Rich Flanagan (@richflanagan33)
Last spring, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Hunter Healy to miss what looked to be the most crucial AAU season. Expected to play with Philly Pride, any hope of playing AAU was dashed in March. It was expected to be a major boost to his recruitment but ended up being more of a downtrend.
With only one year left to play, he chose to enroll at Bishop McDevitt to learn under the tutelage of Will Chavis, the former Engineering and Science standout who went on to play for Bob Knight at Texas Tech. Chavis had turned the Lancers program into one of the premiere programs in the area having secured the No. 2 seed in the playoffs in 2019-20 and making a trip to the Palestra a year earlier.
Hunter Healy (above) started receiving D-II offers during his lone season at Bishop McDevitt. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
While at Lansdale Catholic, where he played his first two varsity seasons, the only school recruiting Healy was Arcadia University. Once the winter sports season began and schools recommenced recruiting efforts, two new programs stepped in.
Healy was happy to have gained attention in a season unlike any other.
“When I moved over to McDevitt, Bloomsburg and West Chester started talking to me,” Healy said. “They were the two main options I had to choose from. I never spoke to either program before coming to McDevitt.”
At 6-foot-8, 230 pounds, Healy is an imposing forward when he steps out on the court, but with gyms closed off to fans and college coaches alike, how did these programs have him on their radar?
“They didn’t get to come to any games due to COVID but all of our games were livestreamed,” Healy said. “Any coach could see our games on YouTube. [Bloomsburg] coach [John] Sanow began reaching out to me toward the final few games of the season.”
Sanow and assistant coach Michael Hamlin, a former Bloomsburg player himself who starred at Samuel Fels, began to reach out to Healy more frequently during the latter part of the year. He made his final decision to commit to Sanow and the Huskies based primarily on being able to play his natural position.
“That was one of the big choices that I had to make between colleges,” Healy said. “At Bloomsburg, they wanted to play a traditional five, which is what I’ve played my entire life. West Chester wanted to move out to a guard and play a three. So, I get to play four or five, and I do what I do in the post.”
Healy committed to Bloomsburg in April and signed his National Letter of Intent shortly after. As a member of the Crusaders, Healy was given more freedom to work his way out on the perimeter, with fellow big man Jimmy Casey, who reclassified to the Class of 2022 and will do a prep year at the Peddie School (N.J.), working the paint. From the moment he joined the Lancers, he was the primary center, surrounded by talented guards in junior Justin Moore, a transfer from Cheltenham, and sophomore Terrell Pitts, who boasts an offer from Nebraska.
With having limited summer workouts and no gym access until January, there were some growing pains for players like Healy, and Chavis understood it was going to take time for him to get acclimated with the team.
“He was big and had a good feel for the game,” Chavis said. “Everything else kind of filled in later. Other players helped him out. It was hard for a team when you couldn’t practice in the summertime. We had new players with different habits. It was an adjustment period and once he got it, he started playing much better.”
Healy (above) will spend his college years at Bloomsburg, where he'll be playing his natural post position. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
The revamped roster, led by Pitts, Moore, Healy and junior Shawn Smith, succeeded perhaps the most accomplished class in Lancers history. Robert Smith Jr. and Jamil Manigo moved on to West Chester. Ahmir Harris (Georgian Court), Shamir Mosley (Kutztown) and Glenn Smith (Shippensburg) also moved to play at the next level after two straight league and state playoff appearances, including a run to the 2019 PIAA Class 3A semifinals.
Healy avg. 8.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in his lone season with Bishop McDevitt, which is slated to close at the conclusion of the academic school year due to declining enrollment. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia made a formal announcement in November. Still, the Lancers focused on playing one final season and Healy’s first breakout performance was a 13-point game against Bonner-Prendergast.
Down the stretch, he posted a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds against Archbishop Carroll then an 11-point performance in a two-point, overtime loss to league champion Archbishop Wood. Healy went toe-to-toe with other impressive bigs in Archbishop Carroll’s Anquan Hill (Fairleigh Dickinson), the Vikings’ Muneer Newton, Neumann-Goretti’s Zaakir Williamson (Buffalo) and, two years ago, Roman Catholic’s Jalen Duren, the No. 3 player in the Class of 2022.
After three years in one of the most competitive and grueling leagues in Pa., Healy feels ready to compete in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC).
“The Catholic League is something else,” Healy said. “There are not many leagues in the country that are like that. I feel if I didn’t play in it, I would be nowhere near as good of a player as I am today. I’ve been guarding players who are going to be playing in higher divisions and that has shown me how to get better.”
As if the Philadelphia Catholic League was not helping him improve enough, he also played on a loaded Philly Pride 16U squad alongside Wilson’s Stevie Mitchell (Marquette), who scored over 2,000 career points and played two seasons with Healy on Team Final Red before they both joined Philly Pride. Their teammates included Camden Catholic’s Zach Hicks (Temple), Malvern Prep’s Rahdir Hicks (Towson), Friends’ Central’s Ed Holland (University of Pennsylvania) and Archbishop Ryan’s Christian Tomasco, who is planning to reclassify to the Class of 2022 and play at IMG Academy (Fla.).
While Bloomsburg did not play this season as a result of the pandemic, Healy will be joining a roster that includes a wealth of local Pa. players. Louie Wild (Roman Catholic), Justin Anderson and Devon Ferrero (Archbishop Carroll), Jake Nelson (West Chester Rustin), Tariq Kalim (Downingtown East) and Max Wagner (Pennridge) are just a few of the returning players on the Huskies roster.
Being able to remain in his natural position at the next level makes even more sense after his senior season, where he controlled the paint at both ends and showcased a variety of post moves, notably a hook and drop step.
Healy knows he can step out when necessary but being able to navigate inside in Sanow’s offense makes what he learned under Chavis invaluable.
“I’ve always been able to shoot the ball, but I didn’t shoot a ton from the outside this year,” Healy said. “We needed a big guy inside and we had a ton of guys who could shoot the ball. I followed my role and stayed inside. They didn’t need me to shoot threes. My job was to remain inside.”
Healy is the latest, and possibly the last, college recruit to come out of Bishop McDevitt. Chavis helped turn the program into one that can both compete within the area and across the state. For him, seeing players like Healy get to the level they expect of themselves and knowing he had a part to play in it means more than anything.
“To be able to play in college is something not a lot of people can say,” Chavis said. “For me, I just try to get them to where they want to be. What I care about is getting players to where they want to be. They do that through their hard work, being coachable and listening. That’s a testament to them.”