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CK alumni bring wisdom to bench

TimesLedger Newspapers

Two of the best players ever to walk through the doors of Christ the King are back at the school this year as coaches.

Erick Barkley and Khalid Reeves, both former first-round picks in the NBA draft, will be on the bench for head Coach Joe Arbitello and the Royals, who are trying to win a third straight Catholic High School Athletic Association Class AA intersectional title.

“With them being McDonald’s All-Americans and being in the NBA, things they say we’re gonna listen — point blank, period,” Christ the King star junior guard Isaiah Lewis said. “They’ve accomplished things we’ve dreamed about.”

Lewis said he’s been compared to Barkley, who led St. John’s to the Elite Eight, and the former Portland Trailblazer is teaching him how to become more of a point guard rather than just a scorer. Barkley has been working with him and UConn-bound shooting guard Omar Calhoun, while Reeves is taking juniors Jon Severe and Jordan Fuchs under his wing.

All four players are high Division I talents — like Barkley and Reeves, who played at Arizona and with six NBA teams in six years in the league.

“They don’t say much yet, but when they say something it’s like Einstein spoke,” said Arbitello, who had another CK legend, Derrick Phelps, on his staff two years ago. He’s now an assistant at Monmouth. “They’ll say one or two things that just open your mind to something you haven’t even been thinking about.”

Barkley was a player-coach last year in Canada and hopes to one day coach at the college level. He played with Arbitello at Christ the King in the 1990s on a team that also featured Lamar Odom and Speedy Claxton.

“It’s excellent,” Barkley, 33, said of his experience back at his alma mater. “I’m actually happy more as a coach than as a player.”

Reeves, 39, retired two years ago from pro basketball after playing most recently in Costa Rica. He doesn’t have the coaching ambitions of Barkley; he’s happy at Christ the King.

“This is where I want to be,” Reeves said. “I just love teaching the kids how to play and being around the kids and my old school. It’s a great atmosphere to play basketball.”

Arbitello couldn’t be happier to have the two on staff, not just because of their basketball credentials, but because they’re both upstanding citizens.

“There’s a lot of nonsense that’s involved with basketball,” Arbitello said. “They both played at the highest level and they can tell these guys who to stay away from, what to stay away from. They have a frame of reference.”

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