KNIGHTS TO BE: Keith Vassell, Kevin Cooper, Jordan Wilson, Van Hutchinson Jr, Geno Bullard
By RENALDO DORSETT
THE latest group of players from Noble Preparatory School are in their transition period to Niagara College as they prepare to continue their athletic and scholastic careers at the institution in Ontario, Canada.
Kevin Cooper, Van Hutchinson Jr and Jordan Wilson will join the Knights men’s basketball programme next fall and head coach Keith Vassell said the entire organisation was eager for the new additions.
“I think there’s a lot of excitement about the upcoming season. I think that being able to replace Marako [Lundy], Delroy [Grandison] and Tenerro [Ferguson] was a really difficult task as a coach. But it’s amazing that you have so many talented players that come in so academically prepared. Athletically they have the skills to impact not just our team, but our league and they will help us to bounce back from losing high calibre players. I think the sky is the limit. I think we will have a very strong go at the championship this year and these guys will be very important players for us.”
The Knights programme has featured several Bahamian players in recent history, including Rashad Morley and most recently Lundy, Ferguson and Grandison who graduated at the end of last season.
Lundy, Ferguson and Grandison led the Knights to the OCAA semi-finals last season.
After battling injuries for much of the 2014-15 season, Lundy returned to miss only one game in the 2015-16 campaign and led the team in scoring at 18.7 points per game. Grandison came on late towards the end of the year and averaged 12.4 points. Ferguson was again a key contributor off the bench scoring 6.1 points per game.
After battling injuries for much of 2014-15 season, Lundy returned to miss only one game in the 2015-16 campaign and lead the team in scoring at 18.7 points per game. Grandison came on late towards the end of the year and averaged 12.4 points. Ferguson was again a key contributor off the bench scoring 6.1 points per game.
“I can’t explain the impact the Bahamian players have had. Our programme three years ago was second to last place, this year if the ball bounced in the opposite direction a few times we could have been a championship team,” Vassell said.
“The Bahamian players have been stellar and it’s something that I want to continue to make sure is something that is a part of our programme and we hope for that to continue with these guys.”
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity and I’m very excited and happy for this new journey,” Wilson, a former junior national team member, said.
Cooper, a former student at Kingsway Academy, recently completed the post graduate programme at NPA.
The 6’7″ post player said he is ready to step in and have an immediate impact.
“Coach [Geno] Bullard prepared me for this moment. I know which direction I’m going in with the path I chose now it’s just up to me to make things happen,” he said.
“I’m prepared, I talked to a few of the players, I talked to the coach, I’m just ready to get to work.”
Hutchinson, who played for Bullard at the high school level for the Westminster Diplomats, the CR Walker Knights and a year Northern Oklahoma Tonkawa Junior College, said the transition back to the NPA programme was seamless.
“Through all the decisions I made, right or wrong, I knew this was always home. Coach always had my back with any decision I made so it was easy come back and it was probably a decision I should have made from the get go.”
In addition to being the founder and the president of the NPA, Geno Bullard is also the international recruiter for the entire Caribbean region for Niagara College. NPA has academic ties with Ridley, Niagara and Brock University.
“As students at NPA you don’t know what the future holds so you have to be ready, you have to trust the process in guiding you. It’s not just about being great at sports, which these guys will be because they are prepared, but it’s about being great in all areas of what it takes to be a student athlete at the collegiate level. It’s knowing time management and how to handle the workload. This is what universities want, students they can invest in that they know will produce great returns,” he said. “Having a full scope of being on the ground and being a part of those institutions I fully understand what is demanded by a prep school, a college or a university and I am able to impart that knowledge to these kids and their parents. It is all about creating a total package – a student that is confident in his education, confident in his athletic ability and to able to present his self in a professional manner.”
Bullard and NPA transitioned 42 students into Niagara College for the Fall 2016 semester.