HAMILTON – Jamaal and Jameel Morris became household names in the Burlington County and South Jersey basketball world over the past two years.
The twin brothers helped Burlington City ascend in local rankings and earn back-to-back appearances in the Group 1 state championship, despite last year’s title game being canceled due to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic.
Their situation changed drastically when Burlington City announced the cancellation of winter sports for the 2020-21 school year.
The twins were ultimately forced to make an unprecedented decision.
That’s where Trenton Catholic Academy came into the picture.
The Morris twins — Jamaal, left, and Jameel, right — are key additions at Trenton Catholic. My feature story on the two will be available today. Also, the Iron Mikes’ boys basketball team reacts to the school’s decision to close in June. Stay tuned. @TCABBALL @TrentonCatholic pic.twitter.com/ccYNR6wjGL— Kevin Emmons (@OfficialKEmmons) February 13, 2021
“The decision, (well) we had no decision because Burlington City didn’t have a season,” Jamaal said. “We had to come to a school that had better exposure for us and better competition for us. This is the only school that recruited us at the moment. I felt like I had a better chance to go to a college from this school.”
The twins chose Trenton Catholic over the likes of Holy Cross Prep, Paul VI and Willingboro (prior to announcing the cancellation of winter sports) to name a few.
“I felt like TCA was the school that would put us in the right direction to go to the next level,” Jamaal added.
The Morris brothers established an instant connection with their new teammates. The chemistry on and off the court has increased tremendously in a short period of time as the twins were welcomed with open arms.
“It means a lot to me and my brother,” Jameel said. “Coming from a small school, they didn’t have anyone that really went high (level) D1. We know this school can take us (to that level). We just came here to work.”
The chemistry is apparent as the Iron Mikes are off to a perfect 3-0 start through Friday night with statement wins over Don Bosco Prep, Roselle Catholic and Lenape.
The quick start is also a testament to the team’s heart and willingness to stand up for what they believe in.
Trenton Catholic Academy recently announced that it will be closing in June. The stunning news was heartbreaking for the school’s current students.
“It’s crazy. I went (to this school) since eighth grade,” junior guard Braxton Jones said. “I love this school, it’s like a family here. It’s sad that I had to hear this news.”
“When I got the news, it hurt,” senior Freddie Young said. “It just made me want to work harder and made me want to prove that we should be open for longer. This is a really good school and program.”
The Trenton Catholic boys basketball team could have responded to the news in one of two ways: hang their heads and sulk about the decision, or rise to the occasion and make a statement.
The Iron Mikes chose the latter of the two.
Player of the Game: Trenton Catholic’s Braxton Jones notched a game-high 22 points — including five 3-pointers made — in the Iron Mikes’ 73-59 victory over Don Bosco Prep on Saturday. TCA improved its record to 1-0. @TCABBALL @TrentonCatholic pic.twitter.com/b7MJHQwF1A— Kevin Emmons (@OfficialKEmmons) February 6, 2021
Jones tallied a game-high 22 points in the team’s season-opening 73-59 victory over Don Bosco Prep on February 6. The junior knocked down five 3-pointers in the first half and exerted his fearlessness on the hardwood.
It was the perfect tone setter for the Iron Mikes’ farewell tour.
“(The goal is) to go undefeated this season,” Jones said. “That’s really all I want to do — go undefeated, win every game.”
Trenton Catholic’s latest win, a 60-50 decision over Lenape on February 12, was fueled by a game-high 17 points from Young.
The senior recently committed to Lincoln University.
Trenton Catholic’s Freddie Young, Jr. notched a game-high 17 points in the Iron Mikes’ 60-50 win over Lenape on Friday night. Trenton Catholic improved its record to 3-0. @SJSportsZone @TCABBALL @TrentonCatholic @FreddieYoungJr2 pic.twitter.com/SmTO4dYmoZ— Kevin Emmons (@OfficialKEmmons) February 13, 2021
“I’m happy to go there and pursue my dreams,” Young said. “It feels like home. I want my brothers to go on and go to college for free as well.”
As of right now, the school’s decision to close its doors is finalized, but it doesn’t necessarily mean everything is set stone. In theory, the decision could be tentative. St. Joseph Academy in Hammonton and Wildwood Catholic in North Wildwood were scheduled to close prior to the current school year and were successfully able to remain open.
Hopefully, the situation at Trenton Catholic will result in a similar outcome.
For right now, all the Iron Mikes can do is continue to compete at a high level on the basketball court. The student-athletes at Trenton Catholic aren’t surrendering by any means.
“We want to be the top team in the state,” Jameel said. “That’s our goal — to play the best competition and show everybody that we can compete with anybody. I have a future with this school. I want to graduate from here.”
South Jersey Sports Zone (SJSZ) was co-founded by Kevin Emmons in 2017. The brand covers high school sports and promotes South Jersey pride. If you’d like to keep up with SJSZ, find them on Facebook and Twitter.
(Photo Credit: Kevin Emmons)