Category Archives: Custom College Jerseys

Take advantage of Nike sale and get up to 50 percent off new gear

Being stuck at home might have inspired some to add more workouts to their daily routine. So since at-home workouts are helping to pass the time, add some extra gear to your closet. Nike is having a sale this weekend where shoppers can up to 50 percent off on some items.

The sale ends on Sunday, so be sure to check out what they have available before it ends.

One of them is the water-repellant Nike Air Jacket for women. Things are still fairly chilly, so it’s probably best to have a layer that will keep the body comfortable when out for runs. It’ll also keep things dry should a spring rain catch you while out for a jog. The currently has jackets available in black and blue and it is currently 50 percent off the original price at $54.97.

The Nike Sportswear Heritage Windrunner is a unisex option that is also priced at $54.97.

A number of kids’ shoes are also on sale like the Nike Air Max Axis or the Nike Air Max 200. Since they are on sale there may be a limited number of sizes.

There also a number of jerseys are marked down. So if you’re looking for a Michigan jersey, there are a couple of options available for half the price. The Jordan College Dri-Fit jersey is available in both white and navy for $49.97.

New Jersey’s college coaches want basketball back, so they’re fighting coronavirus

It wasn’t yet official, but Steve Pikiell had basically coached Rutgers to its first NCAA tournament berth in 29 years. The drought was over. At the same time, Pikiell’s daughter, Brooke, had just helped Northwestern capture the Big 10 tournament in women’s basketball. She was looking forward to her first NCAA tournament as a junior.

Then boom. Coronavirus shut down the operation, shattered their hoop dreams.

“I really felt for my seniors at Rutgers,” Pikiell told the Daily News. “And my daughter was devastated. We had that with my team, and then in my own home.”

Despite everything lost, Pikiell believes the NCAA made the right move by canceling the tournament. He assumed the TV commitments would force the NCAA to hold a tournament without fans, but public health took priority over money.

Now Pikiell is trying to help ensure that next year’s tournament also won’t succumb to this resilient virus. The 52-year-old, along with the 15 other men’s and women’s Division I coaches in New Jersey, joined TEAM NEW JERSEY, an initiative dedicated to teaching methods of mitigating the coronavirus’ spread. On Thursday evening, each New Jersey coach will share public health guidelines on their various social media platforms.

It’s a growing movement for basketball coaches, with New Jersey following identical programs in New York and New England. Participating coaches include Iona’s Rick Pitino, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, UConn’s Geno Auriemma and Rutgers’ Vivian Stringer. Andy Borman, the executive director of AAU powerhouse NY RENS, and Ben Horwitz, a graduate assistant at Syracuse, devised the idea.

Dan Klores, the Peabody award-winning filmmaker, then created the campaign that has united rival coaches.

“David Stern would always ask can a ball change of world?” Klores said. “And our answer is that it can.”

Kevin Willard, the Seton Hall men’s coach, is also part of TEAM NEW JERSEY and is anxiously hoping the mitigating guidelines will help retrieve a level of normalcy. The New York native said some of his players don’t own the proper equipment to train in isolation, so his program shipped over basketballs, jump ropes and resistance bands.

Willard also wonders whether his team had already been infected by the coronavirus since a flu-like illness spread through the roster in late February. The illness wasn’t yet on the radar so they weren’t tested.

Now, 32 days after Gov. Phil Murphy announced a stay-at-home order, Willard revealed he’s struggling with the detachment from his players and staff.

“I’m going to be honest with you, I really miss my team,” he told the Daily News. “I struggled with that the last couple weeks. FaceTime is great and texting is great, but I just miss being around my guys. Every day is not peachy with roses. I really struggle with not being around my team, not having that interaction with my team, with my players, my staff. We see each other every day when it’s normal, and we’re around them every day. Some days are better than others right now for me. That’s just the truth.”

What gets him by?

“Red wine,” he joked.

Willard’s message against the pandemic is to protect the most vulnerable. He wants health and hoops.

“The biggest thing is getting younger people to understand it’s not you, it’s you going home to your elder parents or your grandparents,” Willard said. “Those are the people who are really struggling with this.”

Illinois gets two players in College Football’s 150th Anniversary Top 11 roster

There have been thousands of players who’ve put on the pads and jerseys over the course of 150 years in college football, with each leaving their own imprint on the game.

