Rumph Classic Still a Hit

Fewer big names, but plenty of big excitement and great basketball

(Photos Left to Right) DJ Rivera takes a jump shot at the Danny Rumph Classic. (center) Organizers Mike Morak and Marcus Owens. (right) Sam Prescott (#7) drives the ball to the hoop at the Rumph Classic. Photos by Sarah J. Glover. 

Mike Morak knows just how difficult the event business is. He is aware of that fact even though his 12th annual “Daniel Rumph Classic,” named for his friend who passed away from heart failure during a pick-up game, is for charity.

The Daniel E. Rumph II  Foundation raises money to fight Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, for citywide installation of defibrillators in recreation centers, and to raise awareness of HCM in the community. HCM is the leading cause of sudden cardiac arrest.

The tournament honors those who have been screened for HCM, and remembers those who have lost their lives to this disease. According to Morak’s website, the Rumph Foundation has been fortunate enough to work with many wonderful people through this event, but the unfortunate part is the impact that HCM continues to have on so many lives.

Each year, about 100,000 young athletes die from cardiovascular disorders, including HCM. Of the 100,000 deaths, 45,000 play basketball. This is the reason the Foundation continues to spread awareness of the disease that took the life of Danny.

Over the last few years, Morak, the founder and director of the nationally acclaimed and NBA sanctioned event, has had packed houses in various area gyms like Arcadia University and Community College of Philadelphia. Beyond the spectators, former NBAers with Philadelphia ties like Marcus and Markieff Morris, Wayne Ellington, Dion Waiters, and Maalik Wayns have performed at the Rumph Classic. Last year’s event had the biggest buzz ever when people heard that NBA MVP James Harden was added to a roster on championship night.

This August, though, Morak was hit by a surge of bad luck. The NBA produced a promotional game in Africa that coincided with the Classic. Kyle Lowry, the Morris twins, and many others who had planned to play in the Rumph couldn’t attend.

“There were some scheduling conflicts, unfortunately, so the only [current NBAer] to play was Lou Williams,” Morak said. “He had 36 and 43 points in two games. I think he’s one of the best summer pro players around. We were expecting Rondae Hollis Jefferson to play and [76ers star] Joel Embiid to stop by again, but they got involved with the game in Africa. It’s one of those things that happens. It was all good. We still had big crowds, great local games, and local players showcased, and still raised a lot of money, and fan interest was high.”

Morak said highlights of this year’s games included Celtics’ coach Jerome Allen, the Morris twins and former 76er Thomas Robinson all showing up to watch. Last year, Embiid, Allen Iverson, and 76ers’ coach Bret Brown made appearances. Morak scheduled all five days of the event, August 1 to 6, at La Salle University. Getting a consistent host site is always a challenge, he said.

One of the other highlights included the sight of local workout guru Chuck Ellis playing and leading his team to victory. Ellis’ prowess elicited oohs and ahs from the crowd despite being one of the two oldest players in the competition.

“He was a really great coach and player and ambassador for the event this year,” Morak said of Ellis. “He had really good players. Of course, Hakim Warrick and Lou [Williams] played for him, as did a young Division III grad Marcus Thomas, who played as well as anyone.”

Morak indicated that Warrick, a long-time NBA player and Friends’ Central graduate has played in all 12 years of the event. Warrick said he would never miss it because the event is what Philadelphia basketball is all about, combined with the fact that he played with Rumph before he collapsed. Former NBAer Flip Murray, a Strawberry Mansion graduate also played.

“I just think it’s great that so many people give back,” Morak said. “So many people have made this a national event, a feel-good event. The players play so hard; and they do it to remember Danny and to try and make sure a senseless tragedy like his doesn’t happen again. These players really care. The event gives Philadelphia a little shine to it. Every time we get publicity we really appreciate it. The family appreciates it. And the city deserves it because these fans have been such a staunch supporter of what we have tried to do.”

Morak plays a huge hand in attracting players to participate but he said, over the years, the NBA and former college stars from the city bring guys in as well. “It was the Morris twins who brought Harden last year. Another old head convinced John Cox, Kobe Bryant’s cousin, a former Engineering and Science graduate and a professional player in South America to come back for it. He played really well,” said Morak. “He was a guy I just met a month ago. I think he represented himself well and bought into the team like atmosphere and serious nature of what we do in raising money for defilibrators.”

Former NBA player Sean Singletary coached that team. He no longer plays competitively as he has battled hip and knee injuries in his 30s.

Two others who made their mark according to Morak were former St. Jospeh’s star Isaiah Miles and former Imhotep star Brandon Austin. Both played for the 76ers summer league this July. “I think Brandon is the next local player to make his mark,” said Morak. “He looked really strong. I think he’s going to establish himself in the [NBA] at some point.”

Like many promoters, Morak has already turned his attention to next year. “There’s a lot of things I’d like to do better and a lot of players we’d like to add to the rosters,” he said. ‘It’s always been a fun event. It’s humbling to see how much people care about it. I’d like to bring some more national people into it next year. I’m already excited.”



Rumph Classic Still a Hit
Jeremy Treatman - Contributor

Jeremy Treatman is the founder and co-director of the Scholastic Play-by-Play Classics and Sports Broadcasting Camps. Over 50 NBA players, including Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Rajon Rondo played in his events when they were in high school. Jeremy wrote high school sports for the INQUIRER for 10 years, and was the first TV reporter for the HIgh School Sports Show on Channel 29 from 1994-2001. He currently is Comcast's announcer for all high school games.


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