They might not remember the touchdown receptions on the football field.
They might not remember the rebounds, steals, put-backs, and driving layups on the basketball court.
They might not remember the speed and timing in the hurdles on the track.
But even if it takes another 60 years for Moorestown to win another boys’ basketball state title, the folks who saw the last one likely always will remember The Dance.
“That was Nick in a nutshell,” Moorestown basketball coach Shawn Anstey said of senior Nick Cartwright-Atkins.
Said Moorestown football coach Beau Sherry: “That was Nick right there.”
Cartwright-Atkins isn’t The Inquirer’s senior boy athlete of the year because of his dance moves. But there’s a real connection between his willingness to boogie at midcourt before the opening tip of the state championship game and his ability to excel on the basketball court, football field, and track.
Cartwright-Atkins is a rare athlete. But the secret of his success, according to his coaches, is his unique knack for combining a fierce competitiveness with a joyful approach to the games.
“He sees things as a fun challenge,” Sherry said. “That’s how he views competition. He just has this great energy about him.”
Said Anstey: “It all starts with his attitude. He’s so upbeat, so positive, always bringing out the best in everybody around him.”
The 6-foot, 190-pound Cartwright-Atkins will be a football player in the future. He has signed a scholarship to attend Wagner University and projects as a wide receiver for the Seahawks, an NCAA Division 1 FCS program in the Northeast Conference.
At Moorestown, Cartwright-Atkins was an outstanding wide receiver and defensive back. As a senior, he made 61 catches for 897 yards and nine touchdowns. He scored 14 total touchdowns.
“He pretty much can do anything on the football field,” Sherry said.
In spring track, Cartwright-Atkins was a top 110-meter high hurdler who took sixth in the state with a time of 14.96 seconds, advancing to the Meet of Champions.
Cartwright-Atkins said he was most proud of his ability to excel in three sports over three seasons, to stay active in representing Moorestown over the full course of the school year.
“I’m not the kind of person who can just go home after school,” Cartwright-Atkins said. “I need to stay engaged. For me, it was great to play three sports, to have different teammates, meet different types of people.
“It really helps you grow as a person and also as an athlete.”
Cartwright-Atkins made his biggest impact on the basketball court. He was a first-team All-South Jersey selection after leading Moorestown to its first state title since 1959.
Cartwright-Atkins dominated in the paint, opening the perimeter for Moorestown’s battalion of three-point shooters.
“It really was a season beyond all our expectations,” Anstey said. “It’s hard to put into words what Nick was able to do.”
Cartwright-Atkins averaged 14.7 points and 8.1 rebounds while also distributing 90 assists. He was at his best in the state tournament, scoring 21 points with 13 rebounds against reigning South Jersey Group 3 champion Delsea in the sectional semifinals and going for 23 points with 11 rebounds in the state semifinals against Wall.
He generated 12 points with 13 rebounds in the state final. And in the Tournament of Champions victory over Group 2 state champion Haddonfield, Cartwright-Atkins collected 13 points, nine rebounds, four assists, three steals, and two blocks.
“He got every loose ball,” Haddonfield coach Paul Wiedeman said that night.
But it was in the moments before the tip-off of the state final when Cartwright-Atkins best defined his his infectiously upbeat approach to sports.
He was in the center circle awaiting the referee, standing opposite Ramapo’s 6-foot-11 senior Neal Quinn, a Lafayette recruit.
If Cartwright-Atkins was intimidated by giving up nearly a foot to his counterpart, he had an odd of way of showing it. He was dancing to the beat of the music over the loudspeakers in the Rutgers Athletic Center.
“We’re getting ready to play the biggest game of our lives, the biggest game in Moorestown in 60 years, and he’s dancing,” Anstey said. “That was Nick saying, ‘Let’s go. I’m ready to rock.'
“I don’t know if we’ll ever see another athlete like him again.”
Cartwright-Atkins still laughs when he recalls the reaction to that scene at center court. He said he was “feeling the beat, feeling the moves.”
He also knows that moment, perhaps more than any other, will stand for that team, and for its irrepressible star.
“People still say to me all the time, ‘Why were you dancing?’ ” Cartwright-Atkins said. “I guess that’s going to go down in history.”
Other senior boy athletes of note
Tyreke Brown, Penns Grove: He led the Red Devils football team to a 13-0 record, winning both the South Jersey Group 1 title as well as the inaugural Group 1 South/Central Bowl Game. He made 117 tackles and scored 28 touchdowns. In wrestling, Brown became Penns Grove’s first regional champion since 1992, taking the 220-pound crown at Region 8.
Joe Dalsey, Shawnee: In football, he led the Renegades to the South Jersey Group 4 title. He passed for 810 yards and six touchdowns, ran for 666 yards and 14 touchdowns, and made 75 tackles. He also was 25-for-26 in extra points and kicked five field goals. In baseball, he batted .456 and was 2-for-3, scoring one run and driving in the other in a 2-0 win over Haddonfield in the Diamond Classic title game.
Santino Morina, Paulsboro: In football, he made 92 tackles with 10 sacks as a defensive end for an 8-3 team. In wrestling, he led the Red Raiders to the Group 1 state team title, captured the Region 7 title and took third in the state at 182 pounds.
Lucas Revano, Camden Catholic: He won his second straight state championship in wrestling, claiming the 145-pound title with a dramatic overtime pin. He finished his career with a 157-16 record, capturing four region titles and becoming just the second Irish wrestler to win a pair of state championships.
Senior Boy Athlete of the Year Previous Winners
1977: Tracy Hall, Moorestown.
1978: Bryan Warrick, Burlington Township.
1979: Carl Lewis, Willingboro.
1980: Glenn Moore, Deptford.
1982: Tim Curry, Paul VI.
1983: Darrell Booker, Willingboro.
1984: Gordie Lockbaum, Glassboro.
1985: Sean Redman, Glassboro.
1986: Steve Rammel, West Deptford.
1987: Eddie Smith, Pemberton.
1988: Tony Sacca, Delran.
1989: Irv Smith, Pemberton.
1990: Gerard Reynolds, Willingboro.
1991: Damien Covington, Overbrook.
1992: Omar Cassidy, Woodrow Wilson.
1991: Bill Duff, Delran.
1994: Mike Koerner, Washington Township.
1995: Royce Reed, Bridgeton.
1996: Ron Dayne, Overbrook.
1997: Joe Crispin, Pitman.
1998: Howard Clark, Pennsauken.
1999: Doug Easlick, Cherokee.
2000: Kevin Eli, Deptford.
2001: Dajuan Wagner, Camden.
2002: Tom Curl, Paulsboro.
2003: Mike Morrison, Willingboro.
2004: Ryan Goodman, Absegami.
2005: None selected.
2006: Jack Corcoran, St. Joseph.
2007: Alex Silvestro, Paulsboro.
2008: None selected.
2009: Chris LaPierre, Shawnee.
2010: Tyler Powell, Cherokee.
2011: Damiere Byrd, Timber Creek.
2012: Pete Galiano, Camden Catholic.
2013: Dayshawn Reynolds, Atlantic City.
2014: Tom Flacco, Eastern.
2015: C.J. LaFragola, St. Joseph.
2016: Brad Hawkins, Camden.
2017: Jon Taylor, Salem.
2018: Quinn Kinner, Kingsway.
2019: Nick Cartwright-Atkins, Moorestown.