Northeast Times

Fly like an Eagle

Tak­ing flight: Wash­ing­ton seni­or Kend­ale Tru­itt sliced and diced his way to 34 points in last week’s win over Freire Charter. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / TIMES PHO­TOS

— Kend­ale Tru­itt is fi­nally real­iz­ing what it takes to be a lead­er for the G.W. hoops team and young­er broth­er, Devante.

For most of last Thursday’s first half against Freire Charter, the George Wash­ing­ton boys bas­ket­ball team re­sembled a twis­ted, dis­join­ted mess.

Turnovers, missed free throws and be­ing vir­tu­ally over­whelmed on the glass pushed the Eagles in­to a 13-point de­fi­cit, one that ap­peared im­possible to over­come.

Kend­ale Tru­itt changed all that with one thun­der­ous slam.

Tru­itt, a seni­or wing guard for Wash­ing­ton, grabbed a re­bound on the de­fens­ive end late in the second quarter. With his team trail­ing by six at the time, Tru­itt took mat­ters in­to his own hands. He pushed the ball up the floor with his young­er broth­er, sopho­more point guard Devante Sax­on, trail­ing closely be­hind. Sens­ing his broth­er was too far on his heels to com­plete the play, Tru­itt came face-to-face with a Freire de­fend­er, who had set up in the lane in hopes of draw­ing a charge. Right be­fore the two were to col­lide, Tru­itt found an in­vis­ible spring be­neath the floor and cata­pul­ted above his de­fend­er for a one-handed, rim-rat­tling dunk that would have been enough to get LeBron James to stand up and cheer.

The state­ment slam brought Wash­ing­ton with­in four. They trailed by just three at the break, and Tru­itt sensed a still-buzz­ing gym was ready for more in the form of an im­press­ive, hard-fought 64-59 Pub­lic League B Di­vi­sion vic­tory.

“We star­ted off slug­gish and slow, and I knew we had to get some mo­mentum go­ing,” Tru­itt said after pour­ing in 34 points in the win. “At prac­tice, my coaches have told me to be a team lead­er. With this be­ing my seni­or year, I’ve taken that re­spons­ib­il­ity very ser­i­ously. I wanted to put the team on my back.”

Long­time Wash­ing­ton bas­ket­ball coach Calv­in Jones, who watched from the stands after hand­ing the reins of the pro­gram to first-year head coach John Creighton, seemed to be one of the few people in the build­ing who wasn’t sur­prised by Tru­itt’s ex­plos­ive dunk.

When asked if he had seen dunks like that from Tru­itt be­fore, Jones replied: “All the time. Last year in the play­offs, I swear he threw one down where his waist was above the rim.”

Creighton said in all of his years of play­ing and coach­ing with­in the Pub­lic League that he had nev­er met a bet­ter ath­lete than Tru­itt. “He does things you’d think are im­possible for a teen­ager,” the coach said.

Tru­itt is also a foot­ball play­er at Wash­ing­ton, and his coaches have nev­er denied his ath­leti­cism. Rather, it’s been off-the-court is­sues that have hindered him in the past. Creighton said that in three varsity sea­sons, Tru­itt’s seni­or cam­paign marks the first time he has been aca­dem­ic­ally eli­gible head­ing in­to a new sea­son. Creighton, also the head varsity lacrosse and JV soc­cer coach at the school, is a stick­ler for play­ers hold­ing up the “stu­dent” end of be­ing a stu­dent-ath­lete. He’s been im­pressed by Tru­itt’s ma­tur­ity.

“I’ve been push­ing this lead­er­ship role on him, and it’s one he’s taken and run with,” Creighton said. “This goes for on the court, in the lock­er room and in the class. These guys re­spect him. Everything he does, in­clud­ing in the classroom, that stuff trickles down to the oth­er guys. Every­one on this team re­spects him and his hustle. If he’s do­ing well in class, then every­one else should be.”

One of the oth­er guys Creighton was al­lud­ing to was Sax­on, Tru­itt’s young­er broth­er who moved to Phil­adelphia from New York over the sum­mer. Sax­on jumped at the op­por­tun­ity to en­roll at Wash­ing­ton and play with his broth­er. While Tru­itt was slash­ing his way to 34 points, Sax­on was al­ways close be­hind, pour­ing in 16 points of his own and hand­ling the ball with the poise of a seni­or. The broth­ers scored 50 of Wash­ing­ton’s 64 points, in­clud­ing 13 of the team’s fi­nal 17 in a cru­cial fourth quarter.

Without seni­or guard Na­fece Ed­wards, who was benched for the game for vi­ol­at­ing a team rule earli­er in the day, Sax­on stepped up and filled the void. Like his older broth­er, he dis­played a knack for get­ting to the rim, or pulling up from the peri­met­er if his de­fend­er gave him room to shoot.

“My coach told me that big time play­ers make big time plays,” Sax­on said. “I came down here this sum­mer and my broth­er told me, ‘It’s time to take over Philly now.’ He’s the man of the house­hold, so I listen to him on and off the court.”

“We want to win a cham­pi­on­ship to­geth­er,” Tru­itt ad­ded. “It’s what we’re striv­ing for.”

And while the Eagles (4-0 to start the sea­son) still has plenty of kinks to iron out in or­der to real­ize those as­pir­a­tions, they ap­pear to be on the right track, es­pe­cially when Ed­wards joins Tru­itt and Sax­on on the floor. 

“Devante is just a baby, he’s got the world ahead of him. He’s got the sky … that’s his lim­it,” Creighton said. “I knew he had tal­ent when I met him, but I didn’t know what those tal­ents were. Now, he’s show­ing them on the court.”

And, of course, the team is reap­ing the be­ne­fits of Tru­itt’s and Sax­on’s close bond as broth­ers.

“It’s an in­ter­est­ing re­la­tion­ship,” Creighton said. “When we do one-on-one’s, they want to go against each oth­er. They want to make each oth­er bet­ter. I have broth­ers, and I know that the best com­pet­i­tion comes from a young­er broth­er be­cause he is al­ways try­ing to be bet­ter than you. Now that they’re on the same team, they have that in­nate sense of know­ing where the oth­er one is on the court at all times.”

In the cut­throat, crowded Pub­lic League, Wash­ing­ton is still find­ing its place. The team is a long way from a fin­ished product, but with Tru­itt and Sax­on lead­ing the way, the found­a­tion is strong.

“The way he con­trib­utes on and off the court,” Sax­on said of his older broth­er. “He’s just a nat­ur­al-born lead­er.”

It’s taken Tru­itt some time to grasp that role, but now he has.

“We star­ted off slow, and with a lot of young guys on the team, we didn’t have much chem­istry,” Tru­itt said. “But we’re work­ing hard every day in prac­tice, and it’s start­ing to show in games. If every­body does what they have to do off the court, then it’s go­ing to be a good sea­son on the court.” ••

Sports Ed­it­or Ed Mor­rone can be reached at 215-354-3035 or em­or­rone@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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