Some people’s contributions are minor while others are major, with a select few becoming an icon of the game itself.

An even more exclusive group was announced on Monday night at the National Championship game at the Superdome in Louisiana in conjunction with the sesquicentennial of the college sport. While they haven’t been in the title conversation for a long time, Illinois was well represented on this most exclusive list.

At halftime, ESPN announced that Illini legends Dick Butkus and Red Grange were named to the Top 11 list for the last 150 years in college football. That made Illinois the only school with two players on the list, with Grange coming in at No. 6 and Butkus No. 8.

Illinois was the only school to have multiple players on the list.

Jim Brown (RB, Syracuse, 1954-56)
Herschel Walker (RB, Georgia, 1980-82)
Bo Jackson (RB, Auburn, 1982-85)
Archie Griffin (RB, Ohio State, 1972-75)
Jim Thorpe (RB, Carlisle, 1907-12)
Red Grange (RB, Illinois, 1923-25)
Earl Campbell (RB, Texas, 1974-77)
Dick Butkus (LB, Illinois, 1962-64)
Barry Sanders (RB, Oklahoma State, 1986-88)
Gale Sayers (RB, Kansas, 1962-64)
Roger Staubach (QB, Navy, 1962-64)

One of the most iconic players in the history of the game who aided in the birth of the modern college and pro football game with his exploits on the field, Grange was a three-time All-American at Illinois. The Wheaton native famously scored accounted for six touchdowns against Michigan in the Memorial Stadium dedication on October 18,1924, which is regarded as one of the greatest athletic moments in the history of the university.

After winning the first-ever Silver Football Award as Big Ten MVP, the “Galloping Ghost” went onto have a Hall of Fame career with the Chicago Bears.

A native of Chicago, Butkus was an elite player for the Illini at two different positions from 1962-1964 as he played center as well as his iconic linebacker position. He was the Big Ten MVP in 1963 and in 1964 finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting, the highest in Illinois history, while also being an All-Big Ten selection in both seasons.

Butkus helped the Illini to the Big Ten championship in 1963 and their last victory in the Rose Bowl over Washington on January 1, 1964, with Butkus coming up with an interception and fumble recovery.

Ohio State to wear throwback alternate jerseys with gray-striped sleeves for Fiesta Bowl

If you’re a traditionalist, you’re going to love this bit of news. It flew maybe a little bit under the radar when the Ohio State football Twitter feed congratulated the team for making the College Football Playoff with an invite to the Fiesta Bowl. But it didn’t take a few fans and media-types to pick up on a rather sneaky way to maybe break some news.

In a graphic shared on Twitter, Ohio State threw an Ohio State jersey into the corner. Oh, but it wasn’t just any Buckeye jersey. No, what we were teased with was an OSU jersey with some gray striped sleeves staring at us in the face.

You could have looked at it and thought nothing of it, but that’s not how these things normally go.

So what do these uniforms look like? They’ll be almost identical to the ones OSU wore during the inaugural College Football Playoff run in 2014, and the home version of what was worn the last time Ohio State took on Clemson.

Here’s a look at the 2016 away version.

And here’s more of what you’ll see with the home version. We saw these beauties against Oregon in the CFP National Championship game against Oregon in January of 2015.

What do you think? Do you like these? If so, you might be in luck, because there are also rumblings that these gray sleeves might just be a staple of the uniforms beginning next year.

Wayland Baptist’s Culver tallies 100 in Pioneers hoops win

He might be just 6-foot-5, but Wayland Baptist University’s J.J. Culver did a heck of a Wilt Chamberlain impression on Tuesday night.

Culver, the older brother of former Texas Tech and current Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jarrett Culver, scored 100 points to lead Wayland Baptist to a 124-60 victory over Southwestern Adventist University at Wayland Baptist’s Hutcherson Center.

Culver went 34 for 62 from the field, including 12 of 33 from 3-point range, and hit 20 of 27 free throws to reach the century mark.

A senior for the Crusaders, Culver entered the game averaging 28.1 points per game. Culver had nine rebounds and five steals to go along with his amazing scoring total.

Culver’s previous season high was 41 points against McMurry University on Nov. 1.
Rhule named Dodd Trophy finalist

Baylor coach Matt Rhule has been named one of five finalists for the Dodd Trophy, which honors the top college football coach who embodies leadership, integrity and scholarship on and off the field.

