Funk set to join the Hawks

By on June 22, 2016

 

Gives verbal commitment to St. Joe’s

Taylor Funk, who has 1,273 career points through his junior year at Manheim Central, recently gave a verbal commitment to continue his basketball career at Divison-One St. Joe’s University. (Lititz Record file photo)

Taylor Funk, who has 1,273 career points through his junior year at Manheim Central, recently gave a verbal commitment to continue his basketball career at Divison-One St. Joe’s University. (Lititz Record file photo)

Manheim Central boys basketball coach Chris Sherwood is a firm believer that Taylor Funk hasn’t even come close to his ceiling yet.

Naturally, he’s excited to see where the Barons’ 6-foot-8 senior-to-be takes his game.

Not only for MC in the 2016-17 season.

But also for the Division-One St. Joseph’s University Hawks in Philadelphia’s Big Five.

On May 12, after giving a verbal commitment, Funk tweeted, “Excited to be a hawk,” with a picture of him holding a St. Joe’s number 33 jersey.

“Once I went on the visit and I went to a few games, I didn’t really care if bigger offers were to come along,” said Funk, who accepted a full athletic scholarship offer. “I knew that was the place I wanted to go. I didn’t want to lose the St. Joe’s offer … so it was just a matter of me committing.”

Last winter, Funk, who averaged 21.3 ppg for the Barons, became the second MC player in as many seasons to reach the 1,000-point milestone. It was Matt Walsh, who is now playing at Hobart College, who achieved the feat in 2014-15.

“I feel like I’ve coached some really good players,” Sherwood said. “I’ve been fortunate to coach Jordan Gatchell, who scored 1,000 points at Penn State-Harrisburg, Matt Walsh, who’s playing at Hobart. Those are really, really good basketball players. What people tend to forget is if you’re a Division-Three basketball player, you are a great basketball player. I mean, you’re a great basketball player, you’re not just a good basketball player. And to have one at this level, it’s rare. It’s rare.”

In all, Funk received offers from seven schools, including Boston University, LaSalle College, Monmouth University, Rider College and others.

Hawks’ coach Phil Martelli, who incidentally attended the same high school as MC assistant Vincent Quinn, visited the Funk family at their home, and then Taylor visited the St. Joe’s campus in May. Ultimately, in more ways than one, he simply felt it was a great fit.

“Everyone just made me feel at home,” Funk said. “The coaches came to my house, we had a sit-down and we talked for over an hour, and a lot of it wasn’t even about basketball. (Coach Martelli) just seemed like he really, really wanted to learn about me as a person, and that’s big. I don’t think many players just want to play for a coach who only cares about basketball. Obviously, that’s a huge part, but it’s good to have a personal relationship with the coach … and I really think that’s what he wants to do with all his players that he recruits.”

Martelli also earned Funk’s confidence in the team style of play that the Hawks prefer.

“I told the coaches before he even gave me an offer … I’m not just saying this because I’m not a guard, but I hate when teams play guard-heavy and think the guard has to do everything,” Funk said. “That’s not how you really win. You’ve got to play with five guys on the team, move the ball, pass the ball and get the open shot. And (coach Martelli) understood exactly what I was saying. He was like, ‘I agree 100 percent. There’s five guys on the court for a reason.’ So I definitely think the style I play fits with St. Joe’s. I think I’ll be a good fit there.”

Even at 6-foot-8, Funk is a threat from the outside. In fact, of his 1,273 career points to date, more than one-third of those have come from beyond the arc, with 165 career three-pointers.

Don’t expect that to change at St. Joe’s.

“I think that they’re looking for a stretch four,” Sherwood said. “Obviously, the (questions) would come, ‘How can he defend a four at that level?,’ and the response is, ‘Well, how can a four at that level defend him?’ He’s pulling guys away from the bucket and they’re still running a lot of ball screen stuff and that really works for Taylor.”

Added Funk: “(Coach Martelli) said I’m obviously going to have to work on it, but I’ve played the perimeter my whole life, so why change now? He’s going to play me outside, and if I have a mismatch, obviously put me in the paint.”

This past March, St. Joe’s captured its fourth Atlantic-10 crown, defeating VCU 87-74 in the championship game and earning an NCAA Tournament berth for the second time in three years. It also marked the seventh time under Martelli that the Hawks played in the big dance.

To play at the next level, Funk and Sherwood agreed that much of where he still needs to focus his efforts is getting quicker and stronger.

“I have to put on some weight and get quicker,” Funk remarked. “With getting quicker, my defense needs to pick up.”

“I think (Taylor) has progressed drastically in the last four months,” Sherwood said. “I think the progression that I have seen over the last four months is absolutely awesome. We’re not near that ceiling yet, and when St. Joe’s gets him, I’m sure they’re thinking the same thing. They’re not close to where that ceiling could possibly be. I think the strength will come.”

Asked if he could eventually become a centerpiece of the St. Joe’s team, Sherwood said, “Yeah, I do, I think if he continues to get better. I think he looks like at this point a guy who could play for money. That means, it could be overseas, if he continues to progress. His body has changed from four months ago, and if it continues to do that … obviously St. Joe’s has facilities and people in charge of that. You’re looking at a 6-8 perimeter guy and with the sport as we’re watching it today, at all levels, it’s becoming more and more that this type of player is very unique and very important to the style of play that we’re seeing.”

No doubt, Funk is one of the few at this point in the Class of 2017 who has given a verbal commitment to play at the next level. For Funk, it’s a weight off of his shoulders.

“I feel like now, I don’t have to worry about anything,” he said. “I know the offers aren’t going anywhere, they’re not going to change their mind. I just have to keep working on my game, getting better and for once, I feel like I can breathe. I don’t have to worry about my phone ringing during the day. All that was fun, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like I can just play now. I don’t have to worry about anything.”

That’s music to the ears of Sherwood, who can focus on helping Funk get closer to that ceiling.

“I’m just really happy for Taylor,” he said. “Obviously, he’s put in a lot of time and a lot of effort and a lot of hard work, and at the same time, just doing that time, that hard work isn’t enough. You’ve got to have a lot of skill. He has the size, he has all those things. So when you put the hard work and the time that he’s put in with the skills and the body type that he’s been given, it’s a nice combination and he has taken advantage of it. Obviously, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.”

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