By Joe Mason
Jaquill Stone can get down to business.
And when business is over, he just gets down.
Stone is a sophomore guard on the Archbishop Ryan High School basketball team, and when he is inserted in the lineup, his goal is to be a disruptive force against his opponent. That’s not the only time he is moving.
After the Raiders secure a victory, Stone’s teammates surround him and he gives them a couple of steps in celebration.
“I started dancing in the beginning of the season, and now I do it after every win,” Stone said. “We like to win, and when we win, we have fun. We know when to have fun, but we also know when we have to get serious.”
Thanks in part to Stone’s performance on Saturday, the Raiders are still dancing.
Seeing extended time because Hempfield used a small lineup, Stone scored seven points, dished out three assists and grabbed four steals as Ryan bested the Knights 60–50 in a Class AAAAAA semifinal at Reading. The Raiders also got contributions from their two usual leaders, Izaiah Brockington and Matiss Kulackovskis, who each scored 20 points in the triumph. One of the biggest buckets came on a halfcourt buzzer beater from Kulackovskis right before halftime, which gave the Raiders a nine-point lead at intermission.
Ryan moved on to play in the semifinals Tuesday against Reading in a game that was played after the Times went to press. A win would put the Raiders in the state championship game on Saturday in Hershey, which would be a first for Ryan, but the second in as many years for Stone. But this year would be a lot different.
“Last year, I was at Math, Civics and Science, but I got hurt in the middle of the year and I didn’t play after that,” Stone said. “This year, I’m playing a lot more. I hated not playing, so I’m happy we have a chance at going.”
One of the reasons the Raiders are still going strong is because of Stone, who comes off the bench and hustles on both ends of the court.
“Energy, energy, energy, that’s what I bring,” Stone said. “I come out and work hard. I come off the bench and go out and do whatever I need to do to get us going. A lot of time, it’s mostly on defense, but I’m getting better on offense. I’m trying to improve my overall game.”
Energy is Stone’s game, but it’s surprising he always has so much pep in his step considering every day is a marathon for him.
Stone decided to go to Ryan because he’s tight with point guard Amin Bryant, although he also said the school’s family atmosphere is another reason he’s now on Academy Road. But it’s not a completely perfect situation.
“The biggest thing is I have to be up at 5 a.m. every morning,” the Southwest Philadelphia native said with a smile. “I take a trolley and two buses. Then I go to school, practice and do it again to go home. It’s worth it. I don’t mind. I usually leave around 5:25 to make it on time and I get home around 8 p.m. It’s different after basketball ends. I get home a lot earlier.”
Stone has no intentions of heading home for the year. And neither do his teammates.
“We’re having a lot of fun and we’re getting great support from our school and our alumni,” said Ryan coach Joe Zeglinski, who is in his second year at the position. “It’s great to have their support. And (the team) is having fun.”
The Raiders are an experienced group, and four of the five starters are seniors, which is why it’s good players like Stone and Bryant, both sophomores, are chipping in and getting key experience.
“We have good, younger guys,” Zeglinski said. “When you have seniors like we do, you play them, but we have younger guys who can contribute, and (Stone) is one of them. He brings a lot of energy and he’s a good defender.”
While the youngster brings energy, he also feeds off his experienced teammates.
And every time he’s on the court, he absorbs knowledge passed down from the seniors.
“Guys like Izaiah and Fred and Matiss and all of the seniors help,” Stone said. “They’ve been in big games before. They help us with that, and they’ll help us with things. They work with us. They make us better players. They’re very good at helping.”
Not only will that growth help this year, but it will also help next year when guys like Bryant and Stone are the leaders of the team.
But there’s plenty of time for that down the road. Now the only road that matters is Hershey.
“We want to get there,” Stone said. “That’s our goal. We want to win our next game, get to Hershey and then we’ll worry about winning it.”
As of now, they’re one game away from the big dance. ••