By Marc Narducci
A year ago a young Pitman boys’ basketball team took its lumps in a rebuilding year. Yes, that 19-9 season was tough to take, but the Panthers appear vastly improved.
While most teams would take 19-9 in a heartbeat, Pitman went 74-13 in coach Kevin Crawford’s first three years.
This year’s team has an enviable combination of youthful experience which is why the Panthers appear to be a serious South Jersey Group 1 contender.
“I think last year we weren’t ready to be consistent on a nightly basis,” said Crawford after Thursday’s 57-35 win over host Palmyra improved the Panthers record to 5-1. “This year we think we have a good team with a chance to be very competitive.”
And a good team just got better with the addition of junior point guard Darnell Foreman, a transfer from noted national power St. Anthony, who played JV last year.
Foreman had six points against Palmyra in his Pitman debut, but he will certainly help the team with his ball handling and eventually his ability to score.
“What he does is bring more competition in practice and the kids are competing for minutes,,” Crawford said. “I talked to (St. Anthony) coach (Bob) Hurley and he had nothing but good things to say about him.”
When it comes to Pitman, nice things are said about their inside-outside combination of 6-foot-9 sophomore Tim Delaney and 6-5 junior Eric Stafford.
Both happen to be No. 1 in their class academically. Stafford has played the point, but actually he is a cerebral player who can be effective all over the court.
“It’s great for our team to play against such a well coached Pitman team with players like Delaney and Stafford,” said Palmyra coach Joe McColgan, whose team is now 4-3.
Delaney has a chance to be one of the more highly recruited players in recent South Jersey history.
Already Penn State and St. Joseph’s have offered scholarships and more should be coming for a player who tried out for the Under-16 national team this fall and will find out if he earns a spot after the season.
“He’s probably has 40 to 50 schools on him,” Crawford said.
Delaney had 21 points and 10 rebounds and he can bang inside while also possessing the range to shoot from beyond the arc.
His mother, former Washington Township standout Jeanine Reynolds, who earned a basketball scholarship to St. Joseph’s, has helped shape his game and also aiding in the recruiting process.
“She has been through recruiting and is a really big help,” said Delaney, who doesn’t appear the slightest bit overwhelmed by the situation.
Colleges also know about Stafford, who had 17 points. At his height he can pass over defenses and shoot over them as well.
“He settles us down,” Crawford said.
Pitman is now 5-1 and the lone loss was to another serious Group 1 contender, Penns Grove.
The Panthers also have a brutal nonleague schedule that includes games with St. Augustine, Lenape and Shawnee.
It’s only the beginning of January with plenty left in the season and Pitman, like other teams has a lot to work on. Yet the Panthers also have a lot to work with and from this vantage point, the 19-win rebuilding season seems like a thing of the past.
Pitman 18 10 16 13 - 57
Palmyra 8 4 6 17 – 35
Pit: Rob Hobbs 2, Eric Stafford 17, Tim Delaney 21, Darnell Foreman 6, Zac Costagna 2, Dave Collingsworth 2, Andrew Sawyer 4, Anthony Coma 3.
Pal: Javon Hairston 6, Devante Robertson 12, DeVaughn Whitfield 6, Caliph Wright 4, Gerald Perkins 3, Josiah Jenkins 4.
Contact Marc Narducci at email@example.com or @sjnard on Twitter