Jack Vreeswyk (above), like his father Mike, is a lights-out shooter from the 3-point arc. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Kevin Callahan (@CP_KCallahan)
Jack Vreeswyk used to walk on the court and hear the digs from other players and spectators. They weren’t whispers either. He heard how he was the son of the former Temple University great, but that he was “no Mike Vreeswyk.”
“Yeah everybody knows him,” Jack said proudly. “Honestly, it motivated me more. I would hear, ‘I would never be able to fill his shoes.’ “
Well, truthfully, not many players have “filled Vreeswyk’s shoes” since he used to light up old McGonigle Hall and the Atlantic 10 Conference. Really, he was that good. He was that competitive. He was all of what legendary coach John Chaney could want in a player.
“He was one of the top Temple players ever,” Jack continued. “Hearing what people said pretty much motivated me more to go to the gym every day, to keep working hard, to keep work on my shot.”
Now, though, when the senior walks on the court for the George School, he hears a different tune. He hears the words from a coach’s scouting report. Yes, he hears coach-speak from the mouth of opponents and their fans of how they have to stop No. 32 – the number his dad wore at Temple – for the surging Cougars.
“I’m hearing both sides now,” Jack said with satisfying pride in his voice. “It makes me feel like all the hard work and the gym is starting to pay off.”
The 6-foot-3 Vreeswyk’s emergence this season parallels the rise of the Cougars, who are 9-5 and on a six-game winning streak after beating Moorestown Friends 63-27 Friday night as nine different players scored for impressive first-year Cougars coach Ben Luber.
“When I walked in the door, it was like, ‘I’m here to help you guys and build a team, but it’s up to you guys the seniors to own it,’ and we put in the work and it’s been fun to watch.” said Luber, who certainly has the credentials to raise a program to a higher level as the all-time leading scorer at Council Rock North High School and a four-year starting point guard at Penn State.
“Looking back on it, the George School hasn’t beaten Shipley in 13 years and Friends Central it was 12 years,” Luber reflected on wins over both teams this season. “This is a team that lost its top two scorers from last year‘s team.
“So I think that’s a testament to the kids playing together and believing in one another.”
This is also a testament to a father believing in his son.
“It’s been fun to watch,” Mike said. “The development has been great, I think back to where he was two years ago, he was a JV player, he was doing well but nowhere near what he’s doing now and it’s only been 18 months.”
This summer, Mike Vreeswyk (left) coached his son for the East Coast Power program. Now, he's an assistant on the George School bench. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Vreeswyk, a three-year starter for Chaney who finished as the fifth leading scorer in the Owls’ fabled history with 1,650 points, coached his son on the AAU circuit for East Coast Power.
“Last year it really started kicking in during the spring-summer AAU season,” Mike said. “Just like anyone, he has his deficiencies, but the things that he does well, he does really well.”
The 6-foot-5 Vreeswyk feels good about the growth his son has made over the last few years. And that’s important, because although Vreeswyk was weaned under Chaney’s fruitful tree of loyalty, he isn’t just analyzing his son from only the eyes of a proud and loving dad.
“The thing with Jack, I talk to coaches in high school, college and pros, and they all want to know how athletic he is, but that’s the thing, he’s really athletic,” Mike said. “He has to work on his ball handling, but the shooting, the basketball IQ and the athleticism are certainly not an issue.
“At this point, he’s not a Division I player but he certainly can play in Division II and some people think if he goes to prep school he can become a Division I player.”
“One coach I was talking to thought he was a junior because he looks so young,” Mike said. “I still think he’s going to grow a little bit. The coach said if he was a junior he’d be on the radar of small D1 programs right now.
“If there’s a coach out there who had an opening and would take a chance on someone with a high ceiling, they wouldn’t be sorry in the long run. I just can’t imagine what he’s gonna look like in a year and a half or two years.
“I know I’m a dad and all, but I’m a basketball guy for life,” Mike added. “He’s not at that level quite yet, but I look at some of the guys he’s played with and against who are being recruited and there isn’t too much of a difference.
“Jack’s best days are ahead of him. I just think Jack’s growth potential is greater than some of the guys being recruited, so yeah it’s a little frustrating.”
What also supports the elder Vreeswyk’s view of his son is the scorebook - Jack plays his best against the better teams.
In the Solebury Tipoff Tournament, Jack netted 18 points, including four 3-pointers, in a win over Life Center Academy and was named to the All-Tournament team.
Then, in a loss to powerful Westtown, Vreeswyk scored 21 points (five 3-pointers).
Also Vreeswyk scored 21, including four 3-pointers and 12 points in the fourth quarter, against Haverford. Against Mercersburg, he scored 20 with six 3-pointers, and against Lincoln, Vreeswyk finished with 23 and six 3-pointers.
