NBA All-Star weekend has come and gone, but the best game in Brooklyn hasn’t left — and I am not talking about the Nets.
The borough’s best basketball isn’t far from the Barclays Center, however — just a few train stops away at the Pope Center at St. Francis College.
It is there that the Terriers men’s basketball team is making more than good on its preseason hype as one of the best in program history.
The team is 18–9 overall, and has now won six-straight games, including 18 of its last 22. At 12–2 in the Northeast Conference, St. Francis is three games up on second-place Robert Morris and Bryant as it closes in on the regular season crown.
Sure, it may not be Lebron James, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant, or even Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, or Kevin Garnett on the court, but at St. Francis, those are our guys and our team. Queens has St. John’s, the Bronx has Fordham and Manhattan. Long Island University was the darling of Kings County a few years back. Now it’s finally the Terriers’ turn.
It is doing it with a roster of locals trying to make history. St. Francis is one of only five Division I schools that has fielded a team since 1948 and has yet to make the NCAA Tournament. This year may be its best chance yet.
Star point guard Brent Jones played his high school ball at Bedford Academy, which he led to a Public School Athletic League Class A title as a senior. Tyreek Jewell, Chris Hooper, and Kevin Douglas all grew up in the Bronx. Lowell Ulmer and Glenn Sanabria are from just over the Narrows in Staten Island.
Star forward Jalen Cannon— the conference’s all-time leading rebounder — may be from Allentown, Penn., but this is far from a team of out-of-towners. These are mainly guys who developed their game on the streets and in the gyms of New York City.
Coach Glenn Braica is a Brooklynite. He grew up there, graduated from Bishop Ford, and lives here now with his family. He has put together a gritty and hungry bunch of players, many of whom were overlooked by other colleges. Their spirit, tenacity and drive epitomize the essence of the borough they play in and for.
Braica has been cautious about talking about the NCAA tournament all season. It’s understandable after his team suffered a heartbreaking loss to Mt. St. Mary’s in the opening round of the conference tournament last season. But as fans, you can throw caution to the wind and try to enjoy every minute of what is shaping up to be a special season. Tickets cost less than a full tank of gas.
The Nets (21–31) is still in position to make a playoff push, just a game back from eight-place Miami. St. Francis, on the other hand, is playing for much more — something that has never been done at the school.
The best game in town is in Brooklyn Heights. Don’t miss it.