Nick Cartwright-Atkins hears it all the time.
“People are always like, ‘Why you playing basketball?’” Cartwright-Atkins said. “They say, ‘You should just be lifting for football.’”
Brian McMonagle hears it, too.
“A lot of guys just play baseball,” McMonagle said. “They don’t think you should do other sports.”
Cartwright-Atkins and McMonagle are junior standouts for the Moorestown boys’ basketball team. They also are three-sport athletes.
Cartwright-Atkins plays football and participates in track and field. McMonagle is a football quarterback and baseball star, a pitcher who has committed to Boston College on scholarship.
Moorestown junior guard Vinnie Caprarola is another three-sport athlete. He plays soccer and lacrosse.
And a fourth starter for the Quakers, junior guard Akhil Giri, is a two-sport standout who is the No. 1 player on the school’s golf team.
In an era of increased specialization — when more and more 10- and 12-year-olds are encouraged to name their game and focus on it year-round — the Quakers are a throwback squad with a versatile group of athletes who prefer to change sports with the seasons.
“I promote it,” said Moorestown coach Shawn Anstey, who was a three-sport athlete at Holy Cross Academy. “I think it teaches a lot of things to play different sports.”
These guys can play basketball. Along with junior guard Jagger Zrada, they are starters are a team with an 8-2 record, a five-game winning streak and the No. 12 spot in the Inquirer Top 25. Moorestown’s two losses were to No. 7 Haddonfield and No. 10 Eastern by a total of five points.
“We knew we’d be good,” Caprarola said. “But we’re playing even better than we thought.”
The 6-foot, 185-pound Cartwright-Atkins was a third-team all-South Jersey selection in football after helping the Quakers to their best season in 10 years. He had 636 receiving yards and excelled on special teams as Moorestown went 9-2 and reached the South Jersey Group 4 semifinals.
“I think playing other sports helps me in football,” said Cartwright-Atkins, who has scored in double figures in seven straight games. “It’s really important: The coordination you need on the basketball court transfers to the football field.”
McMonagle said most of the Quakers have been playing basketball together since they were 7 or 8 years old. In the early days, Cartwright-Atkins was on the town’s B team while the others were on the A squad.
“How wild is that?” McMonagle said. “Now he’s a beast.”
McMonagle said lessons from other sports carry over between seasons.
“It’s always about putting the team first,” McMonagle said. “You learn that in other sports. You learn that in every sport.”
Caprarola doesn’t have a favorite sport. “Whatever I’m playing I like best at that time,” he said.
McMonagle will play baseball in college. Cartwright-Atkins said football is likely his future. And Giri is being recruited to play college golf.
“It all translates,” said Giri, who scored a season high 22 points Tuesday in a win over Westampton Tech. “If you never experienced the pressure in other sports, you don’t realize how much it helps you in this sport.”
The athletes all agree that their other interests allow them to take the court in a more relaxed manner, since they aren’t defined as athletes by their success in basketball.
Anstey said there’s another value to the players’ versatility as well.
“It’s just good for kids to be with different kids on different teams,” Anstey said. “It helps you make all different kinds of friends.”
Games to watch
The annual Shoot Down Cancer Classic, which benefits Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, will be a 10-game showcase featuring some of South Jersey’s top teams Saturday and Sunday at St. Augustine Prep.
Among the highlights is a Saturday afternoon clash between No. 4 Wildwood Catholic and No. 7 Haddonfield in a game that matches two of South Jersey’s last two undefeated teams. Admission is $6 and is good for a full day of action.
Rancocas Valley vs. Williamstown, 11 a.m.
Bordentown vs. Holy Spirit, 12:30 p.m.
Haddonfield vs. Wildwood Catholic, 2:15 p.m.
Eastern vs. Christian Brothers, 3:45 p.m.
Camden Catholic vs. Malvern (Pa). Prep, 5:30 p.m.
Atlantic City vs. Winslow Twp., 7 p.m.
Pitman vs. Ocean City, 11 a.m.
Triton vs. St. Joseph, 12:30 p.m.
Paul VI vs. Middle Twp., 2:15 p.m.
St. Augustine vs. Martin Luther King (Pa.), 3:45 p.m.