In the eyes of the education world in and around the greater Philadelphia area, Saint Joseph's Preparatory School is a lost gem found in a pile of stones. For a city that has a struggling public school system and an even more questionable archdiocesan system for catholic schooling, "The Prep," as the school has been lovingly called, is the example for high school and pre-collegiate success.
The catholic, urban and Jesuit institution opened in 1851. Since then, the school has served as the premier service on Jesuit education in, not only Philadelphia, but the entire country. For a school located in the middle of Northern Philadelphia, it has become extremely diverse. The Prep is a place that brings together the best from not only the city of Philadelphia, but also the greater area, as well as, parts of New Jersey. One could say that "The Prep" is legendary in its own right.
Aside from the extraordinary academics of Saint Joseph's Prep, it is a renown athletic powerhouse around the country, primarily in football, rugby and crew.
The rugby program is one that traditionally finishes at top in the country and for other Jesuit schools. Since the origin of the private high school, it has gained the attention of many collegiate scouts that have sent their graduates to local colleges and universities.
Due to the Prep's amazing level of academic rigor and its intelligent student body, the crew program has taken prominence in the United States as one of the elite team's available on the Prep's campus. Recent graduates of the prestigious crew program have attended Yale University, Cornell University and have even participated in the Olympics. Although, there are many great programs at the small, private high school, football has forever been the face of Saint Joseph's Prep.
The football program is one that has become as legendary to Philadelphia as a soft pretzel and a Geno's cheesesteak sandwich (or Pat's whatever's your preference). From 1999 to 2008, the Prep won 55 straight Philadelphia Catholic League games. That streak was snapped in the 2008 season with a 31-17 loss to LaSalle College High School.
After the disappointing loss and another sub-par season, The Prep took another route and revamped another sport popular in Philadelphia. Basketball, that's the way to go in a city that yearly gives birth to a bevy of back-court behemoths.
In the last few years the Prep has sported a load of division I prospects for college basketball recruiters. The first being Steve Vasturia, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard and three-point specialist that committed to Notre Dame University. The other being Miles Overton a 6-foot-3 combo guard and slasher committed to Wake Forest University.
The Prep must have found some star power.
"We have a couple of ACC players that are very, very capable," Coach William 'Speedy' Morris said following Tuesday's, 70-47, victory over Bishop McDevitt high school. "I expect leadership and for them to go out hard every time. They're great kids, and they have to do what they have to do."
A great rebounding performance assisted V basketball as they claimed a 70-47 victory over McDevitt #PrepBasketball
— PrepSports (@SJPrep_Sports) January 8, 2013
The future member of the Fighting Irish, Steve Vasturia, finished the contest with a game-high 26 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists while shooting 50 percent from behind the arc (4-for-8) and also 50 percent from the field (10-for-20). Vasturia, who's gained attention for his assault from behind the three-point line, isn't really concerned much about his national clamor. He's more interested in seeing the Prep shine.
"I'm not really worried about where I line up with other players," Vasturia responded. "I think we have a great team and any given night we can compete with any other team in this league."
Overton didn't have the game most expected against a weaker opponent, but turned on in the fourth quarter scoring the majority of his 15 points in that quarter alone. Overton also finished with three additional rebounds and a block. Miles credits a piece of his maturity as a player to Coach Morris.
"You learn a lot every day, he's helped my game tremendously," Overton replied. "That's just a plus, and he asks a lot of you, so you have to perform every night."
Both players have high ceilings as their careers are virtually just beginning. With a college career comes new responsibility, game preparation and the experience of establishing oneself as an individual behind the simplicity of open air and opportunity. Overton & Vasturia will soon grace television screens with fast-paced play, threatening three-pointers, and a recognizance in the old school feeling when watching a player destroy the hardwood.
While on-goers watch their propulsion to stardom, the Prep may have found its new ascending athletic program. A program that has once seen the likes of Reggie Redding, Vince Curran, Chris Clark, Kasim Holloman, John Griffin, and Mark Zoeller among others. Coach Morris once again struck gold with the progression of these two powerhouses.
The players and the Prep are one in the same. The Prep is one of the greatest all-boys institutions in the nation and Vasturia and Overton are two of the best basketball players in the Class of 2013. For once, academics and basketball go hand-and-hand.
There's nothing in the world like a good Jesuit education.
Follow Tyler R. Tynes on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TylerRickyTynes