By Chris Gionta
Pope Francis Prep’s 62-58 win over Longmeadow on Thursday at the Spalding Hoophall Classic continued a theme that’s been established in multiple Cardinals sports for over a year. Wherever you looked on the court or pitch or diamond, a player named “Vedovelli” was making an impact.
It may have been Cam leaving the opposing defense in shambles with a combination of relentless driving and knockdown 3-point shooting. There was also the possibility it was his younger brother Ryan being a factor all over the court, whether he was running the offense, swooping to the inside for rebounds, or contesting at the rim.
Competing athletically is all the brothers have ever known, and it started against each other.
“[My first memories playing together were] just the battles in the driveway every day,” Cam said.
The athletic skills of the Vedovelli brothers are not limited to the hardwood. Along with being the current leaders in points scored for the basketball team, the pair were the two leading goal-scorers on their soccer team. They are also positive contributors to Pope Francis’s baseball team.
No matter the sport, having the familial connection adds significantly to their play.
“We know each other and we know our strengths, so we don’t really have to talk much,” Cam said. “We know what we’re gonna do. If we make a cut, we know we’re gonna make that cut, and we’ll make the pass — it just makes it easier.”
Being in the same house makes it less difficult to find a training partner. When school gets out and no Pope Francis teams are playing, the Vedovellis continue to push themselves.
“In the summer, we have workouts, and we try to get ourselves better. We start working on different things, like our weaknesses — like he needs to work on his dribbling a little bit and I need to work on my shooting,” Ryan said with a laugh.
Cam is a senior at Pope Francis, whereas Ryan is a sophomore. It is a cliché that the older brother is the younger’s biggest motivator, and the Vedovellis follow that stereotype in a positive manner.
“He always pushes me. He always wants me to do better. He helps me when I’m doing something wrong,” Ryan said. “He’s always there for me.”
Because of their age difference, the brothers were often on different teams. However, sometimes, Ryan broke the barrier.
“When he was in seventh grade, he started playing up with our Pope Francis team in the summer and fall,” Cam said.
They played together for Pope Francis in the off-season, and they were gleeful at the opportunity to be on the court for the Cardinals when it mattered most.
“I would say last year, playing high school [basketball] the first time with my brother — that was a great memory — just that bond,” Cam said.
The connection between the two has carried multiple Cardinals teams to successful seasons. The 2022 boys soccer team made it to the Elite Eight in the Division IV Statewide Tournament, and this year’s boys basketball team is 8-3 to begin the year — the eighth win coming on Thursday night over Longmeadow.
Cam started with the hot hand. On Pope Francis’s first offensive possession, he sank a 3-pointer from the right wing. Then, he hit another one from the same spot to make it 6-2. After that, he drained a corner three for the Cardinals’ seventh, eighth, and ninth points. Following that was another corner three, then a floater to make it 14-5 Pope Francis, with every Cardinal point coming from Cam Vedovelli.
Cam finished the first half with 20 in the scoring column. After halftime, it was Ryan’s turn. Pope Francis’s first five points of the second half were scored by Ryan, off a 3-pointer and a contested layup. Soon after, he took a charge that invigorated the team and its student section. Up 42-31, Ryan sank another three to extend a large lead.
However, Longmeadow came back to take a 57-56 late in regulation. With less than a minute to play, one of the Cardinals missed a three-pointer, but Ryan flung himself under the hoop to grab the rebound. His feet were not on the ground long after he got it, as he jumped from the right side of the hoop to the left and sank a layup for the lead.
The Cardinals had a successful defensive possession, and Cam was fouled. He had a 1-and-1, but hit both free throws. The Lancers responded with a free throw to make it 60-58, then fouled Ryan for another 1-and-1 with 10.8 seconds to play. Ryan made both at the charity stripe, and made it nearly impossible for Longmeadow to come back.
Thursday night’s game at the Spalding Hoophall Classic was exemplary of what has become familiar at Pope Francis. The Vedovellis are consistently a problem for other teams to deal with. Along with their wide skill-set, there is a connection between them that can only be built through brotherly love.
Photo: Braedan Shea/Springfield Student