Feb. 17, 2005
PHILADELPHIA - By Brian W. Ferrie '98 "I tell people all the time, if my family hadn't moved to Florida [the summer before I went to high school], I probably would have gone to college for soccer," 6-5 junior Hawks guard-forward Chet Stachitas said.
So it was fortuitous for Saint Joseph's that Chet's father Len received a job offer in the Sunshine State and subsequently moved the Stachitas clan to Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, in 1998.
"I had grown up in Springfield, Montgomery County, and gone through the Springfield public school system for grades 1 through 8," recalled Stachitas.
Although he did play a lot of basketball, Chet showed great talent in his formative years as a sweeper in soccer. In fact, had his family stayed in the Philadelphia area, Stachitas was planning to attend Chestnut Hill Academy for high school in large part because of its great soccer program.
"But when I got to Florida, I found out that the soccer season is in the winter, unlike Pennsylvania where it's in the fall. So I made a choice. I was already playing on a club soccer team in the summer down there, and I decided to play basketball in the winter."
Stachitas continued to play both basketball and soccer through the end of his sophomore year. But when the summer before his junior year came around and he had the opportunity to play for a local AAU basketball team, he decided to give up soccer entirely to focus on hoops.
And a smart decision it was. Stachitas would end up becoming the all-time leading scorer at Nease High School, with an astounding 2,505 points. His senior year, he led Nease to the Florida Class 3A state title, earning Most Valuable Player honors in the tournament. For the season, he averaged 24 points, eight rebounds and three steals per game, while shooting 56 percent from the field.
In October of that year (2001), Stachitas committed to SJU, deciding on the Hawks over Penn, Princeton, Memphis, Davidson and Boston University. Even Pac-10 powerhouse Stanford expressed interest in the budding star.
"St. Joe's was actually the only official visit I made," Stachitas related. "I loved the coaching staff, they had a great tradition in basketball and I knew that the Jesuit education ranked highly. Plus, it was coming back to the area where I grew up, and that's a good feeling." Interestingly, by committing to St. Joe's, Stachitas created a Big 5 rivalry within his own house. Both of his parents, Len and mother Martha, had gone to Penn and been athletes there - Len in track and Martha in field hockey, lacrosse and fencing.
"Penn was the team I followed as a kid," he explained. "I grew up going to Penn and Big 5 games at the Palestra, and it's something special to play on the same court now. At that time, [I knew] St. Joe's just as the Big 5 school with the Hawk that never stopped flapping."
Surprisingly, however, there was no particular push from his parents for Chet to attend Penn when the Quakers expressed interest in him during high school, Stachitas said.
"Of course they would have a little bit of a bias toward their alma mater, and if I had chosen Penn they told me they would find a way to pay for it [because Ivy League schools do not offer athletic scholarships]. But in the end, it all came down to St. Joe's, and they're just as happy with my choice as if I had gone to Penn."
And he arrived on Hawk Hill at a great time, participating as a freshman in the 2002-03 season that included a 26-7 record, A-10 East Division regular season title and NCAA tournament berth. Following that was the terrific undefeated regular season of 2003-04, which led to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament and an eternal place for the team in the hearts of Philadelphia college basketball fans.
"In high school, I couldn't have pictured the success that we've had," he said. "When I committed [the fall of my senior year], St. Joe's was the preseason number nine [in the country], but I remember thinking it would be hard to live up to that level after all those fifth-year seniors graduated [Marvin O'Connor, Bill Phillips, Damian Reid and Na'im Crenshaw]. My first year here, I don't think people were expecting much from us, and we accomplished a lot with the help of Jameer [Nelson]. Then my sophomore year, we had basically lost only one guy, Alex Sazonov, so we knew what we had and what we were capable of."
Stachitas made valuable contributions both seasons. As a freshman, he played in 30 games, averaging 10.5 minutes, 3.0 points, 1.2 rebounds and 0.9 assists. He followed that up his sophomore season by playing in 31 games, including one start, and averaging 18.5 minutes, 6.5 points, 1.5 rebounds and 0.9 assists, while also hitting 36 3-pointers at an impressive 43.9 percent clip.
Now a junior, Stachitas has taken on an even greater role, starting all but one game for the 11-9 Hawks. His solid all-around play is evident in several statistical categories and his rank on the team in each, including 29.6 minutes (4th), 12.6 points (2nd), 2.6 rebounds (5th), 2.0 assists (3rd) and 0.8 steals (2nd), as well as all three shooting categories: 44.5 percent FG (4th), 75.4 percent FT (3rd), and 40.9 percent 3-point FG (2nd).
Still, Stachitas isn't satisfied.
"I always think that I can do more," he said. "Coming into this season I definitely wanted to contribute in the scoring column, because we lost so many points from last year [in Nelson, Delonte West and Tyrone Barley]. But I also know that I can rebound [better], and I want to bring leadership since I'm a junior now and one of the more experienced guys on the team."
When asked what his focus was for the Hawks in the home stretch of this season, Stachitas' answer was simple.
"To win. That's what it's all about. We have a chance to put our name in the history books here by making the NCAA Tournament three straight years and winning the A-10 [regular season] title five straight years. This far I don't think a lot of people expected us to be on top of the division [with an 8-1 conference record]. But we're not satisfied - it doesn't mean anything yet. We have to go seize it."