WEST LONG BRANCH
In King Rice’s pursuit of Matt Farrell, the third-year Monmouth University head coach had to have been thrilled when the Point Beach senior point guard paced the Garnet Gulls to a Shore Conference Tournament semifinal victory on Wednesday evening.
That win meant Farrell and Point Beach were through to the SCT final, which was played at Monmouth University’s sparkling 4,100-seat Multipurpose Activity Center on Saturday afternoon. Imagine that. A player Rice highly covets coming to campus to play a game. No official visit was wasted, nor was anyone’s time as Farrell scored a game-high 25 points on 8-for-14 shooting in 32 minutes to steer the Gulls to their first SCT crown, 49-41, over Christian Brothers Academy.
“It’s all about confidence, confidence is a scary thing,” said Farrell, who de-committed from Boston College in November before seeing his suitors expand to not only mid-majors, but high-majors as well. “My big thing is I want to control the game, I want it to be my game with the ball in my hands. I want to get my team into what we’re doing and what we have to do on defense. I’m used to it by now. It’s all about poise and controlling your emotions.”
It is a poorly-kept secret that Rice would like to get a commitment from another 2014 guard. While he and his staff are doing their due-diligence elsewhere on the recruiting trail, it’s an even worse-kept secret that they would like that 2014 guard to be Farrell, who they got involved with early on, but lost out to Boston College late. Saturday served as what may have been Monmouth’s last great chance to score a significant recruiting coup.
The MAC was at full-capacity and raucous for the 3 p.m. start, which, in theory, was its own recruiting tool. It can’t hurt when a recruit is able to see his potential future home at its apex and you can be certain that the building has not seen that type of environment this winter.
Within that full house were several Monmouth officials standing for all, or at least part of the game, in a walkway leading to the floor, which sits directly across from Point Beach’s bench. Multiple current players, including junior guards Andrew Nicholas and Max DiLeo, sat under the basket closest to the Garnet Gulls’ bench. Rice was around all afternoon, as was assistant coach Rick Callahan. To put it simply, everyone was around because the bus to Monmouth’s regular-season finale at Siena this afternoon didn’t leave until 15 minutes after the game was over.
The icing on the cake, though, was the fact that Point Beach was placed in Monmouth’s locker room for the game. No one affiliated with the school will ever admit it publicly, but that was not an accident. It should be noted that the other three teams playing at Monmouth on Saturday received use of smaller visiting locker rooms, which are located in the hallway directly across from the team benches.
“I love this gym,” Farrell said. “I love everything about the school. I have a lot of family around here and Monmouth is still in the picture. I love Coach Rice, I love Coach Callahan, but playing here, it was fun, especially in this packed house. The best thing is we won, we got it done and we made school history.”
Monmouth is still in the picture, but so is everyone else as Farrell has gone out of his way to show all schools involved a lot of respect and not eliminate anyone. He has visited St. Joseph’s, while Fordham has begun putting a full-court press on. Rutgers offered on Saturday afternoon, Creighton has shown interest and the list goes on and on.
Can Rice steal this kid? The answer to that is not likely to come until Farrell’s senior season is complete. If Saturday was Rice’s last real chance to make a big impression, he can rest easy knowing that if Farrell goes elsewhere, it won’t be because Monmouth didn’t make a good impression.