September 11, 2009

Greg Paulus notched an impressive and rare feat last week in his debut with the Syracuse University football team, completing 19 of 31 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown in a loss to Minnesota.

The former Duke point guard and 2004 Gatorade National Athlete of the Year became one of the few athletes in recent memory to start at quarterback for a FBS (formerly Division I-A) program and play meaningful minutes for a major college basketball team.

Outside of notable exceptions like Charlie Ward of Florida State and Ronald Curry of North Carolina -- both aged examples -- the demands of the quarterback position and the dwindling pool of two-sport athletes have all but eliminated the possibility of juggling both tasks, even at the high school level.

"The seasons overlap and there is no time to unwind," Centennial (Bakersfield, Calif.) head basketball coach Alex Lee said. "Kids want that break."

But there are a few athletes across the nation following the path of Paulus, who threw for 3,677 yards and 43 touchdowns as a senior at Christian Brothers in Syracuse, N.Y., before moving on to basketball and averaging 26.8 points and 8.2 assists per game.

Floridian Jacoby Brissett emerged as a budding star during deep playoff runs with the basketball and football teams at Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens as a sophomore.

The 6-4, 210-pound junior led both Panther teams to the 4A state semifinals a year ago, throwing for over 1,000 yards and accounting for 14 touchdowns as Dwyer's signal caller, and averaging 11.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game as a versatile guard. He says managing both sports isn't an issue at this point.

"It's hard mentally a little bit as I go from one sport to another, but physically it isn't hard for me. It's fun," Brissett said.

Brissett is ranked No. 84 in's 2011 basketball Top 100, but with two years of high school ahead of him, he is very much undecided about his future.

"As of now, I don't know. It could be either or (both)," Brissett said. "I've thought about trying to play both and all the work I would have to go through, but I really don't know."

His growing list of football suitors includes Boston College, Florida, Florida International, LSU, Ohio State Tennessee and Wisconsin, but the basketball tug will be strong in the decision-making process.

"Basketball was my first love and probably still is," Brissett said.

Cody Kessler of Centennial High School in Bakersfield, Calif., is another junior quarterback/guard combo athlete that put up big numbers as a sophomore.

"No question he has the opportunity to be Division I in both sports, and high Division I at that," Lee said of his star point guard. "He is probably going to be the best athlete to ever come out of our school. He is a big-time athlete."

Kessler, who makes his junior football debut Friday, racked up 2,251 total offensive yards and 23 touchdowns in 2008. He topped that in the winter by posting 24.6 points and 4.1 assists per outing, leading the Golden Hawks to a league title.

"He's already the best athlete in Bakersfield," Lee said. "He was already probably the best point guard last year in the (San Joaquin) Valley."

While 2009 is expected to be a breakout season for Kessler in terms of football attention after struggling through a 3-7 campaign with a young team last year, he already has an offer in hand from New Mexico State. According to Lee, several Pac-10 programs and California-Santa Barbara have shown interest basketball-wise.

Perhaps the most promising quarterback/hoopster nationally is junior Tyrone Johnson of Plainfield High School in New Jersey.

Johnson, listed at 6-3 and 180 pounds on Plainfield's football roster this fall, tallied over 1,900 passing and rushing yards with 18 touchdowns as a sophomore. Big things are expected this season as he earned preseason first team All-State honors from MaxPreps.

On the hardwood, Johnson is ranked No. 61 on's 2011 Top 100 after averaging 21 points per game last year in a loaded Cardinal backcourt that also featured Pittsburgh verbal Isaiah Epps.

A fourth quarterback-playing hoops prodigy could be emerging at Las Vegas High School in Nevada -- the same place baseball phenom Bryce Harper called home.

Hassan Henderson, a 6-4, 195-pound sophomore, opened his 2009 football season by completing 24 of 32 passes for 320 yards and five touchdowns in a 48-21 win over Minden Douglas.

Henderson was the only freshman on the Wildcat basketball roster last season and posted 6.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per game on a team that also featured Division I signee Tony Eackles Jr. (Alcorn State).

Elite basketball talent playing football at any position is hard to find. The only MaxPreps Top 100 basketball senior donning the pads this fall is No. 6 Josh Smith of Kentwood High School in Covington, Wash. -- and this is his first year on the gridiron since junior high.

No. 56 Aaron Craft of Liberty-Benton High School in Findlay, Ohio, was a highly-regarded quarterback/athlete, but after committing to Ohio State for hoops elected not to play this season.

There are a few more in the class of 2011, including No. 13 Tony Wroten Jr. of Garfield High School in Seattle (another first-timer) to go along with Johnson and Brissett.

• Top 100 2011 talent James Price of St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio), a 6-10 post, verbally committed this week to Louisville, according to The Plain Dealer. St. Edward also produced Michigan State sophomore Delvon Roe and features another talented 2011 prospect in guard Delbert Love.

• reported that Lebrent Walker, a touted junior high school prodigy that attended two different schools as a freshman, has enrolled at Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.). Walker averaged 20.6 points per game in 10 games at Bayside High School in Queens after starting the year at Our Savior New American.

• Northwest supremacy will be on the line when Portland's Grant and Jefferson make the trip up I-5 to face defending Washington champions Franklin (3A) and Federal Way (4A) as part of the lineup at the January 2010 King Holiday Hoopfest at the University of Washington. Grant will play Federal Way while Terrence Jones and 5A titlists Jefferson will tackle Franklin.

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