The other day at Iona Prep I ran into Ryan O’Neil, who is entering his sophomore season as quarterback at Lafayette. I figured I’d balance it out a little by catching you up on a basketball star from the area.
I spoke yesterday with former Blessed Sacrament standout Curtis Dennis, who is finally about to play his freshman season at New Mexico. I say “finally” because Dennis graduated from Blessed Sacrament in 2006 after leading the Cardinals to the Class B Federation final, averaging 20.6 points per game.
Dennis spent the following season at Gulf Shores Prep School in Houston and then the next year at famed Findlay Prep in Las Vegas. After red-shirting last season for New Mexico, he’ll finally get his chance to step on the floor for the Lobos and coach Steve Alford.
He turned 21 in January.
“It’s weird to think that I’m 21 and am only a freshman,” said Dennis, a 6-foot-5 guard. “It’s been frustrating. But I’ve made it.”
Dennis made the decision on his own last season to red-shirt, a wise move with a bevy of veteran guards ahead of him. One of them was Tony Danridge, a first-team All-Mountain West Conference pick. Danridge was a gifted shooter and the nation’s top college dunker.
Dennis has played well through the summer out in New Mexico and figures to be a vital piece this season. With Danridge and 6-7 reserve guard Chad Toppert gone, the opportunity is there for Dennis.
“(Toppert) played 35 minutes in most games,” Dennis said. “That will probably now be my role.”
I knew Dennis pretty well in high school and caught up with him several times over the last three seasons. He was always a kid blessed with talent but would often try to do too much as a player. The two years of prep school and the year as a red-shirt at New Mexico should benefit him in that department. It also helps that he’s filled out his body and is just over 200 pounds.
Overall, Dennis is loving the Midwest West Coast lifestyle — a far cry from his Bronx roots where he grew up with 12 brothers and sisters.
“Life out here is great, especially if you play basketball,” Dennis said. “If you play basketball, they treat you really well out here. There are no pro teams out here. We’re looked at as the NBA team. People know who you are. You sign autographs every day. It’s nice out here. It’s far from New York City, though.”