Duck, McArdle off to private schools to further basketball careers

Two Pittsfield natives and former St. Joseph basketball players have had very busy summers as they prepare for life without Crusader basketball.

The school's closing in June forced athletes to find new places to play, as former Crusaders will be dispersed throughout the region.

Post player Kekoa McArdle will continue his basketball career at the Northfield Mount Hermon School in Northfield. Fellow big man Jalen Duck is also heading to prep school, attending the St. Thomas More School in Oakdale, Conn. Both schools compete in the New England Prep School Athletic Conference (NEPSAC) AAA division.

The big men will reclassify and gain another year of eligibility. McArdle is now a member of the 2021 class. Duck is in the 2020 class. Duck is following in the footsteps of former St. Joe basketball star Taverick "Tank" Roberson. Roberson attended St. Thomas More in 2014 before enrolling at Pine Minor College.

Last season the duo led St. Joe to seven wins and a Western Mass. Division IV quarterfinals appearance. Now both players are making waves on the summer basketball circuit.

McArdle plays for the nationally known Boston Amateur Basketball Club (BABC). The 6-foot-7 center's played against some of the top talent in his age group as a member of BABC's 15U team. In July, BABC took first place at the AAU Super Showcase in Orlando. They also won championships at the GymRats Tournament in Albany, and at the Zero Gravity Nationals in Beverly.

"It's been really good because I've got to meet a lot of people that I wouldn't meet if I didn't play [in tournaments]," McArdle said. "It's helping me get better at my game so I can go off to a college."

McArdle said his goal is to attend an Ivy League school with challenging athletic standards. He hasn't been around the NMH team much, but he said his experience at the prep school has already positively impacted him.

"I worked out with the team three times," he said. "I start school Sept. 1. That's been a mind-blowing experience. I've played against kids from different places all over the world. And they're going to Division-I colleges."

Duck's also been collecting hardware on the AAU circuit. He's a member of the Berkshire County-based Kingsbread 16U team. In May, they won the 2017 NEAAU Massachusetts Division III championship in Waltham, going 5-0. The versatile big man is looking forward to the challenge of playing in the NEPSAC.

"I think there's better competition and I'm trying to get to the next level for basketball," he said. "I thought [going to prep school] was the best way to get there."

Former St. Joe coach Joe Bennett said their respective schools are getting two talented and coachable players.

"With Kekoa, I thought that he always came to practice with the right attitude and the right work ethic," he said. "He wasn't anybody I had to worry about in terms of ego or not following through with the game plan. He was the consummate player."

Bennett added that the 6-foot-6 Duck was the most skilled player on the team. He's a capable inside-outside scoring threat that will continue to grow at prep school.

"He's very skilled. More skilled than he realizes," Bennett said. "There's a lot of things he can do that he was really starting to scratch the surface on. By the end of the season he put up some really big games for us. He started to understand better what he's capable of doing and how dangerous he can be out there.

"[He has] the right attitude. Wasn't anybody I thought was an interference or distraction at practice. Just a very good kid all around."

As the players prepare for the next steps of their careers, they can't help but think about what they could've accomplished at St. Joe. Other players on last year's team will attend schools within the county as well. Elton Wilkins, Kymani Harley and Jamal Beda are going to Pittsfield. Myles Whitney-Nason is going to Lee.

"It was everybody's first year of varsity," Duck said. "We all thought once we get adjusted to varsity, that we'd start clicking and playing together, and really be a force. Maybe win Western Mass. or goes as far as state champs. We were really sad when we found out it closed.

"It was the best year at school I ever had. It's like a family over there. I'm going to miss it."

Reach sports writer Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252 or @TheAkeemGlaspie.


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