After announcing his retirement from coaching the Boston English boys' basketball team last spring, Barry Robinson has decided to return for his 21st season on the sideline.
“I love it man, I can’t give it up,” he said Monday morning. “The kids wanted me back. They’ve been asking and I kept telling them ‘No’ and they kept asking, so I’m back.”
Robinson won three city championships, including back-to-back titles in 1999 and 2000. The 2000 team featured three Division 1 players (Raheim Lamb, Rasheed Quadri, and Raymond Noiles) and won the Eastern Mass. title.
Last spring, Robinson said he was leaving the post to focus on his other role as the school’s athletic coordinator. He was going to hand over the program to his assistant, Joe Chatman.
On Monday, however, Robinson said he got ahead of himself by saying he was going to hand the job to Chatman “without going through the proper channels.”
Chatman was not chosen for the job, and after the hiring process failed to find a suitable replacement, Robinson said he decided in September to come back.
“When he told me he was coming back, I told him ‘Great’ because I never wanted him to leave,” second-year headmaster Ligia Noriega-Murphy said. “We interviewed a few people and just, the gut feeling, was that there’s no passion.
"He said he wanted to do it again so I was happy with that.”
On Monday, Robinson said another reason he decided to leave the team last year was that his 12-year-old daughter is ramping up her swim career and he didn’t want to miss her meets. But Robinson said his daughter gave him her blessing to keep coaching.
Last year’s English team lost in the state tournament to Milton and this year’s team, which had its first tryout Monday, will likely have six or seven seniors.
“We have quite a few seniors, so we should be all right and in the thick of it in our conference,” Robinson said. “I’m excited about that.”
Junior point guard Stanley Davis will also be back this season.
“That’s a blessing in itself,” Robinson said. “He’s been starting at point guard since his freshman year. He’s going to be in there this year and next year, too. So from that aspect we’ll be fine.”
Robinson said he will continue to coach the team as long as they want him to stick around.
“It’s a great time for English High School,” he said. “We’re turning the corner to do a lot of positive things. A lot of positive things are going on. Attendance has gone up tremendously. [Academic] scores are up. We have more kids participating in athletics. The [required] GPA [for athletes] has gone back up to a 2.0.
“So we’re getting this place where it’s supposed to be.”
Former Charlestown basketball coach Jack O'Brien takes coaching job at Springfield Central High School
Legendary Charlestown and Salem basketball coach Jack O’Brien has officially taken his basketball prowess to Springfield Central High School starting this winter.
After six years without drawing up inbound plays on his whiteboard, he’s ready to get back on the court.
“I’m definitely excited to be back coaching,” O’Brien said. “Springfield’s a big, urban school and I’ve had some success in that past with that environment.”
O'Brien has had tremendous success since he won his first MIAA state championship with Salem High in 1990. At Salem, he coached future NBA player Eric Brunson.
After taking over Charlestown’s basketball program in 1993, O’Brien proceeded to leave an impact on their program that put him in company with some of the greatest city coaches of all time.
In a six-year span (1999 to 2005) O’Brien and his Townie squad won a stunning five state championships, giving O’Brien six MIAA state championships. O’Brien coached 13 seasons at Charlestown, and at one point during that championship run, his teams captured four straight titles.
But O’Brien says it's the opportunity to interact with players that makes this new endeavor of his all worthwhile.
“I’ve been able to reach success with a lot of kids, and help change their lives,” he said. “I look at Springfield and think there’s no better place for me to go.”
O’Brien, a Medford native, also says he’s going to keep his current physical education job at West Roxbury High school, and isn’t too worried about the longer-than-usual commute.
“Yeah, I’ll be commuting,” he said when asked about his plans. “That’s the hard part, but we (West Roxbury high school) get out at 1:30 so that’ll actually work out fine. It’s an hour and a half ride so I’ll just be jumping on the highway.”
O’Brien is taking over for former coach Mike Labrie. Labrie coached Central for seven seasons, including its 2011 state title season.
“I didn’t want to turn such an opportunity down,” he said. “And now, in practice, I can use the hour and half commute as leverage to tell the kids: I drove an hour and a half to get here!”
Students from the Holland Elementary School in Dorchester had quite the experience Wednesday when they embarked on a Duck Boat tour starting from the North End. But this wasn’t any ordinary cruise on the Charles River. They had special guests aboard.
