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O’Bryant boys volleyball team wins 3rd city title in a row

Coach stresses hard work on and off the court

Jimmy Myers
O’Bryant boys volleyball team wins 3rd city title in a row
The 2024 O’Bryant High School boys Boston City League volleyball championship team. PHOTO: JOE ALLEN

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A standout among the many success stories from the Roxbury community is that of the three-time Division 2 City Championship boys volleyball team at John D. O’Bryant High School, coached by Paul Pitts-Dilley Jr., whose ultimate goal is to bring a Massachusetts state title to the school.

A native of Brazil, Pitts-Dilley, who holds dual citizenship in the United States and Brazil, has built this current juggernaut from its beginning to its present-day glory during his 14 years at the helm.

“It took us years to get past Latin Academy/Boston Latin School to reach championship status. That, and the fact that we played in a small league/conference, contributed to the years that it took to develop our program,” says Pitts-Dilley.

“In my first six years of coaching, there was no City Championship final. When the time came for a playoff system to determine a true City Champion from [the] on-the-court competition, our program had grown and was able to compete against top Division 2 schools,” he said. “Today, we play the third most challenging schedule among Division 2 schools in Massachusetts.”

Many people are not aware that volleyball is the second-most-played sport in the world behind soccer. And it’s one of the fastest growing sports in the United States.

Proud of his team’s on-the-court success, Pitts-Dilley, who teaches history and ethnic studies at O’Bryant, takes even more pride in his team’s academic achievements.

Senior Tochukwu Njoku goes high for a block. PHOTO: JOE ALLEN

“Nine of our 31 roster players got all “A’s” in their courses this year. That fits perfectly into my teaching and coaching philosophy of “hard work in the classroom first, and hard work on the volleyball court second.”

His philosophy has produced two seniors who will attend Ivy League colleges this fall (middle hitters Tochukwu Njoku to Yale and Braddy Maria to Cornell) and an unweighted team GPA of 3.2 over the last four years. This year’s team collective GPA is expected to reach 3.6, which will raise their national academic profile to the dean’s list status, a place where the team has been ranked four of the last five years, according to the American Volleyball Coaches Association.

Pitts-Dilley credits his parents, Paul Sr. and Rudi Maria, for his drive to succeed.

“My father left England and settled in Brazil. He migrated to the U.S. to provide a better life for me and my brother Peter. He did his job. Now, it is my task to continue the work that he and my mother started. I have two children (daughter Harper, 10, and son Paul III, 8) from my wife Maggie, who I met while attending the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. They are my life. Part of why I do what I do is because of their love and support.”

Last year’s City Championship team graduated all seven senior starters. This year’s squad consists of two seniors, five sophomores, and two freshmen among its significant contributors. Pitts-Dilley credits his players’ hard work in developing their skills.

“You must get players when they are young and develop their skills. You can’t come to volleyball in your senior year and expect to just pick up this game and play it at a high level,” he said. “You must make a year-to-year commitment if you expect to gain success at this sport.”

That is difficult to achieve due to A.A.U. Competition, which is very expensive, transportation, and other outside influences which affect the playing and development component. But despite these factors, the team still can get and develop good players.

“Setter Max Dong, a ninth-grader, is a perfect example of our program,” Pitts-Dilley said. “He is the Boston City Most Valuable Player at such a young age. He and his current teammates have this program on course to be Massachusetts State Volleyball Champions in the next three years.”

Currently, the team is heading to the state playoffs, which begin on May 30.

Asked how long he would continue to steer the volleyball course at O’Bryant, Pitts-Dilley responded, “I will do this job as long as my family allows me to coach. This job takes a lot of time away from my family. My wife and children accept that for now. As long as they do, I will continue to build this program and bring honor to the name of John D. O’Bryant High School.”

He added, “My players and I are aware of the legacy that Mr. O’Bryant established. We honored part of that legacy by attending the recent funeral services of his wife, Cicily. Every time we play, we carry his name and his historical achievements with us. I will always make sure that my players honor his legacy.”

Division 2 City Championship, John D. O’Bryant High School, O'Bryant boys volleyball, Sports