If you’re a fan of Public League football, then you will enjoy the book “When Winning Hurts,” written by Porfirio Barrera. It gives a detailed account of the 1991 George Washington High School team that won the Public League championship.
Barrera was a great player on that team. In the Eagles’ 34-0 victory over Frankford to win the title, he scored two touchdowns. He had a spectacular fumble return for a 38-yard touchdown run. The Eagles traditionally have one of the top high school football teams in the city. The book provides a lot of insight into this exciting season, which led to a league crown. The book is published by Outskirts Press. It is available on Amazon.com and at Barnes & Noble bookstores.
SJU’s Costner, Hodges named A- 10 Legends
Tony Costner and Dale Hodges, former Saint Joseph’s basketball stars, have been named to represent the Hawks as Atlantic 10 Conference Legends for 2014. The Class of 2014 includes 26 former men’s and women’s basketball student-athletes who made an immeasurable impact on each A-10 institution and its basketball program.
The men’s basketball legends will be honored on March 15 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. prior to the men’s championship semifinals. The women’s basketball legends will be recognized at a brunch on March 7 before the conference championship quarterfinals in Richmond, Va.
Costner, an Overbrook High product, finished his career at Saint Joseph’s in 1984 as the top scorer in school history, and now ranks sixth with 1,730 career points and is seventh in rebounding with 951. Considered one of the top centers in the nation, he was named an honorable mention All-America in 1983 and was selected to the Atlantic 10 all-conference first team and to the NABC All-District team and All-Big 5 team three times each. A double-figure scorer in each of his four seasons, Costner shares the Hawk record for single-game scoring with 47 points.
During his career, the Hawks averaged 20 wins per season and reached the NCAA tournament in 1982. He was the leading scorer and rebounder for the United States Select Team that toured Taiwan in 1982, while going undefeated. Costner, a member of the Saint Joseph’s Athletics Hall of Fame, the SJU Men’s Basketball Hall of Fame and the Philadelphia Big 5 Hall of Fame, was selected by the Washington Bullets in the second round of the 1984 NBA draft.
Hodges was a big star at Saint Joseph’s from 1987 to 1990. She is the Hawks’ all-time leading rebounder with 1,049 boards and the second leading scorer with 2,077 points. Hodges, a three-time Atlantic 10 all-conference and All-Big 5 selection, was named first team All-American on the Kodak, USBWA and Naismith teams as a senior after finishing third nationally in scoring (27.6 ppg) and 13th in rebounding (13.0 rpg).
Hodges earned Player of the Year honors from the A-10 and Big 5 in 1989 and 1990. She led the Hawks to three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. She became the first female athlete at Saint Joseph’s to have her number (44) retired and was inducted into Halls of Fame for Saint Joseph’s Athletics, Saint Joseph’s Women’s Basketball and the Big 5. She participated in the U.S.Olympic Trials twice and won medals with the U.S. teams at Pan Am Games, the Jones Cup and World University Games. Originally from Trenton, Hodges was the seventh overall pick in the ABL draft and played professionally on three continents before starting her coaching career. She is currently an assistant coach at Fordham.
Each institution selected its legend. The group is made up entirely of former players, all of whom began their careers in 1976 or later.
Russell Wilson has done extremely well in his two years as the Seattle Seahawks’ starting quarterback.
As a rookie last season, Wilson guided the Seahawks to a win over the Washington Redskins in the NFC Wild Card game before losing to the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional playoff contest.
Wilson, 25, was even more impressive this season. He led Seattle to a 13-3 record, an NFC West championship, a No. 1 seed in the playoffs, a conference championship and now a Super Bowl. Wilson is on his way to Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. to battle the Denver Broncos on Sunday, Feb. 2 in the big game. That’s not bad for a signal-caller who was just a third-round pick out of Wisconsin.
Wilson is one of the bright young quarterbacks in the NFL along with Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco 49ers), Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers) and Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts). He has the ability to throw the ball down the field. He can scramble in the pocket. He has the speed to take off if his receivers can’t get open and make a big play.
Wilson displayed all these skills in his first NFL season. He completed 257 of 407 passes for 3,357 yards including 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He was quite efficient this season, connecting on 252 of 393 passes for 3,118 yards with 26 TDs and 10 interceptions.
The 5-foot-11, 206-pounder was a real steal for Seattle. Wilson was one of the best athletes in the 2012 NFL draft. He started his college career at North Carolina State prior to transferring to Wisconsin. In addition to playing college football, Wilson was a sensational baseball player. In 2010, he was drafted in the fourth round by the Colorado Rockies. Being able to excel in two sports clearly shows his athletic prowess. He also makes good decisions on the field. Wilson has a great feel for the game.
