Matt Gaffney (@gaffreports)
In his first four years at Alvernia University, Simon Gratz grad Malik Green has checked off a number of personal accolades. MAC Commonwealth Rookie of the Year. First-team all-conference in both his junior and senior seasons. 1,000-point scorer.
There’s one thing he hasn’t done yet — cut down the nets after winning a conference championship. That team goal is the driving force behind Green’s return for his graduate season, not individual honors like conference Player of the Year.
“I’m just looking for a championship,” Green said. “I need one before I leave here. That’s a personal goal and a team goal. We have a good team where everyone can put the ball in the hoop, so I don’t need to be as ball-dominant. I’m just here to win.”
Alvernia senior Malik Green (Simon Gratz) had 22 points on Tuesday. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
Rest assured, he will be in that conversation at the end of the season for conference POY if he continues his level of play, but for now Green and his Alvernia teammates are focused on being the best team they can possibly be in the 2022-23 campaign.
So far, so good for Alvernia this season as coach Mike Miller’s squad has gotten off to a stellar 4-1 start following an 83-67 win over visiting Gwynedd Mercy at Alvernia’s Physical Education Center Tuesday night.
The Golden Wolves have been, well, golden so far in the early going. A lot of their early success is due in part to the play of Green, the heart and soul of the Alvernia team, projected to finish first in the MAC Commonwealth.
Green’s talents were on full display against the Griffins as he impacted the game in multiple ways at both ends of the floor. He scored a game-high 22 points to go along with nine rebounds despite being hampered by some foul trouble throughout the contest. Fouls were the only thing that could slow Green down as he had his hand in a bunch of key plays in the second half that helped Alvernia pull away for good.
The Griffins had no answer for Green, his intensity or energy as he was extremely active at both ends of the floor. His steal and subsequent dunk brought the house down and gave Alvernia a 13-point lead with just over ten minutes to go in the game. The momentum play made the advantage seem even larger.
Five games into the season, Green is averaging 17.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.
Desire and a relentlessness are cornerstones of his game along with an unwillingness to back down from anyone. Those attributes seem to directly correlate from growing up in the City of Brotherly Love.
“I think it’s just Philly toughness and not being a quitter. You just have to keep going in everything you do,” said the fifth-year graduate student. “I have younger siblings who are watching me so I have to be the example. You can’t give up when you have people looking up to you.”
Green has various players he looks up to. He likes to draw from NBA players Paul George, Kevin Durant, and Herbert Jones to pattern his game.
“I like Jones’ defensive intensity when he played at Alabama and to model my game after those three guys,” Green said.
He also credits playing for Gratz legend and former Temple Owl, Lynard Stewart, for helping shape his game. His current coach, Miller, has seen Green grow before his eyes these last few years.
After Green picked up his fourth foul with a little over 12 minutes in the second half, he headed to the bench. In the past, Miller said, Green may have used that time on the bench, angry that he was out of the game. But not now. That stretch where Green was on the bench was evidence how far his star player has come.
“He was on the bench really into it, telling the subs what to do,” Miller said. “He’s matured and grown.”
While Alvernia is riding high with a veteran leader like Green, Gwynedd Mercy is at the other end of the spectrum. The Griffins left Alvernia’s Reading campus still in search of their first win of the season. It’s foreign territory for coach John Baron and his program, who have been perennial 20-game winners. They came into the ’22-23 season without a single senior on their roster, having lost a total of seven seniors and/or graduate players from last years’ 15-11 squad.
Without a go-to veteran player to turn to, there are sure to be growing pains as the Griffins struggled to find an offensive flow or consistency. While Medford Tech (N.J.) grad Aziz Parker (21 points) and Pottsgrove’s Manny Clark (15 points) had big nights, the rest of the lineup couldn’t break double digits. After taking a 13-10 lead early on in the first half, Gwynedd Mercy lost its footing and never regained the lead.
Alvernia’s deep, team-centric lineup gives them hope they’ll be playing deep into the postseason. It’s also evident that how far they go will be dependent on Green leading the way. Having depth and Green has Miller feeling low-key confident. And why shouldn’t he be?
Miller has seen Green improve dramatically on the court since his time at Gratz. And he thinks now that other schools have seen the finished product, they wish Green was on their side.
“I saw him in AAU and I really liked him, but I was surprised that none of the Philly-area schools went after him,” Miller said. “Every year he just kept getting better and better.”
The younger players on Alvernia’s roster will benefit from being around a player with Green’s success and the focus behind it. Asked to point to a specific aspect, Miller didn’t hesitate.
“How he attacks practice,” Miller said. “One thing about our practices is they are very competitive and that’s in part due to Malik and his approach. But what I like about Malik more than anything now is how much he has grown as a leader on and off the court. Good teams are only as good as your leader and he’s doing a great job for us.”