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Burke Bulldogs eye a third city basketball championship

Jimmy Myers
Burke Bulldogs eye a third city basketball championship
Jeremiah E. Burke boys basketball team takes a team pic after beating Lynn English at the annual Citi Team Hoops Classic Invitational. PHOTO: PATRICK O’CONNOR

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This year’s story about Jeremiah E. Burke High School’s young men’s basketball team is one of triumph over conflict.

The triumph comes in the form of a very talented and spirited group of young men who perform nightly before packed home crowds and hostile ones on the road.

Sporting a record of 10-3 as of this writing and proudly wearing the mantle of two-time  defending city champions, the Bulldogs of Burke, coached by Joseph Chatman, are focused on a three-peat and continued domination of Boston City League basketball.

Chatman stepped into a situation many coaches would have avoided. The Burke team had won back-to-back city titles under coach Sean Ryan, who left suddenly last year for the head coaching position at Austin Preparatory School in Reading. 

There was turmoil in the basketball program, leading to rumors of mass transfers. Chatman came to the rescue. The former coach of Pine Manor College and a successful private teacher of basketball through his Team Spartans program took the job on short notice.

“It was a tough situation to walk into,” said Chatman. “With Sean leaving so suddenly, there was a feeling of anxiety throughout the Burke basketball team, the school, and the surrounding community. It was not an ideal situation to enter. There was talk of players transferring out to other schools as well as other situations. But I am the kind of man that relishes a challenge. And this situation qualified as a challenge.”

Overcoming challenges

The conflict portion of this story deals with the history of Jeremiah  E. Burke High School. Over the past several years, it has been in the news as a struggling school with academic and discipline problems. It is now rising against the tide of negative publicity. Further, it remains the first school to have exited turnaround status.

The sad part about this is that many good people have taught and worked at the Burke during some of its darkest moments. Many good students have graduated from the school and had successes in their lives. But somehow, that all gets lost in the negative headlines. Major colleges don’t break down the doors to recruit from the Burke’s student pool as they do at other schools in the city. But success stories, academic and athletic, regularly come from the Burke.

The young men’s roundball team recently won the annual Citi Team High School Hoops Classic Invitational, beating Lynn English 74-64. One of their few losses was a two-point defeat at the hands of Eagle Academy, the city champions of New York.

“That was a tough one,” said  Chatman. “We were missing two — 6-7 center Gerald Banks and starting point guard Jasaad Fenton, one of our top players — but we still gave them a game.”

Chatman holds his team to high standards in the classroom and on the court. He was a star player at Boston College High School, and as a collegiate performer at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, he is aware of the challenges his players face.

“I insist that our players maintain a 2.2 grade point average or higher if they are going to play on our team,” said Chatman said. (For the record, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, the governing body for high school sports in the state, requires a 1.6 average for an athlete to be eligible to play. The coach knows that.)

With star players Jaeden Roberts, the leading scorer averaging 33 points a game, and other key players Jaeshawn Rogers, Jasaad Fenton and Malik Adamson, the Bulldogs of Jeremiah Burke High School are gunning for a third straight Boston city championship and a deep run in the upcoming state playoffs. 

“Some of the schools have nice locker rooms and [other] things some of the other schools in the city don’t have,” Chatman said “But once that ball goes in the air, that has nothing to do with the results we think are going to happen. We’ll let them keep that stuff, and we’ll win — that’s our process.”

basketball, Boston City League basketball, Burke Bulldogs, Jeremiah E. Burke High School, Sports