With Five Division I Signees, It’s Tournament of Champions Title or Bust for The Patrick School
HILLSIDE, N.J. — With five players headed to high-major Division 1 programs, Marcus McClary knows there’s only one acceptable ending for The Patrick School this year.
Led by legendary former coach Kevin Boyle, the school won five Tournament of Champions titles as St. Patrick’s (1998, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009), but is seeking its first since reorganizing in 2012 into a private school.
“That’s the goal, TOC,” McClary told me Wednesday, the first day of the NCAA early signing period. “We have seven seniors. I’ve been at St. Pat’s since eighth grade so TOC that’s the only goal.”
He added: “It will be a failed season if we don’t win it.”
Along with the 6-3 McClary (Monmouth), 6-1 guard Jamir Harris (Minnesota), 6-9 forward Bul Ajang (Tulane) and 7-foot center Buay Koka (Tulane) all signed on Wednesday. Nick Richards, the team’s star 6-11 big man, will announce Thursday between Kentucky, Syracuse and Arizona.
“I don’t really feel pressure, I just feel like it’s our year to win it,” said Harris, who, along with McClary, has been at the school since eighth grade (Ajang and Koka have been there since ninth grade.). ”
“We’ve been favored to win it in past years but I feel this year we’re all seniors, we have experience. I feel we can get it done this year without a doubt.”
As usual, The Patrick School will have to battle fellow Non-Public B powers St. Anthony’s (the reigning TOC champion) and Roselle Catholic (which won in 2013 and ’15), along with other state powers like Hudson Catholic and Newark East Side.
But there is a general feeling around The Patrick School that they are almost destined to compete for the school’s sixth TOC title next March.
“We talk about it and we’re going to own it,” said Chris Chavannes, who coaches the team along with Mike Rice. “That’s the goal, anything less than that will be very disappointing for all of us.”
Along with the five D-1 signees, The Patrick School also has junior big man Valdir Manuel, junior guard Jordan Walker and sophomore guard Al-Amir Dawes — all D-1 prospects. The team has four guys 6-9 or bigger in Richards, Ajang, Koka and Manuel, a front line that could compete with many college front lines.
“This team is extremely deep, 1-10 we all can play and can contribute to winning games,” Harris said. “We create a lot of matchup problems and whoever is hot, they’re going to get the ball. I’ve been here five years and all I’m thinking about is winning the TOC, so whatever it takes to do that, that’s what’s gonna happen.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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.