Wildwood basketball

Wildwood’s Francis Christian, driving against Lower Cape May Regional’s Josh Pennington at the Boardwalk Basketball Classic last January, scored his 1,000th point Saturday. The Warriors return to action Friday at 7 p.m. against Pleasantville in the Classic’s Bill Osborn Memoprial bracket.

Staff photo by Dale Gerhard, Jan. 2, 2012

Francis Christian of the Wildwood High School boys basketball team drove the lane and sank a left-handed layup in double overtime against Wildwood Catholic last Saturday.

The basket put the 6-foot senior guard past the 1,000 career point mark — a notable achievement for a high school player. Normally when that milestone is reached the game is stopped and the player is presented with the ball.

But after Christian’s basket, play continued. The achievement was overshadowed by the intensity of the game between the two rivals. Wildwood Catholic won 57-51.

A few minutes later, Wildwood coach Scott McCraken called a timeout and an announcement was made that Christian had scored his 1,000th career point.

The moment summed up Christian’s career. He is one of the region’s top players but is often overlooked for a variety of reasons. Christian is considering several colleges, including Towson University in Maryland and a few New Jersey Athletic Conference schools.

“He’s flying under the radar,” McCraken said. “He’s a shy kid. He doesn’t need to tell (people) how good he is. I always tell him, ‘Let your game do the talking.’ ”

Christian has started since he was a freshman. He averaged 14.7 points last season. Christian is averaging 25 points for the Warriors (2-1) this season. Wildwood will play this week in the Boardwalk Basketball Classic at the Wildwoods Convention Center.

“It’s an awesome accomplishment for me,” Christian said of the 1,000-point milestone. “I’ve played since I was a freshman and the points just added up.”

Christian grew up as more of a football player than a basketball standout. He played wide receiver and defensive back for the Wildwood football team this fall, catching a touchdown pass and making 50 tackles. He began to get more and enthusiastic about basketball when he played for the Margaret Mace Middle School team in Wildwood.

Christian began his Wildwood basketball career as a point guard. He shifted to shooting guard for sophomore and junior seasons before moving back to the point this season.

He showed his all-around ability in the Wildwood Catholic game with nine rebounds, six assists and six steals.

“He sees the floor better than any player I’ve coached,” McCraken said. “He’s so good with the basketball the majority of teams won’t press us.”

One reason Christian gets overlooked is because Wildwood plays in the Tri-County Conference against teams mostly from Salem and Gloucester counties.

Fans in Cape May and Atlantic counties rarely get to see him in play because Wildwood doesn’t face many Cape-Atlantic League teams.

“I wish we were in the CAL, so we could compete against local teams and people would hear about Wildwood more,” Christian said. “I’ll show people how I can play when I get to college. That’s what I’m waiting for.”

Wildwood finished 19-6 last season. The Warriors lost in the South Jersey Group I quarterfinals to Woodbury.

Paulsboro, No. 2 in The Press Elite 11, is the defending South Jersey Group I champion and the favorite this season. Christian and the Warriors want to at least match last season’s achievements. Wildwood has scheduled non-league games against Middle Township, Gloucester Catholic and Deptford.

“We want to play the bigger teams,” McCraken said. “We really believe we can compete. We’re not going to win every game, but we can compete in every game and give our kids a good chance to win.”

This week will give Christian and his teammates a chance for more exposure. The Warriors will play Pleasantville in a Bill Osborn Memorial bracket game on Friday at 7 p.m. The other semifinal matches Lower Cape May against Wilmington Christian of Delaware. The consolation and championship games will be played 5:30 and 7 p.m. Saturday, respectively.

Christian enjoys playing in the spacious convention center.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “It feels like I’m playing in college. The arena is so big it’s like playing in the NCAA Final Four and March Madness.”

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