Pat Torney made up his mind. Hed had enough.
The seven-year boys basketball coach at Newtown has seen more than his share of quality players pass through the Elmhurst high school, but when it comes to being eligible to attend a four-year college right away, those same players werent making the grade.
Instead, they were forced to attend a junior college or a community college before making the jump.
I look back at the last seven years and weve had a lot of kids go on and play college ball, but I think only three or four of them went to a four-year school right away, Torney said. Thats a shame because there certainly wasnt a question about their basketball ability.
Two of the schools better players in the past five years Chris Sandy and William Smush Parker both struggled academically at Newtown and each had to attend a junior college before going on to play Division I basketball. Sandy is currently the starting point guard at Fresno State while Parker runs the floor for Fordham.
Torney said all five players to start on the 1997 PSAL finalist couldnt get into a four-year college out of high school.
After a conversation with St. Johns basketball coach Mike Jarvis at the first annual Frank McGuire High School Coaches Seminar at St. Johns University last spring, Torney got an idea on how he could put the brakes on the alarming trend.
Torney, who said grades were never a concern for him when he played high school ball at Power Memorial in 1974, decided to raise the minimum passing grade from the city-wide score of 65 to 70 for players to be eligible to start for his team.
What the NCAA clearinghouse requires and what is allowable by New York state regents standards are two different things, Torney said. So our kids can go through four years of eligibility, never miss a game, do everything the state requires and when the time comes to go to college, theyre on the outside looking in because they dont have the numbers that the clearinghouse requires.
Even though he told his players during the summer about the new requirement, some didnt take Torney seriously at first.
Eugene Waldo was one of those players, but when the Pioneers opened the season against Murry Bergtraum, he was one of several players to be on the bench. The Pioneers went on to lose the game, one of just four losses on the season.
I took it as a joke. I didnt do what I had to do, which is a mistake, but now Im working harder, said Waldo, who was academically ineligible to start in the first grading period and was suspended in the second because of his attitude. Hes just trying to get us to the next level. I want to be an overachiever, not an underachiever.
While the third quarter report cards arent out yet, Waldo said an informal poll of his teachers shows he has about a 75 average, up nine points from the first marking period.
Im not asking them to do something they cant do, Torney said. The one thing they understand these days is playing time. You want to play, get the grades. I dont know where its going to go from here but this is a starting point.
Andre Cole is another player to be affected by the new requirement. Heading into his junior year, Cole knew he would be one of the teams biggest impact players, but when he didnt get at least a 70 in the first grading period, he sat as well.
I wanted to start. Its my junior year. I wanted to step up and help out my team but I had to do what I had to do in order to start, Cole said. Its a good idea. Hes helping us out for our future. Its going to make us work harder and make us achieve something in life.
Torney said the next step is to get the grade requirement instituted on the junior varsity level at Newtown, which is something he said should be enacted next year. But as far as getting it city-wide, Torney knows its a long shot.
I hate to say it but the coaching fraternity is resistant to change and not everyone has the same ideals, he said. A lot of people are just looking to win and thats the bottom line. Id like to see something like this instituted, but we have to start small first.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.
©2002 Community News Group
By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:
You agree that you, and not TimesLedger.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to TimesLedger.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.