At first, they were known as the Palmetto 76ers. Then, they became the A’ja Wilson Elite/Palmetto 76ers. Theoretically, you could put another in the mix.
That’s Jerome Dickerson, who is the team’s coach – and then some. Dickerson has made the 76ers into a perineal national powerhouse.
The 76ers will be among the teams highlighting the Deep South Classic in Raleigh, N.C. April 22-24 and in the ASGR Summer League July 9-12 in Bloomington, IN.
To get an understanding of what the 76ers are all about, you need to first understand what Dickerson is all about. He’s also a basketball trainer, who provides lessons to girls of just about any age. That’s where Wilson’s name comes into play.
In case you’ve been under a rock in recent years, Wilson dominated the college level at South Carolina at the end of the last decade and in the 2020 Olympics. She also was the first overall pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft by the Las Vegas Aces.
Before all that, she was the National High School Basketball Player of the Year. And long before that, she was Dickerson’s prized pupil. Wilson first got individual lessons from Dickerson and, later, became the star of the team that now bears her name.
“Jerome gets a lot of players at a young age and he really puts in the time with them,’’ said Bret McCormick, the Scouting Director for All-Star Girls Report. “He’s got a lot invested in them as people. There may be some bigger name programs out there that try to use their name to get players. In men’s and Women’s basketball, they talk about the big-sneakers circuits and how you have to go to those if you want to be somebody. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The evidence …well, look at A’ja Wilson.’’
This spring and summer, the 76ers’ roster will be filled with players that have worked with Dickerson for years. They have multiple players that could use the time to boost their stock in the 2023 recruiting class.
The 76ers are led by J’Adore Young a 6-foot-4 post player, who is ranked No. 67 on ASGR’s list of the top recruits for 2023.
“J’Adore can do a lot of damage around the basket,’’ McCormick said. “She’s an excellent rebounder. Some look at her as more of a power forward, but I think she can be a center.’’
Young will be joined up front by plenty of size. Peris Smith is a 6-2 power forward and Hailey Chiles is a 6-4 center.
“Peris is a great athlete and a great rebounder,’’ McCormick said. “But she’s more than just that. She can also put it on the floor and play inside and outside.’’
Chiles has worked with Dickerson since she was about 10. Two years ago, Dickerson took Chiles aside and gave her some heart-felt advice.
“I told her she needed to lose some weight if she wanted to play at the next level,’’ Dickerson said. “If she didn’t, she just wasn’t going to be quick enough.’’
“(Chiles) is a true low-block player,’’ McCormick said. “She has good hands and can catch and score around the basket.’’
Speaking of inside players, the 76ers also have Maliyah Mason, who first drew attention as she was about to enter eighth grade. That’s when Mason attended camp at South Carolina and coach Dawn Staley offered her a scholarship.
“She’s the top small forward in South Carolina,’’ Dickerson said. “She’s aggressive. She can finish with either hand and she can shoot the three.’’
The backcourt features a player who Dickerson said should not be overlooked. That’s point guard Tanaja Kennedy, from Columbia’s Cardinal Newman High.
“The only thing close to a knock on her is that she’s 5-3, maybe 5-4 if you stretch her out,’’ Dickerson said. “But she’s a 94-foot defensive player. In fact, her nickname is “The Glove’’. She’s the best all-around point guard I’ve ever coached.’’
All of those players are in the Class of 2023, but Dickerson has another that’s worth watching in the future and she’ll get a lot of playing time this spring and summer. That’s Lauren Jacobs, a combo guard also from Cardinal Newman. She’s in the Class of 2025.
“Lauren can be a truly special player,’’ Dickerson said. “I’ve been working with her since she was in fourth grade. Her fundamentals are perfect. She’s a straight-A (actually 4.53, according to Jacobs’ Twitter page) student. She’s the total package.’’