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Ryan retires Brockington’s number

Joe Zeglinski (left) and Izaiah Brockington are the only two Ryan basketball players to have their numbers retired. Brockington's was retired Thursday night. PHOTO: TPAC
Joe Zeglinski (left) and Izaiah Brockington are the only two Ryan basketball players to have their numbers retired. Brockington’s was retired Thursday night. PHOTO: TPAC

Izaiah Brockington was as good as gone.

Brockington was a sophomore at Archbishop Ryan High School when he found out Raiders basketball coach Bernie Rogers was leaving the school to take the coaching job at Haverford School.

Brockington was a very good player at the time, and any school would have been happy to add him. He was looking around when he heard who was coming in.

Joe Zeglinski.

At the time, Zeglinski had zero wins in the Catholic League. But he did have quite a reputation in the school.

He played Division I basketball at Hartford, and he did own a bunch of records in both football and basketball at Ryan.

But that wasn’t what intrigued Brockington. He didn’t stay because of his statistics. He stayed because of his numbers.

Zeglinski had both his football and basketball numbers retired at the school for what he did when he was a star running back and guard.

That meant something to Brockington. He respected that.

He knew that was reserved for only the best. In fact, Zeglinski is the only player in school history to ever have his number retired.

Make that was the only player to have his number retired.

Crazy enough, Brockington is now the second.

Brockington, fresh off of leading Iowa State to a run in the NCAA Tournament, returned home this week and was honored at the Ryan boys basketball banquet Thursday night.

The team had many reasons to celebrate after a season that saw them march to the Catholic League championship game, and following the banquet where this year’s team received all the accolades for its great campaign, Brockington was surprised with a special video and then he found out his number was retired.

Also at the banquet, the team honored the guys from the past three seasons.

Last year led by 5A Player of the Year Aaron Lemon-Warren, Christian Tomasco and Dom Vasquez, the Raiders got to the state finals.

The year before, led by seniors Gediminas Mokseckas and Christian Isopi, Ryan made the Catholic League semifinals and advanced to the state quarterfinals before COVID shut down the season. Isopi won the leadership award.

This year’s big winners were Thomas Sorber (MVP), Luke Boyd (offensive player of the year) and Jalen Snead (defensive player of the year). Social media influencer and Ryan senior Tyler “Tpac” Paxton won the Loyalty Award.

And the main event was the honor for the player known best as IZB.

It couldn’t be more fitting that the guy who decided to retire Brockington’s number was the guy whose retired number kept him from ever leaving Ryan.

Under Zeglinski, the Raiders have become one of the most successful basketball programs in the Catholic League, and that’s no easy task.

Since Brockington’s junior year, Zeginski’s first year as coach, Ryan has made the Catholic League semifinals five times in seven years. Might not sound like a huge deal, but when you’re going up against teams like Roman Catholic, Neumann-Goretti, Archbishop Wood and the rest of the teams in the PCL, there aren’t a lot of semifinal spots to go around. So to make it more often than not in the Catholic League, it’s quite the accomplishment.

The first two times the Raiders made the Palestra – the site of the Catholic League semis – under Zeglinski, Brockington was the team’s best player. He carried the team to the University of Pennsylvania and really helped Ryan and Zeglinski let the league know that the Raiders were joining the upper echelon of the PCL.

In his senior year, he led the Raiders to the semifinals of the state playoffs, and showed the rest of the state that Ryan will now be a force.

Then he went on to college where he played at St. Bonaventure before transferring to Penn State, where he became a key contributor for the Nittany Lions. Then, after graduating from Penn State, he joined Iowa State as a graduate student and helped the Cyclones shock the world.

At the start of the season, few predicted his squad to win a game in league play. Some picked the Cyclones to be among the worst teams in Division I basketball.

Those predictions were wrong.

Iowa State won 22 games, earned an 11 seed in the NCAA Tournament and then danced its way to the Sweet 16.

Brockington started all 35 games for the Cyclones, led them in scoring with 16.9 points per game, pulled down 6.8 rebounds per game and handed out about two assists per contest. But more than his numbers, he was a winner and he helped the other players on the team become winners. He showed the same leadership in Iowa that he did six years ago when he was playing on Academy Road.

Brockington played only two seasons with Zeglinski, but it’s fair to say he’s been a huge contributor to all of the teams.

Jaquill Stone was the team’s leader after Brockington graduated, and he used a lot of what he learned from Brockington as a player and a leader to help Ryan succeed.

The next superstar Ryan had after Brockington was Lemon-Warren. He was never shy about saying how much he learned from Brockington, who would often come back and offer tips when he was home on breaks. Vasquez, the point guard, also learned from Brockington. With Lemon-Warren’s skill and Vasquez’s leadership, the Raiders not only made the Catholic League semifinals again, but advanced to the finals of the state tournament.

Lemon-Warren and Vasquez then graduated, but before they did, they passed knowledge on to the leaders of this year’s team, Boyd, Snead and Dave Wise, who guided the Raiders to the Catholic League championship game.

Now, as they prepare to graduate, they leave the future of the program in great hands to the underclassmen on this year’s team. In fact, next year’s team, led by Sorber, could be Zeglinski’s best yet.

Zeglinski’s teams seem to take another step every season, whether it’s in league play or on the state level.

But they all started off with Brockington. It actually all started out with Zeglinski’s retired jersey.

Brockington stayed his final two years at Ryan because his coach’s number was retired.

And now, as he prepares to take the step to the NBA, his jersey will forever hang in the gym at Archbishop Ryan.

“I stayed because they only retire jerseys of the best, so I knew he was the best,” Brockington said during his senior year.

Right, Izaiah. Now so are you.

Welcome to the exclusive club.

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