“Overlooked” Pena trying to play his way to scholarship

George Pena’s size is no measure of his impact on the basketball court.

The points can pile up in a hurry for 5-foot-7 Monsignor Scanlan senior, a lightning quick bucket in transition, a three-pointer in rhythm or a steal and score before an opponent knows what hits it.

“He’s a strong kid, has high-level speed,” Scanlan coach Dwayne Mitchell said.

The point guard is the Crusaders boys’ basketball team’s leading scorer at 16 points per contest, including four games of 20 points or more. He dropped in 19 of his season-high 28 points in the first half of a win over Monsignor McClancy on Jan. 19. The victory keeps Scanlan unbeaten in league play and tied for first place with Kennedy Catholic.

The vintage performance included a personal 8-0 run in the second quarter to no surprise to his teammates.

“He’s a good kid,” junior wing Saquan Singleton said. “He can get 30 [points] on a good day and an a bad day he gets 15, a lot of steals and plays a lot of defense.”

Despite Pena success, it hasn’t been enough to garner a scholarship offer from college coaches. His size is certainly a factor, according to Mitchell, but that doesn’t measure how much he can impose his will on a game. Singleton thinks Pena is someone you appreciate the more you see him play. Mitchell is preaching patience to his star, but it is hard for frustration not to set in at times with his senior season hitting the halfway point.

“I feel like people are overlooking me,” Pena said. “They are not giving me a chance.”

Pena has a championship pedigree on top his physical talents. He was part of a Crusaders team that won the program’s first state Federation Class B title two years ago and lead Scanlan to the CHSAA ‘A’ title came last season.

His steal and score to start the fourth quarter short-circuited any hope of a McClancy comeback. It’s the type of play Mitchell knows he needs to get from Pena if his club was going to bring another title back to The Bronx.

“That’s just his veteran leadership,” Mitchell said. “That’s what we have to get out of him.”

Pena’s size can’t measure how important he is to Scanlan’s success and its journey to moving the program to the next level. In the process he wants to do enough to prove to college coaches he can play at theirs.

“He’s a good player,” Mitchell said. “He is going to play hard. Hopefully somebody is going to see that and take a chance on that kid.”

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