New Castle players ranked among nation’s best
Jan 24, 2008

Buried in the morning haze of mid-July, there is a thumping sound in the distance.

It starts every day at 8:30 a.m. and persists for hours.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

Different tempos, but the same relentless sound.

Walk up a driveway and you see Brandon Domenick, a 5-foot-1, 90-pound seventh-grader from New Castle High School. With beads of sweat dripping from his forehead, he’s dribbling a basketball — alone, as usual.

He performs rapid-fire drills every day. He takes hundreds of shots at his backyard hoop. Afterward, he lifts weights and plays pickup games before catching up with friends.

But nothing is more important than practice.

There is no tyrannical father pushing the 13-year-old to succeed. He’s at work when this is going on.

Brandon wants to be the best player ever at New Castle and wants to be one of the few to start as a freshman.

That’s why he dribbles and shoots. Over. And over. And over.

Brandon — the youngest son of David and Rosa Domenick — is ranked among the top 300 seventh-grade boys basketball players in the nation, according to the Web site, based out of Louisville.

The site scouts players at various camps around the country and offers individual player rankings from sixth grade to high school seniors. For a fee, one can become a member of the site to track players and view new rankings.

Domenick was discovered two years ago by legendary Blackhawk coach John Miller at a basketball camp for fifth-graders. Miller was so impressed that he recommended Domenick be invited to the Adidas Junior Phenom camp in San Diego, where a collection of the best players in the country gather.

“What set him apart was his toughness and his determination,” said Miller, the Junior Phenom camp coordinator for the Pittsburgh region. “Just really skilled and quick. At this stage of the game, he’s going to be a pretty good player.”

Domenick thought he was pretty good. Then he noticed his competition.

“There were kids dunking,” he said of others at the camp. “That’s when I started doing all the other stuff and working a lot harder, when I saw all those guys.”

Knowing what to expect, he returned to the camp last summer and performed better. Former Duke University point guard Bobby Hurley, a coach at the camp, told him, “You have a nice handle and a good shot.”

Domenick practiced for hours after hearing that. He wanted to have more than a good shot.

His training consists of workouts with Miller at Blackhawk, and sessions with former Ellwood City coach Al Campman and former Butler coach George Abraham at the Y Sports Zone in Neshannock Township.

“Everything he does, he does full blast,” Campman said. “He’s headed in the right direction.”

Domenick knows that the lessons Miller, Campman and Abraham are teaching him are invaluable.

“It’s making me so much better,” he said.

Domenick is mature beyond his years and earns straight A’s in school. He looks you in the eye when he speaks. He’s sure of himself, not cocky.

He knows the history of local basketball, declaring that he wants his high school team to be like the 1997-99 New Castle squad that won three consecutive WPIAL championships and was widely considered to be one of the best Class AAAA units of all time.

Domenick was 3 when the ’Canes beat Franklin Regional in the 1997 championship.

He gathers his share of praise from adults. He laughs at their jokes and hears every “great game” and “nice job” with humility. “I just want to be like everyone else. Just one of the guys.”

Hard to do when your name is already known.

Domenick is out of the sweltering heat of his back yard and inside the Ne-Ca-High Fieldhouse during a summer league game against Beaver Falls last June.

He worked with the varsity all offseason, and late in the game, he got his chance to play against one of the better teams in Class AA.

His opponents laughed.

“Is that your son?” one of the Tigers asked ’Canes assistant Rick Holzworth.

Domenick bolted upcourt, just as he does during his solo suicide drills. He unleashed the same behind-the-back dribble on a defender that he worked on every morning for 90 minutes. He nailed a 3-pointer, just as he’s done so many times when nobody was looking.

“Ohhhhhhh!” sprang from the players.

Everyone was scared to guard him after that.

“With his work ethic, he’s given himself a chance to be as good as he wants to be,” said Domenick’s future high school coach, Mark Stanley.

Domenick showed flashes even as a kindergartener.

His older brother was in fifth grade and played for the East Side Rams. Domenick was one of several little brothers to hang around practices, and then-coach Mark Kirkwood let him participate.

“He just dribbled around and eventually got pretty good at it,” Kirkwood said. “He was, like, three-feet tall bouncing that ball around — almost bigger than him.”

In one game, late in the season, Kirkwood allowed Domenick to play.

He heaved a jump shot that went right in. He dribbled around some poor fifth-grader and was fouled. He made a three-pointer.

Barely out of diapers, he had made a name for himself, too.

There is a buzz about the crop of seventh- and eighth-grade athletes coming up for New Castle.

They excel in every sport, and they’re likeable, too.

Remember eighth-grader Corey Eggleston Jr.’s name, too. His father, Corey Sr., was a football standout at New Castle in the late 1980s.

Eggleston Jr. has been invited to the Adidas Phenom 150 Camp in late June in San Diego. It is for the top 150 basketball players going into ninth and 10th grades in 2008.

He’s on the ninth-grade team this year, but sharpens his skills in the summer by playing at the Sankey Youth Center against former New Castle players Desmond Whetzel, Devin Taylor and Jory Malone.

“He plays with men,” David Domenick said, “so he’s used to getting bumped and pushed around. As a scorer, I’ve never seen anything like him.”

Eggleston Jr., in all likelihood, will be the shooting guard next to Domenick.

Imagine what goes through Stanley’s head at night?

“Oh, wow, I expect WPIAL titles of this group,” Eggleston Sr. said.

“(Brandon and Corey) could be the two best guards in the state by the time they’re done,” he continued.

Yeah, there’s a buzz about this group.

The elder Domenick, who runs an investment and insurance firm, takes time away from work to provide Brandon with every opportunity to succeed.

“It’s a sacrifice, no doubt,” the father said. “But he really works hard at it, so it’s worth it.”

Brandon recognizes this basketball-crazed city will anoint him as the face of the New Castle program. He knows it will probably start before he even gets there.

That’s why he performs drills until he is nauseated — for the people who care so much about the program. He feeds off them, needing to prove them right.

“I want to be as good as they say I’ll be,” Domenick said after scoring 18 points in a seventh-grade game against North Allegheny.


“Nah,” he answered, looking down while chewing on the top of his water bottle.

Yet the comparisons to the 1997-99 team are endless.

“We (he and Eggleston Jr.) talk about that all the time,” Domenick said. “We want to be like David Young and those guys.”

For now, all he can do is dribble and shoot.

Over. And over. And over.

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