Today I want to step away from the girl’s side of the game and talk about a young man who dreamed of being special. Jack Donnelly plays for the Rumson Fair Haven boy’s basketball team. Most people, who follow Shore Conference boy’s basketball, know him as the downtown 3 point shooting machine who led RFH in scoring last year. This should come as no surprise since he was second in the Shore Conference in 3 point shots made. People around the state and Shore now take RFH boys a little more serious these days. Last year RFH made it to the SCT finals for the first time in the schools history. Now their fan base believes the time is now. When you play in the shadow of one best girl’s basketball coaches and teams in the state it not easy building a program. But somehow Coach Champeau and his band of cohorts are getting it done in a most exciting fashion.
I meet Jack Donnelly at our hoop Group Boot Camp a few years ago. The Hoop Group Boot Camp is something we run every year before the High School season starts to hopefully give kids a little edge come the first week of practice. I recommend it for any kid, because the competition is intense and it gets everyone including our hoop group staff fired up. Well Jack was just a skinny kid then and I’m not sure how confident. I knew he played at CBA so he had to have some talent. I mean lets be honest you don’t go to CBA if you not a pretty good player. I watched Jack that week at Boot Camp and I saw a young man with a desire and a will to work. It’s funny we tend to overlook those things these days. You know the things that you don’t see on paper; you know the things only coaches appreciate. I loved the way Jack hustled and played all out on every play. I also came to find out that his grammar school coach also would become the new coach at Rumson. When this happened Jack decided to transfer to RFH. In most cases I’m sure this would have not been a good idea. I mean RFH boys basketball wasn’t exactly St. Anthony’s. It was a bit of a risk for the young Donnelly, whose dad played at CBA then transferred to Asbury Park only to come back and Haunt CBA by putting a Double, Double on them to upset the powerhouse in the holiday Jubilee which was the be all do all tournament of it’s day some 25 years ago. So Jack had history on his side and real belief in his coach.
Now this is where the story takes on a life of its own. Last year I ran into Jack Donnelly again and he asked me a few questions. Those questions went a little like this. Tiny what do I need to do get better? What are my weaknesses? I really want to get better, is there’s anything you can do to help me? Can you speak to the Hoop Group and ask what they think of me? You see this young man was looking for negative feed back in order to improve. We all know how young people are sensitive and in many cases fold under the weight of criticism. Not this young man. He wanted to use the negative as fuel to improve. So I asked the recruiting guru of northeast basketball Steve Keller of National Recruiting Report his take on Jackie D and Steve was frank and right to the point. He said strength and his balling handling would be the keys to Jack’s improvement. I passed this information along to Jack not knowing what he would do with it.
Let me take a second to read my resume to you. I am big believer in kids getting better. I am big believer that good players can become great players and I know average players can become superstars. How do I know this? I have been lucky enough to have coached at the Div 1, 2 and 3 level of college basketball. I’m one of the few people who can make the following statement…I have been to the NCAA tournament at each of these levels. I am also one of the few people who can say I have had players play or drafted into NBA from the Div 1, 2 and 3. So I think I understand improvement and how players improve over a period of time… So how does that relate to Jack Donnelly? I saw Jack play about a month ago folks and my jaw hit the floor. Talk about improved strength, I couldn’t believe a kid could change their body the way he did in just a years time. Then his handle was just plan ole dirty! The kid took what Steve Keller said to heart and put action into words. I believe Jack Donnelly who has been known as a long range bomber is going to show people in the shore conference this year a nasty handle to go along with his improved strength. If you thought his 24 point performance against Howell in the Quarterfinals or his 26 point explosion against SJV were impressive. Then you just may be in for a shock this season. Because Jack is back folks and he is bigger and better than ever! I’ve done a lot on the girl’s side in recent years. But Jack Donnelly has brought me back to the boy’s game and I’m really excited about covering the boys this year. Thanks to jack Donnelly and his terrific attitude and desire to out work the world.
For all those kids dreaming of being special, let Jack Donnelly be a role model for you. Let him remind you everyday that hard work does pay off. Let his story be a lesson in not being afraid to take risk. As I mentioned earlier he followed his coach to a school with not much a great basketball history in recent years. Together with some tough hard nosed teammates RFH is knocking at the door of greatness… RFH has a fan base, a coach and players like Jack Donnelly who believe in the Dream. They are all drinking the Kool Aid that Coach Champeau is feeding them right now and they LOVE THE TASTE and now greatness is at their door step….You can’t be special if you don’t dream about it…Jack Donnelly has dreamed and now he is special!
Jack Donnelly has accepted an early admissions offer to continue his education and basketball career at Academically Prestigious Hamilton College. More proof that Jack Donnelly is a young man who gets it.
Check out Jack in action!