Garrett Miley (GWMiley)
Harcum College has become a Division I breeding ground.
In 2010, the Bryn Mawr., Pa. junior college sent six different sophomores on to D-I programs after a magical 30-3 season that had them ranked No. 1 in the country at one point.
Currently, Harcum alums are in conferences from the Big East, ACC and WAC to the Big South, MEAC, Mid-American, Metro Atlantic Athletic and Ohio Valley conferences. They’re playing professionally both overseas and here in the United States.
In other words, it’s a lot easier for head coach Drew Kelly to get players to come to Harcum now than it was 10 years ago. That’s because 10 years ago, he didn’t even have a team.
“That first group of kids that came to visit, I was selling them on an idea that I had in my head,” Kelly told CoBL. “There were no banners on the wall or ‘hey, this guy transferred here’ or ‘this guy transferred there.’ It was just ‘hey, this is what I think this can be in my head’ and I had to convince these kids to come based on a vision that I saw.”
Kelly has a history of Philadelphia basketball on his resume. He graduated from Villanova in 1997, after serving as the men’s basketball manager for four seasons under coach Steve Lappas. When the opportunity to take the Harcum job came along, he was up for the challenge.
“At the time, I was the head coach at Bucks County Community College,” Kelly said. “I was the coach there for two years. My familiarity with [Harcum] was because I went to Villanova and I had only heard of it.
“To make a long story short, I applied for it and they hired me.”
Harcum’s program satisfied a significant need for the entire Mid-Atlantic region when Kelly started the program in 2004. A competitive junior college basketball program was difficult to find for many athletes who wanted to remain close to home, and Harcum has provided many great opportunities to athletes for the better part of the last decade.
They play their home games in the Our Mother of Good Counsel Gymnasium, which seats around 300 spectators–Kelly compares the atmosphere in the gym to that of a high-spirited Public League matchup.
With an undergraduate enrollment around 1,300 students, Harcum is one of the smaller schools in the area but the only Division I JuCo in the state. What separates them from the other area two-year colleges are the dormitories on-campus, giving Harcum a real college feel as opposed to the commuter schools typically seen in this region.
“There aren’t a lot of options for a high-level JuCo on the east coast,” Kelly said. “A lot of those kids traditionally have gone away to Texas, or Kansas, Midwest, South and not everybody wants to do that. Not everybody wants to play in the middle of a cornfield for college.
“Our situation allowed these kids in the Mid-Atlantic region to stay closer to home and that appealed to a lot of kids. We did a good job of targeting the right kids early on, and success breeds success. Once you have that first group in there and you have kids transferring to Division I programs, everybody wants to be a part of that.”
Jordan Goodman, a 6-foot-9 forward entering his sophomore season at Harcum, is a Maryland native who was searching for an opportunity to play basketball at a junior college near his home and found that at Harcum.
“I didn’t have many options to go anywhere, and Harcum was one of the closest schools to Maryland,” Goodman told CoBL at the Delco Pro-Am in July. “When I came up here, it looked like a good opportunity so I chose it,”
Goodman, like so many others who have played at Harcum, also was fond of Kelly and it played a significant role in his decision to play for Harcum.
“He’s the man,” Goodman said. “He’s going to look out for you, no matter what. Even if you get in trouble, he’s still going to be there for you. He gave me a chance to show people what I can do. There have been people on our team who have gotten in trouble and failed but he still gave them two, three, four opportunities to make it up to him. He’s just a genuinely good person.”
Kelly and Harcum are helping Goodman work towards his ultimate goal of playing Division I hoops, and it appears that he is going to get that chance following his sophomore season.
“I am looking towards Rutgers at the moment,” Goodman said. “I just heard they signed Bishop Daniels and I know half the team. I know coach Eddie Jordan. Rutgers is also close to here which means it’s close to Maryland. As of right now, (I’m) still open but I’m just trying to figure out what’s the best fit for me…I’m getting calls from Syracuse, Oklahoma State, DePaul, Rutgers, Maryland, and Cal State.”
While the location of Harcum provides an answer for many athletes looking for a school with close proximity to their home, Harcum is a fit for many other athletes from all over the globe.
“They’re not all from Pa., but New York, New Jersey, DC, and Maryland,” Kelly said of the makeup of his roster. “We’ve done a good job recruiting that I-95 corridor. We’ve also done a lot with international kids. Some of our biggest high profile players have come from overseas. When you’re dealing with kids who went to high school in a foreign country, they may need to work on their English and get the transcripts they need to play in the NCAA.”
One current high profile player is Ivan Uceda, a 6-10 forward from Madrid, Spain. The versatile big man chose Harcum because it would give him time to work on his English and provide him with an opportunity to play Division I college basketball.
“I’ve been here for one year,” Uceda told CoBL. “I have to be here another year. I have a couple offers right now to Division I. I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet, but I have to play another year here at Harcum.”
Uceda listed offers from Marquette, Miami, Ohio State, Penn State, and Robert Morris. He averaged 16 ppg and 10.7 rpg as a freshman in Kelly’s system, which Uceda says really suited his style of play.
Kelly makes his players buy into a team concept and forget individual stats, and there is one group of players which Kelly holds closest to his heart because of their willingness to sacrifice personal goals for the betterment of their team.
“Our 2009-2010 team we were ranked No. 1 in the country and we had six sophomores on that team transfer to Division I schools,” Kelly said. “The reason why that group stands out to me the most was because we had so many good players and they did such a good job of putting the team ahead of their own individual statistics and goals. Everybody on that team could’ve been playing for another team and been the leading scorer, but instead they came to us. We had guys that averaged six points a game and signed Division I and got scholarships. That really shows you the value of being on a really good team.
“Division I coaches can see that, it’s not all about stats. Those guys did such a great job with that. At one point we were ranked No. 1 in the country and we were the first Junior College from the East Coast to be ranked No. 1 since 1974, so it had been almost four decades since that had happened, so that group deserves a lot of credit for that.”
Despite the short tenure of the program’s existence, some Harcum basketball alums are breaking through to the next level of basketball and knocking on the doorstep of the NBA.
“We haven’t had anybody in the NBA yet,” Kelly said. “We’ve had a couple of guys in the NBA D-League. Charles Okwandu, who played at UConn. He’s been in the [D-league] for a couple years…We’ve got a couple guys overseas playing.
“I think it’s just a matter of time. We have a couple guys on this year’s team that potentially have a chance.”