Basketball player

Albany male basketball player and coach carry on Philadelphia high school basketball tradition

The basketball facilities at the Philadelphia Roman Catholic High School are modest. The field is on the third floor, and when the ball bounces, it reverberates around the school.

But that hasn’t stopped the school from producing 13 NBA players, six All-Americans and University of Albany Paul Newman, a 6-foot-9 center, and assistant coach Matt Griffin.

“We’re proud of this, like ‘no apologies’,” Griffin said. “It was like an ordeal, it was a special and unique place where you come, you work hard and you play with a lot of pride.”

Newman led the Cahillites to back-to-back state championships in 2015 and 2016. Griffin took over as coach in 2016, right after Newman’s graduation, and took them to another championship in 2018. .

“They’re a top 10 team right now, just over the years we’ve built,” Newman said. “I think it started with us.”

Newman, a transfer graduate from Bucknell, said he still uses the lessons he learned while playing Roman.

“Try to be really coachable,” he said. “Take everything, criticize, with what they say, not how they say it, and work hard every day because it will pay off.”

“He (Newman) totally embodies what it means to be a Roman man. He’s humble, he’s a hard worker, he’s a leader, ”Griffin said.

For his part, Griffin learned to lead practices, manage game situations and gain experience in high stakes games.

“Every possession counts, and most games are decided by one, two and three points. So the decisions that you have to make as a coach in those scenarios, really when I failed I learned, and when we succeeded I learned, ”Griffin said.

Newman got to know Griffin by stopping at Cahillite practices after graduating.

“I came back because a good friend of mine, Da’Kquan Davis, was on the team. He was a senior at the time and I was coming back to training, and me and coach Matt just talked and built a relationship through there, ”Newman said.

Griffin’s brother John Griffin recruited Newman from Bucknell, where he averaged 3.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. The Bison went to the NCAA tournament in 2017 and 2018, dropping in the first round each time.

As Newman looked for transfer opportunities, he jumped at the chance to play for Griffin and head coach Dwayne Killings, whom he had known since Killings coached at Temple. The presence of goalkeeper Chuck Champion, a friend of Newman’s who also played under former coach Will Brown, was also a draw.

“As soon as we got the phone he said, ‘I want to be a part of what you do,’” Killings said.

Griffin met Killings at Boston University, playing for him on a team that won the America East Championship. The two kept in touch during Griffin’s graduate studies at Teach for America, where he coached basketball in college, then as an assistant coach at St. Joe’s, another Catholic school in Philadelphia, and finally at Novel.

“I would be on the road, call Matt and we would talk, and we would talk about his team at Roman Catholic and my job,” Killings said. “And then sometimes we would dream a little about whether I would ever become a head coach, and I would tell him about being here and how I see his role.”

Griffin is responsible for player development, especially shooting, and helps the guards learn the readings and break down the movie.

Newman brings his experience to the Great Danes frontcourt, as well as his knowledge of what it takes to get to the NCAA tournament.

“At the end of the day, I want him to be a winner and teach our guys how to win, and he’s done a great job so far,” Killings said.

Newman said he sees mentoring as part of his role on the team.

“Help the young guys, help them level up with college basketball, show them different tricks of the trade and everything,” he said. “I hope to be a big part of getting a championship at Albany this year.”

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