FREDERICK — With his side trailing in the first half Wednesday against the top team in the conference, Cecil College freshman guard Jacob Falko generated an offensive play that he hoped would serve a double purpose.
In an effort to tie the contest and ignite his teammates in a hostile road environment, Falko forced his way into the lane, knifed past a defender and threw down a violent dunk. While the ball clanged off the back of the rim for a near miss, the thunderous effort sparked the Seahawks, who hung tight for the remaining minutes to enter halftime trailing Frederick Community College by just two scores.
“We were on a little bit of a bad run, so I was trying to get a little spark,” admitted Falko, who added that he may have been fouled on the play. “I wanted to get the team going.”
It was the type of play that Cecil County has become accustomed to seeing from Falko, who turned heads as a point guard at Tri-State Christian Academy, where he captured consecutive All-County Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year honors as a junior and senior.
Now a 6-foot-2 hybrid guard with the Seahawks, Falko is putting his talent and leadership abilities on display on a near-nightly basis. All along, he’s growing into a stronger basketball player with intentions of eventually making the jump to a four-year program.
“He’s an offensive weapon. He needs to get better on the defensive end, and he knows that, but he’s an offensive weapon. When we need a bucket or need to create something, he’s that guy. We want to put the ball in his hands,” Cecil head coach Ed Durham said. “He stepped into a leadership role. He’s not afraid to let guys know what he’s thinking. He’s being a teammate. He’s grown quite a bit.”
Through eight games, Falko ranks second on the team, averaging 13 points per game. He is tops on the Seahawks with a 47.6 shooting percentage from beyond the arc, while he also leads the team with 3.5 assists per game. Under the rim, the freshman has scooped up 24 rebounds in eight contests, while also producing nine steals and even a blocked shot.
“It’s been cool. It’s a lot of hard work. Definitely a lot more work to put in than high school. It’s been a lot more fun, too. I’m playing with guys who are more athletic, who are basketball players,” Falko said. “Tri-State, I was there all four years, I knew everybody and they all looked up to me, so it was real easy being a leader there. Everybody’s on the same level here, everybody can play, so it’s definitely tougher being a leader, but I think the better I do, the more they’ll look up to me. I’m just trying.”
Prior to Wednesday, Falko had scored more than 20 points in back-to-back contests. He dumped in 22 points go along with three assists and two rebounds in a four-point loss to Allegany College of Maryland on Nov. 28, while three days later, he scored a career-high 24 points, including nine points from 3-point range, in a six-point loss to Potomac State College of West Virginia.
Despite his early success, the freshman remains critical of his play through the early going.
“I need to be a better decision maker sometimes. In high school, I could get to the basket against anybody I wanted. Sometimes I get trapped here and throw stupid passes,” Falko said. “I’ve grown a lot. It definitely makes you a better player when you play against guys who are just as talented. Everybody’s so athletic. You learn a lot about yourself when you come here. I’ve also learned a lot from the coaches. They play a big part in teaching.”
Falko officially joined the Seahawks in July when he signed his letter of intent to continue his basketball career at the local college. He inked his intentions on the court at the North East campus.
“He knows that it’s a different game, it’s a different level of talent. He’s smart enough to understand that some of the talent he played against in high school is not what he’s playing here. He’s realizing that,” Durham said of Falko. “He’s understanding that he sometimes needs to make better decisions. He’s understanding when to make a pass, when not to make a pass, because some of those passses that he made in high school that got through, aren’t getting through here.”
After competing against Falko in high school, Bohemia Manor graduate Seth Edwards is now his teammate with the Seahawks. The freshman opened the season with Cecil College as a walk-on.
“Our games aren’t turning out like we expected them to, but I’m learning a lot. We move the ball, it’s a lot faster pace, it’s more serious, people put a lot more effort into it. Harder work in practice and we don’t stop,” Edwards said. “It’s 10 times more fun than high school. It’s just a whole different ball game. I honestly think I fit better because it’s not football players or soccer players or baseball players playing, it’s straight hoopers. It’s straight basketball players.”
A foot injury has limited the former Eagles player to just one game. While he’s been held back from contributing on the floor, Edwards has enjoyed the practices and games, traveling and the overall experience of being a college basketball player.
“This is the most travel I’ve ever done. We got to go up to New York and stayed in a hotel. I’ve seen people throw alley-oops, which I’d never seen before. I’ve seen country, I’ve seen mountains, I’ve seen cities. It’s a crazy experience,” Edwards said.
Similar to Falko, Durham hopes that Edwards can put in the work that will allow the 6-foot-4 guard from Earleville to graduate to a four-year program.
“He’s improved immensely from September to now,” Durham said of Edwards. “He’s just a great kid that comes to work. He loves the game. When he’s not playing, Seth’s talking about the game. He’s on the bench pointing things out that we should be doing while guys are playing. I’ve already told Seth that our goal is try to move him to a four-year school. He’s a good student and that’s the goal, same with Jacob.”
The freshmen duo allows local fans to root for players they enjoyed watching in high school.
“Playing against him, it was [difficult]. But playing with him, it’s different. He shares the ball, he can hoop, he gives pointers, he gives advice,” Edwards said of playing with Falko. “I know Jake knew he was going to play here, he got to do a signing. I kind of walked on and knew that I could play. It’s great to represent Cecil County.”
Follow Jordan Schatz on Twitter: @Jordan_Whig