Ben Yankelitis ’16, Eric McLaughlin ’18
Malvern basketball is lighting up the O’Neill gym with its unique fast style of play.
With Malvern down 6 to Episcopal with less than a minute left, the ball was in senior Will Powers’ hands. He dribbled down the court and pulled up way beyond the 3-point line – swish. Malvern got the ball back with 20 seconds left, down 3. Again Powers had the ball. Again, he pulled up beyond the arc, shot the ball, and tied the game up.
The Friars ended up falling short, but it showed how no shot is too deep. Any open shot is a good shot, even in crunch time.
“No one else in the Inter-Ac plays the same way that we do. It is different from what most kids are taught when they begin to play basketball.”
“No one else in the Inter-Ac plays the same way that we do,” Head Coach Mr. John Harmatuk said. “It is different from what most kids are taught when they begin to play basketball.”
Once the Friars get an open shot, they shoot. They are not opposed to shooting from five feet from beyond the three point line. If that shot is not open right away, the guard drives and kicks it out to the perimeter in order to find another open shot. The result is – well, in a win against Haverford, connecting 16 times from three.
Then, they’ll get right up on the opponent playing full court press in the first quarter. Harmatuk has called the style of play “RunMP” as the Friars’ pace of play is unusually fast.
“I would say that we are a high-speed, up-tempo team,” Harmatuk said. “We want to take as many shots as we can, but we also want to put pressure on the other team through our defensive play.”
Harmatuk arrived at Malvern in 2013. Previously, he had coached at Cypress Springs High School in Texas where he guided his team to the regional semifinals of the state’s 5A Division playoffs, utilizing the same type of up-tempo offense he uses now.
The 2015-2016 Friars started off their season successfully. Through their first five Inter-Ac games they are 3-2, only suffering defeats of one point and four points. Over Christmas break, they won the Haverford Tournament as Will Powers was named Tournament MVP and sophomore O’Shaan Allison was named to the All-Tournament team.
“[RunMP] is definitely different from anything I’ve played before,” Powers said. “It’s a player’s system – who wouldn’t want to go out and shoot 18 threes a game?”
Powers has played very well in the offense and is on pace to join the 1,000 point club of Malvern Prep basketball thanks to Harmatuk’s system.
However, RunMP does not just revolve around the guards. While it could potentially pose itself as a struggle for the “big men,” 6’ 6” senior Mike Hollingsworth loves it.
“A lot of big guys walk up the floor and are used to playing slow,” Hollingsworth said. “[RunMP] gives me the opportunity to score easy baskets as I’ll be ahead of my opponents.”
After this happens, teams will start collapsing on Hollingsworth quickly getting two guys on him as they sprint up the floor. So, Hollingsworth simply dishes it to the perimeter for an open three.
Chris Anderson ’15, who thrived in Harmatuk’s system while at Malvern, has continued his basketball career at Lebanon Valley College. Anderson said RunMP helped him transition into the style of college basketball.
“[RunMP] definitely prepared me for the speed of the game in college,” Anderson said. “Guys are a lot faster and stronger, but playing in [Harmatuk’s] offense really gave me experience playing fast.”
The RunMP style even trickles down through the basketball program. Malvern’s JV team practices and plays the same way as the varsity. They also look to outrun the opponent and when they have an open shot, they take it.
The junior varsity team enjoys playing in this high speed system. “I like the style of play and I think it is a lot of fun to play in,” said Jack Leyden, a sophomore on the JV team.
On the court, Run MP is amazing with acrobatic layups and Steph Curry-range three-pointers.
Off the court, RunMP shirts, sweatshirts, and sweatpants can be seen all over campus.
Online, Harmatuk, also a Technology and Society teacher, has branded the basketball team using #RunMP on the @MPFriars account and the @MalvernPrepHoop on Twitter. Before and after games, members of the Malvern community can see the #RunMP filling their feed.
RunMP is not just a phrase anymore. It has become an infectious culture.