KEITH FLETCHER, we hardly knew ye. Not in the first half, anyway.
A 6-6, 205-pound senior forward, Fletcher indeed received a starting nod Monday as Roberts Vaux hosted Communications Tech in a Public A basketball game between schools that are expected to close this June. But if you blinked, you missed him.
He tried to block a shot. Tweet. Foul No. 1. He tried to block another shot. Tweet. Foul No. 2.
"I thought I went straight up on those plays," Fletcher said. "The referee saw things otherwise. Couldn't dwell on it. Just had to accept it."
And sit and watch. All the way until the third quarter.
Once he returned? Hey, the lesson had been learned. History was not going to repeat itself and Fletcher no doubt found that comforting, especially since he's a big-time buff.
As the Cougars posted a 78-67 victory, Fletcher, 0-for-0 prior to intermission, finished with 11 points while looking rather lively inside. Two of his four field goals came on major flush jobs and he completed his outing with a three-point play.
"Coach [Jamie] Ross always wants us to be aggressive, but I had to tone things down in the second half," Fletcher said. "Well, I still had to be aggressive, but I had to stay focused so I wouldn't keep getting fouls. I thought it went nice.
"When I was sitting there, I kept my attention on what was happening and tried to pick up things that could help me for the second half."
Luckily, once he returned, Fletcher avoided happenstances that could have plunged him into a Great Depression.
Not the money kind, but you get the idea.
The soft-spoken Fletcher loves history - American, world, anything - and is darn near an expert on the Great Depression. He said he was fascinated by it long before it became the subject of school assignments and the interest has never waned.
"I love all history. Like, what it's about and what it stands for," Fletcher said. "That's why I want to be a history teacher, so I can help kids better themselves with what they learn from history.
"The Great Depression, I've kind of set my life on that. To see those people and their struggles, with no money and everything shutting down around them . . . To see them not give up and keep trying to make things better, just do what they had to do to fight their way through it . . .
"Life's always going to give you ups and downs. You have to keep pushing forward."
Like every Vaux starter aside from superguard Rysheed Jordan, who is still trying to choose between Temple, St. John's and UCLA (no timetable), Fletcher is a transfer. He vamoosed from Northeast, he said, in part because he was tired of a large-school environment and figured he'd fare better at Vaux.
It didn't hurt that he developed a strong bond with Jordan while playing on his team in a summer league.
The 6-4, 185-pound Jordan was, like always, a whirlwind. He totaled 22 points, 17 rebounds and seven apiece of assists and steals. The other starters aside from Jordan and Fletcher are ballhandler Sammy Foreman (Haverford School), wing sniper Lester Mattox (Samuel Fels) and insider Trayvond Massenburg (Imhotep Charter).
Mattox (14) and Foreman (13) also scored in double figures.
"We're a family here," said Fletcher, who lives on Olney Avenue, near 10th. "Whatever I need to do, that's what I'm giving everybody.
"Rysheed and Sammy are great passers. When they start their drives, you always have to be ready. I just want to make sure I catch the ball and do the right thing with it."
David Johnson and Samir Doughty, who halved four treys, tallied 20 and 15 points, respectively, for Comm Tech. Hyking Brisbon (11) also scored in double figures while leading in rebounds (eight), as well.
Though Jordan's fastbreak bucket staked Vaux to a 41-24 lead, the Phoenix chipped away and crept within 72-65 with 31 seconds remaining as Doughty, whose performance was being scrutinized by Saint Joseph's University coach Phil Martelli (ditto for Foreman; both guys are high-profile sophs), canned a follow. Massenburg created space by converting a pair of double-bonuses.
Fletcher, like many seniors, is trying to draw college interest.