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Change has been good for Udo-Utun, Bishop McDevitt

The moment Imowo Udo-Utun fell into Bishop McDevitt High's basketball lap, thigh bones were not exactly snapped in two.

The moment Imowo Udo-Utun fell into Bishop McDevitt High's basketball lap, thigh bones were not exactly snapped in two.

Only 155 pounds can be found on his 6-4 frame; look hard, they're there somewhere. But while you're in search mode, don't bother scanning Cardinal Dougherty's 2009-10 roster, assuming you can find one.

Hoopswise, Udo-Utun was nowhere to be seen last season. After enjoying decent success on Dougherty's 2007-08 freshman team, then hardly playing at all on the JV squad a year later because, by his own admission, he "wasn't strong enough," Udo-Utun sat out his junior year to concentrate on academics.

When Dougherty went poof! last June, Udo-Utun had to find a new school. And once he surfaced in Lancerville, he needed to regain his basketball confidence.

"I pretty much knew in the summertime that I'd try out for the team," Uto-Utun said. "McDevitt didn't have that strong of a team, so I felt I could make an impact. But I wasn't too sure what was going to happen, honestly.

"Once I slammed on a couple people - in the first tryout - I knew it would be easy after that. Nah, none of the coaches said anything to me, but one of the players heard them say that I'd make the team and be a starter."

That still holds.

Yesterday, in the first round of McDevitt's Al Achuff Memorial Tournament, pushed back 24 hours by Sunday's snow, Udo-Utun totaled six points, nine rebounds and three steals as the Lancers jolted Gospel of Grace, 65-32.

Which of What?

Don't feel bad if that name rings no bells. Some schools are small. Others are tiny. And then there's GoG, which is infinitesimal.

Coach Mario Berrios said his school, located in Fox Chase and operated by Gospel of Grace Ministries, includes approximately 130 students . . . from kindergarten through 12th grade. There are just eight seniors and four of the five boys (Pele Watkins, Eddie Morrison, Derrick Gibson, James Prather) are on the 10-man basketball team. Berrios wasn't sure of the male-female breakdown, but he said the top four grades include 32 students.

"Eight seniors?!" Udo-Utun said. "I didn't know it was that small."

His guess at the size of the senior class had been 50. Just a liiiiiittle too high.

But, hey, the place does exist. More than CD can say at this juncture.

"When Dougherty closed, that was the worst feeling," Udo-Utun said. "It was like everything came crashing down. That was my second home. I made bonds with everybody.

"I definitely didn't want to have to leave. I couldn't imagine being anywhere else. This school's actually closer [he lives in Mount Airy] and I was thinking of coming here for the ninth grade . . . I do like it here, but I can't say it's anything like Dougherty."

Udo-Utun is one of six former Cardinals on McDevitt's varsity, though none played at that level there.

Udo-Utun thought of just three others originally - senior forward Basil Wright (three assists, five steals), senior sixth man Ryan Leaks (four points) and deep sub Diamir Williams, a soph.

After an interview had been concluded, Udo-Utun disappeared into McDevitt's "locker room" (actually, a classroom down the hall from the gym) and then popped right back out, saying he'd forgotten another senior, sub Shedwick Phanor.

. . . Maybe 30 seconds later, he came bustling down that same hallway. "Sorry, [soph sub] Carl Garner used to go to Dougherty, too."

Yesterday's top scorers were junior forwards Markeise Chandler (20, formerly of Dougherty and then Imhotep Charter) and Brahieme Jackson (12, a JV player at North Catholic). Sophomore point guard Kenyatta Long, who did play varsity last year - at McDevitt, even - contributed eight points, four assists and three steals.

Imowo Udo-Uton (the name is pronounced uh-mall you-doe-tun), who seeks a career in sports management, was quite the first-quarter factor, witness his four points, five rebounds and three steals.

"My role is to play 'D' on that back line, grab every board and score when I have to," he said. "Really, I'm fine with scoring [only] a couple buckets. But I have to try to grab lots of rebounds."

McDevitt's opponent in today's 2:30 final will be Penn Charter, a 44-40 winner over Pope John Paul II.

Michael Brown and Mike McGlinchey (also 14 rebounds) halved 22 points for PC, which lost the final quarter, 18-5, to make things very interesting. PC's John Moderski expanded a 42-40 lead by sinking two of four free throws in the final 56 seconds. PJP II missed three shots in that span, and McGlinchey swatted one of them.

PJP II, a new school in Royersford, is basically a combination of the old Kennedy-Kenrick (Norristown) and St. Pius X (Pottstown). Its coach, Jack Flanagan, last season steered K-K's squad.

Though it's now 7-1 overall, McDevitt is not exactly being pumped for spots on national rankings. Some teams' schedules are Murderers' Row. The Lancers' has barely featured shoplifters. But the mood is great and there are signs that at least a hint of success could be experienced once CL play begins.

"We're having fun. We play together," Udo-Utun said.

Is the new guy (well, one of them) adding strength?

"I'm gonna try," he said, smiling. "I haven't lifted weights too much yet."