by RENALDO DORSETT
Another pair of aspiring student athletes will have an opportunity to continue their education at the collegiate level, facilitated by Noble Preparatory Academy.
Kevin Cooper and Van Hutchinson Jr signed their letters of intent yesterday to join the Niagara College Knights men’s basketball programme next fall.
The duo signed their paperwork at the NPA campus, and Niagara head coach Keith Vassell said the entire programme was eager for the new additions.
“Kevin brings a size length and athleticism that we really didn’t have last year. He’ll be a major addition on the defensive boards and become a shot blocker and rim protector. I’m really excited about having him and I know with his work ethic and attitude he’ll grow with our team,” he said,”I think Van brings a determination and a grittiness we have to replace.He’s an all around player who can score but I’m excited about his athleticism, the way he moves on the floor and just the way he can get to places and do things. I’m really excited for these guys, I know that they will come in, positively impact the team and being a lot of good things to the table.”
The Knights programme has featured several Bahamian players in recent history including Rashad Morley, Marako Lundy, Tenerro Ferguson and Delroy Grandison.
Lundy, Ferguson and Grandison led the Knights to the OCAA semi-finals last season
After battling injuries for much of 2014-15 season, Lundy returned to miss only one game in the 2015-16 campaign and lead the team in scoring at 18.7 points per game. Grandison came on late towards the end of the year and averaged 12.4 points. Ferguson was again a key contributor off the bench scoring 6.1 points per game.
“I cant explain the impact the Bahamian players have had. Our proramme three years ago was second to last place, this year if the ball bounced in the opposite direction a few times we could have been a championship team. The Bahamian players have been stellar and it’s something that I want to continue to make sure is something that is a part of our programme and we hope for that to continue with these guys.”
Cooper, a former student at Kingsway Academy, recently completed the post graduate programme at NPA.
The 6’7″ post player said he is ready to step in and have an immediate impact.
“Coach [Geno] Bullard and prepared me for this moment. I know which direction I’m going in with the path I chose now it’s just up to me to make things happen,” he said, “I’m prepared, I talked to a few of the players, I talked to the coach, I’m just ready to get to work.”
Hutchinson, who played for Bullard at the high school level for the Westminster Diplomats, the CR Walker Knights and a year Northern Oklahoma Tonkawa Junior College, said the transition back to the NPA programme was seamless.
“Through all the decisions I made, right or wrong, I knew this was always home. Coach always had my back with any decision I made so it was easy come back and it was probably a decision I should have made from the get go,” he said, “I think I’ll fit in well. I had a talk with the coach already and his expectations are for me to basically fill Marako’s shoes. Me and Marako we have a similar game styles, a hunger for the game so it should be a right fit for me.”
In addition to being the founder and the president of the NPA, Geno Bullard is also the international recruiter for the entire Caribbean region for Niagara College. NPA has academic ties with Ridley, Niagara and Brock University.
“As students at NPA you don’t know what the future holds so you have to be ready, you have to trust the process in guiding you. It’s not just about being great at sports, which these guys will be because they are prepared, but it’s about being great in all areas of what it takes to be a student athlete at the collegiate level. It’s knowing time management and how to handle the workload. This is what universities want, students they can invest in that they know will produce great returns,” he said, “Having a full scope of being on the ground and being apart of those institutions I fully understand what is demanded by a prep school, a college or a university and I am able to impart that knowledge to these kids and their parents. It is all about creating a total package – a student that is confident in his education, confident in his athletic ability and to able to present his self in a professional manner.”