St. Joseph Academy: The Road Warriors of South Jersey Basketball

St. Joseph Academy: The Road Warriors of South Jersey Basketball
While all high school basketball teams will be making sacrifices and inconvenienced during this season due to the pandemic, St. Joseph Academy in Hammonton has no shortage of obstacles.
 
The Wildcats, who could have a Top 10 team in South Jersey, didn’t even know if they would have a team.
 
Take one step back, they didn’t know if there would be a school.
 
That’s because last April the Camden diocese announced that it was shutting down five schools, including St. Joseph due to declining enrollment.
 
So many in the school stuck together and came up with a plan to remain open under its new names, St. Joseph Academy.
 
While there is a team, coach Paul Rodio, son of the legendary St. Augustine coach of the same name, doesn’t have a home gym.
 
The team practices at the high school, which doesn’t have a regulation gym. In fact, the gym is used as a cafeteria during the day and when the Wildcats practice, they have to move chairs to make the needed space available to play basketball. 
 
Since it’s not a regulation gym, St. Joseph Academy will play each game on the road. The NJSIAA Is allowing teams up to 15 games this season.
 
That’s a lot of road trips.
 
St. Joseph used to play its games in a gym down the street from the high schools, but the diocese owns that building.
 
“The diocese won’t rent it to us,” Rodio said.
 
Due to the pandemic, other schools, which might offer to allow St. Joseph to rent its gym, aren’t doing so.
 
In the fall, St. Joseph Academy was able to play its home football games at Buena, but it’s easier to do that in an outdoor sport during a pandemic than an indoor one.
 
So the Wildcats will hit the road.
 
And they will do so with another highly competitive team.
 
One of Rodio’s biggest achievements was keeping his team together when the initial news of the school closure hit.
 
The Wildcats are led by two seniors, 6-3 Marcus Pierce and 6-3 Jordan Stafford.
 
Pierce had several Division I schools showing interest before the pandemic, according to Rodio. Now Pierce, who averaged 19.6 points as a junior, will be able to put some games on tape to show the recruiters. 
 
Stafford is a 4.0 student, who shows great intelligence on and off the court. 
 
Junior Ja’son Prevard, who was the school’s starting quarterback by the end of the season, is another key returning guard. Both Stafford and Prevard averaged more than eight points per game. 
 
The Wildcats have also brought in a key newcomer in 6-5 Dom Thomas, a transfer from Clearview, who according to Rodio, “jumps out of the building.”
 
St. Joseph Academy went 22-6 last season and advanced to the South Jersey Non-Public B quarterfinal before losing to a talented Holy Cross Academy team. 
 
It was a continuation of success for Rodio, who is 118-36 in six seasons at St. Joseph, turning the program into one of the more successful ones in South Jersey.

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The Wildcats will begin their road journey on January 26 with a season opener at Millville. It’s taken a lot to get to this point and just have a school, let alone a team, so playing on the road all season won’t get this resilient team down. 

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Author: Marc Narducci

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