It has been a banner summer for Joe Whalen and his St. Rose team. The Purple Roses became the first NJ team to win the Best of Maryland and they’ve had 5 players commitment to D1 schools. It clear that Whalen’s team believes in working hard and letting the rest take care of itself. Yesterday things took care of itself again as ALEX PENDERGRASS gave Manhattan College a verbal commitment.

It is not even a discussion who the best athlete in the Shore Conference or the state. In fact I believe Alex Pendergrass is the most athletic player these eyes has ever seen. When she was in 7th grade I once told her she would be the first girl in New Jersey to dunk a basketball. She is only 5’9” and is one of the best high jumpers in New Jersey. It was thought at one time; Track and Field would be her calling. Basketball seemed to take a back seat to track. But yesterday Alex Pendergrass put all those questions to rest.


The term teammate applies to Alex Pendergrass more than any kid or family I have ever known. It’s almost bizarre, how she is totally about up lifting her teammates, in a time where being self-centered is all the rage. I called Manhattan assistant coach Allie Bassetti to congratulate her on getting the athletic player. She said “Tiny if she never scores a point, she will be an asset to our program.” SHE’S 100% RIGHT. When Alex was a freshman at St. Rose, she did not get much playing time. Coach Whalen, is old school and he believes kids should learn the system. Prove they are real teammates, wait their turn and buy into the system. It’s seems he knows what he is talking about because Joe Whalen is a STAR MAKER; based on this weeks run of D1 commitments by ST. ROSE. Many freshman in Whalen’s program where not happy about having to wait their turn. Some even sulked and complained behind closed doors….NOT ALEX PENDERGRASS. She was a one woman cheerleader on the bench. She yelled loudly and jumped off the bench on time outs. She bragged how her coach was the best in the shore. She was concerned about one thing and one thing only…being a great teammate.


As a sophomore Alex Pendergrass fell off the basketball radar, because she focused on track in the spring and summer. While she played AAU, it really was an afterthought. Nobody thought one of the best high jumpers in New Jersey would consider anything else in college….WRONG. The start of her junior year Pendergrass started out with a bang and was putting up scary numbers. First against #7 Franklin she had 8 points and 11 rebounds in a huge win for St. Rose, against a team that played in the state TOC. That was just a start for Pendergrass because then against national powerhouse Archbishop Spalding of Maryland, she put up the exact same numbers. Joe Whalen knew Pendergrass was coming on and she was doing it all off the bench. But against Top 10 Lenape, Pendergrass got down right gritty, she had 9 points and 17 rebounds off the bench, backed up by 8 points and 8 rebounds against defending National Champs, Newman Goretti. Pendergrass was becoming a major star in the shore conference and almost nobody was talking about her. It could be because Alex Pendergrass got hurt in January and did not play the rest of the season. It was tough break not only for her but for St. Rose as well. The only one that has benefited by her injury is Manhattan College…because if she had played an entire season, she’d be a household name.


There is only one player in the shore that brings an all-out intensity when she walks on the floor. There is only one player that is physically strong enough to guard centers and put point guards on total lock down. The player is Alex Pendergrass, and Manhattan College may have picked up the player with the most upside of any player in New Jersey. Alex Pendergrass has never trained year round as a basketball player. She doesn’t always show up for the St. Rose’s shooting in the morning. She pops into NBS but is hardly a regular (but we always save a spot for her). Her time in the past has been split between basketball and track. But now Alex Pendergrass is in with both feet. The thought of her training year round is downright scary. What will happen when the skills catch up to the athleticism? We are talking about something that could be shocking and almost unstoppable.  I called Alex Pendergrass, and told her she should go to ACADEMIC ELITE.  I really didn’t know what to expect, but she said “sure”. When she showed up it… it was Alex being herself. She smiled and joked with everyone, then got down to business. She is the most vocal player in the shore, and it was on full display. “Shoot that”…”good pass”….”use this screen”…”don’t worry about that”…”you got that” and my favorite…”YO LET’S GO”…Alex Pendergrass is a Division one player just on energy and vocal leadership. It’s why Manhattan College just may have stolen the player who may one day be thought of as the best player in the 2017 class….


I think coach Bassetti, of Manhattan College may be the next Carlene Mitchell formerly of Rutgers. Mitchell had an eye for talent, but more importantly she was a great recruiter and relationship builder. Coach Bassetti has all the same qualities. We sat and chatted at Academic Elite, then she followed up with a text and e mail the next day. Then I heard it was Shore convention at the Manhattan Elite camp. The young aggressive coach was not just talking the talk, she was walking the walk too. It’s the reason her boss Head Coach Heather Vulin told her that morning, after watching Pendergrass ten minutes…“I AM OFFERING HER!” 



Recruiting is a funny thing and timing is everything. After the Elite camp, the Manhattan staff told Alex Pendergrass they were offering. Alex, was happy and they all said their goodbyes. Then the Manhattan staff got together to talk. They were in the office talking, hoping Alex Pendergrass was impressed and hoping she would come back for another visit. But then they heard a knock on the door. It was Alex Pendergrass, and she said “Coach, I just couldn’t go home without telling you this, I am coming to Manhattan”. Alex Pendergrass was sure, she found a home and because of that Coach Vulin and Manhattan College’s had a GREAT DAY….


The Pendergrass family are as tight as any family can be. They have allowed Alex to find her way without pressuring her. They’ve let her enjoy sports and not make it life and death. When she needed their support, they were there. But they never let anyone ever pressure them to do anything, they didn’t want to do. They wanted a happy daughter, who could make her own choices. They let things take care of themselves…. their daughter has now made a choice and it’s a great one…..SHE SIS NOW HAS JOINED THE JASPER FAMILY AT ….MANHATTAN COLLEGE!



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Awesome! Im sure Alex will embark on a sterling college sportsacademic career. Ive been involved with The Hoop Group and PISC for many years being a counselor at the Pocono camps since 1975. Will be following Alex online.