York College men's basketball assistant coach Nick Brady was just one of many fans sitting on the stadium stands last August at Shippensburg University watching the intrasquad football scrimmage.
He was there to watch his younger brother, Jason, a Delone Catholic High School graduate and a Shippensburg offensive lineman.
But Nick Brady also kept a keen eye on the defensive backs, which included South Western grad and Shippensburg freshman Mike Duffy. Brady and York College men's basketball head coach Matt Hunter had recruited Duffy a year earlier when he was at South Western, hoping to get Duffy to come play basketball for the Spartans. Duffy instead opted to walk on the football team at NCAA Division II Shippensburg, aiming to earn a roster spot out of training camp. In his senior season with the Mustangs' football team in 2012, Duffy started at cornerback on defense and split starting duties at quarterback on offense.
"I went up to the intrasquad scrimmage before the season began. Mike (Duffy) was up there," Nick Brady recalled. "He was in uniform. I was watching the way he moves. He was real fluid with his motion. I was like: 'Oh, man. If we could've gotten him...'"
Getting their man: Hunter and Brady eventually got their man. It just took a year longer than expected. Hunter confirmed last week that Duffy will transfer from Shippensburg to NCAA D-III York College in the fall and will join the Spartans on the hardwood next season.
The move has been in the works since the Shippensburg football staff cut Duffy out of training camp last August. About a month later, Duffy sent a text message to Brady.
It read: "I want to leave Shippensburg and come play basketball for you guys."
Duffy would've transferred to York College this past spring semester but, being just a freshman at Shippensburg, didn't yet have enough credits to transfer and would have to wait until this fall.
By the time he joins the Spartans, Duffy will be two years removed from playing basketball at South Western, where the 6-foot guard averaged 15 points a game his senior season alongside senior standout Parker Bean. The duo led the Mustangs to an appearance in the District 3-AAAA Tournament and 17-8 overall record. Bean is now playing baseball at NCAA D-I Liberty (Va.) University.
"I've been working out and keeping in shape," Duffy said by phone last week. "It's tough for a year of not playing (basketball). But it'll be more like riding a bike. I just got to put the work in."
Hunter's first local recruit: Duffy is the first local recruit for Hunter, who will be entering his third year as the York College men's hoops coach next season. Tasked with essentially rebuilding the program from the ground up following the retirement of longtime Spartans coach Jeff Gamber, Hunter's teams have gone a combined 12-39 in his first two years as coach.
Of the 10 freshmen this past season that made up Hunter's first official recruiting class, three of them started and four others saw significant action off the bench. Hunter's next batch of incoming recruits will feature six freshmen, all from outside the York-Adams League, to go along with Duffy, who will have four years of athletic eligibility remaining with the Spartans.
Hunter projects Duffy as a point guard who can also slide over into the shooting guard spot. It's unclear if he'll play right away. Last season, freshmen Joey Feinberg and Brad Wesner started at the point guard and shooting guard positions, respectively. As is Hunter's custom during the offseason, he steered clear of saying who will see significant action next season, instead giving the old line of each player earning playing time.
"He (Duffy) is a kid we really wanted from the get go," Brady said. "It was heartbreaking to see him go and we wished him the best of luck at Ship. We eventually got him, it just took an extra year."
— Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.