Allen Rubin sat in his usual spot past the baseline with the usual regulars inside Conshohoken's Fellowship House. An alley-oop pass bounced off a backboard, caught for a reverse dunk, an eye-opener for a Monday night. Rubin said nothing, just let out a whistle.
Half the people at the Donofrio Classic stop by for a quick word or handshake. The savvy ones know how Rubin's word travels. Might be a phone conversation with a college coach, any level. For more than a quarter-century, Rubin has put together recruiting lists for Hoop Scoop as the national scouting service's man in Philadelphia. More recently, Rubin has served as de facto personnel director for the Jersey Shore Warriors AAU program. He also helps with unofficial seeding for the Donofrio, looking at the rosters to make sure the tournament's cream can rise to the top.
Rubin speaks in a kind of a worn voice, seen it before but always willing to see it again. He's Temple class of 1960. "You can do the math," Rubin said of his age, not 80 yet.
Ever get tired of watching hoops?
"No. Never," Rubin said toward the end of another Donofrio doubleheader. "I get tired. Not tired of watching. Just tired."
Tuesday night, Tom "Hockey" McKenna walked over to give Rubin a hard time about the Donofrio brackets being off, that This Team shouldn't face That Team before the semifinals.
"He says that every year," Rubin said.
Rubin usually grabs dinner with McKenna and other regulars at one of a few Conshohocken spots before the Donofrio. Makes sense to beat traffic from Narberth. He's one of the first guys in the press room before a Temple game, too. This day, he'd heard that Mo Bamba wanted to play in the Donofrio. He later heard it was too late. Bamba's intended team was already loaded, wouldn't have been able to add a second McDonald's all-American. A few years back, Rubin had helped get that team, Raw Sports out of Harrisburg, a coveted Donofrio spot. They're now a perennial favorite.
Rubin is not doing this for fame or riches. Does Jersey Shore Warriors head Tony Sagona pay Rubin anything for his help recommending players? Sagona laughed.
"Nothing at all," Sagona said.
The Warriors used to mostly include players from the Central Jersey Shore. But when that talent pool hit a lull a decade back, Rubin went to Sagona and suggested including more Philly-area players, using gyms in this area. Rubin helps find the gym time.
"Allen is a big, integral part of the whole thing," Sagona said. "He started to recommend kids to the program. . . . Before we knew it, we're running the show together. He's finding players for me."
Rubin remembers seeing a sophomore from Bethlehem in the PIAA tournament. He talked to the kid about the Jersey Shore Warriors, said to talk to his parents and coaches about it. The next day, Rubin said, he got a call from one of the high school coaches. The coach knew about the Warriors. Darrun Hilliard joined the team. Maybe Hilliard would have ended up at Villanova without the Warriors, but his path to Villanova certainly went through the Warriors.
Same more recently with another guy from out by York. Rubin saw Eli Brooks as a ninth grader. He joined the 16-and-under Warriors. He'll play for Michigan in the fall.
"He'll never tell you a kid is good or he can play at your school if he's not good. I don't care if it's his grandson," Sagona said.
"Allen is more than just a recruiting expert. He's everyone's extra assistant," said one local Division III coach.
If you like to shoot a lot more than you make, he'll notice.
"Here he comes. I think he walked," Rubin said the other night about a Donofrio guard Rubin kept noticing for the wrong reasons.
Rubin can laugh at his own misses. "I once got a call from a guy in Scranton. 'I have a scoop for you' "
Bobby Sura, from GAR Memorial High in Wilkes-Barre, was going to Florida State. Rubin remembers telling the guy, "He'll never play there."
He tells you about it 25 years later because "not only did he play there, he must have played about 10 years in the NBA."
Late Temple assistant Jim Maloney and maybe somebody else had recommended Rubin to Hoop Scoop when that service was branching out. Rubin's own son had been an Owls basketball manager. But the idea that Rubin steered players toward the Owls . . .
"Probably a lot of college coaches think that, but there's no truth to it," he said.
His regular job over the years was in men's clothing sales, allowing him to work a full day but set his hours, get away in the afternoon to see a game. He never knows what he'll see. He remembers the summer he walked into an open gym at Gustine Lake Recreation Center in East Falls, saw a young guy holding his own. The kid's family had just moved back to the area.
When it was time to make his yearly call to the national ABCD camp to recommend Philly players, Rubin didn't have trouble remembering Kobe Bryant's name.
That's good for a story, but Rubin added, "If it's a big-name kid, they don't really need me."
Still, somebody has to see them first and make the call. Around Philly, as often as not, that's Rubin.