Rhule has guided the Bears to an 11-2 record and the school’s first Sugar Bowl berth since 1957. The other finalists are LSU’s Ed Orgeron, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck and Utah’s Kyle Whittingham.

Rhule was also named the Region 4 coach of the year by the American Football Coaches Association.
MLB moves swoosh to prime jersey position

SAN DIEGO — Baseball is going swoosh.

Nike’s logo will be on the upper right chest of Major League Baseball jerseys next season, a far a more prominent position than the Majestic Athletic logo previously on sleeves.

A 10-year agreement announced last January replaced a deal announced in December 2016 for Under Armour to take over from Majestic. The online sportswear retailer Fanatics will manufacture and distribute licensed versions of the Nike uniforms and training wear to consumers.

Majestic had manufactured MLB batting practice jerseys since 1982 and had been the exclusive supplier of game uniforms since 2005. Before that, uniforms were manufactured by Majestic, Russell Athletic and Rawlings.
AP: Gregorius, Phillies agree to deal

SAN DIEGO — Shortstop Didi Gregorius is reuniting with manager Joe Girardi in Philadelphia, agreeing with the Phillies on a $14 million, one-year contract, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday because the agreement between the player and club, first reported by the New York Post, had not been announced.

Gregorius spent the last five years with the New York Yankees, the first three playing for Girardi as Derek Jeter’s successor at shortstop.

Girardi replaced Gabe Kapler as the Phillies’ manager following a disappointing season in which Philadelphia faded to fourth place in the NL East division race. The team went 81-81 despite signing slugger Bryce Harper to a $330 million, 13-year contract.

Gregorius’ 2019 debut was delayed until June 7 after Tommy John surgery on Oct. 17, 2018, to repair an elbow ligament torn during Game 2 of the AL Division Series at Boston. The left-handed hitter batted .238 with 16 homers and 61 RBIs this year, leaving him with a .264 average, 110 homers and 417 RBIs in eight major league seasons.

How the Raptors dino became cool again

This season, for its 25th anniversary year, the Toronto Raptors have decided to take the opportunity to celebrate everything about the franchise’s history. Included in the team’s plans for a trip down memory lane are six ‘95-Rewind home games, where the Raptors will wear their original white-and-purple dinosaur jerseys and play on a replica home-court design from their inaugural season in 1995.

The team’s first ‘95-Rewind night was in late Oct. against the Orlando Magic. They will wear their throwback jerseys again when Kawhi Leonard returns to Toronto as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, Dec. 11. It feels like a symbolic choice. Leonard delivered a championship as a Raptor, but he only stayed for a year. Seeing him on the dino-logo home court will be a reminder of the Raptors’ history and how they’ve been part of Canadian culture for over two decades—even before last year’s historic run.

Remember that a giant dinosaur dribbling a ball on a purple-and-red jersey was once considered tacky, even for 1990’s style standards. Over the years, fans have looked back more fondly on the uniforms that many ridiculed. The nostalgia reached a fever pitch last season, as the Raptors—the team who once played in a baseball stadium and were the laughingstock of the NBA for so many years—made a run to the NBA finals, eventually beating the Golden State Warriors to win a championship.

Owners of In Vintage We Trust, Josh Roter and Chantel Varela, have been collecting vintage items for several decades. Their shop is located in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood.

Roter collects all kinds of sportswear, including college basketball warm-up jackets from the 1980s, game-worn baseball jerseys, sideline jackets and other one-of-one items. As a lifelong fan, Roter has been collecting Raptors items for over two decades.

One of them is an inaugural season game-worn Raptors jersey, signed by the entire team including the franchise’s first-ever draft pick and 1995-96 Rookie of the Year Damon Stoudamire. In 2010, he was sourcing product in Mississauga, when he came across a sports-card store in a strip plaza. Sifting through snapback hats and vintage hockey jerseys, it was this Raptors jersey, with the player’s name having been stripped from the back, which caught his attention.

After doing a few searches on basketball reference sites, Roter was able to match the number of the jersey to a player named Thomas Hamilton, who had spent just a handful of days with the Raptors during their first pre-season before he was waived. Roter purchased the jersey right away. A few years ago, it was sold to another local collector.

