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Although he rarely logged varsity minutes, Jack Duffy’s junior season with Stevenson’s boys basketball team wasn’t wasted.
Every day in practice, Duffy matched up against senior Colby Cashaw. Most days, Cashaw got the better of Duffy. But that experience helped prepare Duffy — who is now being asked to match up with opposing teams’ top frontline players — for an expanded role this season.
Duffy went from being a key reserve to a starter earlier in January, and his play has helped the Patriots win five consecutive games (through Monday). Stevenson (15-4) controlled play throughout its 75-58 victory over Prospect on Saturday.
“Colby would pretty much dominate me in practice, and it taught me to play harder,” Duffy said. “That is a key factor in the way I play now.”
Duffy, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound center, is averaging about five rebounds per game.
“Jack learned his lessons pretty well in practice last year, and he made himself better,” Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said. “This season, he does a great job of bringing energy and making unbelievable hustle plays. Everyone works harder when they see how hard he works.”
Duffy didn’t just work mindlessly over the summer. He targeted improving his strength, rebounding and ability to finish at the rim. By the end of the summer, he was able to bench press more than 215 pounds, which was almost a 50 percent increase.
“We are really talented at the 1-4 positions, so I knew my best shot would be to bulk up and go for the five spot,” Duffy said. “When I got to practice, I could tell it had made a big difference. I was stronger and able to use my body a lot better.”
Duffy had the time to work on his game after electing to focus exclusively on basketball. He was a two-way starter at wide receiver and safety on the sophomore football team, but two broken collarbones and a concussion forced him to drop the sport.
Of course, he still plays basketball with a football player’s mentality.
“He’s a bulldog,” Ambrose said. “He uses his leverage and smarts to take away the strengths of the other player.”
Added senior guard Andy Stempel: “He brings a lot of toughness, energy and unselfishness. He’s not scared of guarding anybody, and he’s always picking up his teammates. He’s willing to do whatever is asked of him. He doesn’t score as much as the rest of us, but he’s really embraced his role and is a huge reason for our success.”
Next year, Duffy will attend Miami (Ohio), where he plans to study accounting and finance. Duffy has said he’s never had more fun playing basketball than this year with this team.
“It’s been one of the best feelings of my life,” he said. “This is a great group of guys; we work hard and know how to get things done. It’s been a great ride.”