He has taken college recruiting visits to West Virginia, Boston College and Connecticut, with Georgetown due next. In addition, Seton Hall, Clemson and Tennessee State are after his services.
All Saints' (formerly Saint Anthony's) Phillip Gamble has made big strides since he was cut from the Jefferson Junior High School basketball team as a seventh-grader.
Gamble, a third-year starter for the school which is located in Northeast Washington, has the Tigers at new heights. All Saints entered the week with a 10-0 record and the No. 4 ranking in the area. (The team did lose to the University of Virginia freshmen team, a game that is not included in the regular-season record).
All Saints success is more amazing considering it has only 21 boys among the 412 students enrolled. The school will become all-girls next year, and has not admitted boys for the past three years.
Statistically, Gamble, a 6-foot-4 senior, is having his best season. The rangy guard averaged 16.1 points a game and 6.7 rebounds as a sophomore. Last season, his numbers were 17.8 and 7.2. So far this season, he is one of the top scorers among private school players, averaging 20.6 points.
"He's one of the purest shooters that has ever played at St. Anthony's (and All Saints)," declared first-year Coach Aaron Long. Long, who also works at Howard University as an inventory specialist for physical facilities, played at St. Anthony's in 1972 along with former Tigers Coach Dwight Datcher. "I didn't have to change (coaching philosophies) at all," he added. "Dwight and I think alike; we were good friends for a long time."
Long knows that Gamble has been primarily responsible for the independent school's success the past three seasons (the Tigers were 23-3 and 23-5 before this season) and says, "I think he's been the most consistent player on the team the past three years." However, Long has no use for any talk that suggests All Saints is a one-man team.
Long's team has two other three-year starters: seniors Michael Best and Bobby Winston.
"I think that Michael has more talent than any guard that has ever been here," said Long. "He's physically stronger than most guys in high school." Best, however, suffered a knee injury last season, missed some schoolwork and after playing in the opening game this season, has been limited to practicing with the team. According to Long, his school work should soon be completed, and he will be ready for game action by Jan. 26.
Long sees Winston as a prototype college point guard. The 6-5 Winston, with more than 500 assists, has passed former Tiger and Georgetown player Alonzo Holloway as the school's all-time assist leader.
In addition, All Saints receives steady play from seniors Johnny Scruggs and Charles Smith, along with junior center Samuel Jefferson.
While Gamble benefits from his supporting cast, he also manages to stay within the team concept. Last month, All Saints won the Seagull Classic tournament in Atlantic City, N. J. All Saints did not have a player voted to the all-tournament team, but Gamble walked away with the most valuable player trophy.
"My three years here have been great," said Gamble, who began playing basketball in the sixth grade at Anthony Bowen School in Southwest. He credits his mother Glover with playing a major role in his basketball success.
"My mother really helped me out," said Gamble, who would be the first of his six brothers and three sisters to attend college. " . . . She was the one who told me to transfer (to Langley Junior High) after I got cut. She told me to transfer if I really wanted to go to school and play ball. My mother pressed me to stay in school and she helped me stay on track."
After deciding to transfer from Jefferson, Gamble met Willie Burden at the Police Boys' Club No. 4. Burden mentioned Gamble to Jay Shorter, who coached Gamble in the eighth grade at Langley.
Donovan Ricks became Gamble's coach in the ninth grade at Langley. "You kind of knew he was going to be good," said Ricks, who is still coaching at the Northeast Washington school.
"He played with determination. We won the (junior high) championship and he was the junior high MVP. Sometimes, he had trouble keeping his elbow in position (when shooting), and he wasn't the best he'd be defensively at that time, but I knew he would be a high school player.
Ricks lives about two blocks from Gamble in Southwest, and manages to watch his former player whenever he has a chance.
Long says playing an independent schedule has its drawbacks.
"We get noticed," he said, "but it sometimes hurts as far as getting in tournaments at the end of the season. We would like to go to the Cumberland (Md.) tournament, but in the past they have not invited us."
Gamble, who attracted considerable attention his sophomore year when he scored 34 points against Phelps, realizes that his team is not eligible to appear in the city title game at Cole Field House (which matches the Metro Conference champion against the Interhigh regular-season champion), so most of his thoughts are centered on college.
"I'll probably play No. 2 (shooting guard) in college," said Gamble, "but I need to work on my dribbling some more. I also have a 'flat' shot, but I hit it. I want to work on it some more."
"He's working on his ball handling and physical strength," said Long. The coach added, "He's got a good practice attitude; that's the reason he's improved every year -- he's coachable and he listens. There are very few guys that can shoot with him."
At the Athletes For Better Education Nike Camp at Princeton University this past summer, Gamble was ranked 48th out of 200 at shooting guard.
Some of his toughest competition has come from Darryl Prue (Dunbar), Derrick Daniels (Eastern), and Hank Ellis and Fred McCoy (H.D. Woodson).
Gamble admits he is eager to match up with Gus Hill, Dennis Scott and the rest of the second-ranked Flint Hill team. The teams will meet Jan. 31 at Georgetown University. "We lost to them three times last year and twice my sophomore year," he said. "If we beat them, I'll be happy."