As part of the Celtics' Read to Achieve Program, the kids were joined by eight players who are either new to the team's roster or have been invited to training camp. The players read to them during the tour and discussed the importance reading has had in their lives.
Kris Humphries, Kelly Olynyk, Jordan Crawford, DeShawn Sims, Chris Babb, Phil Pressey, Damen Bell-Holter, and Kammron Taylor were welcomed by the kids and, appropriately, read the book “Make Way for Ducklings” while taking a Duck Boat tour of the city.
“I think [Read to Achieve] is a great initiative by the NBA,” Humphries said. “It’s funny, I’ve seen these Duck Boats driving around, so I’ve always thought it’d be cool to go and do that. So when I heard this was one of the things we were doing, count me in.
"As a kid, I always looked up to NBA players, so for these kids to be able to go and do this, it’s definitely exciting.”
Read to Achieve is an NBA program developed to emphasize the importance of reading to younger people by providing better access to books. Across the league, teams have developed numerous reading and learning centers in partnerships with schools in an effort to create a secure and fun environment for young students.
And for Wednesday’s event, the emphasis was definitely on fun.
“It’s good for us to interact with the kids,” Crawford said. “They look up to us and view us as role models. So just to interact with them and put a smile on their face, I hope to do it as long as I’m here.”
This event was presented by Kia Motors and ReadBoston. ReadBoston is a nonprofit literacy program founded in 1995 by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, with a mission to ensure that all children can read at a grade level by the end of the third grade.
The Celtics are doing their part in promoting the importance of education. They also offer a monthly prize to any student within their partnership of schools that hits his or her reading goal. According to Celtics director of community relations Matt Meyersohn, events like these leave a lasting impression.
“We host monthly reading events,” Meyersohn said. “We’re celebrating reading and trying to use our power as the Celtics brand and players to encourage kids to take education seriously.”
About 20 teams turned out for the first annual 3-on-3 charity basketball tournament Saturday morning that benefitted the Alray Scholars Program at the Clark Athletic Center at UMass-Boston.
Alray Scholars is a part scholarship and part-mentoring program designed specifically for graduates of Boston public schools. The organization mostly deals with former BPS students who’ve left college but anticipate re-enrolling.
The Alray Scholars program was founded in 2008 as a dedication to former Charlestown basketball standout Alray Taylor, who was shot and killed days before his 22nd birthday in 2006.
Taylor, who had a scholarship to University of New Hampshire, grew up in Mission Hill and helped Charlestown win three of their four state championships, spanning from 1999-2003.
The book, The Assist, written by Boston Globe Magazine writer Neil Swidey, inspired the creation of the organization. The book describes Charlestown’s state championship runs behind head coach Jack O’Brien, who is on the Alray Scholars board along with Swidey.
O’Brien also attended Saturday’s tournament and watched some familiar faces compete. He talked briefly of Taylor, and what the event means for the organization.
“Alray was a great player for us,” he said. “So what we’re doing here is tying basketball in as an effort to make some money for the foundation, so it’s always a good time. Playing three-on-three’s always interesting to watch too.”
A team led by former Charlestown High star Ridley Johnson, who is on the cover of The Assist, won the double-elimination tournament.
"It feels good to be part of something special just to keep Alray's name alive," Johnson said.
Charlestown High and Brighton High fielded teams as well and another team was led by Brighton coach Hugh Coleman.
Globe Correspondent Justin A. Rice helped plan the tournament and the Globe sponsored a team.
Before the tournament began WEEI Radio host and former Boston Globe writer Michael Holley thanked the players for coming while playfully warning them how lucky the we’re that he wasn’t out there competing in his Nike’s.
He also made it certain to acknowledge the profound affect sports can have on the lives of young kids.
“Basketball has the power to forge friendships,” Holley said. “So I’m excited to be here, but more excited to be here for such a great cause. Let’s keep that in mind today; we’re playing ball and we’re having a lot of fun, but more importantly if you ever have an opportunity to help someone along the way, you really have no idea of how influential you can be.”
The bassist for Red Hot Chili Peppers, Flea, tweeted his nearly 1 million followers on Thursday night about finishing the 2008 book The Assist, which is about Jack O’Brien’s championship teams at Charlestown High and was written by Boston Globe Magazine writer Neil Swidey.
