High school boys basketball: VASJ super seniors depart Viking Village
Jeff Forman/JForman@News-Herald.com<p> VASJ head coach Babe Kwasniak, center, poses with senior players before their last practice in their school gym March 24. With Kwasniak are, clockwise from the top, Carlton Bragg, Dererk Parson, Simon Texidor, Tremayne Harvell, Brian Parker, Vaughn “Mo” Johnson and Tre’Von Williams-Scruggs. Senior Jeff Grudzinski was not available for the photo. The Vikings are preparing for their state semifinal championship game March 26 in Columbus.
By Alex Hooper, The News-Herald POSTED: 03/24/15, 8:14 PM EDT | 0 When the senior basketball players from Villa Angela-St. Joseph left Viking Village after practice March 24, they left what was their final time as active members of the storied program.
When they return from Columbus after a state semifinal with Columbus Eastmoor on March 26 and a potential state final March 28, they hope there will be room to be made for a sixth state championship banner in the rafters of the gym the team’s eight seniors spilled blood, sweat and tears in.
“Most of them have everything they could want, with the exception of another state championship,” VASJ coach Babe Kwasniak said. “If things go right this weekend, Dererk Pardon will end up as the all-time blocks leader, Brian Parker has played more games and won more games than anyone else who has ever played here, Simon Texidor is the all-time leading 3-point shooter, Mo (Johnson) will go out near the top in assists, Carlton Bragg is a McDonald’s All-American.
“Now it’s about whether we can do something collective as a unit. This would be that feather in the cap.”
Advertisement Seven of the eight seniors — Pardon, Parker, Texidor, Johnson, Bragg, Tre’von Williams-Scruggs and Tremayne Harvell — began their last practice at Viking Village in a number of ways.
Johnson and Harvell warmed up with other members of the team. Bragg made his rounds upon arrival, greeting everyone in the gymnasium with a joke and his signature smile. Texidor caught a nap in the corner.
Missing from action was the eighth member of the Viking senior class, Jeff Grudzinski, a three-sport standout who missed his second consecutive day of school due to an illness, despite not missing a day of classes since enrolling at VASJ.
Johnson, Texidor and Bragg said they hadn’t thought about the fact their final practice at Viking Village was about to commence, but it didn’t take time for them to start reminiscing.
“One of my favorite stories was when we were ordering our shoes freshman year, Carlton got the wrong color — of course — the day before the game,” Johnson said. “He had a dark blue, everyone else had a light blue, and it was a sellout game — everyone was there. It was a little embarrassing, but it is funny and one of my first memories here. He had to wear them, and he looked different than everybody.”
When Bragg was reminded of the snafu, albeit a minor one, it set off stories at the expense of the Associated Press Ohio Division III player of the year.
“Oh, my Royals? They be hatin’,” Bragg said with a laugh. “They be like that.”
Johnson and Texidor weren’t finished, and the tales kept coming.
“I’ll remember the funny moments we had, like injuries,” Johnson added, drawing an inquisitive look from Texidor. “How guys overreacted like when Carl flipped and broke his toe and we thought he broke his back instead. And when I cut my eye and he started crying.
“Carl went for a dunk on a fastbreak …” Johnson continued before being cut off by his much taller teammate.
“Hold up. No, no, no,” Bragg interjected. “We were doing a drill, so I’m coming full speed down the lane. I dunk and didn’t mean to hang on the rim and just flip back and hit my toe. It was really my back, but I don’t know how my toe got broken.”
“The next day, he comes in with a boot, saying, ‘My toe is broken,’ ” Johnson finished.
Texidor, head in hands, chided Bragg for missing the next seven games as Johnson continued with another injury story.
“Sophomore year, I cut my eye,” he said. “I think I’m fine, I’m getting up and I see Carl look at me. He started screaming and going ballistic, like, ‘Look at your face!’ Then I felt the blood dripping, and Coach Kwas was talking about licking blood up off the floor, and it was weird and funny at the same time.”
