Boys Basketball – Rumson’s Barry and Champeau Are Player, Coach of the Year
In his first five seasons as the Rumson-Fair Haven boys basketball head coach, Chris Champeau made the Bulldogs program into everything he envisioned it would be. Champeau’s bunch earned a reputation for being a scrappy team, one known as much for its cheering from the bench so over the top it might seem sarcastic if it were not so enthusiastic as it was for twice nearly bringing a tournament championship back to Rumson.
Entering Champeau's sixth season, Rumson had its personality, its runs to both the Shore Conference Tournament final in 2011 and to the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II final in 2014. The only thing missing was a championship.
Enter junior Brendan Barry. Although Barry was a varsity player in each of his first two seasons, this season was the first time the program would be in his hands above all others, including his coach. With the 6-foot-1 point guard behind the wheel of the program, the Bulldogs soared to new heights, winning a share of the Class A Central division title and capturing the program’s first ever Shore Conference Tournament championship – a laundry list of accomplishments worthy of a Shore Sports Network Coach of the Year and Player of the Year.
"I said from the get-go that we have great, tough kids in Rumson,'' Champeau said after winning the SCT final. "I just had to get them to believe that we can do anything, and here we are. By the time (the youth players) get up here (to high school), they realize how cool it is, and how much fun it is. I'd like to think we built a culture."
Strangely enough, Barry’s personality is nothing like the one that permeates all aspects of the program. While Champeau has sought to promote the program in the community – starting a summer league, running camps, bringing in business partner, neighbor and current Denver Nuggets guard Randy Foye to work with the players – Barry works hard, plays hard and barely changes his expression. Even as his teammates on the bench wave towels and perform choreographed celebrations after one of his 25-foot three-pointers, Barry remains stoic.
In many ways, the duo of Champeau and Barry – while borderline buddy-cop in its contrast – is a perfect fit, one that was a necessity to push Rumson to the elite levels it reached this season. Rumson already had the energy, the fire and the want-to to get to the brink of a championship. The last time Rumson reached the Shore Conference Tournament inal in 2011, the Bulldogs were led by 5-foot-5 point guard Kevin Alter, a high-energy guard who looked like he was playing at twice the speed that everyone else was. That energy is still there in its coach, its sideline and its roster as a whole, but they just needed one cool customer to take the last championship step: a player whose tireless work ethic, as described by Champeau, is masked by the ease with which he applies it.
"When 'Shemp' (head coach Chris Champeau) came in, he really brought a lot of enthusiasm, and that built it up into our success that we've had,'' said Barry, who acknowledged that he strongly considered attending CBA as a freshman. "I was torn between RFH and CBA, and it was just the chemistry around this team that really drew me here. Just seeing the Dawg Pound back in the day, that was insane, and that really got me going."
How easy did Barry make it look this season? The junior finished fifth in the conference in scoring at 22.2 points per game and hit a Shore Conference best 103 three-pointers – 26 more than the next player on the list. He scored 30 points or more seven times, tying Southern’s Peyton Wejnert for the most in the conference. When Barry went into a regular-season game against St. John VIanney 37 points shy of his 1,000th career point, he made sure the chase for 1,000 didn’t last long. Barry reached the milestone by scoring 37 points and he did it by the six-minute mark of the fourth quarter.
For all the statistical exploits throughout the season – which also included 4.1 assists and a Shore Conference leading 4.2 steals per game, as well as a Hoop Group Boardwalk Showcase record 34 points in a win over Point Pleasant Beach in January – Barry’s season came down to the same 16 minutes that Rumson’s season came down to. After playing the role of point guard and even decoy through the first four-and-a-half games of Rumson’s Shore Conference Tournament run, Barry brought the title home by scoring 25 of his 27 championship-game points in the second half to help the Bulldogs outscore No. 1 seed Christian Brothers Academy 31-5 after the two teams went to halftime tied at 19.
If the final score, the 25 points and the postgame celebration did not adequately reveal what that game meant to Barry, Champeau and the entire Rumson program, Barry’s reaction to a three-pointer right in front of the Rumson bench with just over two minutes left in the rout should have.
As the Rumson bench erupted, Barry turned to them, yelled right back and proceeded to yell all the way back up the court in a rare display of emotion.
For those first four SCT games and 21 regular-season games prior, the Rumson program showed how much of an impact Barry made on it. Finally, with a championship all but secure, Barry finally let on how much his coach and his program have rubbed off on him.