At the start of the 2004/05 NCAA college basketball season, Josh Duncan and Stanley Burrell were about to embark on a special adventure; they just didn’t know it yet.
Duncan and Burrell both came out of high school and decided to attend Xavier University which is located in Cincinnati, Ohio. Burrell played high school basketball in historic Indianapolis, Indiana, and Duncan played his high school hoops in Cincinnati.
Both players would end up spending several years as roommates and the next four years at Xavier. As a result, they became good friends on and off the court.
“It was great being around a guy like Duncan. He was always positive and a great person. I was always around Duncan and that kept me on the right path,” Burrell told The Jerusalem Post in a recent interview after practice.
Duncan would finish his career at Xavier as the 26th all-time leading scorer with 1,210 career points and Burrell finished his senior season winning The Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Six years after ending their successful careers at Xavier, Duncan and Burrell unexpectedly found themselves both playing professional basketball in Israel.
Around 6,000 miles from the arena they shared together for years in Cincinnati.
Burrell signed with struggling club Bnei Herzliya towards the end of January, while Duncan is in his second season with top club Hapoel Jerusalem.
Both players were given completely different goals when they were signed. Burrell was brought in to help Bnei Herzliya stay in the first division and Duncan was signed in Jerusalem to bring the team its first league title in franchise history and end a curse that has haunted the historic club for decades.
Before arriving in Herzliya, Burrell was weighing his options on where to sign, when he decided to reach out to Duncan to ask him how he liked Israel and if he suggested that he should make the jump over to Israel.
“Duncan had always told me he was happy here and I knew he was in Israel for a few years. When I asked him if I should come, he encouraged me and said that his family really liked it.” Burrell said.
Nearly ten years after arriving at Xavier, not only are Burrell and Duncan reunited on the basketball court, they now have families they have to take care of.
“I remember the first time we both stepped on the court at Xavier. We were both really excited about everything we could accomplish together at school. Now, you flash forward ten years and we both have families with kids, it’s crazy,” Burrell recalled.
In the last two years, Duncan and Burrell both have had sons enter their lives.
Though both players are very dedicated to their basketball careers, they both realize there is more to life than just basketball and that it is important to also be a good father.
“Now that we both have our families and our own sons, we are trying to raise them the right way. I know he really cares about his son and is there for him and the same goes with me. We are both trying to raise them to be mature young man and it starts now, it’s very important to spend quality time with them. I know he will be a good dad as well,” Duncan told the Post over the phone.
In fact, after spending so many years together at Xavier and developing their special bond, Burrell recently decided to drive to Jerusalem after practice and catch up with Duncan but also have his son Jayden meet Duncan’s son, Jermiah.
After a very difficult few months in Bnei Herzliya, plagued by last minute losses and several overtime defeats, the entire season came down to one game and Herzliya was faced with a must-win game or possibly get relegated.
Fortunately for Herzliya and Burrell, the team was able to defeat Hapoel Eilat and guarantee itself another season of top flight basketball. Burrell’s mission in Herzliya was complete.
“Knowing the team will remain in the first division makes me feel really good. The looks on the faces of the fans after makes everything worth it.” Burrell said immediately after the game.
Both players do not have contracts for next year, so could it be possible for Duncan to get a chance to reunite with Stan on the court and play on the same team professionally? “I have definitely thought about it. It would be really cool, maybe in the future it could happen. It would be really special to reunite again,” said Duncan, with Jerusalem to begin its playoff campaign on Thursday.
Burrell was able to keep his club in the first division, now it’s Duncan’s turn to help lead Jerusalem to a championship.