April 4, 2012

Three legends join today's hoop all stars

Sports Columnist

On Saturday in Ocean City the top senior basketball players in the Cape-Atlantic League played their final games in their school uniforms in the 11th annual All Star Saturday. There were not only two great high school games but the eighth graders from the CAL area made a strong showing, giving fans a lot of reasons to be encouraged about the league’s future.

Harry and Elaine Hartman made the day more special, especially for T. John Casiello and Sam Robinson. They had offered $100 scholarship to the two three-point champions in what is now the Beth Hartman Memorial Three-Point Shootouts. But, on Saturday, they announced they were increasing the awards to $300 each.

Beth was a talented player at Holy Spirit, making over 150 three-pointers in her career. She was the head coach at Egg Harbor Township when she lost her life to cancer at age 29. She will now be a regular part of All Star Saturday.

Just like Boo Pergament and Dave Lewis.

The most improved players in the CAL have been honored in Pergament’s name for 18 years. He couldn’t attend on Saturday but Darrell Shelton of Middle Township and Lexi Bruno of Sacred Heart were honored in his name.

And Lewis, who died of cancer while coaching at Oakcrest, is remembered annually with the Dave Lewis Memorial MVP Award, given to the top player in the Ocean City Home Bank Dixie Howell Memorial Boys Classic. That award will officially be presented to Pleasantville’s Michael Black at the end of the school year celebration at the Music Pier on June 4th.

But there was another brand new moment at this year’s All Star Saturday. Three legends from the Cape-Atlantic League were on hand to congratulate this year’s all star teams. These were three of the top players from the 1960s.

Chuck James scored over 1,100 points in high school. He was the fifth player at a CAL school to score 1,000. James, who graduated from Wildwood in 1965, led his team to three straight South Jersey championships.

Ken Leary was the first player at a CAL school to score 1,000 points. He led his team to three straight CAL championships. At Boston University, he won the Bob Cousy Award as the top college guard in New England. Then Leary, who graduated from Ocean City in 1961, returned to the CAL at Pleasantville where he coached 519 wins and two state titles.

And Chris Ford scored more than 1,500 career points in high school. He went on to play in the NCAA Championship game for Villanova at the Houston Astrodome. Ford, who graduated from Holy Spirit in 1968, was a player & coach with the Boston Celtics, winning a championship ring in 1981 as a starter on the team that also included Larry Bird & Robert Parish. He scored over 7,300 points in the NBA and made the very first three-pointer in league history.

These are guys who made the CAL schools what they are today. Having them attend Saturday’s game and shaking hands with the 2012 seniors was a great moment.

It is important that today’s players learn about those who came before them. Chuck James, Ken Leary and Chris Ford are special names in CAL history and their presence on Saturday made the event an even greater celebration of basketball in the Cape-Atlantic League.


Since the Courier-Post continues to be useless to local fans because it ignores the Cape-Atlantic League, lets take a look at the All-South Jersey boys basketball team selected by the Carino Basketball Club.

Kashawn Dunstan of Atlantic City was the only CAL player on the first team, joining Ron Curry of Paul VI, Carson Puriefoy of Bishop Eustace, Ron Paden of Willingboro, Kennedy Chukwuocha of Medford Tech and Xavier Lundy of Paulsboro.

Atlantic City’s Jah-leem Montague was on the second team and Ocean City’s Matt Bosch was on the third team. Also on the third team was Zac Barrett of Wildwood.


One final thought – If things were different in basketball and the Kentucky players all stayed for four years, would they become the greatest NCAA team ever?

Read more of Tom Williams' columns