Talented Stepinac Athletics Josh James and Skylar Mercado Make College Decisions

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Two of the Stepinac Crusaders most skilled athletes made verbal commitments to their future colleges over the past week. Josh James, who was the leading scorer on the Crusaders’ basketball team, chose Monmouth University to attend school on a basketball scholarship. Baseball player Skylar Mercado who plays shortstop and pitches will be going to the University of Maine.

Josh James led the Crusader in scoring during the 2011-2012 season. Photo by Billy Becerra

James has been lighting it up on the hardwood for several years for the Crusaders. He has also succeeded at the AAU level playing against talented competition all around the country.

Crusaders basketball coach Tim Philp is very excited for James and believes the 6’1” guard will do very well at Monmouth.

“Josh is a very good defender, shoots well, and has a very high basketball IQ. All will help him at the next level,” said Philp. “My favorite thing about Josh is that he is a player/coach on the floor. He plays the game the right way. He puts the team first, all he cares about is winning, not individual stats.”


The Monmouth Hawks are coached by University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill graduate King Rice, who when he finished playing the Tarheels under legendary coach Dean Smith, was third on their all-time assist list.


Rice has been an assistant coach at Vanderbilt, Illinois State, Providence and the University of Oregon before getting his first head-coaching job with the Hawks in March 2011. In his first year as a head coach he guided the Hawks to a record 12-20 overall and 10-8 in the Northeast Conference. Rice also has on his coaching staff two very talented former Tarheels players in Brian Reese and Derrick Phelps who can provide helpful advice to James.


Last spring while playing for baseball coach Pat Duffy and the Crusaders, Mercado batted .320, hit one home run, had 17 runs batted in while also stealing 15 bases. Mercado also pitched 17 innings in 2012. He had a record of 2-1, collected two saves and struck out 15 hitters.

Duffy believes Mercado possesses all of the intangibles that a good baseball player needs to have to be successful.

“[He is a] five tool player, a three-year varsity starter. He has had to handle adversity as a young man and has met the challenge. His dad was killed in the terrorist attack at the World Trade Center as a member of the FDNY, Steven Mercado,” said Duffy about Skylar.

For a northern university the Maine Black Bears have a storied history in baseball. Last season under head coach Steve Trimper they were 28-28 and two years ago they had a record of 32-22. Trimper was the head coach at Manhattan before heading north to coach the Black Bears.

Over the years the Black Bears have had numerous players drafted by major league baseball teams and had a couple of alumni make it all the way to the show. One of their most famous baseball alumni is Stump Merrill who managed the New York Yankees for two seasons in the early 1990s.

According to Stepinac Athletic Director Mike O’Donnell there will be a signing ceremony for both Mercado and James in the coming months.

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