Jamal Custis expected to play basketball, not football

first_imgDuring a break in practice, high school senior Jamal Custis glanced over to Neumann-Goretti (PA) head coach Carl Arrigale. He noticed Arrigale talking to a short, white-haired man with glasses, and the conversation looked private. When he looked closer, he realized it was Southern Methodist head coach Larry Brown.After the session, as Custis walked across the court, Arrigale hollered for Custis to come over to him, where he then introduced Brown, who was interested in having Custis come play basketball at SMU. The pair talked about the opportunity, the current Neumann-Goretti season and Custis’ beloved 2001 76ers, which Brown coached.“It was awesome,” Custis said, “He’s a legend.”But Custis didn’t go to SMU to play for Brown, and he didn’t go to any of the other schools that offered him a basketball scholarship. Instead, the player that had spent his entire life dreaming of being an NBA player committed to Syracuse as a wide receiver. Several schools, such as SMU, Pittsburgh and Rutgers, all offered Custis a spot on both teams. Miami even dangled that possibility in front of him after he committed to Syracuse, Arrigale said.Now, five years later, Custis is a redshirt senior and SU’s (5-2 2-2 Atlantic Coast) leading receiver this year with 592 yards and four touchdowns through seven games. His ability as a pass catcher and a gunner on special teams helped Syracuse reached its highest win total in six seasons, still with five games remaining.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textPaul Schlesinger | Staff PhotographerBefore his junior year of high school, though, Custis never planned on playing football in college. Basketball was his passion. It had always been.Custis started playing organized basketball in the fifth grade, but he played in his neighborhood in south Philadelphia as long as he can remember. When he first began playing basketball, his mother Jeanette put up a mini hoop in their dining room so Custis and his friends could play in the house.“Kids were jumping all over the furniture,” Jeanette said. “It was fun for them (and) it was fun for me.”As Custis aged, he shaped into what his former coaches called a “freak athlete.” By sixth grade, Custis was the best player on his local AAU team, which consisted of players throughout all middle school grades.In high school, Arrigale noticed his talent immediately. Custis was added to the varsity basketball roster at Neumann-Goretti, a member of the Philadelphia Catholic League and a consistent top-25 team in the nation, Arrigale said. While Custis was there, Neumann-Goretti dominated.The Saints won 73-straight league games, six league titles in a row and went 100-2 in league play. Custis’ four years came right in the middle of that stretch, and he was a “major part” of Neumann-Goretti’s success — those are records that may never happen again, Arrigale said.Ahead of Custis’ senior season, Neumann-Goretti played in an event at Temple University that brought the top basketball schools in the region together. The Saints played against St. Joseph High School in New Jersey, home to Karl Anthony Towns and Wade Baldwin IV, both eventual first-round draft picks. Custis was tasked with guarding the future All-NBA Towns.“It was crazy,” Custis said. “Here’s this 6-foot-11 dude. I was just using my football strength.”Custis more than held his own in the matchup. Neumann-Goretti won by one point.“Towns did us all a favor and played more on the perimeter,” Arrigale said.After the game, Temple head coach Fran Dunphy approached Arrigale about Custis, hoping the senior forward would give some consideration to Temple basketball, Arrigale said. That senior season, the Saints won another league title led by Custis, Drexel commit Troy Harper and Miami commit Ja’Quan Newton.But heading into college, Custis wanted to focus on football instead of basketball. He could make a career in football, he said — basketball would be much more difficult.Josh Shub-Seltzer | Staff PhotographerEarly in his SU career, though, some members of the basketball team decided to transfer, opening up a spot for Custis. SU assistants Mike Hopkins and Gerry McNamara reached out to both Custis and Arrigale about potentially walking onto the team. When Custis first took an official visit to SU, he met with both the football and basketball coaching staffs. But when the position was offered this time after his freshman football season, he turned it down.“After my first camp I felt the wrath of a full year of playing football,” Custis said. “I wasn’t up to it. I wish I would’ve stuck with basketball too. Just the thought of going from football season to basketball season was just too much for me as a young player.”The basketball coaching staff had left the door open, Custis said, in case he wanted to give it a try. At this point, the focus is on football and trying to make it to the next level. His time playing basketball now comes against his teammates, and one thing is certain, Custis said.“Every time we play, I’m definitely the best player on the court,” Custis said. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on October 23, 2018 at 10:18 pm Contact Matt: [email protected]last_img

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