Matt Chandik (@MChandik26)
RADNOR – Northeast High School and Neumann University are separated by some 34 miles. Time it right, and you might make it from one to the other in 40 to 45 minutes. It’s a bit of a hike, but certainly manageable.
DeAndre Williams never took the direct route, though. Instead, the Northeast alum took a twist here and a turn there – or six – to get to where he is today.
Thursday night, Williams poured in all 12 of his points in the second half to help Neumann stay undefeated with an 84-76 win over CSAC rival Cabrini. Not bad for a guy playing his second game as a Knight, but even more impressive considering the roundabout way that the wiry 5-9, 135-pounder used to get to Aston.
“I went to Camden County for two years because it was the only team that recruited me out of high school,” Williams said. “I stopped going to Camden in 2015 and I was supposed to come to Neumann after, but a lot of stuff happened. A lot of family stuff. I’ve just been working since then at Philadelphia Parks & Recreation.”
That time at Camden County served him well, though, giving him all the experience that he needed to blossom into a legitimate Division III prospect. No, seriously, ALL of the experience he could possibly ask for.
“We only had six guys on the team at Camden, so I got to play a lot,” Williams said. “It was a lot of running and you had to be in good shape for it.”
Williams finally made his way to Neumann, becoming a Knight this semester. He didn’t quite shake off the rust right away, being held scoreless in his first game, but then turned it up a notch when the Knights (11-0) needed him most. Forward Darian Barnes was well on his way to a double-double when he threw down a dunk, then proceeded to picking up his second technical foul of the game by celebrating his jam too enthusiastically for the referee’s taste. Forced to go with a smaller lineup, Neumann coach Jim Rullo relied a little bit more on Williams, and the fourth-year coach’s gamble paid off.
“He told me to wake up. I knew I had to step up,” Williams said. “Everybody on the bench had to step up.”
Williams is just one of the big reasons why Neumann is flying up the Division III national polls with an eye on making a run in the national tournament. The Knights showcased their versatility and depth with three other players joining Williams in double-digit scoring, led by a 21-point night from Tyaire Hudson.
Cabrini (7-4) got a game-high 23 points from Deryl Bagwell and a monster 17-point, 20-board night from Tyheim Monroe. It was the dominant all-around effort from another transfer, Carl Wallace, that put the Knights over the top. The former Millersville forward paired an incredible 20 rebounds with 16 points, and the Neumann rookie was too much for the Cavaliers’ front court to handle.
“It’s a great program and I was supposed to come here years ago, but I stayed at Millersville for a couple years because I was trying to stay at D-II,” Wallace said. “I have a friend, (Neumann forward) James Butler, who went to Millersville as well and then he left to came here and I told him, ‘I’m going to come to Neumann with you,’ so that’s why I came here.”
The package deal worked wonders for Rullo, with Butler twice earning all-conference honors and now having Wallace emerge. Wallace is still getting used to the Knights’ style, but he’s accelerated his learning curve, to say the least.
“That’s the thing about our team: when someone goes down, somebody’s got to pick him back up. That’s what I like about our team.”
With that spotless record, there’s a lot to like.