Archbishop Carroll boys’ basketball coach Juan Hernandez said he has never seen anything like it.
An opponent was set to launch a three-pointer when his 6-11, 220-pound senior center, Amida Brimah, took a stride-and-a-half from the paint, rose up and blocked the shot.
“He came from a long way to go up and do that,” Hernandez said.
The same can be said about Brimah’s rapid ascension as a University of Connecticut recruit and the equally quick rise of the Carroll program.
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Brimah, 19, is averaging 16.3 points, 11.7 rebounds and 6.4 blocks. He had 13 blocks against Charlotte High and has five triple-doubles this season. He is shooting 72 percent from the foul line and 68 percent from the floor, missing just four shots in his past three games.
“Playing with Amida is a great experience,” said Carroll guard Brandon Lima, a fourth-year starter. “You can throw it up to him for an alley-oop. If I shoot and miss, I know he’s there for the rebound. And defensively, I can put more pressure on the ball because if someone gets by me, I have him there to block shots.”
There’s no question that is of comfort to Hernandez, who is in his third year at Carroll, taking over a program that had won a total of four games in its two previous seasons.
The Bulldogs quickly improved to 17-9 and 21-5 before adding two key transfers — Brimah and Max Amaro — to an already talented cast.
The result is a 25-4 record and a home game Tuesday night against University in a Class 4A regional semifinal. Before this season, Carroll had only won one regional playoff game in its history, and that happened in 2002.
Now, though, the Bulldogs, who beat University 59-51 earlier this season, are favored to advance to the regional final, where they would likely face a powerful Ransom Everglades team.
The reason for such optimism stretches beyond even the 7-foot wingspan of Brimah.
This is a team that starts five seniors and has a steady 6-3 junior forward, Anthony Brown, leading the reserves.
The guards, led by Lima, Amaro and Gianni Garcia, who transferred from Columbus last year, can hit three-pointers. Alex Leon, a 6-3 forward who averaged 17 points last season, can also score.
“If teams go out to cover our shooters, that leaves Amida open inside,” Hernandez said. “If they double-cover Amida, we have open shooters. It’s a catch-22.”
Beyond Brimah, Amaro is also an interesting story. He lives with his godfather, former NBA point guard Carlos Arroyo, as well as Arroyo’s wife and two children. Arroyo is currently playing pro ball in Turkey, and Amaro’s family is back home in Puerto Rico.
Brimah came to Carroll from even further away. At age 16, he was a 6-9 soccer striker playing in Ghana when he was spotted by a man who would later become his legal guardian.
“He told me I was wasting my height playing soccer,” said Brimah, who left behind his parents and three sisters to come to America.
Brimah, who said English is his first language, also speaks French and four African dialects. He is a Muslim who prays five times per day, and he wants to study hospitality management at UConn.
He spent last season at Monsignor Pace but said he left the Spartans program when the coach got fired.
Everything has worked out well at Carroll, a team that plays man defense almost exclusively and has allowed an average of 46 points per game against a tough schedule.
Carroll is 14-2 against teams that made this year’s regional playoffs, including several wins against much bigger schools including Dillard, Palmetto and others.
“Yes, we’ve had success,” said Garcia, “but we want to get to the state final. That’s our goal.”