Stockton University’s men’s basketball team’s schedule will have a different look this season.
In addition to their normal slate of non-conference and New Jersey Athletic Conference games, the Ospreys will play games at two historic venues — the University of Pennsylvania’s Palestra and Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.
The first will be an exhibition match against Penn’s basketball team at 2 p.m. Saturday. On Dec. 14, the Ospreys will take on Kean University in Atlantic City.
“I never played in anything that big considering where I went to high school,” said junior forward Steve Ferebee, an Absegami graduate. “So being in historical arenas and landmarks is going to be dope for us.”
“It’s going to be a great experience for the younger guys and some of the returners as well,” Ferebee added.
Stockton just happened to be in the right place at the right time for the opportunities, said head coach Scott Bittner.
“(Boardwalk Hall) is having a Division-I tournament on (Dec. 15),” Bittner said. “And they kind of asked if we were interested in playing on the 14th.”
For the exhibition game against Penn, all Bittner had to do was respond to a text.
“I am a longtime friend of the Penn coach (Steve Donahue),” Bittner said. “I was at his house in the summer, and then the next day he actually just sent me a text message asking if we were interested in playing.”
For junior guard Brandon Hamilton, the games present an opportunity to show people what the team is really made of. Stockton was picked sixth in the New Jersey Athletic Conference’s preseason coaches poll.
“That’s good exposure for us,” said Hamilton, who actually got to play at Boardwalk Hall during his time at Paulsboro High School. “I feel like we should be ready.”
With a solid core of returning players, Stockton is expected to improve from last season, when it went 15-10 (9-9 NJAC).
Ferebee was the Ospreys’ leading scorer last season, averaging 10.1 points per game to go along with 6.1 rebounds.
Jordan Taylor, another returning junior, provided 5.6 ppg as a key reserve player. Classmate Kevin Allen, another key reserve player last season, averaged 3.8 points in 16 minutes per game to go along with 2.4 rebounds.
Among the new players on the team will be two players who transferred from other NJAC schools. Keenan Williams averaged 10.0 points at Kean last season. Tariq Baker played 10.2 minutes per game as a reserve at Rutgers-Newark in 2015-16.
For Bittner, on the other hand, coaching a game at Boardwalk Hall will be more of a personal experience.
“When I was a kid, (my father) used to take me and my friends there every weekend to watch games,” Bittner said. “So it’ll be meaningful for me from a personal level.”
Both venues hold great significance in sports history.
The Palestra, known as the “Cathedral of Basketball,” opened in 1927. It was one of the first indoor arenas constructed without interior pillars blocking the view of the court. It was also one of the first to feature floor seating without barriers between fans and players.
Now considered one of the most important buildings in the history of college basketball, it has hosted more men’s NCAA basketball games than any other arena in the country.
Boardwalk Hall was once a premier boxing destination, hosting title bouts from the likes of Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and George Foreman.
It even has roots in the world of music. In 1964, The Beatles performed one of the largest concerts on their first U.S. tour at the hall.
The Ospreys went 1-1 during their Stockton Tip-Off Classic this weekend. They played at The College of New Jersey late Tuesday.