Senior moments

Three standout play­ers helped a Hawthorne hoops team forge a mem­or­able sea­son.

When he be­gins his next ath­let­ic and schol­ast­ic jour­ney in the fall, likely as a Delaware State Uni­versity fresh­man, Myles Carter will take with him the des­ig­na­tion of be­ing the Academy at Palumbo’s all-time lead­ing scorer. Along with be­ing able to dis­cuss the di­li­gence that net­ted him 1,041 ca­reer points, the North Philly res­id­ent will also speak of the mat­ur­a­tion that oc­curred with­in him and his bas­ket­ball brethren through their Hawthorne-based stud­ies and com­pet­it­ive en­deavors. 

“We built something spe­cial here, so it’s go­ing to be tough to let that all go,” the seni­or said Tues­day from the school, 1100 Cath­ar­ine St., one day re­moved from the Griffins’ 54-49 Class AAAA play­off loss at Bartram. “However, we’ll sus­tain that wherever we go from here as in­di­vidu­als.”

The 17-year-old sniper has proven a per­fect poster child for the tenacity that fourth-year coach Frank Schneider has stressed since tak­ing the job. Fail­ing to make the team as a fresh­man, Carter com­mit­ted him­self to be­com­ing a bet­ter play­er, and this year, with four fel­low seni­ors join­ing him in the lineup, he and his peers be­came highly revered per­formers. 

“If you ask Pub­lic League coaches for de­scrip­tions of this team, you’d hear ‘hard work­ing,’ ‘smart’ and ‘re­lent­less,’” Schneider said. “It was a su­per in­tel­li­gent team that fought through some rough patches to have a great iden­tity. In fact, I have nev­er had a group who left the Palumbo jer­sey in a bet­ter state than these kids.”

The coach ad­ded that this year yiel­ded “prob­ably my proudest sea­son” be­cause of the ac­count­ab­il­ity that the roster mem­bers had to one an­oth­er. Their hard­wood har­mony came as an ex­ten­sion of their aca­dem­ic pro­fi­ciency, as every starter has re­gistered at least a 3.5 grade point av­er­age. Know­ing they would not back down from the chal­lenges, Schneider loaded the non-league sched­ule with show­case and tour­na­ment games, with seni­ors Ra­hee El­lis and Mar­quez Cruz es­pe­cially grate­ful for the tests. 

“I think those op­por­tun­it­ies make us tough­er,” El­lis, 17, said of the slate that yiel­ded four wins. “Coach def­in­itely knew what he was do­ing in pre­par­ing us for our reg­u­lar sched­ule, and as the sea­son went on, we just kept get­ting stronger.” 

The Queen Vil­lage res­id­ent, who, like Carter, might look to walk on for the afore­men­tioned uni­versity, knows that people might look at the Griffins’ 12-11 mark and think the cam­paign should count as only a mod­er­ate suc­cess. He def­in­itely dis­agrees with that out­look, tak­ing pride in their 8-5 mark in the Na­tion­al Di­vi­sion, which mer­ited a third-place fin­ish. 

“This sys­tem en­cour­ages every­one to be smart and re­spons­ible,” El­lis, the team’s lone four-year starter, said, with Carter and Cruz join­ing him in re­cit­ing Schneider’s pre­cepts for team unity, namely, at­ten­tion to de­tail, a lack of short­cuts, and align­ment on the floor, dubbed Echo Com­mand. “Our time at Palumbo is done, but it’s go­ing to be in our blood when we move on.”

As the club’s “most fun­da­ment­ally sound play­er,” ac­cord­ing to Schneider, Cruz, an­oth­er North Philly res­id­ent, loved ask­ing more of him­self dur­ing his fi­nal run with the Griffins. As the un­dis­puted brai­n­i­ac among them, with a 3.97 GPA that has scored him a par­tial aca­dem­ic schol­ar­ship to Seton Hall Uni­versity, he helped his con­tem­por­ar­ies to play a con­trolled style, one that they felt would trans­late in­to post­season suc­cess. 

“Un­for­tu­nately, though, some stuff didn’t go our way, and we couldn’t fight back,” the fu­ture bio­logy ma­jor said. “I think, though, that we liked push­ing ourselves to get bet­ter not with each game but with each quarter. That’s a good mind­set to have when you’re about to move on from be­ing a high school stu­dent to face the real world.”

“These guys are ready for whatever life is go­ing to bring their way,” Schneider said of the trio, with Carter look­ing to study law and El­lis en­thused about com­puter sci­ence. “It’s go­ing to be hard not to have them around, but they’ve def­in­itely made me able to say that this pro­gram is headed in a very good dir­ec­tion.” 

When learn­ing of that es­tim­a­tion of their con­tri­bu­tions, Carter was all smiles. 

“He was a great lead­er for us,” the marks­man said. “He helped us to be­come smarter play­ers and people, too. You have to re­spect that.” 


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