Former Molloy standouts star in South Carolina

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After two years at Division II Dowling College, Mapp's basketball...

By Brian Towey

Two former Molloy basketball players, LaRon Mapp and Ed O’Neil, both displayed their wares in South Carolina this season, but their paths to the Division I level were quite different.

After two years at Division II Dowling College, Mapp's basketball career changed course. The 1997 Molloy graduate traded the comforts of a Division II basketball career in the Northeast and cast his lot in Orangeburg, South Carolina, enrolling to play for coach Cy Alexander at South Carolina St. University.

After a year sitting out and the initial skepticism by Mapp and his new coach over whether the Brooklyn native could handle the rigors of Division I basketball, Mapp proved to be one of the bigger surprises of the 2000-2001 season for the Bulldogs.

“Overall, he was probably the best guard we had [this season],” said Alexander. “He brought a lot of leadership and intensity to our team. We were a better team with LaRon then without him.”

Mapp confessed he was unsure of how he would handle the transition.

“At first,” said Mapp, “I was skeptical about how I would perform at this level. But I outdid my expectations this season.”

Despite two injuries that limited his effectiveness at times, Mapp totaled 9.7 points per game and dished out a team leading 66 assists. The assertive leader played an integral role in the Bulldogs’ 19-13 run, helping them earn a berth in the MEAC tournament championship.

“We didn’t realize the value of LaRon until we didn't have him,” said Alexander, as Mapp missed the championship game with a broken jaw and was hobbled by a chipped bone in his ankle earlier in the season. “He has a great work ethic. It’s amazing to see how much he’s improved from the year he sat out until this year. I liked our chances to win the [MEAC] tournament with him.”

Mapp conceded that he didn’t realize what a valuable foundation was set for his playing career at Molloy by Jack Curran and his staff until he advanced to Division I.

“I didn’t realize how much Molloy helped until I got to this level,” said Mapp. “At this level you deal with a lot more of the technical and strategic aspects of the game than in Division II.”

Like Mapp, O’Neil’s basketball journey took him from the Queens playgrounds to coastal South Carolina. The 2000 Molloy graduate slipped under many a recruiting radar, but has made a smooth transition from the high school game to the college ranks, as well as adjusting quickly to the cultural differences that confronted him.

“It’s different down here,” O'Neil said. “It’s much slower paced. It took me some time to get used to it, but I like it here.”

If O’Neil’s exploits on the court are any indicator, the diminutive point guard is adjusting just fine.

O’Neil earned All-Rookie accolades in the Big South conference during his freshman season, averaging 4.4 points and handing out a team-leading 81 assists, as well as swiping 45 steals, also a team high.

“I think he’s off to a great start,” said Charleston Southern coach Jim Platt. “He ended up starting the majority of games for us this year.”

“Ed is a very good basketball player,” said Platt, “But he’s also a competitive kid. He brings skill, but he also brings a lot of savvy. He has a real feel for the game and he showed that this year."

O’Neil also credited Curran and his years at Molloy with easing the transition from high school to the Division I level.

“Basically,” O'Neil said. “playing in a system is what helped me adjust the most. When you make the transition from high school to college basketball, some players aren’t used to playing in a structured system. Because of where I came from, I was used to it and comfortable with it.”

O’Neil’s coach talked about the edge that players like O’Neil have coming out of big cities like New York.

“Having been a Chicago-area guy and watching players in cities, I think they have a toughness and a competitiveness that players from more laid back areas don't have,” Platt said. “Ed is a highly competitive player and he brings a lot of pride from where he comes from. He showed that he had a feel for what the right play is at the right time. I think that comes from hours in the gym and hours on the playground.”

As O’Neil’s initiation into college basketball comes to a close, Platt is optimistic what the future holds for his young point guard.

“He’s been a fun kid to watch because he’s so competitive,” Platt said. “Hopefully he will develop into an outstanding point guard.”

Alexander has similar hopes for his senior point guard as his college career comes to a close.

“We expect LaRon to continue to excel in a leadership capacity,” Alexander said. “We’re looking for him to be one of the best guards in the MEAC.”

Mapp has equally high aspirations for himself, for his college career and beyond.

“I want to be player of the year or at least first team all-conference next year,” Mapp said “And I definitely have aspirations of playing beyond college, whether it be overseas or elsewhere. Hopefully I can achieve my goals.”

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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