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Phil Anastasia: This top player might not play this season

The best boys' basketball player in South Jersey probably won't score a point this season. He won't grab a rebound, make a pass, or block a shot.

The best boys' basketball player in South Jersey probably won't score a point this season.

He won't grab a rebound, make a pass, or block a shot.

He will cheer, though.

"I'm going to be rowdy every game," Daryus Quarles said. "I'm going to be the hype man."

Quarles could be so much more for Paulsboro.

He could score 25 a game, easy. He could grab 10 boards, block five shots, create all kinds of openings for his teammates.

He's that good. He's 6-foot-6 and he's smooth. He can handle. He can get his own shot. He can dial long distance.

That's why he's going to St. Joseph's next season on a basketball scholarship.

That's also why he's not playing this season.

In a way, Quarles was a victim of his own potential. To hear him tell it, he also was a victim of his own negligence, at least when it came to his schoolwork.

Quarles sees his story was something of a cautionary tale. He knows he should be playing for Paulsboro this season, as a senior, and preparing to lead the Red Raiders in big-time matchups with Colonial Patriot and Group 1 rival Woodbury.

He knows, deep down, that he probably should have played for Paulsboro last season.

"If I had to do it over again, I would have done the right things from the beginning," Quarles said, sitting in the bottom row of the bleachers in Paulsboro's tan-tiled old gymnasium before a recent practice. "I wouldn't have put myself in that situation. I never would have needed to go to Life Center."

Quarles says his decision to transfer from Paulsboro to Life Center Academy, a non-NJSIAA school in Burlington, after his sophomore season was motivated as much by academics as basketball.

Quarles said he was a struggling student at Paulsboro. He said it was his own fault.

"I was a knucklehead," Quarles said. "I didn't listen to my parents when they kept telling me about school."

Basketball was a factor, too. Quarles averaged 17 points for Paulsboro as a sophomore. He already was on the radar of big-time college programs.

Life Center offered a chance to practice with other Division I-caliber players, and to play a national-caliber schedule. Combined with the promise of smaller classes and more individualized academic attention, the move made sense to Quarles and his family.

"I'm not going to say it was the wrong thing to do," Quarles said.

He will say that it felt wrong. He will say it felt wrong for a born-and-raised Paulsboro kid to be living in Burlington and playing for a school with which he had no history and no connection.

Meanwhile, his old friends were putting on those red uniforms back in Paulsboro.

"I hated to come back and watch them," Quarles said. "It was hard for me to sit there and know I should be out there."

Quarles left Life Center in late February. He re-enrolled in Paulsboro in early March.

Because he has to sit out 365 days under NJSIAA transfer rules, Quarles can't play for Paulsboro until early March.

There's a chance the Red Raiders could be alive in the state tournament when Quarles becomes eligible. If so, Paulsboro coach Byron Dixon said Quarles will be on the floor.

But that's down the road, and there's some paperwork involved that could complicate the situation. For now, Quarles is practicing with the Red Raiders. He plans on being the team's biggest fan during games.

"He's being a great leader with the younger kids," Dixon said.

In retrospect, it's easy to say Quarles never should have left Paulsboro. It's easy for him to think that, too.

It's easy to say that Division I-caliber basketball players can have the best of both worlds: Three months with their buddies playing for their school and representing their hometown, and nine months with some high-powered AAU program.

Quarles knows that could have been him. He suspects that should have been him.

He also knows he might never touch the court this season for the Red Raiders. But he still believes he's back where he belongs.