Maalik Wayns, whose basketball career took him from West Oak Lane to the 76ers, is expected to be named the boys’ basketball coach at Camden High where he will take over a powerhouse program that is currently under investigation by the state’s high school sports governing body .
Camden finished last season 31-3 en route to a New Jersey Group 2 title and a second-place finish in the Tournament of Champions behind a cast of Division I recruited 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 violated any rules last season after an NJ.com report this week said the Panthers used a loophole to stack the roster of their public-school team with star players who did not live in the district.
Wayns, who is coaching Camden this summer and has coached the AAU team connected to the high school program, is pegged to replace Brunson and should be approved next month by the school board to take over the star-studded team.
The 31-year-old returned last October to Villanova — where he played three seasons after being a McDonald’s All-American at Roman Catholic — as an assistant under Jay Wright while finishing his degree.
The NJSIAA said it is looking into the program and has asked the school to cooperate with the investigation. Some rival teams are peeved with Camden while the Panthers believe the story is just another attack against their school.
Five of Camden’s top six scorers, according to the NJ.com story, did not live in Camden and enrolled in magnet schools that allowed them to play for the Panthers. The report said the basketball players were the only out-of-district students enrolled in the 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 in the magnet schools attended by the basketball players is $22,348 but the district charged the players just $1,500 per year.
The Panthers played a schedule against some of the country’s top teams and played games on national TV with Wagner — considered one of the premier 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 was spent in Europe, but he did play 21 games for his hometown 76ers in 2012-13. His role on Villanova’s staff was listed as “student athlete development” and he did a little bit of everything, even helping carry the bags off the team bus.
Wayns said at the Final Four that his season Wright’s staff made him certain that he wanted to coach as it “became a love and a passion for me.”
“Every once in a while, I’ll say to our guys, ‘That guy played in the NBA. Look at his humility. Look at what he’s doing for our team,'” Wright said at the Final Four.
— Sam Cohn contributed to this story