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Southern Basketball hits trifecta with senior leaders

Coach Thomas Terry talks to his team during a timeout as South Philadelphia High School defeated Paul Robeson 52-47 on Thursday. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

It took a little while for it to come together. But now, they are pretty much inseparable.

Aaron Dixon, Shymar Wiggins and Jamire Evans all met just a few years ago at South Philadelphia High School. Arriving from different neighborhoods, they were introduced to each other on the basketball court. Competitive fire took over. But eventually they saw great potential in each other.

“We had to calm Shymar down a bit,” Dixon, the Rams’ senior power forward, recalled with a laugh. “He had some anger issues. But even though I didn’t know him that well, I still came over and talked to him.”

Once the egos were curbed, the three talented hoops players quickly became great friends.

“By far, these two are my best friends,” said Wiggins, the 6-foot-6 senior center, who averages a double-double for the Rams. “I talk to them every day.”

It’s not just on the court. The three amigos spend just about all their free time together, whether it’s playing recreational basketball, working out in the gym, shooting pool or just hanging out.

Aaron Dixon prepares to shoot a free throw for South Philadelphia High School in a game against Paul Robeson. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

“We go to open gyms on weekends and try to link up,” said Evans, an unselfish passer who plays both strong forward and shooting guard. “We have fun together as friends and as teammates.”

It’s that type of chemistry that has coach Thomas Terry smiling, as he knows his senior captains will lead the way. The skill always seems to be in the pipeline when it comes to the South Philadelphia basketball program, having won the City Public title 16 times. But it takes a little more than pure talent to get the job done when the stakes are high.

“The best thing about those guys is that they are sponges,” Terry said. “They listen. We have a great player-coach relationship. I let them take more ownership of the team this year.”

And his players have proved good on the investment. The Rams were 12-8 after defeating Paul Robeson, 52-47, last week. More importantly, Southern is in the mix as one of the top teams in the Public League.

Terry said he gave his guys a longer leash by letting them run drills at practice and was delighted to see they didn’t cut corners. They might not have known they were being watched but Terry was still keeping tabs.

“We do a drill where if they miss a layup they’d have to run a full-floor sprint,” Terry said. “I’d be in the office, letting them run the drill to see if they would do it without me. And they did. They’ve done it from the beginning of the season, and that let me know they were going to take ownership.”

Jamire Evans sinks a free throw as South Philadelphia High School defeated Paul Robeson 52-47 on Thursday. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

Part of that strong relationship was the fact that Terry graduated to coach the varsity team at the same time Dixon, Wiggins and Evans were promoted from junior varsity to the big squad a couple of years ago. They made the journey together, as Terry previously coached them on JV.

“They’ve come a long way,” Terry said. “We grew together. I’ve worked tirelessly with them on honing their skills and getting their compete level up. Last year was their breakout year.”

South Philadelphia High School’s Shymar Wiggins jogs up the court in a game against Paul Robeson. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

They’re looking to take it a step further both in high school and beyond. Dixon and Wiggins are hoping to play ball at the same college next year as a package deal. They attended prospect camps at Rutgers University and are hoping to end up at the same school, as many programs have shown interest in both.

Evans is undecided, as he is also considering football, where he is a standout wide receiver. Those life-changing decisions will likely be made after basketball season, as the three sponges soak in their senior year. Evans usually supplies the laughs to help them through the daily grind.

“Jamire is probably one of the funniest people on the team,” Dixon said. “Even if we’re in a bad mood, he always stays positive. We all just end up laughing. The things that come out of his mouth are hilarious.”

But they also know when it’s time to flip the switch.

“We can joke with each other but when it comes down to it, it’s time to be serious,” Wiggins said. “Coach will look at us three, and we know it’s time to turn it up.”

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