All of the St. Anthony players sat hunched over inside the locker room at Rutgers University on March 9, their eyes glued to the dominating figure standing in the middle.
Mere minutes had passed after the Friars flattened top-ranked St. Patrick in the New Jersey North Non-Public ‘B’ title game – the teams went into the game ranked first and second nationally – and coach Bob Hurley, “60 Minutes” cameras focused on him for a recently aired TV feature, had a question for his troops.
“Every eight-second sprint we ran during the season, everything we’ve done, every day I’ve busted your chops, every study hall,” Hurley said, “does it all seem worth it right now?”
For juniors Rashad Andrews and Jimmy Hall, who each commuted more than 90 minutes to St. Anthony, a school of less than 250 students in Jersey City, the commitment to Hurley, and the strict demands the Hall of Fame coach makes of them, has paid off.
“He’s helping mold us into young men and making us better every day,” says Hall, a 6-7 forward/center. “Yeah, it’s worth it.”
“You hear (Hurley) talk about previous teams and all the players he’s had, and you say to yourself, ‘I want to be one of the people that he talks about in his stories,’” says Andrews, a 6-5 swingman.
“To accomplish something like we did this season, with all the work and travel, yeah, it was all worth it.”
Andrews is up by 5:15 a.m. daily, preparing to make the commute from his home in St. Albans, Queens, while Hall rises at 6 a.m. to start getting ready to travel from the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.
“They’re committed,” Hurley says. “Rashad is here 45 minutes before the first class.”
As an eighth-grader, Andrews saw St. Anthony play in the Primetime Shootout tournament and was intrigued by the team’s coach.
His mother, Debra Andrews, felt comfortable with her son choosing St. Anthony over closer Queens options, such as Christ the King or Holy Cross, mostly because of Hurley.
“He’s a great coach,” she says, “and he really works hard and loves the kids.”
Hall’s mother, Noreen Wiggins, was advised by her brother to research Hurley’s legendary career, so she promptly Googled his name. After meeting with Hurley, Wiggins thought he could fill a void as a male role model for her son, and even though Boys & Girls HS is located within walking distance of their home, she decided to send Hall to play for Hurley.
“The toughest (loss for) Jimmy was my dad, who passed away three years ago,” Wiggins says. “Coach Hurley (is a) big piece in helping Jimmy become a young man. He picked up the pieces.”
Between the long commutes and Hurley’s unrelenting practices, there have been times when the juniors questioned their decision to attend St. Anthony.
“I wasn’t really used to the screaming and yelling,” Hall says. “There were times it got bad.”