GHPA, 'Spirit Of Doc' Basketball Tourney Tips Off At Trinity Saturday

The third annual GHPA High School Basketball “Spirit of Doc” Classic tips off Saturday with five games, one featuring top-ranked East Catholic-Manchester at Trinity College.

“Anything with Doc’s name in it is something we always want to be a part of,” said Weaver coach Reggie Hatchett, whose Beavers, ranked 10th in the New Haven Register’s state media poll, face No.4 Hillhouse-New Haven in the nightcap at 8 p.m.

Walter "Doc" Hurley, who died in 2014 at age 91, was a standout four-sport athlete at Weaver High School before returning to the school as an administrator. He created the Doc Hurley Basketball Classic, the wildly popular high school tournament.

“We’re looking forward to it,” East Catholic coach Luke Reilly, who’s team is ranked No.1 in the poll, said. “This is a great event, the kids get excited about it; it’s good for the community. People can kind of come out and see a bunch of games. It’s a real nice way to kick of the season and it makes it special for everybody.”

Kevin Kirksey, executive director of the GHPA youth basketball program, a nonprofit serving at-risk boys and girls between 9 and 17 in Greater Hartford, started running the tournament in 2015.

“My mission in life, I think, is to present quality basketball events and just quality basketball anything from youth to adult, that’s what I think my role is in Connecticut,” Kirksey said. “There was no way I couldn’t honor the Godfather and still do this. The best thing I could come up with was the spirit of Doc.”

Admission for the tournament is $10. Kirksey is also asking for those who can to bring a toy for a boy or girls aged 4-7.

Spectators will be treated to a top-notch slate of games to open the season beginning at noon when Northwest Catholic-West Hartford faces Ledyard. Wilbur Cross, featuring one of the top players in the state in senior guard Will Antrum, plays Hartford Public at 2 p.m. Prince Tech and Bloomfield square off at 4 p.m. Middletown takes on No. 1 East Catholic at 6.

“The kiss of death,” Reilly joked referring to the top ranking. “Who do I have to thank for that?”

Well the Class LL runner-up Eagles are at least pretty good. They lost one starter, albeit a very good one in Mike McGuirl. But he was no one-man show on a team that went 26-2 last year . Matt Veretto, 6 foot 7, averaged 17 points and nine blocks last year and has a lot of Division I programs interested in him this year. Joey Reilly (19 ppg) is back and so is Will Pineo (14 ppg, 12 rpg).

“I love the guys, I think first and foremost they have great chemistry and they love the game and that’s a coach’s dream and they’ve all done their job, they got better in the offseason,” Reilly said. “If you look at the personnel they’ve all been in big moments.”

The Eagles’ JV team went 20-0, so there may very well be some help coming up, too.

On the other side Rick Privott lost four of five starters and seven seniors overall — but the one starter he has coming back, standout senior DeAaron Lawrence, who is also a very good football player.

Speaking of football…

“I was talking to my kids the other day about this but East Catholic is a team of basketball players,” Privott said. “We have kids floating football and basketball and they’re just coming back from football, after a playoff, so that hurts. We’re trying to cram a lot of info in a week and a half.”

Still Privott and Middletown know how to proceed through this season.

“We’re honestly going to run through DeAaron,” Privott said. “We’re hoping DeAaron draws attention and we get the ball to our shooters because we still have kids who can shoot the ball. We’re looking to be aggressive on defense and hope defense leads to offense. But we’ve got to hit the floor running because our schedule is loaded starting with East Catholic.”

Eight seniors are gone from last season’s Weaver squad and this will be the smallest team Hatchett has had in his four seasons but “our style makes it so that we’re going to be in the game with anybody.” That frenetic up and down pace, a program calling card for years along with a nice collection of 3-point shooters led by Alex Rodriguez who came off the bench last year will make the Beavers a problem for most opponents.

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