Bragg, despite being the brunt of his teammates’ light-hearted jabs, recalled a fine moment from Texidor from 2012 when the shooting guard took a break from his sharpshooting from 3 and tossed down an unexpected dunk on teammate Jacob Stauffer.
When Kwasniak arrived for practice, he took time to reflect on the memories of one of the best classes in program history.
“There are so many,” he said. “One of them is, before we played Archbishop Carroll this year, I talked about having standards and not rules, because standards are harder to break. Simon Texidor has talked about doing things and doing them together.”
Kwasniak also shared a story many of the players would likely wish to forget.
“When they were sophomores, they got mad because Carlton went to get a haircut instead of studying for math and allegedly, I made them run — the number is all folklore — it’s probably about 25 suicides, but they swear it was 40,” he said. “But, (Duane “Boo” Gibson) was throwing up in the garbage can. They always bring up those memories. The best part is, I’m not coaching at a place where not just kids, but parents — especially this year — get in my way. I mean, I’m rough on them, I don’t placate them. You can’t do that everywhere.”
After the memories were shared and laughs ensued, the demeanor of the fun-loving group of seniors changed. It was time to get down to business and prepare for the final push of a long and emotionally exhausting title run.
“For us, fun is about being competitive,” Johnson said, now with a straight face. “We’re going to go out after each other and get ready for Columbus Eastmoor, who is a great team. That’s going to be fun for us, preparing for another option that we have to go through.
“After this, I’ll be officially like an alumni, basically. So now I’ll be coming here to play against the guys, seeing the great things they’ll be doing. It hasn’t really kicked in yet, but I guess it will later on tonight when I realize it’s my last practice here. I have a lot of great memories here, and I’m blessed to be here.”
Added Texidor: “We do want to have more fun, but we still have our main goal intact, so that’s more important.”
With the past addressed, it was back to the present as assistant coach Rich Newlon — better known around the Village as “Coach Juice” — blasted on his whistle.
“Everyone on the baseline,” he ordered.
It was business as usual.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ZIG last edited by
Sad when a high school team is playing later in the season then our Jayhawks . It’s going to be a looooong off season.
JayhawkRock78 last edited by
I think I really mead to attend a few work out sessions in College,bBall.
I have s
I just don’t think the Bragg and Co packaged deal ever had a chance with Ingram and Brown. I’ll be shocked if we land Brown or Ingram. I’ve been preaching Newman, but if we land Brown over Newman, I’ll take it too.
We’re out on Zimmerman. In fact, we’re not even on his list anymore. He’s down to UNLV, UCLA, ZONA, AND UK. I think pretty much in that order too.
Kip_McSmithers last edited by
@truehawk93 : I think you’re right, Zimmerman will stay home and play for UNLV.
@csantaellaSSA: @tyshawntaylor just lit it up tonight for @IndiosBSN with 36 pts 5 assts and the W on the road #SSA
@BallUpNBA: Rookie of the Year! “@NBAllAccess: Andrew Wiggins tonight: 27 Points 6 Rebounds 4 assists 2 steals 2 blocks”
@Crimsonorblue22 haha…Recruits meet Andrew Wiggins, the next NBA ROY. Oh, did I mention he played at KU? Oh yeah, forgot that little tid bit.
These recruits come from high school and they’re all OFFENSE. They have little to NO defensive tools whatsoever. Wiggins came in defensively raw, and entered the NBA as one of the best rookie defensive players. It might be something these recruits today need to consider.
when did we get dropped from his list?
More on Bragg
By Alex Hooper, The News-Herald POSTED: 03/26/15, 6:33 PM EDT | UPDATED: 18 SECS AGO # COMMENTS
Jeff Forman/JForman@News-Herald.com<p> Carlton Bragg slam dunks in the fourth quarter of the Vikings’ 62-34 state semifinal win over the Eastmoor Warriors March 26 at Value City Arena at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
COLUMBUS — Villa Angela-St. Joseph coach Babe Kwasniak holds another title at the school: Director of Advancement.
