The all-time leading scorer in school history is at West Virginia, seniors Omari Lawrence and Kevin Parrom transferred out and Tyreke Johnson is the lone returning starter on a very young St. Raymond’s basketball team.
And yet, Ravens coach Oliver Antigua couldn’t be happier.
“It’s a breath of fresh air for me,” Antigua said. “We do a lot of teaching. We’re really starting from scratch this year.”
Antigua knew he’d be without Darryl Bryant, who is third on the Mountaineers in scoring averaging 12 points per game, but Lawrence and Parrom are a different story. Following a physical altercation in the locker room with Antigua, Parrom was asked to leave the school and Lawrence, who signed a letter of intent to play at St. John’s, soon followed.
Antigua considered the loss of two Division I prospects addition by subtraction.
“I am really excited about dealing with the kids who want to represent St. Raymond’s and what the school is about and those are the kids we have now,” Antigua said. “Were they talented? Absolutely. Were they doing the right things? No.”
The lone player with some experience back is Johnson, the team’s senior point guard who is being recruited by Holy Cross, Colgate, Manhattan and St. Peter’s.
“He’s been doing a great job and I give him a lot of credit,” Antigua said. “That’s why I think he’s an attractive recruit, because he does what you want.”
With the exception of Johnson, the Ravens are young and relatively inexperienced, including juniors Harold McBride, Steve Wittingham and Jatone Pierce-Bias and sophomores Joey De La Rosa, Sidiki Johnson and Jose Rodriguez.
“They still have to learn how to play at a high level every day and be consistent every day,” Antigua said. “That’s what I saw in the preseason so far. Some days they’re great and some days they’re like sophomores. I have to be really patient.”
Antigua likes what he sees from highly touted freshman Nkereuwem Okoro, one of the top players in the Class of 2012.
“He’s got to learn how to play, he’s got an unbelievable amount of talent, he’s quick and athletic and he can handle it and shoot it,” Antigua said. “He’s 6-foot-3, 190 pounds with a size 14 shoe so he can be about 6-foot-7 maybe and be a three-man. He’s got those guard skills already.”
How quickly St. Raymond’s matures will determine how well it does in a wide-open CHSAA ‘AA’ this season.
“Our goal is to get better every day.” Antigua said. “I know it’s a cliché, but really we don’t care what happens now. We just want to get ready so that in February we’re playing our best basketball.”
Ultimately, Antigua would love for this group to resemble the 2000 team that was led by Peter Mulligan and defeated a Rice team with major Division I players Andre Barrett, Kyle Cuffe and Andre Sweet four times en route to the intersectional championship.
“The only reason we beat them is because we had an unbelievably tight group of kids, no superstars, just team guys willing to do all the little things,” Antigua said.