Not every piece of Raptors memorabilia in the store has a one-of-a-kind backstory. Because Raptors items were not very coveted when the team was going through a downturn, they often sat in stores. Roter owns an authentic red and black Nike Vince Carter Raptors jersey from the 2004-05 season, which he remembers purchasing from the clearance rack at Toronto’s College Park shopping mall for $24.99 immediately after Carter was traded to the New Jersey Nets. Today, the jersey is selling for over $250.

The Raptors championship run and the team’s celebration of the 25th anniversary season has changed everything. During the playoff run, many customers came into the store to ask for apparel from the dino-logo era. At the same time, Roter and Varela were trying to find more items for their next Raptors-themed drop.

Roter and Varela had their eye on the Toronto Raptors Barbie doll, which was selling for over $700 on eBay. In the late 1990s, the NBA had a licensing deal with toy company Mattel to produce Barbies for each team. They were eventually able to purchase the Barbie at a reasonable price this fall, which is still available in store for $200.

It has become increasingly difficult to find vintage Raptors goods in the market. Last year, while at a trade show in Illinois, Roter was able to pick up three 1997-98 authentic Nike Raptors shooting shirts, which were worn by point guard Chauncey Billups and Alvin Williams, one of the most popular Raptors players during that era.

Most of the remaining vintage Raptors goods are just sitting in boxes in people’s basements and in attics across the city of Toronto, Roter says. He recently met a vintage dealer in the city, who he sources Toronto Blue Jays items from, and thought to ask if she had any Raptors gear. The dealer produced a box of every Raptors pin given to fans at the arena during the franchise’s early years. Roter bought the entire box and now sells the pins for around $20 each in store.

By just digging through the collections of local dealers, Roter’s also found other memorabilia that has sentimental value to him, and many other Raptors fans, including a row-1, seat-1 ticket from the inaugural game at the SkyDome in 1995, and a media pass from the franchise’s first playoff game in 2000 at Madison Square Garden.

Though Roter has been collecting pieces of the franchise’s history since its inception, he admits he still wants to buy every single Raptor item he comes across. But restraint is necessary. In the vintage business, buying an item at a high cost means that you have to charge customers a premium. This is why Roter passed on the leather jacket worn by part-owner and vice president of the Raptors Isiah Thomas at the team’s introductory press conference. It was priced at $1,200 USD.

The Raptors-themed drop at In Vintage We Trust will include authentic jerseys, dino-logo t-shirts, Vince Carter tees, puffer jackets and whatever else Roter and Varela can find between now and then. Unlike yesteryears, these items won’t be sitting on shelves for too long.

“Now that the Raptors are good,” Roter says, “Everybody wants a piece of history.”

College football playoff talk: a no no in Tigertown as LSU preps for SEC championship

There’s only one championship on Ed Orgeron’s mind this week, and it isn’t the one, won on the final game of the season.

LSU plays Georgia Saturday in Atlanta for the SEC championship. It is LSU’s first trip to the league championship game since 2011. And, it is the only game the LSU head coach plans to talk about this week.

LSU is a 7.5 favorite over the Bulldogs.

LSU has played Georgia three times in the championship game in a stretch from 2003 to 2011. LSU won in 2003 and 2011. Georgia won in 2005.

LSU leads the SEC in scoring offense, total offense, passing offense, and redzone offense.

Orgeron said Monday that LSU is working diligently to retain passing game coordinator Joe Brady. Brady was named one of 15 semifinalists for the Frank Broyles award, one that goes to the top assistant coach in college football.

Game time is 3 pm New Orleans time Saturday.

LSU is the home team, and will wear its traditional white jerseys with gold pants.

Area football coaches support addition of football team at SCCC

The ball has been placed at the line of scrimmage for the start of the Sussex County Community College football program, now it’s up to the area’s players and coaches to help move it forward.

When the college’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the addition of New Jersey’s first junior college football program last week, area high school coaches began to see new opportunities open up for their athletes to play at the next level.

“Everyone is on this football bandwagon about numbers being down and the county college is taking a step to go start a football program, which I think is great by them,” Wallkill Valley head football coach Bob Leach said. “I think it’s neat that an institution has football, especially at the college level, that’s awesome. I think it’s something that these local kids are going to have to really look at and think about. It’s definitely going to affect recruiting in the county.”

In the past few years, Leach and Rangers assistant coach Todd Poltersdorf, who has coached under Leach for the past six seasons between Sussex Tech and Wallkill Valley, began discussing how they felt SCCC pursuing the addition of a football team could be a good idea.