For the past three years at VASJ, he has successfully helped advance the Vikings as far into the tournament field as possible, reaching a third straight state championship game with a 62-34 rout of Columbus Eastmoor Academy on March 26.
“Tough game, tough opponent,” Eastmoor coach Jim Miranda said. “Tremendous skills and abilities, and we knew it was a mountain we had to climb and we’d have to almost play a perfect game. We had a game plan and we executed it early, then we got out of it and got a little impatient. And then, their size and strength overpowered us down the stretch.”
Video: Columbus Eastmoor head coach Jim Miranda discusses playing VASJ.
VASJ will look to secure its sixth state crown on March 28 against Lima Central Catholic, which knocked the Vikings off in the 2014 state title game. Tip off 1:30 p.m. A win would make the Vikings the first team in Ohio to win a state championship in all four divisions.
Jeff Forman photo gallery from VASJ-Columbus Eastmoor
VASJ controlled the game for the majority of 32 minutes, and dominated almost every statistical category. The Vikings and their twin towers of Carlton Bragg and Dererk Pardon won the rebound battle, 43-21, with VASJ grabbing as many offensive boards as the Warriors had total rebounds.
The most impressive part about the Vikings’ game was their ability to defend, holding Eastmoor to 27.1 percent shooting. Defensively, VASJ has been stellar in their tournament run.
“It’s been unbelievable,” Kwasniak said. “It’s been kind of what we’re basing our performance on. I was telling the guys, we watched a clip of Carlton’s two monster dunks against Youngstown Ursuline, and I wasn’t getting fired up on the bench because of his dunks – well that was a piece of it – but I was getting fired up by how well we were defending.”
Bragg, who left the game midway through the fourth quarter with 22 points at the same time Eastmoor had scored 22 as a team, used the defensive side of the ball to convert on another showstopper. On the Vikings starters’ last possession on the floor, senior point guard Mo Johnson took a VASJ steal into the forecourt, tossed the ball off of the backboard as the defense collapsed upon him, and Bragg hammered it home with two hands.
“You can say we’ve been practicing that on the defensive side,” Bragg said. “Knowing coach, he wouldn’t allow that, but it was a defensive play, so I told Mo to throw it up. I didn’t think he’d do it at first.”
Johnson took a risk on the pass, which may have had implications outside of the game had it gone awry.
“We tried it last year and it was unsuccessful,” he said. “So we practiced it a lot, and it was successful against Coach Kwas and the alumni, so we just said we’d do it anyway.”
“I give it a 10,” Bragg quipped with a grin.
The Vikings did not get out of the gate as smoothly as they finished, falling behind midway through the first as Eastmoor senior point guard Jalon Lewis scored 10 of his team’s first 12 points. Lewis finished with 12 to lead the Warriors.
“They started to recognize me in the second quarter,” he said. “Just got a little impatient and started forcing a little bit more. In the first quarter, we stalled a little bit so we could limit their possessions and it worked, it did work, and towards the start of the second and third quarter, we started pushing a little bit more.”
After battling to a 15-11 lead after the first quarter, the Vikings eviscerated the Warriors down the stretch, outscoring Eastmoor, 35-10, in the second and third quarters combined.
Another bright spot for VASJ was Pardon, who recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. The Northwestern recruit was voted second-team All-Ohio in Division III despite being a consistent double-double contributor on top of serving as the defensive leader for one of the final two teams remaining in D-III, something that did not sit well with Kwasniak.
“Dererk may get lost on some other folks, but he doesn’t on me,” Kwasniak said. “Ever.”
VASJ awaits the winner of the Chaminade Julienne and Lima Central Catholic, the same team that knocked the Vikings off in the 2014 state title game.
Bragg said that while returning to the title game a third consecutive time is nice, he is not satisfied yet.
