Blackmon, Braxton lead SFU resurgence
Pair of all-time greats help SFU rekindle rich tradition
As the play-by-play announcer on Saint Francis men’s basketball home games, I have enjoyed courtside seats along with my broadcast partner, Bernie Jubeck, at the Stokes Center and witnessed a renaissance period for Red Flash hoops.
After decades of mediocrity, the Flash of the past four seasons — behind departing seniors Keith Braxton and Isaiah Blackmon — have reversed the program’s fortunes.
SFU men’s basketball has enjoyed a rich tradition of success, but until recently, you had to turn quite a few pages in the media guide to find it.
While few remember watching Naismith Hall of Famer Maurice Stokes, the exploits of Kevin Porter, Norm Van Lier, Cal Fowler, Sandy Williams and others are still regaled at pre-game dinners in the Stokes-Twyman Room on game nights.
And, of course, there are many stories shared about the almost mythical 1990-91 team, led by confident head coach Jim Baron, SFU all-time leading scorer Joe Anderson and Altoona native Mike Iuzzolino. That trio led the school to 24 wins and its only March Madness appearance.
In the years to come, stories about Blackmon and Braxton will also be shared regularly before tipoff at the Stokes Center.
As a former sports information director (during the Darshan Luckey era at SFU), a few quick stats are in order.
Braxton and Blackmon led SFU to 76 wins and three NEC title game appearances in four seasons. Braxton captured the 2018-19 NEC Player-of-the-Year Award and Blackmon earned that honor this season.
Braxton became the first 2,000-point/1,000-rebound player in NEC history. An incredibly versatile player, he leaves the school ranked third all-time in points (2,067), rebounds (1,151), assists (454) and steals (194).
Blackmon, who overcame two torn ACLs, ranks seventh in school history in points (1,606), third in three-pointers (218) and fourth in 3-point percentage (42.0). He led the NEC in scoring this season at 21.6 ppg.
Braxton and Blackmon drew very little interest from Division I schools following their high school careers in New Jersey and North Carolina, respectively.
This fact speaks volumes about the work of Red Flash head coach Rob Krimmel and his staff.
Not only did this coaching staff see potential in Braxton and Blackmon when others didn’t, but it landed, developed and retained two players who leave SFU firmly cemented among its all-time greats.
Flash fans who have gotten to know both players will confirm that they are as impressive off the court as they are on it. Braxton, Blackmon and Krimmel have not only orchestrated a renaissance of Red Flash hoops, but they have accomplished this feat while representing the university in a way that all of us associated with the school can be proud of.
In today’s college basketball landscape — one where players change schools with the frequency that the weather changes in Loretto — I am thankful for the opportunity to have watched these two talented young men lead the way in re-establishing Saint Francis basketball.
Pat Farabaugh is an associate professor of communications at Saint Francis and the play-by-play announcer for Red Flash men’s basketball and football. He is also the author of “An Unbreakable Bond: The Brotherhood of Maurice Stokes and Jack Twyman.”