Poltersdorf, who has been Sussex County Community College’s director of admissions since 2006, joined forces with Cory Homer, SCCC’s associate dean of institutional effectiveness and marketing, enrollment management and distance learning, to research how the addition of such a program would affect enrollment growth.

Now, Poltersdorf will take the helm as the Skylanders first head coach in 2020.

“The first thing that comes to mind is his fire and passion for the game, his competitive attitude and edge,” Leach said. “A lot of people that don’t know him think he’s a lunatic, but he’s just passionate about it, he gets into it and he goes nuts. I think you have to be that way if you’re going to be a coach, and especially a head coach.

“He probably should have been a head coach in football a long time ago. This will be a good gig for him.”

All seven Sussex County coaches that offered comments on the new SCCC football program agreed that it was a positive move for football in the area.

“It is great to have another level of football so close to us in our area,” Vernon head coach Steve Down said. “I know we have sent a lot of players there and when they heard a football program was starting, they were immediately excited. Any time we can grow the game is a benefit, but right here in our backyard it brings an added excitement to our county.”

During the board meeting on Nov. 27, Poltersdorf cited getting support from Lenape Valley legendary head coach Don Smolyn leading up to the vote.

On Sunday, Smolyn reiterated his excitement for what SCCC’s new team will mean for the local community.

The Patriots head coach, who himself bounced from Seton Hall University to Union County College before earning a scholarship to play on the offensive line at Adams State College, said he wished an opportunity like playing at a junior college in New Jersey existed back when he was playing.

He said playing football for the Skylanders will gives area athletes a chance to mature physically and in their studies while not breaking the bank figuring out their plans at a four-year school.

“It gives some of these kids a chance,” Smolyn said. “An other thing too, I look at myself, it took me a couple of different colleges to figure it out and a lot of money. If I had something like that where I could have gone somewhere and developed and started to figure it out, that would have been a good option for me.

“I just look over the years, maybe you go there for two years and maybe you go to a Montclair or a College of New Jersey if they’re not the Division-I size kids.”

Newton head coach Matt Parzero has seen cases with his team where a player may need a year or two to develop and play at a higher level.

SCCC will now present a chance for some of his players to showcase their skills immediately.

“For football, it gives them an opportunity to compete right away,” Parzero said. “Some of our guys through the years have gone to some big schools and unfortunately sometimes they get lost. If they’re a freshman, they might not see the field until they’re juniors or seniors.

″(At SCCC), it’s all freshmen and sophomores, so they can compete, their rosters aren’t as big so they can get on the field right away. It will improve their exposure to bigger schools down the line.”

The only junior colleges with full-fledged football programs in a 200-mile radius of Newton are ASA Brooklyn (N.Y.), Lackawanna College (Pa.) and Nassau Community College (N.Y.).

Elsewhere in the state, Caldwell University offers sprint football, which is a full-contact varsity sport with the same rules as regular football but all players must weigh 172 pounds or less.

The new Skylanders team will give all area players a chance to continue their football careers in their backyard.

“I just think it’s great for kids that aren’t really sure what they want to do yet to have a place to go, that have had some pretty good high school careers and still have an opportunity to extend that, at least if nothing more, for another two years,” Kittatinny head coach Joe Coltelli said. “After that, who knows? You hear so many stories about junior-college kids that end up in a program and end up being a pretty big part of that program over the years.

“I’m thrilled that it’s going to give some kids another purpose to be there other than going to school and extend their careers a little bit longer.”

Area coaches did mention some challenges that they believe will have to be cleared for the SCCC program to have success.

Parzero mentioned that he heard from some that they would be concerned about how travel would factor into the equation. Smolyn, meanwhile, knows that it will take a while to build a competitive program and everyone must be committed to that construction over the long haul.

But almost all area football coaches agree that the Skylanders program has the chance to be a touchdown for area athletes.

“I want to wish them luck,” Smolyn said. “The road is going to be tough but just persevere. It’s something that’s so badly needed in our area. I think there’s so many kids from out in this area that could play but they really have so few options. With the cost of colleges today, it’s a really viable option.”

Muhlenberg-SUNY Brockport: Daniel happy to be part of Mules postseason success

Mitch Daniel is an undersized possession receiver with speed who gets lost at the snap weaving among linemen and linebackers until he pops into the foreground — suddenly with the ball, racing upfield.

