NEW CASTLE —
Basketball season is over, but the honors keep rolling in for New Castle High.
The Red Hurricane was well represented on the 2013-14 Pennsylvania Sports Writers All-State Boys Basketball teams, which were released yesterday. Seniors Malik Hooker (first team) and Anthony Richards (second team) earned honors in Class AAAA. Head coach Ralph Blundo was named the classification’s Coach of the Year.
Hooker joined Hampton’s Ryan Luther, Hazelton’s Sal Biasi, Great Valley’s Mikal Bridges, Roman Catholic’s Rashann London and Williamsport’s Isaiah Washington on the first team. Luther, a Pitt recruit, was named the Class AAAA Player of the Year.
“Ryan is a good kid and player and has had a great career and is very deserving,” Blundo said. “We also think Malik deserved that honor. His resume speaks for himself with all the wins, championships and stats.”
Hooker pulled off a rare feat as he earned first-team all-state honors in football and basketball.
“It’s an unbelievable end to a great career for Malik. To be first team all-state in football and basketball is an incredible honor. Guys who do that are making millions of dollars today. Guys like (Jeannette’s) Terrelle Pryor and (Aliquippa’s) Darrelle Revis, who are some of the greatest athletes maybe to ever come out of the WPIAL. Malik did it at the highest level in Quad-A in basketball,” Blundo said. “He had a great, great season and proved to be the best player on the court night in and night out.”
A 6-foot-1 guard/forward, Hooker led the county in scoring at 21.9 points per game. He finished with 1,628 career points, which ranks 11th all-time among county players.
“It’s always a good thing to have this accomplishment on top of the other stuff we wanted to accomplish coming into the season,” he said. “It’s a great thing. It really wasn’t because of me, though. It was my team giving me a chance to do what I can do out there.”
Hooker did it all for New Castle. He averaged 9.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 3.9 steals and 1.6 blocks per game. It seemed every game had had one or two highlight-reel plays.
“When you reflect on the season and where the growth was, it’s hard to get from really, really good to great. He did it,” Blundo said. “He just elevated his game in every single area. That’s part of why we’re PIAA champs.”
Hooker, an Ohio State football recruit, will focus on the gridiron when he heads to Columbus. He is not playing basketball in college.
“Especially coming down this weekend and seeing my teammates, I am glad I picked Ohio State,” said Hooker, who is in Columbus this weekend to watch spring football practice. “I can’t wait to be part of this family.”
Blundo believes Hooker could play basketball at the major-college level, too.
“It’s possible. His game would have to evolve into a little more of an outside game, but Malik Hooker is capable of anything,” he said. “If that was something he wanted to put his mind to, I am sure he could do it.”
Nevertheless, he is excited to follow Hooker’s career with the Buckeyes.
“We’re excited because we think Malik has grown so much in so many ways. We know he is ready. Not everyone is ready to go play football in the Big 10,” he said. “There’s more to it than just being physically ready, you need to be emotionally ready and mentally ready and Malik is ready. We’re all looking for more great things from him.”
Richards, a 5-8 guard, finished his career with 1,109 points. He joined Haverford School’s Levan “Shawn” Alston, Martin Luther King’s Sammy Foreman, Roman Catholic’s Shep Garner, Harrisburg’s Jahaad Proctor and Chester’s Mahir Johnson and Tyrell Sturdivant on the second team.
“It’s awesome. It’s hard for me to believe. Second-team all-state is pretty good for a guy like me,” he said. “I give all the credit to my teammates and coaches. This could never happen without them. I am honored to get that award and I am happier to get that award with the team I am on and get that award for New Castle basketball and give even more recognition to New Castle.”
Richards established himself as the top long-distance shooter in program and county history. He finished the season with 101 3-pointers and 304 for his career. Both are school records. He set the single-game mark, too, with nine treys.
He became one of the WPIAL’s top marksmen as well. He became the fourth player in district history to reach 300 treys. He finished in third place on the all-time list behind Highlands’ Micah Mason, who had 346 treys from 2008-12, and Chartiers Valley’s T.J. McConnell, who netted 334 from 2006-10. Chartiers Valley’s Mike Colbert, who had 302 treys from 1994-98, ranks fourth.
“It’s one thing to make 104 3s, but to shoot 46 percent when other teams know about him and are face guarding him all over the court – I was amazed by the number of shots he made and the number of big shots he made. He is loaded with clutch,” Blundo said. “Second team all-state is a great honor for a great Red Hurricane and a great kid that embodies everything you want from a player, from a coach’s perspective.”
Richards, a West Virginia Wesleyan recruit, averaged 12.5 points, 4.5 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.7 rebounds per game.
“He knew he had to be better inside the 3-point line to increase his opportunities. He worked tirelessly and that opened up more opportunities from 3 for him,” Blundo said. “He is a great defensive player. He does so many little things on the court that are so valuable that some people don’t see. When he is gone, you will see some of the things he did that made us great. He’s completely selfless. If he scored 0 or 23 points, he had the same expression and it didn’t matter to him. Just winning the game is what mattered.”
BLUNDO THE BEST
Blundo helped guide New Castle to its first basketball state title. The ’Canes wrapped up their third-straight unbeaten WPIAL championship this year as well. In his four years leading New Castle, Blundo is 107-10. Overall, he has a sparkling 133-12 (91.7 winning percentage) career mark. He was 26-2 in one season (1998-99) at George Junior Republic in Grove City.
“I think it’s a great honor for our staff. I have always thought it was strange it is not a Coaching Staff of the Year award. I have had great assistants,” he said. “Not only that, but they are some of my closest friends. The time we spend together working and preparing the players has been enjoyable. It’s a blessing to me, really.
“You just don’t win without good players. It just doesn’t happen. People admire our system and I appreciate it. But our system doesn’t look so good offensively or defensively without the players I have had.”
New Castle finished its impressive three-year run with wins in 87 of 89 games played.
NEW CASTLE —
Basketball season is over, but the honors keep rolling in for New Castle High.
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