GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP – There are two jersey numbers hanging in the rafters at Stockton University’s Sports Center, otherwise known as “Big Blue” for its Azul exterior.

Carl Cochran’s No. 11 and Valerie Brown’s No. 35 were both retired by the Ospreys in 2000 in recognition of their outstanding basketball careers.

Cochran, a 1998 graduate, scored a then-school record 2,124 points and set 11 other school records. Jones, who graduated in 1985, still holds the women’s scoring record with 2,027 points.

D.J. Campbell’s No. 4 will likely be hanging alongside them before too long.

The 6-foot-3 senior forward is now the school’s alltime leading scorer. He poured in a game-high 23 points in last Saturday’s 75-62 loss to The College of New Jersey to boost his career total to 2,170.

He’ll get a chance to add to his total this weekend. Stockton (17-10) received an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III tournament and will play Tufts University (Massachusetts) Friday in a first-round game at NYU. A victory would put the Ospreys in a second-round game against either NYU (20-5) or Husson University (Maine) on Saturday.

“I can’t thank Coach (Scott) Bittner and (the late Bob Hutchings) enough for giving me an opportunity to play college hoops and get a degree (in Criminal Justice) this spring,” Campbell said on Twitter. “When every school passed up on me, you guys believed in me. I would’ve never thought in my wildest dreams that (scoring over 2,000 points) would be possible.”

The legacy Campbell created extends well beyond points, assists and rebounds, however.  He’s made a tremendous impact in ways that can’t be calculated in a box score.

For example, Stockton played a game at Montclair State University earlier this month in which Campbell poured in 39 points during a 95-81 Ospreys victory.

Afterward, players and coaches climbed into a bus for the two-hour ride back to Stockton’s Galloway Township campus. Some players stretched out on the seats, their heads resting against windows while their feet dangled in the aisles.

Campbell slid over on his bench in case someone wanted to sit next to him.

“D.J. has 39 in a game and then is the guy on the bus who volunteers to share his seat,” Bittner recalled on Twitter. “He’s never acted more important than anyone else. Makes me wonder if humility is as important in one’s success as anything.”

Campbell’s humble beginnings in basketball may have had something to do with it.

He spent his early childhood in his native Jamaica, where basketball ranks well down the list of popular sports behind soccer, track. Heck, even bobsledding had more fans due to the “Cool Runnings” movie.

Kids worshipped Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt more than Lebron James.  Upon moving to the United States at age 9, Campbell earned his nickname D.J. on the first day of school when his teacher had difficulty pronouncing Djorkaeff.

Three years later, he moved to Vineland and got his first taste of basketball in the eighth grade when he played a game of “Knockout” in gym class.  Before that, he preferred to dribble with his feet more than his hands.

“When I played basketball, I would always travel and double dribble,” Campbell told Stockton’s e-magazine. “Soccer was what I knew.”

Determined to improve, he signed up for a summer basketball camp for incoming Vineland High School freshmen.  His improvement was shocking. As a junior and senior, he led South Jersey in scoring en route to becoming the Fighting Clan’s alltime leading scorer with 1,513 points.

He scored 50 in a game against Atlantic City his senior year. Ironically, Cochran was a Vikings assistant coach under Gene Allen at the time.

Four years later, Cochran was on hand at Stockton to congratulate Campbell for breaking his scoring record.

“I never really cared about the record, to be honest,” Cochran told The Press of Atlantic City earlier this month. “But if you wanted someone to break your record, it’s him. I don’t know if there a more deserving person to do something of that caliber.”

Campbell’s growth on and off the court continued at Stockton.  He quickly realized the lofty expectations that accompanied his arrival when Bittner threw him out of his first practice for a perceived lack of hustle.

He quickly became the hardest worker on the team, to the point where he seldom left the gym.

Two seasons ago, he won the first of his two NJAC Player of the Year awards while leading the Ospreys to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III tournament.  That included a 33-point effort in a first-round victory over Wilson College in the first round.

“The best thing about D.J. is he’s such a hard worker,” Bittner said. “He scored 33 against Wilson and he texted me at 5:30 the next morning asking when the gym would be open so he could work on his shot.”

His ability and attitude have left indelible impressions.  There will likely come a time when Campbell’s jersey is retired.

Bittner isn’t going to wait to honor him.

“As long as I’m here,” he said, “no one will wear No. 4 again.”


State wrestling back in A.C.

One of the area’s most popular and exciting events will be taking place at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall this weekend.

Over 20,000 fans are expected to fill the arena for the state individual wrestling championships.  Fourteen boys and nine girls wrestlers from Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland Counties will be among those vying for state titles.

Included in the boys group are Region 8 champions Chase Hansen from Lower Cape May Regional (132 pounds), Andrew DePaul of St. Augustine Prep (138) and Clifford Dirkes (285) of Ocean City.

Hansen, a sophomore, and Dirkes, a junior, are seeking to become the second state champions in school history. Shawn Laughlin won back-to-back state titles for Lower in 1996-97. Pat Lynch won two straight titles for Ocean City in 1989-90.

Hansen’s grandfather, Blair, a 1976 LCM grad, placed fourth in the state for the Caper Tigers in 1975.

Egg Harbor Township’s Cami Bird (114), Buena Regional’s Shea Aretz (132) and  Mainland Regional’s Angelica Ramos Oviedo (145) all won South Region titles. Defending state champ Riley Lerner (120) qualified for states by finishing second.

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