Anthony Raffa found out he was the nation’s leading scorer in NCAA Division I men’s basketball when “random people” on Coastal Carolina University’s campus started coming up and telling him Monday morning.
Throughout the day, the Sea Isle City resident got text messages from friends back home.
“I was like, ‘Really?’ ” Raffa said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “A kid from Cape May County, who thought I would ever be at one point the nation’s leading scorer in Division I? I didn’t think of it.”
Raffa’s 26 points-per-game average is tops in the nation through Monday’s games for the Chanticleers (2-3). He scored a career-high 34 in his most recent game, an 87-77 loss to Florida International on Saturday.
The Wildwood Catholic High School alumnus isn’t just throwing up shots, either. Heading into tonight’s game against Boston University, he was shooting 47.7 percent from the field and had attempted more than 18 shots just once, when he went 12-for-23 from the field against Florida International. He was shooting 40.5 percent from 3-point range.
“I take good, quality shots,” said Raffa, The Press Boys Basketball Player of the Year in 2007. “If it’s layups, if it’s an open pull-up, an open 3, I just take what the defense gives me or what kind of shot my team (sets up).”
Raffa’s scoring prowess should come as no surprise. The 6-foot-1 guard was named to the preseason All-Big South Conference first team after finishing sixth in the conference with 16.7 points per game last season. On a Coastal team with seven freshmen, he is a 23-year-old graduate student, having redshirted as a sophomore after transferring from the University at Albany.
The Chanticleers’ only other returning starter is senior point guard Kierre Greenwood, who was named to the Big South’s preseason second team. Raffa said Greenwood is the best point guard in the conference.
“He’s really, really quick,” Raffa said. “Playing with him over all these years I’ve been here, we know each other like the back of our hand — what moves we do, everything we do. He knows when I’m going to cut, I know when he’s going to cut, he knows when I want to spot up, so we have good chemistry between us, too, which helps a lot.”
Raffa knows it won’t be easy to stay atop the scoring leaders. Among the players right behind him are Iona star Lamont Jones (25.8 ppg) and Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum, an NCAA tournament star last season.
“It’s going to be tough,” Raffa said. “Every night you see different defenses, if it’s full-court pressing, traps, box-and-ones, everything. You just try to stay confident. … I can’t get frustrated out there. Because the other teams are going to try to stop me because they know I can score.”
The news that Raffa had taken over the top spot in the nation spread quickly around South Jersey this week. People posted screenshots on Twitter of ESPN.com’s scoring leaders page.
Longtime Wildwood Catholic coach Dave DeWeese said he had seen last week that Raffa was in the top six in scoring. Former Crusaders player Pat Flynn attended Catholic’s first practice of the season Monday evening and informed DeWeese that Raffa was now No. 1.
“It’s awesome,” DeWeese said in a phone interview Tuesday. “He’s a great kid. He’s always been a great player. He has the opportunity this year to be the man at Coastal, and he’s really performing.”
While others were excited, Raffa said he had no plans to save any keepsakes from his time as the nation’s scoring leader - however long it ends up being.
“My family probably did something,” he said. “Probably my friends back home … they probably will. But I don’t get too much involved with stuff like that because I don’t want to get a big head.”
Raffa graduated last year with a degree in communications and journalism. He is taking postgraduate classes in sociology. He also has done a series of video interviews with teammates that are posted on the Coastal Carolina athletic department’s website.
But his immediate plans after college are to try to play professionally.
“Hopefully just get an opportunity to play somewhere, overseas or somewhere,” Raffa said.
If he keeps leading the nation in scoring, he should have plenty of opportunities.
Contact Jason Mazda: