Whenever his team’s 2020-21 season starts, St. John’s Catholic Prep boys basketball coach Stu Wilson knows one thing.
“We’re going to be pretty young,” he said.
That’s because the Vikings lost a slew of seniors from last year’s MIAA B Conference finalist. But Wilson takes comfort in the fact that while he no longer has the services of those players, other schools do.
All eight of those seniors plan to continue their basketball careers, including at colleges that run the gamut from Division I, II and III to NAIA.
“An awful lot of credit goes to them because many of them benefited from what we’re always telling kids with respect to their academics,” he said. “And that played a big part in an awful lot of the decision-making ... they were such good students, it gave them that opportunity.”
As was previously reported in The Frederick News-Post, two Vikings players have committed to Division I programs as preferred walk-ons, Winston Moore (Mount St. Mary’s) and Josh Bell (St. Bonaventure).
Other college-bound SJCP players are: Ty Collins, to NAIA school Our Lady of the Lake University (Texas); Matt Contreras, to Division III Bryn Athyn College (Pennsylvania), which is helmed by former Hood assistant Sean Westerlund; Brandon Pilgrim, to Division II Lane College (Tennessee); and Michael Sislow is heading to Frederick Community College.
Two other SJCP graduates are heading to prep schools, Andre Sheppard to Spire Academy (Ohio), and Cedric Afanou to Central Point Christian (Florida).
Wilson thought the bizarre end of the 2019-20 season, when the pandemic forced high school and college programs to end their seasons prematurely in the postseason, made it challenging for prospects and college programs to find each other.
He said in the past, it was common for college recruiters to show up in a high school gym during the summer and fall, seeing players and figuring out if they were a good fit for their programs.
“They’ve built that relationship and now there’s just a matter of figuring out who it is that either they pull the trigger on or trying to get guys to commit to them. And I think that that’s kind of changed,” Wilson said. “And then when the pandemic hit, I think that that eliminated an awful lot of opportunities for these guys to be able to get out and be seen and then the colleges to be able to see them.”
But each player eventually found a place.
Pilgrim, a versatile guard who earned Frederick News-Post first-team all-county honors, might have a good chance to begin contributing as a freshman.
“He has completely transformed himself, so the medium-built, slight-built kid that we all saw finish out our season, walking off the court in the championship game, is a completely different kid now,” Wilson said. “As much as he’s committed himself to the weights and whatever else.
“He’s super excited to be able to get the opportunity, he’s excited about how into him Lane is,” he said. “I think they probably are looking at it and seeing his abilities and how it is that he’s going to be able to continue to develop and feel like, ‘Hey, we got a steal.’”
Those weren’t the only players from last year’s St. John’s team to garner attention from colleges. Masai Troutman, who was one of the Vikings’ top scorers as a sophomore, has gotten interest from several Division I programs, according to Wilson. But like his older teammates, he won’t be with the Vikings during the 2020-21 season. Wilson said Troutman transferred to St. Andrews in Potomac.