Former Muhlenberg College football coach Mike ”Duke” Donnelly knew he wanted a player like Daniel, who scored a school-record 27 touchdowns his senior year in the Colonial League. After being unable to speak to Daniel on the first school visit, Donnelly made a second recruiting trip to Notre Dame High School three years ago to pitch his program to the speedy running back more interested in going to college at Pitt than joining a college roster.

Suddenly sold on the Mules, Daniel enrolled. At the first practice he targeted the meeting for running backs.

“Where are you going?” Donnelly asked.

“I’m a running back,” Daniel answered.

“No, you’re not,” Donnelly clarified. ”You’re over there. You’re a receiver now.”

Now a junior on fourth-ranked Muhlenberg’s 11-0 team, Daniel sees the wisdom in Donnelly’s vision.

He’s caught 40 balls (second-most on the team) for 511 yards and four touchdowns this season.

He ignited the offense in Week One by hauling in a 25-yard pass and scored the team’s first touchdown this year against the College of New Jersey. He added a 30-yard score later that game.

Last week he caught four passes for 32 yards in the first half as the Mules blanked MIT 38-0 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

Muhlenberg will need to make SUNY Brockport’s nationally-leading run defense move and tire with short passes Saturday in the noon showdown at Scotty Wood Stadium in Allentown. Brockport advanced out of the first round with a 33-28 victory at Western New England. The Golden Eagles (9-2) are playing in their third-straight NCAA tournament after winning the Empire Eight Conference.

Their defense limits opponents to 14.5 points per game, ranking 14th in Division III.

“Points are going to be at a premium this week,” Muhlenberg head coach Nate Milne said.
Getting the ball to Daniel and Centennial Conference scholar-athlete award winner Max Kirin, along with all-American tight end Ryan Curtiss, could help offset the Eagles’ pass rush.

While Muhlenberg has outscored opponents 42-11 on average, the margin for error shrinks in the Sweet 16.

Last week’s pre-game script called for short passes to open room for the running games. Expect that again this week.

 

“I think that’s always critical at the skill positions to have speed,” said Milne of Daniel. “It may not be the most important thing. You need guys with size at the receiver, some with speed, and some with wiggle. Mitch has a little bit of wiggle and a lotta bit of speed.”

Daniel’s grandfather Michael “Mitch” Elias came to the United States from Lebanon by himself to live with his uncle Joe Daniel. The Daniels took in Michael Elias to help get him treatment for polio; he assumed their surname.

“Some of my cousins are Daniel and some area Elias,” Mitch said. “I would say it’s like 30 percent Daniel and 70 percent Elias.”

Now one of the family names is being broadcast on the back of Muhlenberg’s No. 26 as members of Easton’s Lebanese community come out to support Mitch, the grandson who’s running with his opportunity.

 

They understand what it’s taken just for Mitch to get on the field.

Freshman year: broken ankle.

Sophomore year: bedridden at times with mononucleosis.

Junior year: Game 1—two touchdowns. A return to the Mitch of Old.

 

He needed that initial touchdown against TCNJ for several reasons.

“That kind of gave me the confidence to know I belong on the field with these guys,” Daniel said. “I faked the corner route, went back to the post route, and it was open.”

Last year, as Muhlenberg advanced to the national quarterfinals at Mount Union in Ohio, Daniel watched the game in Pennsylvania on his laptop. A win Saturday would put him and his teammates back in the quarterfinal round against the Salisbury-Union winner.

“We definitely want to get on the pass game early,” Daniel said. “They play a lot of man-to-man defense. As receivers we’re just going to have to beat that. It’s on us to get open and give the quarterback a target. If receivers can get open, that will greatly improve our chances for success.”

 

Daniel might lull the defense to sleep, then sprint into his rightful place.

“It feels great to be back,” he said. “I’ve been waiting two years to get back and show them what I can do.”

Alumni represent Latrobe on college courts across country

One town’s name keeps popping up on college basketball rosters all over the place, up and down the East Coast.

From New England to Florida — and many stops in between — “Latrobe” is a common hometown among lists that also include jersey numbers, classes, heights and positions.

Latrobe graduates, men and women, are playing at the Division I, II and III levels. And many are making a significant impact, a few as starters in their early years at the next level.