The Super Bowl will be a huge game for him. He will be going up against Denver Broncos’ Pro Bowl quarterback Peyton Manning who has been nothing short of fantastic. Manning has thrown an NFL record 55 touchdown passes while completing 450 of 659 passes for 5,477 yards. He has directed the Broncos to a 13-3 record and a big 26-16 win over the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game. Manning, 37, has plenty of Super Bowl experience from his days with the Indianapolis Colts. He played in the 2010 and 2007 Super Bowls.
Wilson will be facing one of the NFL’s greatest field generals. He’s going to certainly need a good performance, despite having one of the league’s best defenses. In 2006, Seattle lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 21-10 in Super Bowl XL. That was the Seahawks’ last trip to the Super Bowl. If Wilson can manage to lead Seattle to a victory in Super Bowl XLVIII, he will be one of the youngest quarterbacks to accomplish this task.
Tyreek Duren played a key role in helping La Salle make a magical run in the NCAA tournament where the Explorers advanced to the Sweet 16. Duren, a 6-foot, 190-pound senior, would like to make another trip to the big dance.
The former Neumann-Goretti star will have a big test on Saturday when La Salle (11-6 overall, 3-0 league) hosts VCU (14-4 overall, 2-1 league) at Tom Gola Arena on ESPN2 in an important Atlantic 10 Conference matchup. Duren realizes how good the conference teams are in the A-10. Furthermore, he knows you can’t afford to underestimate any team in conference play.
“It’s always a sleeper conference,” Duren said. “People sleep on it and don’t think it’s that much competition until the tournament gets here and you see four or five teams in there. And that’s just about every year. This year there’s plenty of teams that have top 100 wins. I think this is one of the deepest conferences in the country. Like I said, people are still sleeping on it until the tournament comes around.”
In addition to VCU and La Salle, Massachusetts (16-1 overall, 3-0 league) and St. Louis (17-2 overall, 4-0 league) are playing extremely well. UMass is ranked No. 13 and St. Louis is rated No. 19 in the top 25. Nevertheless, La Salle despite some tough early season losses it looks like the team is on course to make a run in March. Duren has been steady for most of the season. He’s averaging 14.1 points and 3.9 assists a game. His numbers could have been higher, but was suffering plantar fasciitis in his heel.
Duren and shooting guard 6-foot-1 senior Tyrone Garland (13.9 ppg, 2.3 apg) have give La Salle great play in the backcourt. Up front, 6-foot-8 junior Jerrell Wright (12.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and 6-foot-11 junior Steve Zack (10.0 ppg, 9.7 rpg) have been solid around the basket.
“I think we’re all on the same page,” Duren said. “We’re right where we need to be and everybody has the mindset as far as what we have to do on defense. We don’t really worry about our offense. We know that comes and goes. So, the big thing about our team is that we rely on defense a lot. Our games lately we’ve been holding teams shooting 30 percent and “G” [Dr. John Giannini, La Salle head coach] keeps telling us over and over we’ll keep winning.”
Duren knows something about winning. He brought that quality with him to La Salle. He led Neumann-Goretti to a 30-1 record in 2010, which included a Catholic League, District 12 city and a PIAA Class AAA state championship.
Duren was named to the Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Watch List for the third consecutive year. He’s known for his ballhandling skills. However, he has improved his outside shooting since high school. Moreover, Duren got a chance to work out this summer with former Chester High and Saint Joseph’s star Jameer Nelson who plays for the Orlando Magic. Duren hopes to have an opportunity to play in the NBA next year.
“That was a big help just to see how somebody who has already made it to where you want to go,” Duren said. “I think just to see how hard they work out and how serious they take it. When you go in that gym, it’s nothing but business. You can joke around, but you get back to business. It’s all serious.
“I think just to see how hard he works out. People think basketball is just a sport, but you make it there it’s a job. That’s what he basically told me. If you want to make it, you have to show them why they should pick you up. Why they should hire you. It’s a job interview. It was great watching him and how mature he is. It was just a learning experience.”
Duren would like to see the time and effort provide another trip to the NCAA tournament. He knows what the Explorers have to do.
“We just have to keep winning,” Duren said. “We have to keep getting key wins. We dropped a couple bad games early in the season. Right now, we’re making up for those losses.”
It was a rough year for the Temple football team. The Owls finished the season with a dismal 2-10 record. But Temple received quite a boost recently from one of its former players. Terrance Knighton, a Denver Broncos defensive tackle who played for the Owls from 2006-08, helped the Broncos defeat the New England Patriots, 26-16, to win the AFC championship.
As a result, Knighton will be heading up to Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. to face the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2. The 6-foot-3, 335-pounder had four tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss. Of course, the sack Knighton made on New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady was a huge play. The play brought Knighton and Temple into the national spotlight.
