Heavy Suffolk presence for Builders

Published 10:22 pm Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Three former student-athletes of Suffolk high schools are currently playing for The Apprentice School Builders basketball team. From left to right: freshman shooting guard Jay Melendez (Nansemond River), junior shooting guard Latrone Demiel (Nansemond River), and freshman small forward Rodney Goodman (Lakeland).

It’s no coincidence that Suffolk high schools play such a vital role in filling the roster for the Apprentice School Builders in Newport News.

Builders head coach Franklin Chatman, who is from Suffolk, is in his third year as head coach at the Apprentice School. He previously coached at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy and at Nansemond River High School.

Though there are good basketball players all over the Hampton Roads area, Chatman’s home and coaching history in Suffolk affect him to this day.

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“That’s why I recruit heavily out of Suffolk,” he said. “Those are some of the kids I try to target.”

This year, Suffolk’s Latrone Demiel is a junior shooting guard for the Builders, Jay Melendez is a freshman shooting guard and Rodney Goodman is a freshman small forward who started the first two games of the season.

The Apprentice School presents a unique challenge for student-athletes like Demiel, Goodman, Melendez. They split a school schedule with a work schedule at Newport News Shipbuilding, and the schooling is paid for.

“A lot of times, kids look at our program and they’re like, ‘Who wants to work?’” Chatman said. “But what I try to explain to them is that they’re eventually going to have to get a job, anyway.”

While attending The Apprentice School, students can work their way up the hierarchy at the shipyard. Chatman says one of his goals is to help his players save $20,000 during the course of four years.

“Now the guys you see finish high school, once they go to college, they come out of college, they’re looking for a job,” Chatman said. “Hopefully, by then, (my players are) a supervisor and they still have about $20,000 saved.”

Demiel, 29, who serves as a coating specialist at the shipyard, has some history with Chatman.

“Latrone actually played for me in high school; he’s an older guy,” Chatman said. “So, when I got the head job, he was the first kid I brought in as a recruit.”

Demiel had not played for seven or eight years but was excited to have the opportunity again. He also knows he wants to get all he can from the program.

“Eventually I want try to end up being a supervisor after I finish with the program,” he said.

As far as basketball is concerned, his main objective lies behind the arc.

“Here, one of my goals is to break their three-point record for most three-pointers in a game, which is right now at nine,” he said. “So, I’ve got this year and next year to do it.”

After six games, the most Demiel has made in one game is three, but he is shooting an 40 percent from three-point range.

Rodney Goodman, 19, works as a rigger and was recruited by the Apprentice School while he was a junior at Lakeland.

“I had a couple of choices, but I liked this one best,” he said. “It best fit my needs and what I had to do for myself, rather than going to school, so I came here.”

Goodman’s best game of the season so far found him scoring 14 points and grabbing eight rebounds.

He has enjoyed the dual opportunity the schools affords.

“I love what I’m doing here, because I play basketball, but I’m also building myself into a young man in the workforce,” he said. “I’m learning how to work and being able to work at what I love to do, so I get the best of both worlds, really.”

Outside Machinist Jay Melendez, 18, is the first off the bench for the Builders and has caught Chatman off guard.

“Jay has really been a little more of a surprise than any of them, because Jay is a whole lot more talented than I thought he was,” Chatman said.

He said Melendez can play both guard and forward positions.

Melendez is the team’s second-leading rebounder, averaging 7.7 per game, second only to his All-American teammate senior guard/forward Tevin Andrews. Melendez aims at being an All-American himself and also revealed an even longer-term goal.

“I plan to make it a career as far as working at the shipyard,” he said.

The Builders (3-3) play tonight at home against Mid-Atlantic Christian.