Brooklyn native Neptune nabs second title as Villanova assistant coach
Former Brooklyn Friends, Pearl Street standout earns another National Championship
Brooklyn native Kyle Neptune’s winning pedigree was enhanced yet again Monday night in San Antonio.
The former Brooklyn Friends School star, who guided the Blue Pride to a miraculous Class C New York State High School basketball championship 15 years ago, will be fitted for his second national title ring as an assistant coach at Villanova.
Neptune has officially been on Wildcats head coach Jay Wright’s staff since 2013, but he made his first trip to the Final Four in Detroit with Villanova back in 2009 as an administrative intern and video coordinator for the Philadelphia school.
The Wildcats didn’t get to cut down the nets in Motown that year, but they have since grabbed a pair of championships.
Neptune earned his first title with Villanova in 2016, when the Wildcats stunned North Carolina in the championship game on Kris Jenkins’ buzzer-beater for the ages.
Monday night’s conquest of Michigan wasn’t nearly as titillating, but it was equally satisfying for the one-time Pearl Street star and Lehigh University graduate.
Buoyed by Donte DiVicenzo’s game-high 31 points, the Wildcats pummeled the Wolverines 79-62 to make it two championships in three years.
And all the hard work that Neptune and his fellow assistants put in, both during the regular season and the tournament, was rewarded with yet another season in which the Wildcats were the last team dancing.
“You’re literally working until the game, trying to get any advantage you can,” Neptune told the Delaware County Daily Times before the Wildcats had even hit the floor for the first of their six victories during March Madness.
“You want to watch as many games as you can up until that point,” he added while scouting LIU Brooklyn, which was Villanova’s potential first-round opponent before bowing out to Radford in the play-in game. “You’re just going to keep going until whenever it is.”
Neptune and the Wildcats were favorites to win this title as the highest remaining seed in San Antonio for the Final Four.
That certainly wasn’t the case in the spring of 2003, when Neptune and his eight teammates pulled off arguably the biggest upset in local private school basketball history by stunning Joakim Noah and Poly Prep in the Athletic Conference of Independent Schools final.
The Blue Pride went on to edge Buffalo City Honors in Glens Falls, N.Y., to cap the miraculous run.
“It’s hard to put into words what this team accomplished,” noted BFS’ long-time athletic director David Gardella, who co-produced a documentary on the team’s improbable title back in 2013.
“It was an extremely special place to be, an extremely special time and an extremely special group.”
As is this group of Wildcats, who have helped make Philadelphia the City of Champions in 2018, winning their second title in three seasons on the heels of the Philadelphia Eagles’ first-ever Super Bowl win back in February.
Though assistant coaches go unheralded at times, Neptune’s contribution to the Villanova staff was heralded by Wright, who joined an exclusive list of head coaches with multiple national championships Monday night.
“During his time at Villanova, Kyle has demonstrated all the qualities you want to see in a young coach — commitment, passion and the ability to communicate with young people.” Wright said.
“He is a well-rounded and talented young coach who we are thrilled to have with us.”
Based on the Wildcats’ enormous success during his five years on the staff, Neptune might be in line to move into a head-coaching position sooner rather than later.
But for now, he and his fellow assistants can savor Monday’s victory before chasing yet another crown in 2019.
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In local college basketball news, St. Francis College (SFC) Brooklyn junior Rasheem Dunn is apparently leaving the Remsen Street school, where he has starred in each of his first two seasons.
The Thomas Jefferson High School alum and Brooklyn native led the Terriers in both scoring and rebounding this past season.
He announced via his Instagram account Monday that he won’t be back at the Pope Center come next fall, citing that the decision to transfer was “one of the hardest decisions he has ever had to make.”
Dunn averaged 13.1 points per game as a freshman in 2016-17, establishing a scoring record for first-year players at SFC. He was even better this past season, netting a team-best 15.0 points per contest.
“Thank you guys for believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself,” added Dunn, who has not yet indicated where he will be playing next season.
“I want to thank you all for the support that you had given me and my family over the past 2 years here at St. Francis College.”
There is some good news coming out of the Pope Center as the Terriers are bringing in Brooklyn Law and Tech High School guard Larry Moreno next season.
The 6-footer recent went over 2,000 career points and is his school’s all-time leading scorer. Having Moreno should help fill some of the void left by Dunn, but it doubtlessly would have been better to have these players working side-by-side next season.
“Larry is a true New York city guard who plays both backcourt positions and can really score,” Terriers head coach Glenn Bracia said.
“He’s got the ability to create shots for himself and for his teammates, can shoot the three and puts up points very quickly. We feel that he can be a dynamic player in the Northeast Conference as he gets stronger and gains experience.”
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Over at LIU Brooklyn, sophomore southpaw Patrick Clyne was named the Northeast Conference’s Pitcher of the Week on Monday, marking the second time the Massapequa, L.I., native has earned the honor this year.
Clyne, who previously received the award for the week ending March 5, struck out 14 over eight scoreless innings last Thursday in Teaneck, N.J., pitching the Blackbirds to a 5-0 blanking of NEC rival Fairleigh Dickinson.
The 6-footer’s gem sparked a three-game winning streak for the Blackbirds (13-10), who will host Albany here in Downtown Brooklyn on Wednesday afternoon.
Though his season ERA is 4.32, Clyne leads all NEC pitchers with 44 strikeouts over 33 1/3 innings thus far this year.
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