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RCC’s New Basketball Coaches Team Up to Tap Local Talent

RCC’s New Basketball Coaches Team Up to Tap Local Talent

The new basketball coaching staff at Rockland Community College (l. to r.): Grant Valentine III, head men’s coach; Rakym Chase, assistant men’s coach; Kevin Philius, head women’s coach; Amanda Vitacco, academic advisor.

DATE: September 5, 2017

Valentine, Philius have strong Rockland County connections

RAMAPO – On the court, Rockland Community College’s new basketball coaches intend to install an up-tempo, aggressive style of play. But Grant Valentine III and Kevin Philius are also practicing what they preach off the court, working doggedly to rebuild Rockland’s programs.

Valentine and Philius, hired recently as the new RCC men’s and women’s head coaches respectively, went right to work recruiting players. “We’re on the road every day,” Valentine says.

Most recently the head girls’ basketball coach at Palisades Prep in Yonkers, Valentine led that team to its first city title in 2016. He previously served as an assistant at Woodlands High School and John Jay College. Valentine, whose father is an RCC trustee, also has connections in Rockland County as the coach of various AAU programs.

Valentine knows the county has a lot of basketball talent. “When the opportunity came up for this job, I jumped on it ASAP,” he says. He says he already has a couple of key transfers coming in to RCC, including a player from Spring Valley who most recently attended a prep school in Tennessee.

Philius, an RCC graduate who was a part of Rockland’s 2009 Region championship squad, was originally expected to be Valentine’s assistant coach. But athletic director Dan Keeley says the more he looked, the more he became convinced Philius was ready to be a head coach.

After RCC, Philius played for two years at John Jay, then served as an assistant coach under Valentine at Palisades Prep and on the AAU circuit. “We’re in the community,” says Philius, a graduate of Spring Valley High School. “Players’ parents know us on a first-name basis.”

As they work to put together their new squads, Valentine and Philius already have their own team in place. Rakym Chase, another former RCC player, will be Valentine’s assistant coach. Chase, a Ramapo High School alum, also played at Westfield State and has coached AAU and high school teams. Meantime, Amanda Vitacco, yet another RCC graduate, will serve as the program’s academic advisor and handle administrative duties.

This quartet already has a strong background working together. Besides all being involved in AAU basketball, they also share a workplace in common: St. Dominic’s School in Blauvelt, a school for children with social and emotional needs, neurological impairments and learning disabilities.

“Everyone’s on the same page, instead of competing with each other,” says Keeley. “I really like their enthusiasm.”

The new coaches say they will carry that family atmosphere over to their teams. And while they hope to win a lot of games on the court, Valentine and Philius both say their biggest priority is the success of RCC’s players.

“We want our players to graduate and transfer to other schools,” Philus says. He adds that establishing a reputation for developing student-athletes will help in recruiting more players in the future.

Valentine and Philius also hope to build more excitement around the teams, which suffered through tough seasons in 2016-17. They intend to play a crowd-pleasing style of basketball, and will look to build student interest through events such as RCC’s first-ever Midnight Madness on October 1, the first day of practice.

More on the men's basketball team
More on the women's basketball team