By Tom Robinson
Jeremy Callahan, Corey Perkins and Robert VanBrunt shared more than just being teammates on the JB Hoops Callahan National AAU team in 2018 and 2019.
The three put together similar accomplishments once they went their separate ways.
All three were first-team high school division all-stars as seniors and have committed to play basketball in college after also excelling in another sport between the time of their AAU and high school seasons on the court.
Together, Callahan, Perkins and VanBrunt were part of the supporting cast when future National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I players George Tinsley and Leo O’Boyle raised the profile of the JB Hoops Callahan team in 2018. Tinsley and O’Boyle joined high school divisional Players of the Year Nate Kreitzer and Dimitri Gnall, among others, in helping the team finish second in the Hoop Group Showcase League, which brought together 30 top-flight teams from 15 states in multiple events throughout the season.
Callahan, Perkins and VanBrunt were the only holdovers from the 2018 team as JB Hoops rebuilt in 2019, leading the way while helping make sure the team did not slip too far from the lofty status it had attained.
Coach Bill Callahan, Jeremy’s father, let the three know the importance of their leadership roles early. Callahan and Perkins took over as the team’s top threats in the backcourt while VanBrunt often battled against often significantly larger opponents on the inside.
“It’s a mentality thing,” Jeremy Callahan said. “Being on that team for three years and not having to be the top scorer, it’s a mentality to be more assertive and kind of look for that now it’s as your job.”
Together, the trio took on that responsibility.
“Coach Callahan talked to us at the beginning of the spring about how we’re really going to need you to talk to the new guys about what we’re going to do here and what we’re all about,” VanBrunt said. “I had a great time with it.
“We had lost those D-I guys, but I was really happy with what we did over the summer.”
All three players have shown the ability to adjust to evolving roles in both their AAU and high school careers.
“We had a different dynamic to the team,” Jeremy Callahan said. “It was tough at first. We kind of had to learn what each other wanted to do and learn how to play together.
“I think by the end of the season, we played a lot better, so that was a positive in the season.”
The experience helped prepare all three for standout high school seasons while getting them ready to follow through with their hopes of playing in college.
At Abington Heights, Perkins was known for his defensive toughness while operating within a team structure built around patience.
The faster pace of AAU games showed how his offensive game might look in college.
“I like the style at Marywood,” Perkins said after making his college selection. “They play fast, but they also shoot a lot. I enjoy shooting the ball.”
While the dedicated and versatile athletes were traveling the AAU circuit into mid-July, that did not hinder their ability to make an impact in their fall sports.
Callahan won a District 2 Class 2A individual championship in golf.
Perkins, a wide receiver/defensive back, and VanBrunt, a two-way end, were both Lackawanna Football Conference Division 1 all-stars and two-way starters.
Callahan and Perkins followed that up by earning second-team, all-District 2 honors from NEPABasketball.com in the winter.
VanBrunt joined them in landing first-team division all-star recognition in a season that also included selections for PNC Bank/NEPABasketball.com District 2 Boys Player of the Week honors.
Callahan, who is headed to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, helped Wyoming Seminary repeat as Wyoming Valley Conference division and overall champion. He reached 1,000 career points early in the season and was an all-star for the fourth straight season, making it in Division 2 after the Blue Knights had been in Division 3 earlier in his career.
Both Perkins and VanBrunt are headed to Marywood University.
Perkins, who started on the 2018 Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class 5A state championship Abington Heights team as a sophomore, helped the Comets win their third straight Lackawanna League Division 1 title. He moved up from second-team division all-star as a sophomore to first team each of the past two seasons.
VanBrunt climbed from second-team Lackawanna Division 2 all-star as a junior to first-team choice while leading the way as the Trojans tripled their league victory total and moved from last place to second place.
All three led their teams in scoring. Callahan and Perkins also led their teams in 3-pointers made while VanBrunt was second despite also being called on to handle post-up duties as the only senior starter on a small and young team.
Along with being consistent leaders, they each showed the ability to step up in big situations, as reflected in the Player of the Week awards.
Callahan’s award came first, in December, when he had back-to-back games of more than 20 points while handing Abington Heights and unbeaten Crestwood, the two eventual Division 1 champions of the leagues in District 2, losses. The 1,000-point milestone came with a 12-points-in-12-minutes burst early in the Crestwood game.
VanBrunt’s award came as the result of a big game late in January. He showed off his shooting range with three 3-pointers, to go along with taking two charges on the other end of the floor, in a fourth-quarter comeback to beat Scranton.
“I started doing it a lot in AAU with coach Callahan,” VanBrunt said of the game-changing defensive contribution. “I try to look for the right time to take a charge.”
Perkins got there in February, again showing his ability to lead a team that once followed the lead of Tinsley. He helped Abington Heights continue as division champion, beating a highly regarded Scranton Prep team that later won the District 2 Class 4A championship.
With the Comets forced into a high-speed game to avoid trying to execute long possessions against Scranton Prep’s high-pressure defense, Perkins thrived.
“We believed in each other,” Perkins said after going 4-for-5 on 3-pointers with 23 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in the title-clinching win. “We knew people were going to doubt us, especially with everything we lost.
“But we knew we had the talent to come out and play against everyone around here.”
Their time with JB Hoops gave Callahan, VanBrunt and Perkins the chance to show they could compete with the best, not just around here, but also in many other parts of the northeast and Mid-Atlantic.