Knighton played some good football during his college career. He amassed more than 50 tackles in his three seasons as a starting defensive lineman. Knighton picked up 184 total tackles including three forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries. In 2008, he was a third round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He played for Jack Del Rio when he was the head coach of the Jaguars. Knighton signed with the Broncos where he was reunited with Del Rio who is currently the Broncos’ defensive coordinator.
Knighton wasn’t a Heisman Trophy candidate or an All-American at Temple. But that doesn’t matter now because he joins a long list of former Temple players who have gone to the Super Bowl. The list includes: Bernard Pierce, Baltimore Ravens; Raheem Brock, Indianapolis Colts; Dan Klecko, Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots; Randy Grossman, Pittsburgh Steelers; Jason McKie, Chicago Bears; James Parrish, Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys; Alshermond Singleton, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Rian Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers; Steve Watson, Denver Broncos and Calvin Wilkinson, Baltimore Ravens.
Knighton could find himself on another list. That one has all the former Temple football players who have won Super Bowls. Temple has produced 15 championship rings. Last year, Pierce helped the Ravens defeat the San Francisco 49ers to get his ring. That’s not bad for a program which hasn’t won a lot of games over the years.
Whether Knighton wins a Super Bowl or not, Temple should try to seize the moment. The NCAA signing day is next month. It doesn’t get any bigger or better than the Super Bowl. That’s the biggest football game of the year. The Owls biggest recruiting piece is Knighton.
Matt Rhule, Temple’s head coach, and his staff can go out and boast about Knighton’s exploits. He’s a guy who came through the program. He’s a major success story for the Owls. If they can go out and recruit another player like him that takes the program to the next level. And when you’re trying to build a program like Temple, players like Terrance Knighton can make a great impact.
When Temple hosts Rutgers on Saturday at McGonigle Hall (2 p.m. tipoff), two outstanding local players will be playing for the Scarlet Knights. Kahleah Copper and Betnijah Laney are a big reason why Rutgers has a 13-4 overall and 4-2 league record.
Copper, a former Prep Charter standout, leads the Scarlet Knights in scoring (16.6 ppg). The 6-foot-1 sophomore led the Huskies to the Public League championship in 2012. She was an McDonald’s All-American.
Laney is the daughter of Yolanda Laney, who starred at University City and Cheyney State College. In fact, Yolanda was an All-American for the Wolves under head coach C. Vivian Stringer who is now the head women’s basketball coach and Hall of Famer at Rutgers. Laney, a 6-foot junior, is the Scarlet Knights second leading scorer (13.4 ppg). She was a 2011 McDonald’s All-American. She grew up in Smyrna, Del. where she was the state player of the year.
This should be a key matchup in the American Athletic Conference between Temple (10-7 overall, 4-3 league) and Rutgers. The Owls will face No. 1 ranked Connecticut on Jan. 28 at McGonigle Hall (7 p.m.), which should attract a lot of attention from college basketball fans.
Dominique Stephens honored by North Carolina Central University
Dominique Stephens made a special trip to Durham, N.C. last weekend. Stephens was honored for helping North Carolina Central University’s basketball team win the 1989 NCAA Division II championship during halftime of the Eagles game with Delaware State.
This year marks the 25th anniversary for that sensational team that finished with a 28-4 overall record, defeating Southeast Missouri State 73-46 to win the national title. Stephens played his scholastic basketball at Dobbins with Hank Gathers, Bo Kimble and Doug Overton. He was a member of the 1985 Mustangs that won the Public League championship. Stephens was one of the top players in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association during his career.
“The ceremony was outstanding,” said Stephens, who is the head men’s basketball coach at Cheyney University. “It was a crowded gym with a lot of people from the past. It was a great itinerary for the day. They had breakfast and lunch. We met with the Eagle club, which is the alumni. I talked to the current players. At halftime, we were honored. They gave us team plaques and national championship paraphernalia. It was really outstanding.”
The 1989 team won 13 of the last 14 games on the way to the CIAA Southern Division crown that included a 60-55 win over CIAA powerhouse Virginia Union to win the South Atlantic Regional title and earned a berth to the Elite Eight in Springfield, Mass. As a team, NCCU led the nation in scoring defense (56.0 points allowed per game) and field goal percentage defense (38.9 percent). This group was inducted in the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 1997.
Stephens joins a list of Philadelphia basketball players who have won national championships such as Walt Hazzard and Andre McCarter (UCLA), Hakim Warrick (Syracuse), Milt Colston (Cheyney State) and others. He knows this is a special honor.
“It is the greatest team feature that you can accomplish as a team,” Stephens said. “It takes a lot of special people from the coaches down to the players. It took a lot of hard work and determination to accomplish it.”