The Monsignor Scanlan boys’ basketball program has no plans to look back after the departure of three key players.
The Crusaders saw highly recruited forward Jonathan Nwankwo (Victory Prep), forward Emmanuel Chuwko (Mount Vernon) and Jordan Riullano (Victory Prep) all transfer from the school. It leaves Scanlan with a young inexperienced roster looking to compete in the CHSAA Class A division. Third-year Crusaders Coach Dwayne Mitchell doesn’t view it as a step back for the program, just a new challenge.
“I don’t see it as a negative,” he said. “It just gives everyone an opportunity to step up and advance. I feel good about their opportunity. They just have to take advantage of it.”
Rising senior guard Dajour Evans believes he and his teammates are going to do just that. The departure of Nwankwo, Chuwko and Riullano surprised them, but the Crusaders aren’t going to spend their time thinking about what could have been if they had stayed.
“It’s a big loss. We just have to build from it,” Evans said.
Scanlan appeared to be on the fast track to becoming a Class AA program. It won the school’s state Federation Class B championship and were moved up to the ‘A’ this season. The Crusaders were again one of the league’s top teams, falling in the semifinals. Scanlan also returns talented guard George Pena, a three-year varsity starter. Next season Evans said he and his teammates want to prove people who think the program will take a step back wrong.
“We are going to go forward,” he said.
In Mitchell’s eyes, this will only make everyone stronger. He understands that even having a little success doesn’t guarantee you are going to keep climbing. Fully revitalizing a program is like a rollercoaster ride.
It means he and his coaches will need to work harder to develop its young players. Evans and Pena will have to be better leaders and their supporting cast will need to develop quickly.
“Things happen,” Mitchell said. “All you have to do is except it and move on. I have to move on. I can’t let it stop my program.”