits in their house in Mount Airy, an integrated, middle-class section of Philadelphia. "All that we ask is that he put academics first, ahead of basketball."
"We're not making any demands on Carlin," says Ben. "But from what he says, and from what we see, I know he and Jason will wind up together. That's been their pattern all their lives."
If either brother is feeling the pressure of Jason's upcoming decision, it was not apparent on Sunday. In the 88th annual Philadelphia city championship game, at Temple's McGonigle Hall, both were clearly enjoying themselves. Carlin scored 16 points and had 16 rebounds, and Jason added 20 points and nine rebounds of his own.
Soon, after he has the SATs out of the way and before the summer leagues start, Jason will reveal what college he—and probably Carlin—will attend. But, for Jason, wearing the blue and white of Frankford and with another city title fresh in his grasp, that moment of decision seemed a long way off.