Chris Patton (above) is one of two Devon Prep seniors headed to play at King's College (Pa.) this fall. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Eamonn Walsh got some bonus good news the night he made his college decision. When he texted fellow Devon Prep senior Chris Patton in late March about his impending choice, he found out he wouldn’t be going to King’s College alone.
“It was actually pretty funny,” Walsh said by phone earlier this week. “We were texting and I was like, ‘yo I’m probably going to choose King’s, hope to see you there,’ [...] he was like ‘yo, I’m just about to commit there too,’ and I was like ‘oh my gosh, what a coincidence.’”
Friends, classmates and teammates at Devon Prep for four years, Walsh and Patton had mentioned their recruitment to each other at various points during their senior year, but never really in depth.
As it turns out, they’d both grown more and more interested in King’s, a school of about 2,300 undergraduates, men’s head coach J.P. Andrejko recruiting the pair throughout their senior season. They’d actually both visited the Division III program's Wilkes-Barre campus (not at the same time, obviously), getting a chance to see where they’d spend their next four years.
“The day before both of us committed, I had no idea King’s was on his list,” Walsh said.
Patton echoed those sentiments: “I really did not think (Eamonn) was going to go there, I didn’t know he was going to go there. It was really unplanned.”
Despite the lack of awareness about each other’s college plans, they’re good friends. They swear.
“We hang out a good amount, outside of school and outside of basketball,” Patton said, adding that the two like many others have a long-running 2K rivalry: “I’m sure (Eamonn) would say that he’s (better), but I don’t know, I think it’s pretty close.”
The day after their revelation, on March 28, the two made their phone calls to Andrejko to inform them they’d both be wearing Monarchs uniforms next year. Patton first, then Walsh.
“(Andrejko) was like ‘wow, this is such a great day,’” Walsh recalled. “He was ecstatic to have both of us coming up there next year.”
‘I’m very happy for those guys to be continuing to play at the next level,” Devon Prep coach Jason Fisher said. “I’ve known Coach Andrejko for a long time, he does a great job and Eamonn and Chris will love playing for him.”
A 6-4 wing, Eamonn Walsh (above) was Devon Prep's third-leading scorer as a senior. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Once Walsh and Patton found out the news, they were also excited to continue a relationship that goes back to their freshman seasons, when they were both newcomers to the small, all-boys Catholic School. They were there as the school and program made the move from the Bicentennial Athletic League into the Catholic League, making just about the biggest jump up in competition possible in this region. This season was a breakthrough for the Tide, who proved they were ready to compete against the best around after a couple seasons of taking their lumps. Devon Prep’s 9-4 league record, which included wins over longtime PCL members Archbishop Carroll, St. Joe’s Prep, Archbishop Ryan, West Catholic and Cardinal O’Hara plus a forfeit by Neumann-Goretti, was good enough to earn the Tide a spot in the league’s top four.
The 6-foot-4 Walsh (8.4 ppg/3.0 rpg) and 6-2 Patton (7.9 ppg/2.4 rpg) were both in the starting lineup all season long, each hitting more than 40% from 3-point range on a team that thrived from beyond the arc.
It wasn’t clear during their season whether it would be enough for a postseason berth, as the PCL coaches had originally decided on only a championship game; it wasn’t until early March that plans changed to allow the top quartet a shot at the title.
“I saw we were in the top four and it was like ‘oh my gosh, we’re in the PCL semifinals,’ because last year we were in the bottom three in the league,” Walsh said. “And it was kind of crazy because of how much growth [we had] and how much we got better throughout the year, it was pretty awesome.”
Devon Prep almost pulled a monumental upset in the semifinals, losing to eventual runner-up Roman Catholic 38-36 in the teams’ only meeting this year. That Roman squad started no fewer than three future Division I players; other teams in the Catholic League started more.
Patton and Walsh both know they have what it takes to be successful at the next level after going up against players going to the Big East, Atlantic 10, and other high-level conferences over the last three years.
“It’s definitely going to be a big step up, but I think I’m prepared,” Patton said. “Knowing that the majority of Catholic League players play at the next level, a good amount of them, it’s definitely good to know that I have good experience playing in the Catholic League.”
At King’s, Walsh and Patton will be joining a Monarchs program that last competed in 2019-20, Andrejko’s 19th season at the helm. That squad went 13-12 overall (6-8 MAC Freedom); they last won 20 games during a 20-8 campaign in 2007-08, the third and most recent time Andrekjo guided the program into the NCAA Tournament.
The pair will spend the summer going over an expected workout and preparation plan to get themselves in the best possible position to contribute as freshmen, then head up to northeast Pennsylvania in the fall for their first semester of classes and preseason workouts.
After everything they’ve been through in their high school careers, from a league change to COVID, some stability and normalcy will be a nice change. And maybe they’ll even find a few things to talk about.
“I think it’s really exciting that I’m going to get to play with (Eamonn) for another four years,” Patton said. “I don’t have to look for a roommate, either.”