Patriot Ledger || February 2, 2018 || By Mike Loftus
QUINCY – It’s an age of entrepreneurs and start-ups. With a good idea, enough good people willing to work, and a little support, a success story can seemingly be written overnight.
It’s happening at Quincy College.
One year ago, the men’s basketball program consisted of an intramural team playing against local men’s league teams and any school that would give it a game. Today, the Granite is a first-year varsity program that has won 18 straight games since losing its first, and which is ranked No. 2 nationally among Div. 3 teams by the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association.
Head coach Doug Scott never plotted a slow-but-steady game plan common to most new programs, but he admits he didn’t see his team spending nearly an entire season in the passing lane.
“I knew we could be successful,” Scott said. “I thought we were going to be good.
“But 18-1? No. Maybe 11-5, 10-6.”
Scott is an essential, energetic ingredient.
A 2009 graduate of Quincy High School, where he set city records for career points (1,555) and points in a game (53), he’s not much older than his players. He knows the talent available in Quincy and to the south (he returned to QHS as an assistant under head coach Dave Parry for two years), and his involvement in AAU programs helped him tap into players and coaches from various Boston neighborhoods.
Scott was also familiar with the competition his players would face, because he played at Massasoit Community College after his QHS career, earning NJCAA Div. 2 All-New England recognition. And he wanted there to be a local program for players who had the talent to play at four-year schools, but needed more court or classroom time to prepare.
“I always had it in the back of my mind that it would be great to have a program at Quincy College,” said Scott, who credits Quincy College president Peter Tsaffaras, Associate Vice President for Student Development Susan Bossa and Director of Student Life Amanda Deck for supporting and committing to the idea. “When the school said it was ready to go, it was kind of a dream come true.”
Scott had assistants at the ready in his older brother, Parker (he also played at QHS) and Kendrick Jackson, who coached AAU programs in Boston. They helped spread the word that junior college basketball was coming to Quincy.
“We were in gyms on the South Shore and Boston practically every night, because nobody really knew who we were,” Scott said. “That was the difficult part – nobody knowing who you are at first. But we were able to sell some guys, and we got lucky with a couple.”
Scott struck gold in landing forward Deven Palmer (Hyde Park; New Mission High School) and Dajour Dunkley (Dorchester; Jeremiah E. Burke HS), long-time AAU teammates who had played for Jackson, and are now among the two top Div. 3 junior college players in the country. He also picked up one of the biggest, best players in the city in forward Ugochukaw Kamalu, a 2017 Patriot Ledger All-Scholastic selection from Quincy High School.
All were attracted to Scott’s promise of a fast, fun brand of basketball. Scott was sold on their commitment level, which is essential: Besides meeting the requirement of a full, four-course workload, players must be willing to accept the inconveniences associated with any first-year program at a small school.
Practices are held at Quincy High. Games are played at Eastern Nazarene College. As the newest tenants in busy buildings, the Granite takes what’s available – like 9-11 p.m. practice times at QHS, and a front-loaded home schedule at ENC’s Lahue Physical Education Center. The Granite (11-0 at home) will end up playing 10 of its last 12 games on the road.
“It’s fun, but it’s tough, too,” said Kamalu (15.2 points per game), the nation’s fourth-best shooter from the floor (68.2 percent), who scored a career-high 27 points to lead Quincy’s 106-101 victory over Quinsigamond C.C. on Jan. 20.
“We just got out of high school. We’re college kids. A lot of kids our age are out there partying, and we’re out practicing from 9-11 at night. So Coach Doug makes it fun for us.”
It’s no fun for the Granite’s opponents, which must contend with one of the most prolific Div. 3 offenses in the country (No. 3; 100.7 points per game). Palmer, at 6-foot-5 Quincy’s tallest player, is No. 1 in the nation in scoring at 31.6 points per game. Dunkley, who averages 21.4 points, ranks second nationally
with 9.6 assists per game. Both have earned NJCAA Player of the Week honors this season.
“We score at will when we’re on,” Scott said. “If you can get to 100 against us, you might have a chance.”
For players like Kamalu, Palmer and Dunkley, playing at Quincy gives them a chance to improve by competing with and against strong players, which in turn could lead to an opportunity with a four-year Div. 1, 2 or 3 program.
“Quite a few college coaches are at every game,” Scott said. “Some of our guys are going to be scholarship players, if they keep their grades up.”
It’s not all about the top players, though. John Pope, who didn’t play basketball at Braintree High School, tried out at Quincy and earned a spot.
“I knew this was a first-year program, so I thought I’d give it a shot,” said Pope, a 5-10 guard who comes off the bench and has become a favorite of teammates.
“I love it. I love the school, I love my teammates. I’m having fun.”
Just about everyone is having more fun than they imagined.
“We didn’t want this to be a first-year program that was at the bottom of the list,” Palmer said. “I expected to have a good season, but this is beyond what I expected.”
And it could get even better.
“We’re here, working at it,” Dunkley said. “Every night, 9 to 11. Not a lot of other teams are doing this.”