Patrick Swilling Jr. had choices - in sports and colleges. He could have chosen football or basketball. He chose basketball. He could have chosen Tulane, UTEP, LSU or Mississippi. The son of former New Orleans Saints Pro Bowl linebacker Pat Swilling chose Saint Joseph's.
The Hawks were very late players to the Swilling sweepstakes, but their pitch won out. So Swilling, a 6-3, 210-pound guard from Brother Martin in New Orleans, whose body type resembles that of Villanova great Randy Foye, will be joining a freshman class of four that could swell some more.
"The coaches, the school, the academics, the campus, the new facility," Pat Swilling said of what convinced his son. "We got a great feel for what coach Phil Martelli is trying to do as far as getting them back to when they had Delonte West and Jameer Nelson."
After the team lost 20 games last season, that seems a ways off. The road back, however, has to start somewhere. And, by all accounts, the Hawks have assembled a terrific recruiting class.
The Hawks earlier signed Swilling's AAU teammate, Langston Galloway, from Baton Rouge, La. Galloway is Hawks assistant Geoff Arnold's nephew. They also signed Plymouth-Whitemarsh big man C.J. Aiken and Paulsboro (N.J.) High swingman Daryus Quarles.
Swilling's team won the 5A Louisiana state championship. Galloway's team won the 2A state title. Aiken's team won the PIAA AAAA title. Quarles, who started at Paulsboro, went to Life Center and then back to Paulsboro, was not able to play last season due to a New Jersey rule about transfers.
Patrick Swilling was attracting serious football interest as a linebacker. He is such a good athlete that he played cornerback for the football team last year. But the success of the basketball team this season convinced him to play hoops.
"He enjoyed playing football and he's been around it all his life," Pat Swilling said. "He had a good knack for rushing the passer. This year in basketball, he just really blossomed. He put the team on his back. They were ranked No. 9 and they beat No. 1, No. 2, No. 4 and No. 5."
At the moment, St. Joe's has 10 players on scholarship. It has been no secret that one or more of the underclassmen will be transferring. Now, given the 13-scholarship limit, at least one won't be there next season. And it very likely will be more than one.
"We really felt like this freshman class could be something special and do some special things," Pat Swilling said. "Patrick wanted to be part of it. We just felt at home there."