By Phil Anastasia
Xavier Lundy was basketball star at a wrestling school known for its football program.
He knew it, too.
"One of my personal goals was to get us more attention as a basketball team," Lundy said of his career at Paulsboro High School. "We always used to get overshadowed in our school and in South Jersey.
"I wanted people to know the kind of talent we have in basketball in this town."
A four-year starter who finished his career with 2,121 points, Lundy did more than make basketball a sport in the spotlight at Paulsboro.
He turned the Red Raiders into a South Jersey power. He moved the little Group 1 school renown for its wrestling and football programs into the center of the basketball scene.
Big games before capacity crowds, conference and sectional titles, Top 5 rankings -- all that jazz marked Paulsboro basketball in Lundy's final two seasons.
"They brought a lot of excitement everywhere they went and Xavier was the leader of the band," Pitman coach Kevin Crawford said. "When you think about it, they were following Xavier Lundy -- the whole school, the whole town, the whole South Jersey basketball community."
In Lundy's final two seasons, Paulsboro went 57-4 and won a pair of South Jersey Group 1 titles. The Red Raiders were 57-1 against South Jersey competition, with the only loss to two-time Group 4 state champion Atlantic City this season at Cherry Hill East.
Paulsboro beat Lenape, Rancocas Valley, and Paul VI last season, and Eastern, Bishop Eustace and Camden this season. The Red Raiders were in the Top 3 in the Inquirer South Jersey Top 10 for most of last season and for all of this season.
Paulsboro was a deep, talented team with a 6-8 center in Julien Davenport and a small army of athletic swingmen such as Saleem Little, Theo Holloway, Kane Segar, Derrick Burgess and Cassius Carter, among others.
But the Red Raiders stood shoulder to shoulder with the best Group 4 and Non-Public programs in South Jersey for one primary reason: Their top scorer, best rebounder, premier shot-blocker and unquestioned leader, Lundy.
"He was the cornerstone that every coach would want in their program," Paulsboro coach Sean Collins said of Lundy, The Inquirer's South Jersey Player of the Year in boys' basketball for the second year in a row. "He's such a great kid and such a great leader. We lost four games in his junior and senior years, and three were to state champions and the other one was to Hudson Catholic.
"When you talk about what we've been able to do the last couple years, you have to start with him."
Collins said Lundy's demeaner set the tone for a Paulsboro team that was a little like a rock band this season, drawing attention in every gymnasium.
Lundy altered his approach a bit this season, too, focusing less on scoring and more on defense, rebounding and getting his teammates involved in the operation. He averaged 18.6 points, nearly four fewer points per game as a senior than as a junior, but never once complained, according to Collins.
"He never got too caught up in the moment," Collins said. "He was so calm, so reserved, that he kept everybody on the same page. He was always about just taking care of business."
Lundy has not committed to college. He has drawn recruiting interest from Rider, Monmouth, Delaware and other schools such as Temple.
Lundy said he was "disappointed" that his junior and senior seasons ended the same way: With a loss in the Group 1 state semifinals at Toms River North.
"We made it that far not once but twice," Lundy said. "I thought we could go all the way and win a state title. But when I think about winning two South Jersey titles and all the other big games we won, I think we did pretty good."
Contact Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.