By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Hudson – Hundreds of Houston residents affected by Hurricane Harvey, which ultimately got downgraded to a tropical storm, now own Hudson High School (HHS) basketball gear. A shipment was sent by former HHS basketball coach Mike Mercuri in response to a tweet asking for donations from University of Houston (UH) head men’s basketball coach Kelvin Sampson. Coaches nationwide answered the call.
“One tweet from Coach Sampson spurred a whole wave of charitable donations,” Mercuri said. “Coaches always try to take care of each other. It’s a great fraternity.”
Mercuri coached HHS boys’ varsity basketball for five years, two as assistant and then three as head coach. During that time he purchased extra HHS basketball gear with his own money.
“I always tried to make sure our kids, their parents, other students and people in town had HHS basketball gear so we could build up the program,” he said. “I always purchased large orders in bulk. Coaches invest a lot of their own money into the programs. Funds from the schools get cut every year.”
He placed his last bulk order of HHS basketball gear in the spring of 2014. A few weeks later, Mercuri was let go from the job. He’s now in his fourth year assistant coaching boys’ varsity basketball at Littleton High School.
“Coach Sampson tweeted out a call for help and it instantly clicked,” Mercuri said. “I knew what to do with all this HHS gear.”
Mercuri packed nine boxes with about 300 HHS basketball items including backpacks, jackets, reversible jerseys, shorts, socks, sweat suits and T-shirts. Fittingly, HHS and UH share the same school colors. Some of the items shipped to Houston – nicknamed H-town – are simply emblazoned with a red and white “H.”
“It could very well pass as UH apparel,” Mercuri noted. “My understanding is that these donations are getting distributed to people that lost their clothing, their house – everything.”
Also answering the call to help evacuees was Peter Stockholm, a 2010 HHS graduate who has worked for three years as concession manager at the city’s NEG Stadium. ABC News reported that about 2,800 evacuees were sheltered at the NRG Center, which includes the stadium. Stockholm played basketball at HHS and coached by Mercuri.
“Peter had to evacuate as well,” Mercuri noted. “He and a lot of other NRG employees made their way to the stadium to prepare to assist people.”
Mercuri described the day he packed the HHS basketball gear as “bittersweet.”
“It brought up a lot of great memories of all my former players, parents and families that supported the basketball program,” he said. “I’m happy to know somebody will be wearing the gear that stood for a lot to me and our players.”
He also expressed gratitude for assistance with the packaging and shipping from Carrie Edmonds, owner of The UPS Store in Hudson.
“I brought in the nine boxes and she saw it was going to Houston,” Mercuri relayed. “She got emotional and voluntarily offered a 15 percent discount, which was super-helpful. Hudson is a town where people always give back.”
While Mercuri coached HHS boys’ varsity basketball, his team was presented the Community Service Award by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield in 2013. The team had organized and participated in several community service projects, overseen by Mercuri.
“I tried to make our program about selflessness and service to others,” he said. “Giving away the basketball gear continues the tradition that we established and keeps the spirit of the program alive.”
According to Sampson’s tweet, “We will get everything to the right agencies to be distributed.” Coaches can send gear to Kelvin Sampson, University of Houston Basketball, Guy V. Lewis Development Center, 3480 Cullen Blvd., Houston, Texas 77204.