A little more than a decade ago, the York College men’s basketball team went on a magical Final Four run led by a roster loaded with local talent — two Dallastown graduates, two former Littlestown Bolts and a Central York alum among them.
Fast forward to this season, and the Spartans are trying that formula again in their recruiting approach with three Class of 2016 commits coming from York County and another from Lehigh County. The Spartans currently have one York County native on the roster — South Western’s Mike Duffy.
So why the sudden surge in home grown talent? Enter Jon Showers.
Showers, who was a 1,000-point scorer at York Catholic in the mid-2000s, is wrapping up his first year as York College’s assistant coach. And what a productive year it was. Showers helped head coach Matt Hunter snag four commitments — Jared Wagner (Central), Morgon Keiser (Red Land), Darin Gordon (Spring Grove) and Joey Polczynski (Emmaus) — all of whom play for Showers’ York Ballers AAU team in the offseason.
"It's definitely a recruiting tool for guys like Division III assistants,” Showers said of being an AAU coach. “It helps to get to know these kids and their families and interact with them on a different level than just watching and evaluating ... Recruiting is all about relationships. So if you can get them comfortable with you, that’s the No. 1 thing and that gets your foot in the door.”
Hunter credits Showers, along with assistant coach and Delone Catholic grad Nick Brady and former assistant Nate Bollinger, with helping establish relationships in the local basketball community, which is the most important part of the recruiting process, he added.
"It’s important, especially here,” Hunter said of having local talent on the roster. “They (York area) support basketball, and they support their local guys. So it’s a cool thing to have some local guys coming in to be a part of a strong program."
Those relationships have helped build a pipeline — albeit a geographically short one — between York College and the YAIAA's top talents.
“If it wasn’t for Coach Showers, I most likely wouldn’t be committed at this point in the year,” said Wagner, who joked he texts Showers as much as he texts his friends and girlfriend.
Gordon added, “Having coach Showers and my teammates around while I was considering York gave the process a more comfortable feel. Since I already knew coach Showers a little I felt very comfortable asking him questions about York during recruiting, and I was able to be very up front with him about the process. Not only did coach Showers help me a lot but coach Hunter played a large role in my recruiting as well.”
Having that familiarity with a coach and within the recruiting class was a big plus during the recruiting process. It made York College the ideal choice even if it meant not leaving York County, Wagner said.
“All along I was trying to tell myself that location didn't matter, and I was going to where I felt most comfortable,” Wagner said. “And the more I thought about it the more I realized that, without a doubt, the place I felt most comfortable was at York. After Darin, Joey and I spent the day there together at the end of November, I just felt at home on campus, and I already felt like I was a part of their basketball family.”
And a chance to play at the next level with guys they’ve played AAU ball with for years? Just the icing on the cake.
“Having Joey, Darin and Morgon already committed there made my decision easy,” Wagner said. “I loved the campus, know I will have an opportunity to play and have an impact, and I'll be surrounded by a bunch of guys that I've known for what seems like forever.”
Keiser agreed, adding that a chance to play with his friends in a good fit was an opportunity he "couldn't turn down."
When the York County trio dons the Spartan green and white for the first time next season, it'll be a dream years in the making.
"I was like 'Wow that would be something special if we could all play together,'" Wagner said of his first thought when he realized it could be a reality. "Little did I know it would actually happen."