“It feels good,” he said. “I don’t want to take it too much in, we still have unfinished business to take care of.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Alex is a Perry native and Baldwin-Wallace alumnus who covers the high school boys basketball, cross country, golf and track beats for the News-Herald. He is an avid music-lover and counter-culture consumer. Reach the author at AHooper@News-Herald.com or follow Alex on Twitter: @lexhooper.
@Crimsonorblue22 Has Coach Self gone after/ recruited any of those other guys?
@Crimsonorblue22 Tyshawn is over seas im guessing?
@Lulufulu doesn’t sound like it.
@Lulufulu yes on tyshawn.
@Crimsonorblue22 Wonder if they are worth going after, ie; what the team needs to fill holes, get better, etc. We need Bigs and wings that can pass and have great b2b games and face up games. We got PG covered.
One guy signed w/northwestern. All I know.
that picture makes him look super long. He definitely looks closer to 6’10 than 6’8. Will be great to have more size starting with him.
Bragg is on espn 2 tonight, 7 central.
Crimsonorblue22 last edited by KUSTEVE
I hope this works
Bragg and the Mickey D’s are playing at 8 central time on espn, in case anyone is interested.
CHICAGO Carlton Bragg knows a thing or two about quick turnarounds.
On the afternoon of March 29, Bragg was in Columbus, Ohio, scoring 12 points in helping Cleveland’s Villa Angela-St. Joseph win its second state championship in three years. That evening, Bragg was in Chicago, at the first practice for the McDonald’s All-America game, working out in front of NBA scouts and recruiting analysts.
Bragg, ranked the 16th-best player in the class of 2015 by Scout.com, is headed to Lawrence this fall as the centerpiece of Bill Self’s recruiting class. There he will look to be a part of another quick turnaround as the Jayhawks look to remain the class of the Big 12 while improving after a second consecutive season of a second-round exit in the NCAA Tournament.
A forward with terrific strength and a long wingspan, Bragg should find a place quickly on the Kansas front line. The 6-foot-9, 225-pound big man averaged more than 21 points and eight rebounds per game this prep season and showed his versatility by finishing as the runner-up in the McDonald’s skills contest. He also flashed impressive range as an outside shooter in the three days of workouts prior to Wednesday’s game.
“I’ve always had it, yes,” Bragg said about his jump shot. “Coming into this McDonald’s game, Coach Self was telling how in college they ice it, trapping it so it’s like a pick-and-pop game. As a big guy, you (have to) be able to shoot the 18-footer.”
That’s not say Bragg can’t play in the paint like a traditional power forward. With the uncertain futures of Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander, Bragg may be asked to be the Jayhawks’ primary post scorer next season. There are some other highly ranked big-men prospects that are still considering Kansas, but as of now, Bragg is the likely replacement if there are open front-court minutes.
Self has made freshman work for their playing time in the past, regardless of their status as elite recruits. That doesn’t bother Bragg, who said he has a strong relationship with the Jayhawks coach.
“Earning minutes isn’t an issue, because it shows your talent, shows your hard work,” Bragg said. “(Self) develops his (power forwards) and (centers) the best, you know. He’s the best in the country for doing that.”
Bragg performed well in the McDonald’s game, showing his wide array of skills. He threw down a windmill dunk on a breakaway, hit a three-pointer and also crashed the glass hard.
In 14 minutes of play, Bragg finished with nine points and a steal, calling the game “an exciting, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
But by the time the final horn sounded, with his West team losing 111-91, the master of the quick turnaround had already started focusing on what is next to come: a summer of preparing himself for the rigors of college basketball. Self has told Bragg what he’d like the forward to work on, and there are things to accomplish all over the place, from the classroom to the basketball court.
“I’m going to work extremely hard this summer. I have to get my grades together, stay on top of my grades,” Bragg said. “Coach keeps telling me to work on the pick-and-pop and pick-and-roll. I need to improve that 15-18 footer.
“But I’m really looking forward to getting down to Kansas.”
Love the kids attitude. His perimeter shooting is a big addition to this team. Knowing our first big off the bench could be an offensive weapon, something we lacked last year is exciting.