The book was recommended to Flea by Los Angeles Lakers beat writer Dave McMenamin. Flea also gave a shout out to former Townies star player Ridley Johnson.
After thanking Flea for reading his book on twitter, Swidey tweeted that the Alray Scholars Program, which was inspired by The Assist, is hosting its charity basketball tournament on Saturday at the UMass-Clark Athletic Center (100 Morrissey Blvd).
The Alray Scholars Program gives scholarships to Boston public school alumni who have left college for various reasons but anticipate going back to school. Taylor helped Charlestown win three of their four consecutive state championships before going to the University of New Hampshire on a scholarship. But he had to transfer due to a series of unfortunate events, including the death of his parents within a six-month span. But as he worked to get his life back on track, Taylor was shot to death in broad daylight three days before his 22nd birthday in 2006.
The 3-on-3 tournament, which Globe Correspondent Justin A. Rice helped plan, is the Alray Scholars first fundraising event.
Here's the twitter transcript:
Dave McMenamin (mcten): @flea333 @neilswidey @RIDLEY_JOHNSON Glad you enjoyed it!
Neil Swidey (@neilswidey): @flea333 @mcten @RIDLEY_JOHNSON thanks! See Ridley & others from http://TheAssist.net in the #alraytourney tomorrow at 10, @UMassBoston
Neil Swidey (@neilswidey): @flea333 @mcten @RIDLEY_JOHNSON Thanks a million, Flea.
Neil Swidey (@neilswidey): @mcten thanks again, dave
The Boston-based urban youth development program Shooting Touch Inc. will be hosting two major events Friday and Saturday.
The first is called The Sports Conference and will be held at Northeastern University. A presentation will focus on educating college students on the rare ability to break into the sports industry.
Moderating the event is ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla. Another notable speaker is Northeastern’s athletic director, Peter Roby. The event begins at 8:45 a.m. at the Fenway Center on Northeastern’s campus on St. Stephens Street.
The second event is an auction that will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday at Reebok World Headquarters in Canton.
Comedian Lenny Clarke will be the auctioneer for the event, which supports the Basketball Peace Corps, one of Shooting Touch Inc.’s programs that gives college graduates the opportunity to spend a year in Rwanda teaching basketball to underprivileged kids.
More than 200 guests will enjoy both a silent and live auction along with dinner and drinks. Notable attendees include former Bruin Mark Recchi, ESPN writer Jackie MacMullan, and NBA Hall of Famer Wayne Embry.
Justin and Lindsey Kittredge founded Shooting Touch Inc. in 2008 with the intent of providing youth opportunities for development both on and off the court.
Two former Charlestown High basketball players are headed to college to play basketball.
Omar Orriols and Alijiah Robinson signed nationals letters of intent in the Charlestown High gymnasium Friday afternoon. Orriols will attend Community College of Rhode Island while Robinson is head to Benedict College in South Carolina.
“This is a special day for two of our student-athletes and their parents and guardians,” Charlestown coach Edson Cardoso said. “I’m very excited that these two gentlemen are moving forward academically and with athletic scholarships.
“It is a special day for all of them and I’m very proud of these two young men.”
After transferring to Charlestown from Holbrook for his senior season, the 6-foot-8-inch Robinson averaged 15 points per game to go along with 12 rebounds and 4 blocks.
“It’s great, it’s a blessing, it’s a great opportunity to go out and make something of myself,” Robinson said.
Robinson was accompanied by his brother Perez Veiga, who played for Charlestown as well, and has been a mentor to his brother.
“The big thing for me was not to follow in the footsteps of my family members, my cousins, they are all locked up or in jail, they are all doing bad things and such and I didn’t want to be part of that cycle,” Robinson said. “That was part of my motivation. Also my brother Perez Veiga, whose been with me through it all, has really helped me through school and being that person pushing me forward.
“I’ve really been trying to be good academically all the time because I know without academics you really don’t have anything. Without academics there’s no basketball and I wouldn’t be sitting here today without that. I just want to thank all my coaches, family members and everybody who has been there to support me through the journey.”
Orriols played for Charlestown two years ago, averaging 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists in the Townies’ run to TD Garden.
But he dropped out of school his senior year and only recently completed his GED.
“Once I figured out how the real world was, I was just sitting at home feeling unproductive so I had to do something and get my GED,” he said. “No looking back at all.
