Around the netless playgrounds and dimly lit high school gyms of Philadelphia, they're known collectively as the Warley Brothers. They're still teenagers, yet they're already part of Philly's considerable basketball lore. On Sunday they led their team, Frankford High, to a second straight Public League championship. Their coach played his high school ball with Wilt Chamberlain. Their father played for the 76ers. Carlin Warley, 18, a 6'7", 235-pound junior center, is regarded as the best schoolboy player in the city. He is, as the kids say, fresh—the ultimate. Jason, a 6'4" senior forward, 10 months older than Carlin and a notch or two below his sibling in ability, is the Public League's preeminent dunker. And the word is out: The Warley Brothers are determined to attend college together.
"We're best friends," says Carlin. "We've always played together, we've always won and had fun together, so why stop a good thing now?"
This fraternal bonding has college recruiters confused, for while Carlin is regarded as having big league potential, Jason's skills are better suited to the smaller end of Philadelphia's Big Five. And while a college cannot entice a player by promising to tender a scholarship to a younger sibling, there's nothing to prevent that younger player from announcing to recruiters that he would like to join his brother. The upshot is that Carlin will likely follow Jason's lead and end up gracing the roster of a less glamorous team than he otherwise might.
"If Carlin insists on following his brother, I don't know that he'll raise Jason's level of recruitment," says Tom Konchalski, editor of High School Basketball Illustrated and an expert on college recruiting. "He might wind up lowering his own."
That's the scenario. But it doesn't bother the Warleys, who seem motivated mostly by their hearts—and their stomachs. They want to attend school together in the Northeast, to remain within driving distance of their mother Charlene's cooking. Over the past year the Warleys' list of favored schools has remained largely unchanged: The Big East's Providence, Syracuse, Pitt and Villanova, and St. Joseph's University, a small Division I school in Philadelphia with a lustrous basketball past but an unprepossessing present. Playing together for a Big East team is a dream for the brothers; getting the Warleys would be a dream come true for St. Joe's.
Jimmy Black, an assistant coach at St. Joe's, believes the Warleys could reopen the doors to the NCAA tournament for the Hawks, who haven't been there since 1986. "Jason can get you to 20 wins," says Black, "and Carlin can get you to 25."
The Warleys' coach at Frankford, Vince Miller, thinks St. Joe's, or a similar school, would be ideal for Jason, but too small for Carlin. "I can't see holding Carlin back to keep the brothers together," says Miller. "That's depriving him. I know what they're going through. Wilt and I were best friends in high school. But college was the time for us, as players, to find our own way. The friendship remains."
Miller believes that Carlin needs to be challenged. "He plays only as hard as he needs to play to win," he says. It's the harshest, and most accurate, criticism one can make of Carlin's game. "He wants to play in the NBA someday, right? Then he's got to play his college ball in the ACC or the Big East, somewhere where he'll be pushed."
"There's no saying for sure what Carlin will do," says Charlene Warley, a kindergarten teacher who stands six feet tall. "One minute he wants a hoagie for dinner, the next it's a sirloin steak. He'll do what's best for him, what he thinks is right. Usually, that's being with Jason."
Even while the Warleys create a dilemma for college coaches, they're the reigning princes in the cloistered world of Philadelphia basketball, the ultimate insiders in an outdoor-basketball town, where Gene Banks is better remembered for what he did on the concrete courts of the old Haddington playground in West Philadelphia than for what he did at Duke or in the NBA.