St. Anthony is home to one of the nation’s most legendary prep basketball programs, helmed by it’s most legendary coach. Bob Hurley Sr. has been developing players and men in New Jersey for more than 40 years, turning a school which would otherwise be just another dot on New Jersey’s parochial map into center of national attention. He’s coaches some of the nation’s best players, not least of all his son, who is now a major collegiate coach himself.
Yet throughout St. Anthony’s hardwood success, the program has struggled financially. With budget cutbacks an ever-present reality for Catholic schools nationwide, the outside chance of a St. Anthony’s without a basketball program has emerged as a genuine possibility. Now, some of the program’s more storied graduates have banded together to try and raise money for the program by doing what they learned so well while there. In short, they’re going to try to win a basketball tournament.
As first reported by the New York Post, former Seton Hall star Donald Copeland, a St. Anthony’s grad, has put together a barnstorming team called Friar Nation which has been entered to compete in The Basketball Tournament, a $1 million, winner-take-all event that runs across multiple weekends, starting Friday in Philadelphia. The semifinals and finals will be held August 1-2 at Fordham. If Friar Nation is the final team standing, it has pledged to donate half of its $1 million winnings directly to St. Anthony.
“Boy, this would be a shot in the arm,” Bob Hurley Sr. told the Post. “It would be one-third of the money we need to raise for the year in one spot.”
It won’t be easy. The 2014 edition of the tournament, the first played, was won by a group of Notre Dame alumni. To compete against other former players, Copeland was able to attract the likes of Chris Gaston, Khalil Murphy and Tyuan Williams, among others. They’ll be able to compete with the best, and they’ll be motivated by something more than just the financial windfall at the end of the tourney.
“An opportunity like this comes up, you have to try and take advantage of it,” Copeland said. “There’s a huge amount of pride, especially me growing up a Jersey City kid. My father took me to the games growing up, and I always wanted to go the school and play basketball.
“Going there, you play for probably the best high-school coach in the country and just to be a part of the fraternity of players to come through there and have so much success, you’re honored to be part of it.”