No place like home

In­stant of­fense: In his sopho­more sea­son at Holy Fam­ily, Eric Flem­ing is av­er­aging a shade un­der 10 points per game. PHO­TOS PROVIDED BY GREG PEL­LEGRINO / HOLY FAM­ILY ATH­LET­ICS

— 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 jflem­

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