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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Sunday / May 20.
  • St. Benedict’s Adjusting Under McLeod

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    UNION, N.J. — During the last two years of Dan Hurley’s tenure at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, the Gray Bees lost a total of four games and were continually in position to win a national championship.

    Through 11 games this season under first-year coach Roshown McLeod, St. Benedict’s (6-5) has already dropped five contests, including Sunday’s 73-65 loss to St. Patrick, the No. 2 team in the nation, at the Scholarship for Inner City Children Festival at Kean University.

    “I think our guys are turning the corner,” McLeod, the former St. Anthony and Duke standout, said after the loss.

    “They’re finding out what their roles are and they’re trying to do it to the best of their ability, but our biggest thing is adding the two point guards so we can have better ball control.”

    If the St. Benedict’s roster has seemed like a revolving door of players so far this season, that’s because it has.

    Sophomore point guards Brandon Chauca and Tyler Ennis, who had 13 points, 4 assists and 6 turnovers in the St. Pat’s loss, are in. And McLeod is counting on both players to remain at the school for the long haul.

    Other players — Jaylen Beckham, Grant Ellis, Neville Fincher and 2012 St. John’s commit Jevon Thomas — opted to transfer out.

    Asked if the turnover had been hard to deal with, McLeod said, “Not really because I have a vision. And I’m just trying to put people together that work. I’m not really looking right now at the players themselves. I’m looking at the ability to help us win and the character in the kids because obviously St. Benedict’s is a different place than a lot of people could  imagine.

    “It’s a tough academic situation, so I’ve got to make sure that the character of the kid and his ability to do the work both coincide with his ability to play basketball.”

    Hurley, now the head coach at Wagner College, was in the stands Sunday at Kean to watch his old team.

    He lost seven games in his first season at St. Benedict’s in 2001-2, but quickly built St. Benedict’s into a perennial national power. He went 223-21 in nine seasons at St. Benedict’s before making the jump to college.

    Hurley coached four McDonald’s All-Americans and sent numerous players on to the Division I ranks, including Lance Thomas (Duke), Eugene Harvey (Seton Hall), Corey Stokes (Villanova), Samardo Samuels (Louisville), Greg Echenique (Creighton) and Rashad Bishop (Cincinnati).

    McLeod took the job after serving as an assistant coach at Indiana. He opted to keep longtime Hurley assistant Joe Sokolewicz and added Billy Diamond as assistant coach/life skills coordinator.

    They inherited a team that lost five seniors from last year’s program, including Aaron Brown (Temple), Gilvydas Biruta and Mike Poole, both of whom are now at Rutgers.

    Arizona-bound junior forward Sidiki Johnson (Oak Hill Academy) and Texas-bound junior guard Myck Kabongo (Findlay Prep) opted to transfer after Hurley left for Wagner.

    Still, St. Ben’s added some nice pieces in 6-8 forward Tyler Harris, who committed to N.C. State after transferring to St. Benedict’s from Dix Hills (N.Y.) Half Hollow Hills West.

    Harris put up a game-high 25 points and 10 rebounds while covering Kentucky-bound Michael Gilchrist of St. Pat’s.

    Harris said that after much turnover, he was confident that this core of players would remain together for the rest of the season.

    Along with Harris, averaging 16.2 points, the Gray Bees include George Mason-bound senior wing Vaughn Gray (13.9 ppg), sophomore Mike Young (11.5 ppg)  and senior Nehemias Morillo, who scored 11 against St. Pat’s.

    The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Ennis, who transferred from Canada, is a talented young point guard who has an ability to penetrate, change speeds and distribute to his teammates.

    In his first game last week against The Peddie School, he dished out 14 assists.

    “We were averaging 14 as a team,” McLeod said. “So he brings something to the table. Just his energy and his passion to win, that we were lacking. But he’s transferred that energy to each one of our guys.”

    McLeod said if the team had Ennis from the beginning, they would be 10-1  instead of 6-5.

    Rutgers, Seton Hall, Virginia Tech, Florida and several Pac-10 schools have already expressed interest.

    “What he’s doing now is all natural ability,” McLeod said of Ennis. “He wants to learn more about the game. He and I sit down a lot to watch film. We’ll go through this game and you’ll see a lot of adjustments that he’ll make.”

    Having played against St. Benedict’s in a game that was closer than many people thought it might be, St. Patrick coach Kevin Boyle said he believed McLeod could restore the program to its previous heights.

    “I think Coach McLeod will do a real good job, once he gets the guys he wants in the system,” Boyle said. “I think people need to give him time. That guy [Ennis] is a sophomore. They have a real point guard.

    “And every one of their guys can play. They’re all good players. Once he gets them for another year, they’ll get better and better. And they’ll be a national team again — without question.”


    **Danny Hurley leading a turnaround at Wagner

    **Gilchrist dominates as St. Pat’s downs St. Ben’s

    **Tyler Ennis to St. Ben’s

    **Tyler Harris to N.C. State

    **ESPN high school schedule

    **Elite high school hoops schedule

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.