Latrobe basketball is about family. Siblings pass the torch to one another as they try to establish their own legacies, while bringing more pride to their last names.

Butler, Fenton, Graytok, Mueseler, Sobota … the list goes on. And it carries on.

“Any player from any town who goes on to play basketball at the collegiate level, with very few exceptions, has some common traits,” Latrobe boys basketball coach Brad Wetzel said. “They worked when nobody was watching, and they appreciated — not necessarily liked — being pushed by their coaches and others around them.

“This, combined with a desire to be the absolute best they could be, would be a trait that is common with those who go on to play four more years of college basketball. … They had something inside that made them unique.”

Austin Butler is a third-year starting guard at Holy Cross. Latrobe’s all-time leading scorer in the boys program is averaging 8.4 points and 5.6 rebounds this season in five games for the Crusaders.

The 6-foot-5 junior started all 33 games last season and put up 12.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.5 steals.

He said basketball is ingrained in Latrobe players at a young age, that aspiring youth get a glimmer in their eyes when they attend Wildcats games.

“I think basketball around the area is getting more buzz and hype over the past couple of years, and younger kids come to the games and see these talents night-in and night-out,” Butler said. “Right away, they want be in our shoes one day.”

Shippensburg junior guard Jake Biss was one of the WPIAL’s top point guards when he played at Latrobe. These days, he is a 16.3 point-per-game scorer in the PSAC.

He also is averaging 4.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists for the Raiders (6-1), who are coached by Latrobe grad Chris Fite.

“We all have a love for the game,” the 6-2 Biss said. “We all knew we wanted to play after high school, and we knew the amount of work we had to put in to get to that level. Countless hours in the gym and weight room getting as many reps as possible.

“Sean and I would run countless hills, and we would go to the sand volleyball courts at Legion Keener (Park) to do agility workouts in the summer. We knew what it took, and we all had that dog mentality, simple as that.”

Freshman Reed Fenton worked his way into the starting five at Lehigh after a stellar career at Latrobe. Fenton, a 6-4 guard, recently had 14 points and four assists in a win for the Mountain Hawks (3-4) over Misericordia.

Fenton said he can only speak to his personal experiences coming out of Latrobe.

“I know for me, it was just being surrounded by my older brother and my dad who pushed me to get better,” he said. “Also, growing up with the Biss family and working out with Jake all the time definitely helped me a lot. Same thing with the Butlers. We all just have worked out together and helped each other reach our goals.”

Wetzel said the flare-up of college talent began a decade ago.

“I think something happened when we finally got over the hump in 2009,” Wetzel said. “Many of the youth clinics and programs we were running had players — as well as our middle school players — there to witness the nets come down (to celebrate a section title). This town has supported us, and many boys grew up and came of age thinking, ‘Why not me? Why can’t I, too, cut down the nets?’ ”

Other Wildcat alums playing collegiately include:

• Bryce Butler, a freshman at West Liberty, has played in all six games and averages 8.2 points and 3.3 rebounds in 19.0 minutes per game.

• Madison Kollar, a junior forward at Saint Vincent, is averaging 14.3 points and 4.0 rebounds in 25.3 minutes a game for the Bearcats (3-1). She scored 22 against Baldwin-Wallace. Kollar missed the 2017-18 season with a foot injury.

• Laura Graytok, a sophomore guard at American in Washington, D.C., is seeing increased minutes in the second year of her college career.

• Senior Sean Graytok is a reserve guard for the Coast Guard Academy. He has started 23 games in his career while providing 5.1 points and 1.2 assists.

• Freshman Mackenzie Markle is a starting forward at Westmoreland County Community College, which resumed its program after having to cancel last season. Markle has been an effective frontcourt presence for the Wolfpack (2-4) with 15.2 points and 11.8 rebounds.

“We have been blessed with some young athletes who, at a young age, fell in love with the game of basketball,” Latrobe girls coach Mark Burkhardt said. “All of these players were willing to work extremely hard to reach their academic and basketball goals. Something that I believe that they all learned at Latrobe was to give their maximum effort every time they step in a classroom and on a basketball court.”

Austin Butler said Wetzel and his assistants have created a true culture.

“Coach Wetzel and the staff deserve a lot of that credit because the success is behind the scenes with all the work they put in for us past players and the work they put in for the present players now,” Butler said. “And Coach Wetzel never loses connections, and that’s something very special.”