“I thank my coaches today for giving the opportunity and giving me a chance to attend community college in Rhode Island. It’s very exciting, I’m finally moving on, moving forward, it feels good.”
Orriols's mother, Sarail Lopez, broke into tears during the signing.
“I’m happy for him, I’m really proud that he’s moving on,” she said. “He finally made that decision that I was waiting for.”
Cardoso said since he took over the program five years ago, all 40 players he has coached have gone on to college. He said about half are playing in basketball in college.
Last year, former Charlestown player Akosa Maduegbunam signed his national letter of intent to play at Penn State. But after averaging only 6 points and 8 rebounds in 3.8 minutes per game, Maduegbunam will transfer to Long Island University Post, according to Cordoso.
"As I do every year, I talked with each of our players at the end of the season to evaluate where they are and to set a course for success in their future," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said in a press release announcing the release of two players last April. "Patrick [Ackerman] and Akosa have decided to seek opportunities elsewhere. First and foremost, we want what is best for our student-athletes. We thank Patrick and Akosa for their contribution to our program, wish them the very best, and will try to assist them in anyway we can."
The Boston Neighborhood Basketball League girls' championships wrapped up Tuesday night in dramatic fashion as the Under-18 Lee School team roared back in the final minutes to beat the defending champs at the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury.
The Lee school beat Lets Ball Together, 32-31, in the Under-18 game after the Boston Showstoppers won both the Under-15 and Under-13 titles.
Araion Bradshaw of the Lee School earned MVP honors in the Under-18 game after lading all scorers with 14 points, including eight in the second half. Bradshaw’s sister Amari is also on the team, and their father Eric Bradshaw is the coach.
“It feels great,” Araion Bradshaw said after the game. “I’m really proud of my teammates, family, and especially my big sister, who’s leaving.”
This was Amari Bradshaw's last summer of eligibility, as she graduated from Belmont High School in the spring. Following the MVP and trophy ceremony after the game, the coach commended his players on never giving up.
“I told my team, if we hit our free throws, we’d be all right.” Eric Bradshaw said. “They took the lead late in the game but we fought our way back.”
In a game that was back and forth for all 40 minutes, Lets Ball Together led, 27-24, with 1:30 left but couldn’t hold on.
The leading scorers for Lets Ball Together were Raven Kelsey with 11 and Kiana Daley with six. Daley also was in her last summer of eligibility, and after the game, the former O’Bryant basketball and track star talked about her team's performance.
“We definitely played tough,” Daley said. “During the game, we kept our heads straight and it also came really close at the end.”
In the Under-15 championship, the Boston Showstoppers defeated Lets Ball Together, 35-14. Leading the way for the Showstoppers was Sayawni Lassiter with 10 points and Me’Ara Carter with 16 rebounds and some exceptional defense.
“We just went out there and played the game,” Carter said. “All my teammates really helped with the win because they played really hard.”
The first game of the night was the Under-13 championship, in which the Boston Showstoppers defeated Lets Ball Together, 22-15. After a slow start offensively for both teams the Showstoppers had a 7-3 edge at the half. The teams picked it up in the second half.
Arianne Howard was the leading scorer for the Showstoppers with 10 points.
The boys BNBL championships is Wednesday, with the three-game format starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Reggie Lewis Center.
On Monday, the BNBL season will wrap up with the Under-18 all-star games at the Shelburne Center in Roxbury. The girls game is at 6:30 p.m., followed by the boys at 7:30.
The following is second in a series about former BPS athletes currently playing their sport in college.
Marco Banegas-Flores can still remember going on his Irving middle school basketball team field trips to watch Jose Juan Barea cement his name among the best point guards to play in a Northeastern jersey.
He can still remember how he would rush to the Curry Student Center with his O’Bryant teammates to take in the exhilarating college atmosphere.
The historic Matthews Arena may have just been feet away, but playing on the same court that Reggie Lewis and Barea had played on might as well have been a fantasy for the undersized, Dorchester-native point guard.
“If someone told me in high school my freshman year that I’d be playing for Northeastern with a chance to play in the NCAA tournament, I wouldn’t believe them at all,” Banegas-Flores said.
After a sophomore year that included a CAA regular season championship, an NIT appearance and seven starts in a Husky uniform, Banegas-Flores can happily say he was wrong.
