SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 14, 2013

Jean DePlacido column: Danvers' McKenna learning the college game quickly at Springfield

By Jean DePlacido
Correspondent

---- — Nick McKenna has made a smooth transition from Danvers High to Springfield College basketball.

The freshman has played in every game for the Pride, averaging 18 minutes and 9.9 points. The 6-foot-1 guard had a career-high 20 points in the consolation game of the Carnegie Mellon/Double Tree Invitational in Pittsburgh, where Springfield defeated Penn State New Kensington, 109-62.

“It’s going very well so far and I’m playing more than I expected,” said McKenna. “Our only losses have come to top 10 teams and we played both of them tough. I think that shows a lot about what kind of team we are.”

Springfield, which has scored over 100 points twice already this season, is off to a fast start this season under 16th year head coach Charlie Brock. The Pride are 6-2 so far, with their losses coming against the No. 8 team nationally in Division 3 college basketball, Hampden Sydney College of Virginia (89-82), and an 80-75 setback against No. 7 Williams last weekend.

“Of course we want to win every game, but those losses will help us down the line,” said McKenna. “We gave them a good fight; every single Williams player can shoot the ball and that’s a well-coached team.”

McKenna is counted on for his accurate three-point shooting. In the first five games he hit 14 of 20 from behind the arc and led the country in Division 3 shooting percentage (70 percent) for treys. He is now 17 for 28 with a .607 percent accuracy.

The former Falcons’ star is adjusting to the faster paced college game and not being on the court all the time. “I only applied to two schools, Springfield and High Point University in North Carolina,” said the sports management major. “Springfield was my No. 1 choice, and our offense fits my style of play. I try to fit in and contribute in any way I can.

“I came in expecting to learn the system this year and not get a lot of playing time, but I’ve been playing between 15-20 minutes per game. I’m used to playing the entire game last year, but now I have to be ready whenever I’m called on. If we’re in foul trouble, you can go in at any time.

“The hardest thing for a freshman like me is not knowing anything about players on the other teams,” added McKenna. “The scouting reports are briefer, and our veterans know all about the other team’s best players. I don’t know anyone yet but as the season goes along, that will change.”

---

The St. John’s Prep swim team played the role of Santa Claus this week, presenting 75 toys to Bert Russell at the Danvers YMCA to help replace those intended for Toys for Tots that were stolen recently. Russell is an 81-year old veteran who has kept the pool deck safe for the Eagles for many years, and the boys were happy to help him out.

---

Brian St. Pierre is now working full-time at his alma mater, St. John’s Prep. Late last month, the former star quarterback returned to St. John’s to work in the development office.

A veteran of 10 NFL seasons after a stellar career at Boston College, St. Pierre worked with the Eagles’ quarterbacks the past few summers and joined the football coaching staff this season.

---

Julia Woodworth Ford is one of the young American alpine ski racers to keep an eye on as the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia draw closer.

Ford moved up to the B team and was the first USA finisher in the World Cup at Lake Louise in Canada last weekend. She earned her career best World Cup result, taking 21st and beat Julia Mancuso (26th) and Lindsey Vonn (41st) in the downhill race.

Ford changed her skis prior to the race, switching to a longer pair to reduce sliding and help hold her line. Her mother is the former Lori Woodworth, who grew up in Peabody and is in the Hall of Fame.

Julia was the eighth American finisher in the downhill last Saturday and seventh member of the US Ski Team last Sunday in the super G (32nd overall). The second World Cup Race of the season is this weekend in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

---

Sean Smerczynski had a fine football season for Hyde School in Bath, Maine. The former St. John’s Prep standout from Topsfield was named captain of the Phoenix after transferring there earlier this season and was an Evergreen League all-star at fullback and linebacker. He started four games as an offensive guard before being moved to fullback.

He was recently named New England Preparatory Schools Athletic Council (NEPSAC) All-New England. One of his highlight games was in a 31-8 victory over Portsmouth Abbey in which he gained 110 yards rushing on 13 carries and had a touchdown as well as making nine tackles.

---

Jean DePlacido is a part-time writer and columnist for The Salem News. Contact her at jmdeplacido@aol.com.