Maalik Wayns, whose basketball career took him from West Oak Lane to the 76ers, is set to be named boys’ basketball coach at Camden High where he will take charge of a powerful program that is currently under an investigation by the state high school sports governing body. .
Camden finished last season 31-3 en route to a Group 2 New Jersey title and second-place finish in the Tournament of Champions behind a cast of Division I rookies led by third-generation Camden star DJ Wagner and coached by Rick Brunson, a former Temple and NBA player who left earlier this month to become an assistant with the New York Knicks.
And now the NJSIAA is trying to determine if Camden broke any rules last season after a report from NJ.com this week said the Panthers used a loophole to pile their public school team roster with star players who did not live in the district.
Wayns, who coaches Camden this summer and coached the AAU team linked to the high school program, is set to replace Brunson and is expected to be approved by the school board next month to take over the star-studded team.
The 31-year-old returned last October to Villanova – where he played three seasons after being All-American from McDonald’s to Roman Catholic – as an assistant under Jay Wright while completing his education.
The NJSIAA said it was reviewing the program and asked the school to cooperate with the investigation. Some rival teams are angered by Camden while the Panthers believe history is just another attack on their school.
Five of Camden’s top six scorers, according to NJ.com history, did not live in Camden and enrolled in magnet schools that allowed them to play for the Panthers. The report said basketball players were the only out-of-district students enrolled in magnet schools.
Two of the team’s star players were from 70 miles north of Camden, and one lived in a house owned by Wagner’s father, a former Camden star and NBA lottery pick. According to the report, the average cost to educate a student at magnet schools attended by basketball players is $22,348, but the district only charged players $1,500 per year.
The Panthers have played a schedule against some of the best teams in the country and played games on national television with Wagner – considered one of the best players in the class of 2023 – as a must-see attraction. Brunson, the father of former Villanova star Jalen Brunson, spent three seasons as the team’s coach.
Most of Wayns’ professional career has been spent in Europe, but he played 21 games with the hometown 76ers in 2012-13. His role on the Villanova staff was listed as “student-athlete development” and he did a bit of everything, even helping carry the bags for the team bus.
Wayns said during the Final Four that Wright’s staff from his season gave him the certainty that he wanted to coach because it “became a love and a passion for me”.
“Once in a while I say to our guys, ‘This guy played in the NBA. Look at his humility. Look at what he does for our team,'” Wright said during the Final Four.
— Sam Cohn contributed to this story