“I’m big on my faith and just knowing that if you do the right things, you have a positive attitude, then things will go well for you,” Banegas-Flores said.
The former city league student athlete did not have the typical journey to Division 1 athletics. In fact, Banegas-Flores, who will be a junior this fall, didn’t find himself with a consistent playing time as a freshman at O’Bryant.
“We all knew the abilities that he had, he just had to take his time and there were certain things he had to learn in terms of how you play the game the right way,” former O’Bryant coach and math teacher Jose Figueroa said. “Once you learn how to do that, obviously it’s worked out tremendously.”
In just the next year, Banegas-Flores found himself leading the Tigers to the second round of the state tournament, their most successful season during his tenure. That, and winnings the South Division two out of his four years marked his proudest moments as a Tiger.
To his gratification, they weren’t his proudest moments as an athlete. Upon his senior year in 2010 Banegas-Flores was accepted to the Brimmer and May prep school in Chestnut Hill.
It would only take one year before Banegas-Flores would trade in his green and white colors for black and red and fulfill a long awaited dream.
The point guard still proudly represents his community.
“Marco has an extremely strong sense of community,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said. “He’s very proud of his Boston roots and I think that pride has come from his community service.”
During his short tenure with Northeastern, Banegas-Flores and his teammates have held various basketball clinics for the Boston community, including the Tobin K-8 School.
While the Husky is proud of the work he has put in, he said that none of it would have been possible without the guidance from his older brother, former O’Bryant player and current New Jersey Institute of Technology student, Chris Flores.
“I play basketball because he played basketball,” Banegas-Flores said. “He’s a role model on and off the court for me. He’s a really good student, A’s and B’s, he really keeps his nose clean, staying out of trouble so I just followed in his footsteps and it got me where I am today.”
According to Banegas-Flores, him and his brother shared a common value for academics during high school that was key to their success.
“I definitely hear the same kind of critiques about the whole inner-city school system and athletics within the city,” Banegas-Flores said. “The recourses are there.
“It was well-known if we wanted to pursue basketball in school, we had to be well educated.”
For a city league student that didn’t have the Boston Scholars Athletes program growing up, Figueroa is certainly proud of his former player. Not just for getting accepted to a Division 1 program, but also for handling adversity.
After starting the first seven games of his sophomore campaign, Banegas-Flores’ playing time dwindled upon the return of Northeastern’s starting point guard Jonathan Lee and the emergence of freshman point guard David Walker.
“From the conversations I’ve had with Marco about his playing time and his future, he’s handled it like a man,” Figueroa said. “He’s definitely grown in to a man that understands the big picture.
“He’s made a commitment to a team and although it may not be going the way he wanted to right now, he knows he’s a part of a team and he’ll do whatever it takes to be a part of that team.”
Former Brighton High football and basketball player Prince Unaegbu will attend Bridgton Academy prep school in North Bridgton, Maine, this fall in hopes of earning a Division 1 football scholarship to UMass-Amherst.
The 6-foot-5-inch, 220-pound tight end and defensive end was also a two-year starter for the Bengals' basketball team, which won the city and state championships last season.
“A prep school would help me reach my goals academic-wise.” Unaegbu said during a recent telephone interview. “It is also an all-boys school located in the middle of nowhere. I get to spend the whole year there so I'll focus on my school and whatever else I have to do.
“Work out all year, and study all year.”
In nine games, Unaegbu had 99 tackles, 23 tackles for a loss, eight sacks, and 52 solo tackles. He also had seven receptions for 120 yards and two touchdowns.
“Prince was a dominant defensive end and a great blocking tight end,” Brighton football coach Randolph Abraham wrote in an email. "Most teams avoided running outside to his edge, as he was unblockable.”
Even though the Bengals didn’t win the football city championship, Unaegbu believes it was a good season.
“Last year at Brighton I'll say was pretty good,” he said. "Even though we didn't make it to our goal, I'll say I had a very good season.”
Unaegbu credits his coaches for his success.
“They helped me realize my potential, like in practice when they would make me work 10 times harder than the other people on the team.” Unaegbu said.
Abraham wishes good things for his former star.
“Prince is the best person I have ever coached and I am extremely proud of him,” Abraham said. “He has great character and ability and will be going far in life.”
Dennis Membah is a Brighton High senior who writes for Teens in Print.
About Boston Public Schools Sports BlogMore »
- Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
- Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.