March 5, 2008
With the game too close for comfort, the Lawrence Academy Spartans needed a calming influence. They hadn't been making shots all game. They were fouling like crazy, giving free points to Nobles Academy.
At least four trips in a row they put the Bulldogs on the charity line. It was the playoffs, and they were blowing it. They needed that leader to set them right. It wasn't their coach. It was a junior.
"Yo blue," yelled Darryl Cato-Bishop from his spot on the blocks, awaiting yet another Nobles free throw. "Where our heads at?"
A Dorchester native, the muscular Cato-Bishop has made a name for himself at the Lawrence prep school. So much of a name, that he has division one schools calling it, offering him a chance for education and stardom in two sports.
The 6'-3", 220 pound leader looks like a linebacker. He stands on the court in his dark blue basketball shorts and jersey, and looks like he'd be better at tackling than stripping a basketball. It's deceptive. He gets four steals.
Playing deep in the post he pulls in the ball. The Nobles center guarding him has five inches on him. There should be no way Cato-Bishop can beat him low. The Nobles kid fouls out midway through the second half. Cato-Bishop proved too shifty, continually making his way to the free-throw line. He made every one with a swish.
In football, he plays tight end well enough that Boston College has offered him a scholarship. In basketball he is a forward who occasionally plays point guard. Clemson, Rhode Island, and Providence have offered for him to play hoops.
His main role is leader.
"If we need a big rebound or a shot or a block or a steal, he's the one that will do it," said his coach Kevin Wiercinski. "He's an absolute godsend."
In the game with Nobles, Cato-Bishop scored the first basket almost five minutes into a defensive game. At halftime the score was 19-18 in favor of the Spartans. He had 10 of those 19.
In the second half, the Spartans catch on. So does Cato-Bishop. At one point he has 22 of the teams 32 points. As the game winds down, he stops scoring and feeds his teammates. He ends with 24 points and 10 rebounds in a 52-37 win.
"We win simply because we have him and they don't," said Wiercinski.
"I think I'm more of a defensive player," Cato-Bishop said after the game. "But I'll do what we need. It's all about winning for me."
Since he was little he's spent his life in basketball gyms, where his father, Darryl Bishop, worked. A former NFL defensive back, the elder Bishop is the athletic director at the Shelburne Community Center in Roxbury. His son has always had access.
"I spent a lot of lonely nights playing in the gym," Cato-Bishop said.
All that time is paying off now that he's proven one of the top recruits in Massachusetts. A captain since his sophomore year, a large part of the interest comes from his ability to command respect on the court.
At a school that has produced NBA talent and division one stars in the past few years - including Cato-Bishop's teammate Stevie Mejia who is headed to University of Rhode Island next fall - this forward is special.
"In terms of talent, Darryl is probably seventh," said Wiercinski. "If I had to start a team, though, I'd pick him second."
His coach can't say enough about him, even if Cato-Bishop is a bit quiet himself.
"He's the kind of kid everyone wants. He'll not just play hard, he'll help you carry the water and hold the door for his teachers," Wiercinski beamed. "He's just a poster child for us."
Cato-Bishop is trying just to focus on his schoolwork and winning more games for now. He has a year to choose where he is going or what sport he is going to play. For now he'll just enjoy it all.
"I'm living a dream, man" he said. "This is a dream."