By John Orrell , Contributing Writer
Worcester – They spend their summer playing in relative obscurity far away from the big stage venues that include packed high school gyms, college gymnasiums and even big city arenas. Neighborhood courts suit the purpose just fine and relatively small crowds are okay. Scores matter some but are not what the program’s objective is all about and players are quick to accept that for the good of their respective teams.
They’re the Sullivan & Garrity entity of the Crompton Kingsway Basketball League, a twelve-team summer league comprised of players from area high schools that play from early June through July at Worcester’s Crompton and Greenwood Parks. The teams play hard with winning as a goal, but the underlying objective is to sharpen skills and build chemistry for the upcoming season.
Sullivan & Garrity is comprised primarily of St. John’s High School players that have chosen to forego much of the downtime that summer often affords in order to build themselves into contenders once more. Last season’s high school team was crowned as Central Mass. Division 1 titleholder and advanced all the way to state semifinal competition. It will take an extraordinary effort to repeat such success and that’s why summer basketball is so important, players say.
“I want to get better and get better with my team and hopefully get some layups and reps in,” said St. John’s sophomore Will Goss. “This also helps me to get to know my teammates better. I love basketball and I love being here around all these guys. It’s fun. The heat tires you up quickly but you just have to push through it and don’t let it get the best of you.”
“The main reason I come out to do this is to get ready for the season and be around the guys,” explained senior Alex Bradley, a standout player in last season’s title run. “We have a lot of new players because we had a lot of seniors graduate. We’re trying to get comfortable playing with each other and build some chemistry before we start our season after Thanksgiving.
“We’re a fun group to hang around with and we just like playing with each other. We all want to have a good season this year so we know we have to start early. We can’t just come out in the winter and expect to be strong. This is really about preparing.”
The Sullivan & Garrity team is well-represented through players who are established for the 2016-2017 team as well as others aspiring to land a roster spot when tryouts occur in December.
Giving up many summer nights to play in often oppressive temperatures may seem like a sacrifice to others but not so to these young athletes. Skill development is stressed but so is getting a jump on the season despite six months until practices when the Pioneer’s varsity team will begin its season.
“This is a great way for us to get better, to sharpen our skills but it’s also fun out here,” said senior Cole Stairs, also a standout from a season ago. “We work with a lot of the younger kids and help them feel more confident. Being here is a sacrifice but we all love it.”
“We try to help the younger kids get comfortable playing and to be confident when they’re playing because sometimes they can get nervous out there,” added Bradley. “It’s easier to play in a summer league and be confident than to come out in front of a ton of kids and fans during the season. This helps them a lot.”