Good chemistry is essential for a successful basketball team, especially if it has two players as talented as Penn Charter seniors Sean Singletary and Rob Kurz. Sure, you can win some games on talent alone.
But if there isn't that willingness to co-exist on the same court, you end up with a fractured team where players value individual stats more than wins.
Luckily for Penn Charter fourth-year head coach Jim Phillips, he doesn't have to worry about that problem with Singletary and Kurz, whose good friendship off the court creates cohesiveness you can't teach at an afternoon practice.
"It gives us a better relationship on the court," says Singletary, a 6-foot, 174-pound, lightning-quick point guard who is rated the nation's No. 45 overall recruit in the Class of 2004 by SchoolSports.com. "It makes it a lot easier because we bring that chemistry we have onto the court. I always know where he is when I penetrate, and he always looks for me on the outlet. It's fun playing with him because he knows where I'm going to be at all times."
Singletary and Kurz's friendship is strengthened by their shared belief that hard work and effort lead to success. Both are such frequent visitors to the weight room that you'd swear it was their second home.
Kurz is a versatile 6-foot-9, 222-pound forward who is rated the No. 64 recruit in the country. He started his high school career at Germantown Academy, where his younger sister, Laura, is currently a star senior who passed the 2,000-point plateau for her hoop career earlier this season. While at Germantown, Kurz learned the value of hard work by watching former teammates and current Division I college players Matt Walsh (Florida), Ted Skuchas (Vanderbilt) and Lee Melchionni (Duke).
"I learned how to work hard by playing against them in practice," says Kurz, who spent two seasons at Germantown before transferring to Penn Charter and repeating his sophomore year. "They showed me what it takes to get to the next level."
Meanwhile, Singletary — who played at The Haverford School as a freshman and Perkiomen School as a sophomore and junior before transferring to Penn Charter and repeating his junior year — hones his point guard skills during the summer by practicing against Philadelphia roundball legends and current NBA players Doug Overton, Aaron McKie and John Salmons.
The duo's work ethic is not lost on coach Phillips, who witnesses first-hand the effort his two top players put in each day.
"The time when you gain the most respect for them is when you see them in the gym or in the weight room by themselves, not with 10 other people around them," says Phillips, who guided the Quakers to a 26-4 record and the Inter-Ac League title last season. "The way they push themselves and the way they maximize their time alone really shows what special people they are."
It also helps that both are extremely talented.
Singletary is a point guard with incredible speed and athleticism, and he reminds Phillips of St. Joseph's All-American guard Jameer Nelson. Back off Singletary and he'll knock down the outside jumper. Get in his face and he'll blow past you on his way to the rack. He's also a tremendous on-the-ball defender, an aspect of his game in which he takes considerable pride.
"I don't really know if there's a glaring weakness in Sean's game," says Phillips.
As a junior, Singletary averaged 19 points, six rebounds, 5.5 assists and four steals per game. His numbers were just as strong this season with averages of 23 points, seven rebounds, six assists and four steals per game as of press time.
With stats like those in a tough league like the Inter-Ac, it's no wonder Singletary was able to land a scholarship at the University of Virginia, which has produced NBA guards such as Bryant Stith, Cory Alexander and Roger Mason Jr.
"We complement each other nicely," says Kurz. "He's a point guard that likes to distribute, and I'm an inside player. He can dribble, penetrate and kick. He puts a lot of pressure on the defense, which opens up opportunities for other people."
While Singletary dominates at the point, Kurz is part of the new breed of big men who are just as comfortable playing in the post as they are shooting and driving from the perimeter.
Kurz has been compared to Orlando Magic forward Pat Garrity, but Phillips believes a more accurate comparison is to Golden State Warriors forward Mike Dunleavy Jr. because of everything Kurz brings to the table. Kurz signed with Notre Dame this past November, and his all-around skills fit the mold of recent Fighting Irish forwards such as Garrity and Troy Murphy.
A consistent double-double threat, Kurz averaged 18 points and 12 boards a game as a junior. And this season he stepped up his defensive play by averaging four blocks per game to go along with 18 points and 12 rebounds as of press time.
"His versatility is the strongest part of his game," says Phillips. "He can play inside or outside. He can hit the jumper from the perimeter or drive to the hoop."
With Kurz and Singletary leading the way, the Quakers entered this season favored to win their second straight Inter-Ac title with a lineup that featured two other SchoolSports All-Area selections in junior guard Zack Zeglinski and freshman guard Sam Zeglinski.
Penn Charter also came into the year with national expectations and was ranked by SchoolSports as one of the Top 50 teams in the country in the preseason. While some might look at the Quakers' 8-6 start to the season as disappointing, several of Penn Charter's early losses came against highly rated, national-caliber teams such as Mt. Zion Academy (N.C.), Laurinburg Prep (N.C.) and Our Savior New American (N.Y.) at December's Slam Dunk to the Beach tournament in Delaware.
In their first game back from the tournament, the Quakers (16-7 as of press time) proved they were still a team to be reckoned with by beating Malvern Prep, 56-47, in the Inter-Ac League opener on Jan. 3. Kurz was terrific down low, scoring 13 points while blocking seven shots and hauling in five rebounds. Singletary chipped in with an impressive 21 points and six rebounds.
Of course, thanks to their on-court chemistry and off-court work ethic, performances like those from Kurz and Singletary became routine long ago.
"I'm a relentless worker and I always want to be the best," says Singletary. "I take pride in my work that I put forth and I hate losing."
A sentiment surely echoed by his friend and teammate.