Thursday, March 6, 2008

End of an Era

Last night I played in my last competitive organized basketball game. The other members of the 2007-2008 Vassar College Brewers lost to St. John Fisher College in the ECAC tournament and finished the season with a record of 18-8. I began to think back over the last 13 years of my life. I was a member of 21 organized basketball teams over those years. The teams ranged from travel teams, AAU, middle school, high school, and college.

I played with many great players on all of those teams, but I wish to recognize the ten best players that I played with over the past 13 years. This list was very difficult, as I only took into account years in which I played with each player. The criteria also was a combination of overall talent and how good they were comparatively to that specific team and the competition we played against.

10. Darren Mastropaolo- 12th Grade Falmouth High School 6'8" Center
Darren was a dominating force his senior year of high school. He could post anyone up and had a great touch from 15 feet. In AAU Darren rivaled me in 5th, 7th, and 11th grades but played with me in 6th, 8th, 9th, and 10th. When I moved to Falmouth for my Senior Year of high school it was a joy to play with him again. Darren went on to play Division 1 basketball at Bucknell University where he was a starter and a captain.

9. Judson Winton- Senior Year Vassar College 6'0" Guard
Jud, on the other hand, I only got to play with for one year. This guy was seriously one of the hardest workers I ever played with. Our off-season workouts were ridiculous my freshman year because of this guy. Another 1,000 point scorer for Vassar, Jud could penetrate at will and could both finish and drop it off for an assist. Jud went on to play professionally in Ireland after he finished college. Jud was a product of University High School out of San Francisco, California.

8. Tyson Brazell- Senior Year Vassar College 6'3" Guard/Forward
Tyson was a great competitor, defender and became a great scorer in his senior year at Vassar College. He helped lead the Brewers to the two best seasons in school history. One of the greatest clutch players I ever played with, it was a pleasure to play with him for four seasons. When visiting Vassar College before his freshman year, it is rumored that the Coach told him he would probably get cut and he then went on to be a 1,000 point scorer and First Team Liberty League selection. Ty played his high school ball at the Waterford School in the great Salt Lake City, Utah.

7. Jason Hight- 12th Grade Maine Hoops 6'2" Guard
What I remember best about Jay the one year I played with him on Maine Hoops was his great ability to take what came to him when we were playing an average team and then take over games when he had to. Both a great penetrator and 3 point shooter, he was impossible to guard. He played the point and the 2 guard but probably got the second most rebounds on our team that season. Jay played at Westbrook High School and went on to play Division 1 basketball at the University of Maine.

6. DJ Lewis- 6th Grade Maine Hoops 5'11" Forward
DJ was a one year wonder in the state of Maine. He showed up in Topsham, living with his aunt and uncle and played with us on Maine Hoops for half of an AAU season. His athletic ability at that age was unbelievable, and it didn't seem as though he matured at all yet. He was a 5'11" forward that could dunk a girls ball at age twelve. Sadly DJ moved back to Milwaukee with his parents midway through that season and no one has heard from him since.

5. Rocco Toppi- 10th Grade Maine Select 6'3" Forward
I played with Rocco from 5th to 11th grade in AAU. Other than being able to grow a full beard within a day, Rock was extremely talented in many ways on the court. He was tall in his younger days and was always forced to play in the post. We all knew that he loved to be on the perimeter. He worked on his outside shot a lot over the years and improved it to the point where he was an unbelievably hard guard because of his 3 point shooting ability to go along with his great inside finishing. Rock won a state championship at Portland High School and went on to play both basketball and baseball at Brandeis University.

4. Mike Gallagher- 8th Grade Maine Hoops 6'5" Center
Mike was a unstoppable force for anyone we played in 8th grade. He was a huge reason why we beat everyone in Maine by 20 plus that season and then went on to win three out of five games at Nationals (before this tournament got deflated because of the emergence of Big Time). Although Mike was a great scorer, it was his cleaning up of every rebound that made him so dominant. He could post you up or hit the face up J. It was a pleasure to play with Mike from 7th to 11th grade in AAU. He played his high school ball at Sanford High School in the great state of Maine.

3. Aaron Spaulding- 12th Grade Cape Elizabeth High 6'3" Guard
Aaron was the best shooter/scorer I ever played with. I averaged the most assists of my career my sophomore year by feeding Aaron the ball. He could hit the three all day, drive and finish in the lane, and was a terror on the defensive side of the ball. I can still see his go to spin move on the break in my head whenever I want. Aaron was the first and only 1,000 point scorer at Cape Elizabeth High School (cough. I moved to Falmouth for my senior year, or it would be the two of us. cough.) Aaron played Division 2 basketball at St. Michael's College where he endured many injuries but was a senior captain.

2. Andrew Dvilinsky- 6th Grade Maine Hoops 6'1" Center
Andrew could score on anybody in sixth grade. When he got it in the post, it was all over. He could rebound, block shots, d up in the post. He had great touch around the basket and always found a way to put the ball in the hoop. Andrew was a bit of a victim of early growth for he never developed his ball handling skills or outside shooting and turned to baseball later in adolescence. He played third base for the state champion Deering High Rams.

1. Larry Avitabile- Junior Year Vassar College 6'3" Forward
Although Larry was Player of the Year in the conference his Senior Year, his play and his stats were a bit better in his Junior Year. I spent most of my time at Vassar College playing basketball and living with Larry. It is going to be hard to realize that those time are now over with the end of our careers. Lar was a forward that did everything for Vassar for four years. Think about this...He led the team in Scoring, Rebounding, Assists, Field Goal Percentage, Blocks and Steals. That is pretty ridiculous. It's not like he was playing on a bad team. We lost to the conference champions by two points in the semi-finals. His stats were in the top five in the conference in all of those categories. He did a lot of ball handling and was a great defender. Without a doubt the best player I played with over the past 13 years.


Andy McKenzie said...

This is an awesome post, Danny.

Rob Dauster said...

Where the fuck am I on this list? Bull shit.

joe said...

the blog is back! great post. sorry to hear about the loss last night buddy. there's nothing like the 5'11 180lbs dude who absolutely beasts people in middle school.

Anonymous said...

Pretty good list..You might have forgotten the one and only......
"Buzzer Shot JJ" You played on a few teams with him buddy.

Anonymous said...

where is will kieffer on this list. oh... nevermind.