H/T Archbishop Stepinac Athletics
Archbishop Stepinac has risen to prominence as not only being one of the best teams in the northeast, but now in the country. The Crusaders are coming off winning the New York State “AA” Federation Championship. They graduated key pieces in Illinois guard Alan Griffin and Joel Soriano, but have an impressive returning roster. The first names that come to mind are class of 2020 point guard R.J. Davis and class of 2021 wing Adrian Griffin Jr. With players like these and a top notch coach like Pat Massaroni, the Crusaders could do plenty of damage this high school season.
The Crusaders have two stars in junior point guard R.J. Davis and sophomore wing Adrian Griffin Jr. Davis has proven himself as being a high major prospect time and time again. Last year as a sophomore Davis stepped into a big leadership role and delivered. His playmaking ability and confidence on the court is consistently on display and tough for opponents to match.
With him missing this past AAU season, there will be plenty of people eager to see what Davis can do a national scale this season. Griffin, the 9th best player in the Rivals class of 2021 rankings, is off to a great start to his high school career. His physicality coupled with a well-rounded skillset sets him apart from most prospects. Head coach Pat Massaroni will rely heavily on these two in what will be a very important season for his team.
Along with Davis and Griffin Jr. the Crusaders have important pieces to turn to. Guards Ed Sanchez, Ed Minaya, Justin Morety, Matt Brand and Samuel Gibbs will play significant roles for them. Senior Ed Sanchez knows how to play physical and is a consistent enough shooter that extends to the three point line. Senior guard Ed Minaya’s tight handle and quickness creates opportunities for himself and others. Juniors Justin Moriety and Matt Brand and freshman Samuel Gibbs have shown that they are more than capable of coming in and producing from the jump this year.
Stepinac doesn’t have as much depth with their big men, but junior Alpha Bangura and sophomore Malcolm Chimezie are both talented enough to carry the load. Bangura is transferring into Stepinac this season and Chimezie will be making his varsity debut. Both big men are big time athletes who will give the Crusaders a lot more options on the offensive end. The guards will definitely jump start their offense, but these two big men will complement them very nicely.
Archbishop Stepinac’s rise to being a top 50 ranked team in the nation wasn’t done overnight. Pat Massaroni credits all of those who have supported their program to get them to this point.
“The administration, alumni and the fan base here at Archbishop Stepinac have shown a lot of belief in the coaching staff’s plans from the beginning,” he said. “I’ve been here for three full seasons and now I’m entering year four here. It’s been rewarding to see our progress from winning 10 wins our first year to 27 last year. Now it’s about how we sustain this and continue to be on that level.”
Massaroni is thrilled with the amount of returning talent and new pieces he has on his team this year.
“I would argue that we have the best backcourt in New York State,” Massaroni said. “R.J. Davis is a top 100 level talent without a doubt and to pair him with Adrian Griffin Jr. makes us a pretty challenging team to defend. There are also pieces around him that don’t get a lot of credit like Ed Minaya and Ed Sanchez. We have a new piece in 6’8” big man Alpha Bangura Jr. who has a great motor and sophomore big man Malcolm Chimezie is someone we’ll turn to as well. We do have a lot of young talent, but young talent who have been thrown into the fire.”
As Stepinac becomes a more known commodity on the national scale, people will get to see some of their best features such as their fast paced offense.
“We like to play fast as we averaged 74 points per game last year and with it only being a 32 minute game, that is very high scoring,” he said. “We also take pride in our defense because when you aren’t scoring the ball you have to hang your hat on defending. We are going to challenge ourselves to play a national schedule to compete with the best of the best. That’s what we have done in our time here and what we will continue to do as our season progresses.”