November 2, 2011

Freeland remains East

Kevin McCarthy

Sometimes you become a stranger in your own land and have to head elsewhere to be fully appreciated. Such is the case for former Montgomery High big Ben Freeland, who has committed to a basketball program in the Patriot League.

photo of Ben Freeland

The 6-foot-10 Freeland is spending this season at Suffield Academy in Connecticut, honing his basketball skills and building his body. Next year, it will be Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. It's a program headed for the last 17 years by Coach Fran O'Hanlon. The Leopards went 6-8, 13-19 in 2011-12 but have reached the conference tournament championship game two years straight.

The reasons for Freeland's decision are many.

"I enjoyed my time on the [official] visit, the guys were great and it was a friendly atmosphere," Freeland explained. "The fans are very supportive of the basketball program and Coach [O'Hanlon] is really on point with what he wants to do. The team is losing three bigs after this season so there's a good chance of early playing time plus I'll be playing with most of the guys for a few years."

The Lafayette offensive sets often include the bigs out on the perimeter and that will match up with Freeland's ability to hit from distance. Plus, his still growing length, ability to run the floor and jump hook in the paint add to his attractiveness as a prospect.

Plus, O'Hanlon played and coached overseas years ago and has a number of foreign contacts. "He's gotten 15-20 guys to Europe in his 17 years," Freeland explained. O'Hanon was a Philadelphia 76ers draft pick in 1970 and has coached in Sweden, Israel and Venezuela.

Other northern California talents in the Lafayette roster are Tony Johnson, formerly of Folsom High, who will be a junior guard this season and backcourter Les Smith, a sophomore out of Marin Catholic. Johnson and Smith acted as player hosts for Freeland.

Besides the Leopards, other members of the conference are American, Army, Bucknell, Colgate, Lehigh, Holy Cross and Navy. Lehigh is the arch rival.

Lafayette is located 60 miles north of Philadelphia and 70 miles west of New York. It was founded in 1826 and has a student body of just under 2,400 with a teacher/student ratio of 11:1.

Freeland wanted to thank "my parents, [Lakeshow Coach] Joe Fuca, [basketball skills trainers] Ned Averbuck and Jeremy Russotti plus his current head coach Jeff Depelteau" as well as "conditioning coach Lawrence Phillips at Montgomery and Coach Brian Long from Montgomery."

Fuca said of his protege: "More and more players are choosing prep school so that they can get another year of strength and get more exposure. In the case of Ben, by going to a East Coast prep school, it gave him exposure to the many more Division 1 schools there."

90% of the power may be out in Connecticut due to the recent powerful storm but there's a bright light shining in Suffield.