— Eric Fleming, former basketball standout at Archbishop Ryan, didn’t need to go far to continue his career on the hardwood.
As young people transition from high school to college, one of the greatest obstacles they often have to overcome is homesickness. It’s safe to say that Eric Fleming, a sophomore shooting guard for Holy Family University, isn’t suffering from that affliction.
After all, the former Archbishop Ryan basketball star and Torresdale native can walk from his parents’ front steps to any of his college classes on the sprawling Far Northeast campus in less than five minutes.
“I am a homebody,” Fleming joked recently during a chat outside the Holy Family sports complex. “I went to St. Katherine’s grade school right across the street from here. This is the neighborhood I grew up in. I like it here.”
The college transition, both in the classroom and on the court, has been smooth to this point.
“Academically, I feel like I have transitioned well,” Fleming said. “I like how the classes are spread out through the day and the overall independence that college offers.”
On the court, Fleming is starting to come into his own. In just his second season playing for the Tigers in the Division II Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC), Eric is a key contributor for Holy Family. As the Northeast Times went to press, the men of Holy Family were riding a four-game winning streak and recently ascended into first place in the Southern Division of the CACC .
“The (college) game is definitely faster,” Fleming said. “However, I felt like I was well prepared from my time against the great level of competition in the Catholic League.”
Led by a solid starting five that includes the potent guard combination of Ervin Ezell at the point and Alberto Munoz on the wing (consecutive reigning conference player-of-the-week recipients in the CACC), Fleming’s role to this point has been to come off the bench and provide instant offense.
“I feel like my role on this team is to be an energy guy,” Fleming said. “The coach counts on me to come in and be a scorer.”
Holy Family’s head coach, R.C. Kehoe, is in his second season at the helm. His up-tempo offensive style suits Fleming well. Kehoe, a Roman Catholic graduate, counts Fleming as his first recruit after being named head coach in 2011.
“Eric was the first player I looked at when I was hired,” Kehoe said. “His high school coach, Bernie Rogers, told me that Eric was an old-school gym rat who preferred to be in the gym working on his game.
“We will always check home first to recruit locally in the Catholic League,” he added. “The Catholic League is home for me. It produces great basketball players and kids who can hack it academically.”
For the season, Fleming is averaging a hair under 10 points per game (good for third on the team) while tallying 23 minutes per contest for the Tigers. Fleming’s current role as a sixth man is in stark contrast to his high school days when he acted as jack-of-all-trades for the Raiders.
“In high school, I was the guy playing nearly every minute of every game,” he said. “I was counted on to bring the ball up court, score and rebound. Here at Holy Family, I am surrounded by very talented guys so my responsibilities are different.”
Not only has Fleming’s role changed, but so has the offensive style of play around him. Archbishop Ryan runs a ball control ‘Princeton’ style offense that preaches patience under Rogers, whereas Kehoe’s offensive philosophy at Holy Family is much more wide open.
“The coaching philosophies (of Rogers and Kehoe) are definitely different,” Fleming noted. “Coach Kehoe likes a quicker up-tempo offense. Under Coach Rogers, we would wait for the best shot.”
Fleming started for three seasons at Ryan, earning All-Catholic honors as a junior and senior, just as his high school coach had done at Ryan as a player in 1991 and 1992.
“As a senior, Eric’s scoring ability kept us in every game,” Rogers recalled. “When Coach Kehoe got the job, we told him we thought Eric would be a great fit for Holy Family. I am aware of the great Ryan guards who have gone on to Holy Family.”
The guards Rogers is referring to since the early 1990s are: Joe Simko (AR ’92), Joe Sinni (AR ’93), Erik Henrysen (AR ’95), Anthony Starace (AR ’98) and Chris Kozole (AR ’02). All had significant impacts on their respective rosters while enrolled at Holy Family, and now Fleming is the latest in a long line of talented Ryan guards to choose the Tigers.
“I want to continue developing my game and help this team win,” Fleming said. “I want to improve my ball handling and my ability to drive to the basket. Also, I feel that I could still become a better shooter.”
The 6-foot-2 sharpshooter keeps a close eye on progress by Rogers and his Raiders (who had an 11-5 record when the Times went to press, including a 6-1 mark in the Catholic League), and his former coach returns the favor. Both admit to keeping tabs on each other by checking box scores in the paper and online.
Fleming’s success on the hardwood may have been a foregone conclusion based on his parental pedigree. His parents, Bob and Serafine, met while playing basketball at the now defunct Spring Garden College. The former Bishop Neumann and St. Hubert standouts have been Eric’s biggest supporters through the years.
Fleming wants to finish this season strong, as he did at the end of his freshman campaign when he hit double figures in the final couple of games.
“I want to be part of a special team here at Holy Family,” he said. ••
Editor’s note: Jack & Eric Fleming, the author and subject of this article, are not related.
Reporter Jack Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org