COATESVILLE, Pa. — Perhaps for the final time, two future teammates wore different colored jerseys.
The men’s basketball team’s incoming recruits — Chester’s Rahlir Jefferson and Norristown’s Khalif Wyatt — met in a PIAA Class AAAA District One playoff game at Coatesville High School Friday night.
Both players signed national letters of intent to play for the Owls next season, as the duo will take two of the four open scholarships coach Fran Dunphy has for 2009-2010.
In the game, Wyatt scored 31 points to lead No.8-seeded Norristown over No. 1-seeded Chester, 61-59. The 6-foot-3-inch guard sunk a number of open 3-pointers and hit some clutch free throws down the stretch to ice his school’s upset win over Chester.
Jefferson, meanwhile, led his squad with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Included in that double-double was a thundering slam dunk put-back that tied the game in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.
The two even wound up covering each other in the game, though it didn’t really dawn on either player that in just a few months, they’ll be playing together at Temple.
“In the game, I wasn’t thinking like he was a future Temple teammate. I was thinking like he’s a great Division I player,” Wyatt said. “I was measuring myself up against him. So I’m guarding him, he’s guarding me, so I’m going at him like he’s one of the best players in the state.”
Jefferson was blunter, simply stating that he’s only concerned with what’s in front of him.
“I try to stay focused on my team now,” he said.
But despite that, both Wyatt and Jefferson know what’s going to happen in a few months. They know they’re both going to be classmates and teammates on North Broad Street.
Jefferson’s decision to come to Temple took a little bit longer than Wyatt’s. Recruited by the likes of Saint Joseph’s, Providence and Penn State, Jefferson chose to play college basketball with the Owls because of one special person in his life.
“[To] stay close to my mom,” he said.
And with the duo locked in at Temple, both Wyatt and Jefferson have certainly noticed a thing or two about each other’s games.
“[Rahlir] is very athletic and real long,” Wyatt said. “He’s a great defender, too because he’s so long and athletic, and around the boards, you really got to make sure you box him out. He’s just real athletic.”
“[Khalif] scores,” Jefferson added. “He tried to play defense tonight, too.”
The 6-foot-6-inch forward laughed after he said that about Wyatt, which shows the kind of relationship the two already have. They were even texting each other when the playoff brackets came out, anticipating this kind of showdown if both their teams won two games and met in the quarterfinals.
As that happened, a very vocal and lively Wyatt matched up with a very laid-back and passive Jefferson.
It took a back-breaking turnover in the fourth quarter for Jefferson to show emotion on the court, as for the most part, he played the game with a monotonic expression on his face.
Meanwhile, Wyatt’s personality was especially evident when he played, which didn’t shock anyone.
“[He’s] goofy. Everybody loves Khalif,” teammate Sheldon Mayer said. “He just comes out, plays hard on the court. Off the court, he’s focused but joking around with the guys. It’s a lot of fun.”
“[Khalif] came up to me on the foul line, tell me I’d miss a couple of times,” Jefferson added. “[And] I missed one of them.”
But don’t just peg Wyatt as a trash-talking show-off. His coach, Mike Evans, was quick to point out that his top player is well-rounded and focused.
“He’s a great player,” Evans said. “He’s a student of the game. He’s an excitement to watch on the floor. But he’s an unselfish player. He looks for his teammates.”
And next season, one of those teammates will be Jefferson.
While it’s too early to tell just how big of a role each will play for the Owls, one thing is certain.
People will be watching.
“I’m going to love that next year,” Mayer said. “See them play next year at Temple. I just can’t wait.”
Todd Orodenker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.