UPPER DARBY >> By virtue of his name, Floyd Wedderburn Jr. is always ready for the first question most people ask upon meeting him.
So … no football?
“All the time,” Wedderburn Jr. said last week. “… I just say, that’s not me. I always grew up with basketball.”
You’ll forgive observers for wondering, since his father and namesake had a little football career — as an All-Delco at Upper Darby, a starter at Penn State and a fifth-round draft pick who played 46 games over three NFL seasons with the Seattle Seahawks.
While Wedderburn Jr. boasts an athletic build like his father, it’s not on track to become the 6-5, 325 pounds at which the offensive guard tipped the scales. But Floyd Jr. has charted his own course.
Wedderburn transferred to Upper Darby this year after two years at Decatur High outside of Seattle, moving cross country to live with his father. With two older brothers out west who preferred hoops, the junior guard gravitated toward basketball and fell in love.
“That’s just what’s in me,” Wedderburn Jr. said. “It’s always been in me. And I’ve just never been a big football guy. It’s always been basketball. And it’s good because he played it, too.”
Though eclipsed by his prowess on the gridiron, Floyd Sr. was also a basketball standout for the Royals in the early 1990s, named a third-team All-Delco and aweing spectators with his combination of agility and bulk. It quickly became obvious to Wedderburn then that football would be his path forward, as determined by talent and physique. But he always had a soft spot for hoops.
“Funny thing, it was a different time, but I really loved basketball,” Wedderburn Sr. “And I tell him that all the time. If I could’ve done it, I would’ve loved to continue in basketball, but I was just steered toward playing football because I was more a fit for that sport. I just loved playing sports, that’s why I played all the way through. I just wanted to play everything.”
When Wedderburn Jr. chose his sporting pursuits, his father adopted a hands-off approach. Floyd Jr. said he never felt pressure to play football, and Floyd Sr. was ready to support his son’s choices.
“My dad’s not the type to force me,” Wedderburn Jr. said. “He was like, do you want to play? And I was like, no, not really. And he just leaves it at that. He’s a chill, mellow guy.”
“I think he always wanted to do it for me,” Floyd Sr. said. “And I basically told him, you do whatever you want to do. I’m going to be happy regardless of what you do. …
“And (basketball) is his thing. It’s always been his thing. He loves the sport. It’s all he wants to play and I respect that, because I don’t want him to follow in my footsteps, because he’s not me. He enjoys the game, and I tell him all the time, I’m happy that he enjoys it.”
Wedderburn has contributed immediately to the resurgent Royals, who have won eight games this year after mustering just six victories in an injury-blighted 2016-17 campaign. Wedderburn stands 6-2 — “still hoping to get that height,” he said of his genetic inheritance — and is used to playing in the backcourt. But with Bob Miller’s returning roster flush with ball-handlers, Wedderburn has been deployed at the four in the still perimeter-oriented play of the Central League.
He has flourished, averaging 5.9 points per game, sixth-best of a balanced scoring contingent. His 12 points Tuesday in a win over Marple Newtown marked a season-high.
The early success means Wedderburn Jr. is adding his stamp to what the family name means.
“I hear so many stories, what he did in basketball, football, track,” Floyd Jr. said. “There’s a sense of, that’s my dad, so it’s a sense of accomplishment. I take that and put it on my back and I run with it.”
Before Tuesday’s visit to Chichester, Glen Mills’ last game fell on Dec. 21. That left the Battlin’ Bulls plenty of time to battle only each other in practice, and it had coach Tony Bacon wondering just what he’d get when they took the court.
The result was a 66-64 upset of the presumptive Del Val front-runners, thanks to Khelon Kirkland’s basket with two seconds to play.
So what’s the secret to keeping a basketball team fresh and engaged through weeks of practice tedium?
“We try to do different things, with the practice agenda and schedule,” Bacon said. “I have my assistant coaches throw in some different wrinkles. But it’s not easy to keep the kids’ minds right without a game and to be active, because after a while they get tired of playing against each other.”
Bacon tossed different scrimmages and games his kids’ way. He’d switch up personnel groupings with varsity and JV, or devise games that instilled skills development while still challenging players.
Practice time is beneficial for a team lacking any history together that must develop chemistry anew each fall. But that has its limits.
“It does help, but I think for the group that we have this year — it varies every year — but this particular group, we need to play as many games as we can,” he said. “There’s only so many scenarios we can put them through, only so many wrinkles you can throw at them in practice. And then what’s it like when they see that in a game where they have to figure it out and it doesn’t end with the coach blowing his whistle?”
Sun Valley totes a four-game winning streak into Saturday’s trip to Marple Newtown in a significant Class 5A showdown. In those victories, Isaac Kennon is averaging 15.0 points.
That isn’t a coincidence.
The junior wing’s surge has helped the Vanguards find a rhythm after four straight losses, three to start Ches-Mont play.
Kennon is the extra scoring option that balances Shair Brown-Morris at the point, Marvin Freeman’s 3-point prowess and Vinny DeAngelo’s off-the-dribble/midrange danger. Add in Kennon’s tenacity on the glass for an undersized club and his zeal for shutdown defending, and Sun Valley has found a new gear.
“Last year, it was more Freeman and DeAngelo, and now teams can’t cheat (to them) as much,” coach Steve Maloney said. “So it gives us a little more options. The great thing that he does, he usually covers the best player on the other team. He’s doing that and being able to score. It’s huge for us.”
Kennon paced Sun Valley with 25 points in a 66-58 win over West Chester East Jan. 6 and tallied 19 in Tuesday’s 75-54 handling of Kennett. Kennon is averaging 11.3 points per game this season.
For a first-year varsity player, Maloney measures Kennon’s improvement daily.
“You can see it,” Maloney said. “Every day in practice, you can tell.”
To contact Matthew De George, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twtiter @sportsdoctormd.