Boys Basketball – Boardwalk Preview: Barry, Rumson Out to Prove Themselves vs. GSB
Rumson-Fair Haven senior Brendan Barry has very little to prove as a high school basketball player, but on Saturday at the Hoop Group Boardwalk Showcase, he will continue his quest to convince college coaches that he can play at the Division I level.
Barry’s Bulldogs take on Gill St. Bernard’s, the No. 7 team in N.J. according to NJ.com, at Long Branch High School in the second game of the showcase, which is scheduled for a 1:40 tip-off. Against a Knights team that has already defeated every team on its loaded schedule to this point, Barry will have a forum to not only perform against a top opponent but once again show that he can lead a team to victory over one.
Of course, Barry has already been there and done that. As a junior last season, the 6-foot-2 guard torched Christian Brothers Academy for 25 of his 27 points in the second half of the Shore Conference Tournament championship game to lead his Bulldogs to a 50-24 win over the perennial Shore Conference powerhouse.
Despite what Barry has already done and despite the fact that he has been a model of efficiency - he has shot well over 50 percent from three-point range so far this year and averaged five assists without being the least bit turnover prone – he has not been on the receiving end of an offer to play Division I basketball.
“There’s no question in my mind that Brendan Barry is a Division I player,” Rumson coach Chris Champeau said. “Not only that, but I think he’d be a pretty good one. He’s six-two, point-guard skills, he’s got wingspan, he’s worked on his body and now he’s throwing down dunks. That, plus he’s as good a shooter as there is in the state and he’s about as smart a player as you’re going to find. It’s only a matter of time before somebody comes to their senses and sees it.”
While Barry has several Division II offers, most notably from Amherst College, he has had only discussions with the Division I schools that have shown interest. Barry has been in contact with both Brown University and Holy Cross and has had some general interest from Ivy and Patriot League programs. According to Champeau, Barry sports a weighted grade point average above 4.0.
“It’s been frustrating,” Barry said. “I’ve had some conversations and had some feedback from coaches and I feel like I’ve continued to improve. I’m not that worried about it because I have some very good opportunities from Division II and III programs, but I do wonder a little bit what’s going on.”
Although a lot of high-level N.J. players have made verbal commitments by now, it is not too late in the game for Barry. Former Point Beach star and current Notre Dame sophomore Matt Farrell had Division I offers in hand and had already reopened his recruitment after initially committing to Boston College, but he greatly improved his stock over the course of his senior year and eventually earned an offer from the Fighting Irish while also fielding offers from programs like St. Joseph’s, Rutgers and Monmouth.
“The best thing for me is to just play out the season, try to help us win another Shore Conference championship and get a state championship,” Barry said. “The only thing I can really control is how I play and now that the season has started, that’s all I’m really worried about.”
A standout individual performance on Saturday against a high-profile opponent at a high-profile event would be an ideal new beginning for a player who has already dominated on this stage. Last year, Barry set a Boardwalk record by scoring 34 points in a win over Point Beach.
Even more than another 30-plus point game or shooting exhibition, a Rumson win would speak to what Barry has been all about for the Bulldogs. Since his sophomore year, he has helped them reach the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II final and led them to the SCT championship last year. With Barry sidelined by a left hand injury for the first two games of this season, Rumson lost two games by a combined 55 points and since his return, the Bulldogs are 3-1 with three double-digit wins and one double-overtime loss to Colts Neck – the No. 9 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10.
"We got slapped in the face with reality in those first two games and my hope was that those first two games without Brendan would wake these guys up a little and make them say, 'Wow, this is a whole different world without the captain running the ship,'” Champeau said.
Saturday will be a proving ground for the entire Rumson team, which boasts four new starters from last year and is playing a tougher non-divisional schedule than a year ago when the Bulldogs won the SCT. Gill St. Bernard’s is 7-0, but also very young across the board. Senior Adam Mitola has led the way, but the four highest scorers after him are either sophomores or freshmen. Both Paul Mulcahy and Jake Betlow have starred as freshmen and 6-6 Dallas Hoffman and Alex Schachne have stepped up as sophomores.
The Knights’ young talent and guidance under veteran head coach and former Seton Hall and Rhode Island player Mergin Sina present a unique challenge for Rumson, but also a golden opportunity for the Bulldogs, especially for their senior leader.
“We wanted to give our team some new challenges with our schedule this year, but it was also to give Brendan a chance to showcase himself,” Champeau said. “Gill is one of the top programs in the state. We played a good Colts Neck team over the break. We’re going up to play Barringer, a big Group IV school in North Jersey with a strong team. All these games are great opportunities for our team and I think we’ve got a chance to do well in them and the main reason is because we have Brendan Barry.”