Lincoln High School Coach Dwayne “Tiny” Morton lashed out against his “selfish” players in a wild tirade after the Railsplitter’s loss to Hudson Catholic High School on Jan. 28, the team’s third loss in four games.
“The vibes I’m getting from this team, we’re going downward,” he said in an all-encompassing interview in his locker room, in front of his sullen team. “Everybody’s not happy. I’ve never seen a team where everybody thought they should be playing. I respect it, but c’mon. There are only 32 minutes [in a game].”
At one point, Morton said his team wanted to put up individual numbers rather than sacrifice for the greater good. He also zeroed in on star sophomore Isaiah Whitehead, a highly recruited standout with scholarship offers from St. John’s, Rutgers and Syracuse; said he was upset starting guard Shaquille Davis came down with a back injury that prevented him from playing yesterday; and felt forward Tafari Whittingham has failed to assert himself in the paint.
“Our record doesn’t reflect our team,” said Morton, who has won seven city titles and three state crowns during his tenure. “I don’t think the goal is to win a championship. It’s to get some writers in their face. This team just wants to shine. It’s worried about getting recruited, who’s in the top 25.”
But Saturday’s loss was nothing to be ashamed of. Hudson Catholic is one of New Jersey’s top programs, a team with up to five Division I prospects including impressive juniors Michael Stewart and Reggie Cameron and Iona College-bound guard Grant Ellis. It’s led by as many as 10 points late in the third quarter before Lincoln (16–4) came storming back, drawing to within 50–46 on a Rakim Lesane basket with 1:58 remaining.
Lesane came up with a steal moments later along the end line, and tried to throw the ball off Hudson Catholic’s Nassir Barrino. Barrino, however, scooped it up like a catcher, sprinted the other way and set up Stewart for a slam.
“It was the turning point in the game,” Barrino said.
Morton wasn’t as concerned with the loss than he was with the growing trend he’s noticed: his teammates using the word “I” instead of “we.”
Part of that, he said, comes from lack of leadership — uncommitted seniors worried about their future. It drove Morton up a wall that his team attended Friday’s night’s Christ the King-Bishop Loughlin game instead of the South Shore-Boys and Girls tilt — especially since the two Brooklyn schools are on Lincoln’s schedule in the coming week.
“Huge week, they don’t even realize it,” Morton said. “We’re scouting the wrong teams and we’re trying to win a championship.”
He faulted Whitehead (15 points) for taking 21 shots, missing 14 of them and failing to get to the free-throw line. But more than that, Morton is bothered by the star’s quiet demeanor.
At the season’s outset, Morton said he wanted to see Whitehead become more of a leader running the team, which he felt hasn’t happened yet.
“That’s our problem,” Morton said. “We don’t got no leaders.”
When he asked his team who was his best player, nobody spoke up, which Morton said spoke volumes of the team’s current issues.
“I guess everybody thinks they’re the best player,” Whitehead said. “We have to come together.”
Whitehead is confident this rut won’t last. He expects tough practices over the next few days before the showdowns with Brooklyn AA rivals South Shore and Boys and Girls — contests that will determine the regular season crown.
“We’re definitely gonna come out hungry,” Whitehead said.
Morton plans to make the most out of the games. They will be like tryouts, only in early February with far higher stakes.
“I’m gonna use these two games to see who’s gonna play in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s gonna be different after this week.”
Reach reporter Colin MIxson at email@example.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.