“Yeah I think that’s been a trend,” Jack said about playing big against the best. “Westtown is one of the top teams in the country and I had like 21 and we played Haverford, the reigning state champs, and I had 21. They are real tough losses for us, but I think I stepped up my game a lot more when it was tougher competition and now they know my name.
“I’m in the scouting report now and before the game when I walk out I hear ‘number 32 is a corner shooter.’ it makes me feel good, it’s definitely annoying to play when you’re being faced-guarded every game, but it makes you feel good.”
Indeed, he isn’t just the son of Mike Vreeswyk, who scored, 2,019 points at Morrisville High School, which was second all-time in Lower Bucks County at the time, and who led the state in scoring at 33.5 points a game as a senior on the way to earning first team all-state honors.
And, the younger Vreeswyk doesn’t just share the name of the player who was second-leading scorer on the iconic Temple 1987-88 team that was ranked #1 in the country for two months and was the NCAA tournament No. 1 overall seed, which bowed out in the East Regional Finals to Duke.
Yes, he is more than just another 3-pointer shooter with the appropriate name that rhymes with “Threeswyk,” like the one who left North Broad Street as the Owls’ best 3-point shooter ever until Lynn Greer arrived a decade later.
“Jack’s definitely leading Bucks County in threes, I don’t know anyone who has as many threes in as many games,” said Luber, an assistant college coach the previous decade at Rider and then Binghamton, and then Rider again. “He’s someone who can get you four of five on any given night. He’s athletic. He’s fearless. He doesn’t really have a conscience when it comes to shooting.
“The athletic factor with his height, he can get that shot off over anyone. He had five threes against Westtown and that isn’t an easy thing to do, but he has just blossomed as the year has been going on and I think he’s going to be a really good college prospect down the road based on my experience I’ve seen in the last 10 years as a Division I assistant.
“You can see someone like him could have a really big impact, he’s pretty much unknown even though he has a strong name,” Luber continued. “Jack is definitely a potential-type and every team needs a shooter.”
Former Penn State standout and D-I assistant Ben Luber (above) has George School 9-5 (5-1) in his first season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Luber is also impressed with Vreeswyk’s teammates.
“It starts with a point guard Nazim Pierre,” Luber said. “We beat teams with multiple D-I players and it all starts with a good point guard, he almost had a triple double. He is a college prospect who is unknown right now and it’s pretty fun to watch.
“When you win those type of games, you should have someone on your roster with D-II scholarships and we don’t have one, so to me these kids are better than people thought.
“Jordan Miller is a player who plays against the other teams best player. He’s defending them and he’s also providing double digit scoring.
“We have other guys like Dwayne Jones who has had big nights, he had 22 against Shipley and 24 against Friends Central,” Luber added. ”He’s a gamer.”
Meanwhile, Mike Vreeswyk, a first year assistant coach for the Cougars, also deserves credit for the George School making a name as a team this season.
“Mike is great to have around, his experience speaks for itself,” Luber said. “I think it’s always good for someone like that to give back, especially in his own community and the players like having him around and I definitely enjoy having him around. He’s definitely a positive person which the George School community can appreciate.”
The younger Vreeswyk also appreciates his dad’s coaching over the years. He received a crash course on Chaney’s tough love approach that endeared the demanding an uplifting coach to his players and so many, many more his raspy voice reached.
“He’s been coaching me pretty much my whole life, since I’ve been in fourth grade, so I’m used to his style of coaching,” Jack said about his dad. “He’s very hard on me, he never lets anything slip by, anything I don’t do well, I’ll hear about it. But on the flipside of that, he praises me, too. He has the right balance of criticism and praise. When I’m playing well, he will let me know and when I’m not playing well, he’ll let me know.
“Being coachable, I think is one of the most important things a coach should look for in a player.”
Yes, thankfully, Chaney’s should-be-timeless message lives and continues to spread.
“My dad would tell me when he played for Coach Cheney and he would say two-plus-two equals five and my dad would say, ‘yes coach,’ ” Jack said.
Mike Vreeswyk’s twitter handle is @MikeThreeswyk and he can back up the social media tag.
“Oh yeah, he’s still got it,” Luber said when asked if the older Vreeswyk can still shoot. “He jumped into some of the workouts during the summer and he took some of the boys to school early on, so yeah he still got it”
And, he has a son who “got game,” too.
“Definitely, I’m so proud of him, it’s been hard having that last name at times,” Mike acknowledged. “But he wants to make his own path and he’s a tough kid. He’s mentally tough. He has thick skin and there has been times when he had to use it.”