Young Ravens need some time; one senior left on starting team

St. Raymond’s coach Oliver Antigua considers Devin Brooks, a junior transfer, an upgrade at the guard spot. Photo by Damion Reid

Daniel Dingle says he gets asked the same question often. The highly-touted sophomore just shakes his head and gives his stock answer.

“I hear all the time, am I transferring?” Dingle said. “No, I’m not going nowhere.”

Dingle understands the curiosity. After all, he’s a 6-foot-5 sophomore at St. Raymond’s, which has been ravished by transfers the past two years. A total of eight players, including three who have already committed to Division I programs, have left The Bronx school as part of a mass exodus.

But Dingle, one of three sophomores who will be in the Ravens starting lineup, isn’t interested in heading to Las Vegas, like Jose Rodriguez and Joey DeLaRosa, to a New Jersey powerhouse like Sidiki Johnson, to a Florida prep school like Harold McBride or even across the border into Westchester like Steve Whittingham.

No, Dingle wants to stay home and restore St. Raymond’s to greatness.

“We’re just trying to build up the program because there’s a lot of negative things with all the transfers and everything going on,” Dingle said. “We have a good coaching staff and we’re working hard 100 percent.”

It might take the young Ravens some time to fly, though. Joining Dingle in the starting lineup is 6-foot-4 Kerwin Okoro and fellow sophomore guard Myron Hickman, who led the St. Raymond’s freshman squad in scoring last year.

No team in the CHSAA Class AA will be any younger.

“We’re very realistic about our goals,” St. Raymond’s coach Oliver Antigua said. “We’re not talking about state championship banners, but we just want to improve these guys individually, improve ourselves as a team and really being positive and dealing with us as a family so that what happens last year doesn’t happen again. These guys are here, they’re together and they want to be team guys.”

Joining Hickman in the backcourt is Jatone Pierce-Bias, the team’s lone senior, and Devin Brooks, a junior shooting guard who transferred in from Chelsea and already has an offer on the table from St. John’s.

“He’s very talented,” Antigua said of Brooks. “He can score, he’s quick. He’s actually an upgrade at the guard spot.”

While there is no shortage of youth, the Ravens do lack depth. Antigua opted to keep two talented ninth graders on what he called a very talented freshman squad so they could “play together and have success as a group as freshmen.”

He’ll likely rotate just seven players, meaning an adjustment to the way St. Raymond’s will play.

“We’re going to have to do some different things from a coaching standpoint in order to win,” Antigua said. “We’re focusing on being a good defensive team, really solid, good team defense. We’re not going to be pressing and running. We’re going to slow the tempo down and really play to our strengths.”

Antigua knows his squad, which lost to Bishop Loughlin in the CHSAA Class AA intersectional quarterfinals last year, will be considered an underdog. He said that’s good motivation.

“We’ve got nothing to lose and the pressure is on the other teams,” he said.

Dingle, though, said the Ravens will be better than advertised.

“I think we’re going to be one of those annoying teams that won’t go away, we won’t quit,” Dingle said. “I accept the challenge and I know my teammates do, too. Everyone thinks we’re not going to have a success year because we’re a young team. We’re not worried about the past, I think this year we’re going to have a good season.”

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