Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint.
By David Cordova
Throughout the last couple of years, South Bronx Prep has been on the rise in the PSAL B division, as they have continued to run through the competition that has been placed in front of them. But unfortunately, they always came short of a championship.
Until this season, when the Cougars won their first PSAL title in school history on March 16that LIU Brooklyn’s Steinberg Wellness Center over another Bronx powerhouse in Fannie Lou Hamer, whom they lost to just two years ago in the title game at Baruch College.
One of the Cougars’ key catalysts in their title run was none other than Jordan Agyemang. The 6-foot-7 forward is one of the most athletic forwards in the city, as he is always prone to throwing down dunks in the open lane. With his talent, there is no reason why he can’t play Division I basketball.
When asked what motivates him to be successful on the court, he replied, “For a long time, I’ve been playing in the program at South Bronx Prep, learned a lot, and we’ve been the underdogs for a couple of years now, and now that I’ve seen that with hard work and dedication, you can win, that’s something that drives me to keep going. We took the city [championship], we were looking to take states and it didn’t work out that way, and now I’m just going to bigger and better things.”
A native of the South Bronx, Agyemang first started playing basketball in the seventh grade, the same exact time that he enrolled at South Bronx Prep, which is a public school that holds grades six through twelve, which is located on 145thStreet between Willis Avenue and Third Avenue. The Bronx also has a great culture of basketball in its own right, with one example being Kemba Walker of the Boston Celtics.
“Growing up, I seen everybody play basketball, but I was scared to get on the court with everybody, I was scared to make mistakes. Just growing up around everything, I’ve seen a lot of good guys, I’ve seen good basketball players come from New York, so I just want to be added to that list,” said Agyemang.
When asked about his six years at South Bronx Prep, an academically-elite College Board school, Agyemang replied, “When I first came here, it was mainly about academics, it was a very good school academically and I just wanted to get my grades up, and ever since I got a basketball in my hand, I never stopped. Now it’s what motivates me to keep going, academics and everything.”
One person that Agyemang looks up to is none other than Paul Campbell, the head coach of the basketball program, who also doubles as a teacher at the school. When asked about what impact Campbell has made on his life, he replied, “You know, Coach Campbell, I’ve got to say, he’s like a jack of all trades, he knows the game of basketball, but he also knows life. He’s not going to let me make a decision based off only basketball, he wants me to pick a school that’s going to help me in the long run.”
As far as the school’s basketball program is concerned, Agyemang is one of the torchbearers of its storied history. Although the Cougars have been going strong for over 10 years, and have been very competitive in the Bronx B division for the last few seasons, this year’s team is the first to ever win a championship in school history. This past season, he averaged 23.1 points and 14.5 rebounds per game for a Cougars team that went 28-4 and was ranked No. 2 in the New York State rankings, while also going undefeated at 16-0 in the PSAL.
When asked if he was proud to have a storied place in South Bronx Prep history and if he is proud of where the team has gotten, he replied, “I’m definitely proud, losing two years ago [to Fannie Lou Hamer], I’d just joined the team, I took that personal, so to take the city [championship] back from the team that beat us two years ago was the best ever.”
When breaking down the title-game win over the Panthers, a 54-47 victory, Agyemang replied, “It was an intense game, all four quarters, every last one of them. It took me awhile to get going, but once I did, my team went with me, so it’s basically a team win.”
On being a part of the first championship team in school history, he replied, “It’s definitely something to be proud of, because when the alumni come back, we can all take pictures together, like, it’s something we all worked for, it didn’t start with us, it started with them, it just feels great to give back to them.”
In the New York State Federation Tournament semifinal game on March 22nd in Glens Falls, the Cougars were matched up against Glens Falls High School, which was the No. 1-ranked B division school in the state and also featured the all-time leading scorer in New York State history, Joe Girard III, who will be headed to Syracuse this fall. In front of a sold-out crowd of 6,300 people in attendance, the Cougars took the Indians to overtime, but would go on to lose, 77-70, effectively ending their dream season.
When asked about the opportunity of making it to the state Federation Tournament and playing in front of a sold-out crowd, Agyemang replied, “Oh, man, we’ve played in places that’s been sold-out before, but never like 6,000 people, so, you know, the atmosphere was crazy, but we held it down, it was a new environment, and we came out there to play, so I’m sad that we didn’t go out with a win.”
On the strengths and weaknesses in his game, he replied, “I’m an athletic wing, 6-6. Something I can work on is my jump shot, pull-up jumper, and that’s what I’ve been doing, so I’m just doing that, day in, day out.”
Although he has plenty of talent and led his school to the state Federation tournament, Agyemang is still under the radar. “Maybe because I come from a small school,” he replied, “But, you know, I’m not really one for the hype, but my gut told me to stay here, we won, and it put me in a great situation, I developed as a player and as a person, so I’m glad to be there.”
This year, South Bronx Prep was one of a few schools in New York City to be involved with the Adidas Legacy program, along with Frederick Douglass Academy (Harlem), Canarsie (Brooklyn), Brooklyn Democracy Academy (Brooklyn), Law & Tech (Brooklyn) and Wadleigh (Manhattan). When asked about being able to wear free Adidas gear and what the brand has done for the program, Agyemang replied, “Adidas has been nothing but great to us, we just got put on to this, got a lot of gear, but it’s not only about that. We got to give back to people, like, we went on a food drive on 125thStreet [in Harlem], we did a basketball clinic in an elementary school, so it just feels good to be a role model.”
Just four days ago, he graduated from South Bronx Prep with his high school diploma. As far as colleges interest he has heard from schools such as Morgan State, a Division I school in the MEAC, and also Division II schools such as Clarion University and College of St. Rose have noticed him. SUNY-Oneonta, a Division III school in upstate New York has been paying attention to him for awhile now and would be very interested in having him. All in all, he will be on a college campus in the month of August and will begin his freshman year.
Now that he has graduated from South Bronx Prep, this is how he wants his legacy there to be remembered, “I just want to be known as one of the greatest, I want people to see my name with a smile on their face, and you know, nothing but positive things.”
Before he heads off to school, wherever that may be, he will be in the gym putting the work in and getting ready for the opportunity to play college basketball. But one thing is for certain, Jordan Agyemang will make an impact wherever his next destination will be and the coaching staff that lands him will definitely be in luck with his presence.
“I’m still going to be playing basketball, but I want to go to a college that like, you know, will develop me to do well in basketball, but also academically, ‘cause when the ball stops bouncing, you’ve got to find a way.”
Not only is he a talented athlete, but also a great academic scholar. With him, student came first. With his gifted knowledge, there’s no telling where Agyemang’s future will take him. If anything, he will definitely have a bright future.