Few traditions have helped shape the culture of Aces basketball as much as Ardmore basketball. The relatively small neighborhood of Ardmore has produced some of the greatest, most influential players in the history of the Maroon and White. Of the twenty inductees into the Lower Merion Basketball Hall of Fame to date, nearly half were regulars on the courts of the Ardmore Avenue playground. The Holland family, Mitchell McDaniel, Gerald Mills, Kevin Lonesome and Gregg Long are just a few of the names that have come to define Ardmore's proud legacy.
Even those Aces who didn't grow up in Ardmore more than likely spent long hours playing pick-up or summer league ball on Ardmore Avenue under the watchful eye of legends like Vernon Young.
For generations, Ardmore's best have battled on the hard top -- against each other, against the area's best, constantly working on their games. Then, they've battled together as teammates on the Lower Merion hardwood, wearing the Maroon and White. At its core, Ardmore basketball is about love of the game and love of competition. The Ardmore basketball tradition continues today, strong as ever, in the roster of current Aces who have poured blood, sweat and tears, morning till night, in warm and cold months into the beautiful game.
Ardmore is Lower Merion Basketball and Lower Merion Basketball is Ardmore.
Now in its sixth year, Maroon Madness has become a staple in Lower Merion basketball culture. The annual event celebrates the opening of the Aces boys and girls basketball season while building school spirit and launching season-long Coaches vs. Cancer fundraising efforts. Activities include team introductions, an intra-squad scrimmage, on-court fan contests, live music and entertainment, giveaways, and raffles for exclusive, limited edition Aces merchandise.
Recent Maroon Madness events have incorporated a "Light the Night" walk on Arnold Field, with hundreds of students completing three laps around the track with only a glowstick to guide the way, and a performance by fire artists. Temple men's basketball head coach Fran Dunphy, co-chair of the Philadelphia Big 5 Coaches vs. Cancer program, has been a frequent guest and has served as keynote speaker to tip-off the event.
Maroon has been the primary color for Lower Merion athletic teams since 1894. It is believed that the color was chosen by school officials because of alliteration when paired with the word "Merion." LM's teams were known as "The Maroon" until the "Aces" moniker took hold in the 1930's. The Aces' first basketball uniforms featured solid maroon fabric with white or gray lettering and trim. Over time, white became the alternate color of choice. By the late 1940's the Aces had two sets of jerseys -- white and maroon. In recent years, gray and black have been utilized as accent colors.
For decades, summer basketball in the Philadelphia area has been synonymous with the Narberth Summer Basketball League, one of the nation's oldest and most respected youth basketball leagues. The Lower Merion Aces have been part of this proud tradition since its inception, with '40's legends like Harry Middleton and Greer Heindel (both of whom grew up in Narberth) playing on the first league teams. (The court surface was packed dirt into the early '40's). LM players have been part of the league every year since, battling with and against schoolboy legends like Paul Arizin, Wilt Chamberlain, Artis Gilmore and the Aces' own Kobe Bryant.
One of the most beloved fixtures of Narberth Basketball was Bill Draper, a longtime assistant under Bill Anderson who became an ardent, lifelong supporter of all things Aces Nation. "Mr. D" spent his summers on the Narberth courts, offering his expertise, generosity and wisdom to countless young people.
Outside of league play, the Narberth courts are home to some of the best pick-up basketball in the area. On weekend mornings, players jam the courts and follow the house rules with almost religious zeal - 4 on 4, check ball at the free throw line, no make it take it, call your own fouls carefully, etc.
Former Aces assistant Coach Dan Kazanicka now serves as co-director of the league. All Aces players, from freshmen teams up to varsity, are expected to participate in league play. For more information, visit www.narberthbasketball.net.
The official nickname for Lower Merion's athletics teams is "Aces." The name was first used by local sportswriters in the 1930's in homage to General Henry "Hap" Arnold, a distinguished LM alumnus and the founding father of the U.S. Air Force. General Arnold's air squadrons were known as the "Flying Aces" during World War I. Writers referred to LM team's as "Hap's Aces" or "Ardmore Aces." In the absence of an official team name -- Lower Merion teams had been known simply by their color ("The Maroon") through the 1920's -- the name became popularized by LM followers and was adopted by Lower Merion High School.
Although "Aces" is the team nickname, the bulldog is the team mascot. During LM's football glory years of the 1940's, a beloved bulldog nicknamed "Ace" roamed the sidelines of Lower Merion football games. The tenacious bulldog was an ideal symbol for Lower Merion athletics and today "Ace, the Bulldog" remains the team mascot and is represented in its primary logo.
Aces fans show their national pride by singing along with the anthem singer at home and away games. Beginning with "And the rockets' red glare," Aces fans join in song and call out "Let's Go Aces" as the anthem concludes with a final crescendo.