Saturday, February 26, 2011

From afar, Pecora proud of seniors

The coach who brought Charles Jenkins, Greg Washington and Brad Kelleher to Hofstra will be a couple dozen miles west of Hofstra Arena this afternoon, when the trio of seniors are honored and Jenkins’ jersey is retired in Senior Day festivities prior to the Flying Dutchmen’s game against Delaware.

But even as Tom Pecora strolls the Fordham sideline at the Meadowlands Arena (hey, I can call it what I want!), he’ll still be thinking about Jenkins, Washington and Kelleher and hoping their final home game is one to remember.

“Those guys are a special bunch of kids, I’m thrilled for them—I rooted for them throughout the season,” Pecora said Friday afternoon. “They’re quality kids. They’ve always taken care of things academically. They were good leaders and in good times or bad, they were always there for us. They’ve been great.”

Pecora will always be linked with Jenkins, who became the latest symbol of Pecora’s ability to uncover under-recruited gems, but Pecora went through plenty as well with Washington and Kelleher, each of whom endured a season (or more) on the bench thanks to the unpredictable shenanigans of the NCAA.

Washington was declared ineligible by the NCAA just before his true freshman season in 2006-07, though he was allowed to redshirt and play four years, while Pecora passionately defended Kelleher and criticized the NCAA when Kelleher ended up missing all of last year (and the first eight games of this year) because his parents didn’t properly fill out a permission slip in fifth grade, or something like that.

“You think about the nonsense that Greg Washington goes through his first year—he never wavered in his love for Hofstra, he was always there, he never backed down and always wanted to be a part of what we were doing,” Pecora said. “And he won a lot of ballgames for us in very quiet, subtle ways. He blocked a lot of shots, he’s the all-time shot blocker.

“Kelleher I think the bad thing is just the residue of having to sit and not play for a year-and-a-half caught up to him and I think that’s why, to this point, he hasn’t had the kind of great seasons we thought he could have. But that’s life and I have no doubt that he’s going to go on and have a great pro career in Australia or in Europe.”

With Fordham taking on Rhode Island at the exact same time Hofstra is facing Delaware today, Pecora’s staff won’t be represented for Jenkins’ jersey retirement like it was Jan. 29, when Fordham’s game against St. Bonaventure ended in time for David Duke and Mike Kelly to get to the Arena and see Jenkins break Antoine Agudio’s career scoring record. Kelly said that afternoon he might never again coach a player who had Jenkins’ combination of ability, work ethic, humility and personality, and Pecora agreed Friday Jenkins was a rare talent.

“I think we’ve had similar personalities, but not in an elite player, you know what I mean?” Pecora said. “I think it’s a special blend, to be that personable and that approachable and that genuinely concerned about other people and still be an elite athlete, because everyone’s kissing your tail all the time. I think one of the reasons for that is Charles wasn’t a kid who had been getting his butt kissed since he was in ninth grade. He came up under the radar—when he was at Springfield Gardens, a lot of people still didn’t believe in his game. I think by [attention] coming later to him a little bit later, it allowed him to develop more as a person and not just be Charles Jenkins the basketball player.”

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