Chris Brennan really wanted to make an impact this year.
And he’s done that and more.
Brennan is a senior on the Father Judge High School basketball team, and last year, he was a deep reserve who mostly played junior varsity.
He really wanted to make a difference on the varsity squad this year, so as soon as last year ended, he started putting in the work.
He would work out on his own. When his team was playing in summer leagues, the Torresdale resident was always there, doing the dirty work.
Whatever he could do to make himself, as well as the team, better, he was willing to do it. And it was noticed by everyone associated with the team, including his teammates and Crusaders coach Chris Roantree. And the coach found a great way for Brennan to help the team, not only on the court, but off it.
“One of the biggest things that happened to me was when coach told me I was going to be a captain,” Brennan said. “It meant so much to me because I love this team. I definitely changed my game, too. I’m more vocal, especially with the younger guys. We have real young guys who are so talented. They make mistakes, but when they do, I pick them up, I make sure I don’t make them feel bad. I tell them to get the next play.
“It’s not hard. They’re really good, they take constructive criticism really well. If I help them or the coaches help them, they do it and you can see them get better. I had to work on it, I didn’t think it would be my role, but talking to Coach Chris, he wanted me to be more of a leader this year, and it’s a big honor.”
And the captain is doing everything he can to make sure the Crusaders are hanging tough in the Catholic League.
It’s not easy for any team to do that.
The Catholic League is always one of the best basketball leagues in the nation, but this might be the most talented and balanced the league has ever been.
Neumann-Goretti, Roman Catholic, Archbishop Ryan, West Catholic and Archbishop Wood are five of the top teams around. St. Joe’s Prep is having an incredible season and teams like Archbishop Carroll and Cardinal O’Hara also have formidable teams.
Because of those teams, Judge finds itself in ninth place heading into the final week of the regular season.
The good news is that the top 10 teams make the playoffs, so the Crusaders have a good chance at making the postseason.
And while the other teams are good, Brennan is happy with the improvement Judge has made this season.
“It’s just coming together more, we played last year for the first time, this year we can make a good run, we can compete with teams in this league,” Brennan said. “The amount of work we put in, a lot of lifting, a lot of individual workouts, a lot of team workouts. We can actually go far in this league, I think we can be a top team in the league. And I know how good the league is. I just love what we have.”
Brennan brings more than just leadership skills.
The Crusaders have a talented team. Brennan is one of the first guys off the bench for Roantree, and when he comes in, he’s willing to do anything he can to help the team. A lot of times, that means going up against guys who are far bigger than him.
He might not have the height, but he has all the heart and determination to hang with the big guys in the Catholic League.
“We’re not a really big team, so I mostly play forward, power forward and sometimes center,” said Brennan, who stands 6 feet 3, which isn’t short by any stretch, but diminutive compared to many of the players he’s guarding. “I love it, honestly. I love going in, seeing the big dudes, they think they can push me around underneath, but I love fighting.
“Going up against the big 6-foot-8 dudes is fun. Every team has a big. In practice, we work at it. It depends on who the guy is. If they can’t dribble, we pressure them. I have to be physical, and then it depends. Do I front them, do I back off. Just play hard, make sure they don’t get the ball.”
Brennan is hoping to have a strong end to his season because it’s likely the last time he’ll play hoops, at least for his school.
He has a plan for the future, and it doesn’t include basketball.
“Next year, I’m going to be a medic, so I’m going to EMT school,” he said. “My dad is a police officer, so I want to help people, and it’s very interesting. And saving lives, too. It’s really interesting the people you can help out, what situations they get into. I’m going to EMT school, so it’s a one-year school.”
He might be done playing basketball, but he will still be a huge Judge fan.
Brennan plans on coming back and he hopes he’ll be there when the Crusaders win a championship. He doesn’t think it’s that far away.
“They’re not far away at all,” Brennan said. “I’ll be really proud when they win. I feel like we helped them, but they’re going to lead the team to great things. I think they can win a championship soon. And I’ll be there to support them.”