It certainly didn’t look like the start of a memorable season.
When the Community College of Philadelphia’s men’s basketball team began the campaign, they had a lot of reasons why it looked like it was the start of a long season.
They didn’t have use of their gym in October, when things were getting started.
Then, like many sports teams that compete in Philadelphia, the CCP team had to have each player vaccinated before they could compete in practice.
And two of the top returning players were academically ineligible for the first semester, leaving the team shorthanded.
All of this took its toll on the team, and put the Colonials behind the eight ball.
Community College of Philadelphia started out 1-4 after five games, 2-5 after seven contests. After that, it was a completely different story.
Led by Joe Rome, a former football player at Father Judge High School and college basketball player at CCP and Gwynedd Mercy, the Colonials went on quite a run. In fact, since they lost that fifth game, they’ve suffered defeat only one other time.
And now they’re ready to roll in the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament after winning the NJCAA regional tournament with a 78-58 win over Brookdale in the championship game.
In that game, Northeast product and Penn Charter High School graduate Ryan Holmes scored 17 points and pulled down 13 rebounds to lead the Colonials.
CCP will begin the tournament on Wednesday. The tournament is in Rockford, Illinois.
“It’s fun, we’ll take a plane sometime Monday, get out there, get settled and practice Tuesday,” said Rome, who is a business teacher at Father Judge. “We feel good going in. Our region is extremely tough. The junior college level is broken into regions. We’re in Region 19, it’s all of Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey. We beat Brookdale in the championship, they’ve won the national championship before, so we’ve beaten some good teams to get here.
“Usually you set two goals at the beginning of the season, win a championship and see these kids move on. In the six years we’ve been playoff eligible, we have four conference titles, three regional titles, and one year made the regional final. We’ve had a lot of success during my time.”
The funny thing about Rome’s job is that he has the task of always trying to build a winner, but always trying to get rid of his best kids.
Perhaps “get rid” isn’t the right phrase. He takes pride in he’s able to get his players noticed. Once that happens, the goal is to get them into a four-year school, where they can get a degree, play basketball and go to college for as little money as possible.
He’s been just as good at getting his players an education as he has winning basketball games, and that’s why he got into coaching.
“My goal has always been, down there, anyone who played for me, and done their job in the classroom, we’ve put in a four-year school,” said Rome, who grew up in Rhawnhurst and resides in Sandyford Park. “The past eight seasons that I coached, every kid that did their job in the classroom played Division I, II or III. That’s the most rewarding thing. We had a kid go on to play professionally in the Dominican Republic. We’ve been fortunate to have great kids.
“I’m very honest with the guys. If someone offers you a full ride, that’s $40 or $50 thousand. It’s hard to say to stay and not go. Division III school, I’ll talk to them if they’re not getting a scholarship, we talk about it and see what’s best. Just about every kid who comes to CCP comes for free because most qualify for financial aid, and that usually covers their tuition. The goal is to get them to graduate college.”
Rome stays plenty busy helping kids at both Judge and CCP. He’s also a family man, and loves spending time with his wife Megan and his twins, son Dylan and daughter Madison, both juniors in high school.
Dylan plays basketball and football at Judge. Madison is the manager of the St. Hubert basketball team, and was involved in dance growing up.
Family time is at a premium during basketball season.
“They don’t see me much during the winter, I joke that I’m never around,” said Rome, who also bartends at Macaroni’s Restaurant in Bustleton. “I’m very lucky, they’re very understanding.”
And he also has the perfect home at Judge.
After playing backup quarterback during his high school days, he also served as an assistant coach to his former teammate Tom Coyle when he was the Crusaders coach. Now he loves being there as a teacher.
“I was a Judge kid, so it’s the same as when I was there,” Rome said. “You get to work for good people, great teachers there. I’m from the neighborhood, I live right up the street from Lincoln High School. Brian (King, president) does a good job there, it’s a great place to work at and a great place to go to school.”