Jaylen Stinson is a steely-eyed, old-school basketball guard, always up for a challenge.
That’s part of the reason the Archbishop Wood High senior committed Wednesday to attend James Madison University on a scholarship.
“It’s a chance to go down there and help to turn things around and really establish myself as a player in that league,” Stinson said.
James Madison is coming off a last-place finish in the Colonial Athletic Conference. The Dukes, who were 2-16 in conference play and 9-21 overall, have a new coach in Mark Byington, the former Georgia Southern coach who was hired in March.
The 6-foot Stinson, who helped Archbishop Wood to the regular-season title in the Philadelphia Catholic League as a junior, said he narrowed his final choice to James Madison and Hofstra. He also had offers from Drexel and Delaware as well as nearly a dozen other schools.
Stinson made the announcement on a video on his Twitter feed.
“The best way for me to describe it that it felt like family,” Stinson said. “The whole coaching staff stayed in constant contact with me, always asking how I was doing.
“It was the small things, just building a relationship.”
Stinson said he visited the James Madison campus in Harrisonburg, Va., with his parents in the summer.
“It’s beautiful. I loved it down there,” said Stinson, who played for the Team Final AAU program.
Stinson is the third Archbishop Wood senior to commit to an NCAA Division I program this summer. Guard Rahsool Diggins, the reigning Philadelphia Catholic League Player of the Year, committed to Connecticut, and swingman Daeshon Shepherd committed to La Salle.
A top defender and distributor, Stinson played some of his best games in the biggest moments last season. He scored Wood’s final six points in a win over previously undefeated Cardinal O’Hara and scored 11 after regulation, including a remarkable three-pointer at the buzzer of the first overtime, in an instant classic of a 94-93, double-overtime victory over Roman Catholic.
“Jaylen is a tough, hard-nosed Philly guard,” Wood coach John Mosco said. “He leads by example, winning every drill in practice. He loves pressure and always wants the ball in crunch time.
“James Madison is getting a winner and a great character kid from a strong family.”
With his college choice made, Stinson said he will fully focus on his senior season at Wood, provided the Vikings are able to take the court during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wood last season lost in the Catholic League semifinals to Roman Catholic, then saw its season end when the PIAA state tournament was shut down because of the coronavirus outbreak.