football Edit

Strickland enjoys whirlwind year

There are times at night when Dexter Strickland stares at the ceiling and wonders what in the world just happened to him.
The 6-foot-3, 175-pound sophomore from St. Patrick's High School in Elizabeth, N.J., was a reserve rookie guard on one of the best teams in the country. Minutes were sparse but experience came at a premium. Few outside of Jersey knew about him. He was just another young kid at St. Pat's.
He was like every other kid in his class. Then something happened. Strickland led the 15 and under division in scoring at the Tournament of Champions in May. Despite putting in 27 points a game, few still blinked.
A couple of weeks later, Strickland was the easy pick for the top performer and prospect at the adidas Phenom150 camp in San Diego. He showed an uncanny ability to play the point and off guard spot, performing wonderfully at both positions.
Strickland was quickly invited to the Nike All-America camp after his stellar San Diego showing. Different camp, same result. Strickland said he was happy with the way he played as one of the few class of 2009 prospects in the swoosh camp.
"I play more calm when I play with older players," Strickland said.
Strickland shot into the national spotlight after the first week of July. He ended the summer as the No. 7 player in the initial top 25 rankings for his class.
"It all started in San Diego," Strickland said. "Then I thought I did a good job at the Nike All-America camp. After that I went to the Eastern and was named the Most Outstanding Player there. Then it all ended at the Elite 24 game."
Strickland, a humble and well grounded kid, ended the summer hanging out with hip-hop mogul Jay-Z his 40/40 sports bar in New York City and picking up tips on his game from Jason Kidd at the Boost Mobile Elite 24 game.
For a kid that no one knew a year ago, he's now a must get guy for the high-majors. Indiana, Rutgers, Michigan State and
Marquette have offered. Syracuse, Kentucky, UCLA, Georgia Tech, Virginia and Villanova are showing interest. Strickland has already been on the campus of Rutgers and Villanova and a potential trip to Syracuse could happen this fall.
Recruiting isn't a priority, Strickland says. Getting better is. He has a bigger role now at St. Patrick's. The days of sitting at the end of the bench are over.
"I knew I had to be patient. It didn't make me mad at coach or make me look at things differently," Strickland said. "I know that is how it is going to be in college. I'm going to go there and have to learn from somebody so that is how I took it. Now I'm looking forward to my opportunity and help us make it to the (New Jersey) Tournament of Champions.
"I never want to stop working. I want to elevate my game to the net level."
That is what he is thinking about now on the late nights.