By Joseph Santoliquito (@JSantoliquito)
Andrew Phillips put his head down, closed his ears and was willing to bet on himself. So, the 6-foot-5 Malvern Prep senior forward and Inter-Academic League MVP took a chance and waited. He knew his next basketball destination would be a Division I school, and through some patience and perseverance, on Friday his goal arrived.
Sitting with his mom, Patricia, Phillips gave a verbal commitment to new Lafayette coach Mike McGarvey in his office on Friday afternoon and made it public on Saturday on social media that he was accepting a basketball scholarship to Lafayette.
He had a preferred walk-on opportunity at Delaware and a Division II scholarship to Thomas Jefferson, but he landed at a Patriot League school with a high-academic standard as a wing-three.
Malvern Prep senior Andrew Phillips committed to Lafayette last week. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Phillips, who lives Chester Springs, Chester County, led the Friars this past season in scoring (18.7 ppg), rebounding (7.4 rpg) and assists (3.0 apg), while shooting 53% from the field and 37% from three-point range.
“When I was offered, I just right jumped on it,” said Phillips, 18, whose mother, formerly Patricia McDonough, played for Villanova, and whose maternal grandfather is the legendary Bill McDonough, who runs the AAU Lady Runnin’ Rebels. “It was an emotional moment when I committed. It is a little deeper than committing to Lafayette. My mother is amazing.”
The youngest of four, Phillips lost his father, Andrew, who passed away at the age of 53 due to COVID-19 in May 2020, and soon after, his paternal grandfather.
Phillips did not get many more breaks, either. The following year, he suffered a broken collarbone in April 2021 playing in an AAU tournament that scuttled his whole summer, wiping away a vital part of the recruiting process.
“Andrew has been through a lot, he hasn’t had it easy at all,” Malvern head coach Paul Romanczuk said. “He lost his father and grandfather in a short period of time, and he’s had his share of injuries, losing a big summer between sophomore and junior years. Andrew is a fighter. A lot of schools weren’t coming after him. He bet on himself and thought he could play at a higher level.
“He’s one of the more resilient kids I’ve ever come across. He even went against some of my guidance at times in checking out this school or that school, because he was confident in himself, landing at a Division I school. He believed he was a Division I player, like a lot of kids, and Andrew kept going. He had a great two years for us, making play-after-play for us his senior year, especially down the stretch for us.”
Phillips was the driving force behind Malvern Prep (18-9 overall) sharing the title with Penn Charter (24-4), each with 8-2 records (the teams split during the regular season).
Even then, Phillips was not getting any D-I looks. Most looks were coming from D-III schools. Phillips gave a little thought to attending a D-III and waited late into the process before committing.
“I really loved the coaching staff and coach McGarvey is coming from a good history, and the coaching staff is super young,” Phillips said. “I know some guys coming in and I know the program fits me. I know (Penn Charter’s) Mark Butler is going there and I loved the campus. Once coach McGarvey offered, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”
Phillips also enters a program that had to deal with its share of adversity, too, last season. The Leopards finished 11-23 overall and 7-11 in the Patriot League, while in February putting head coach Mike Jordan on paid leave of absence pending an investigation.
After taking over as interim coach on Feb. 21, McGarvey, the former associate head coach, guided Lafayette to the Patriot League championship game, where the Leopards lost to Colgate, 79-61. This offseason, McGarvey, a Penn Charter grad who had success at Ursinus College, became the Leopards’ head coach.
Romanczuk was at his son’s baseball game at Malvern Prep on Friday, when he received a call from Phillips.
“Andrew told me about how the visit went and that he committed,” Romanczuk said. “I got chills. It was a special phone call. Andrew bet on himself and he won.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who began writing for CoBL in 2021 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter here.