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Hometown Heroes: Local players share experiences playing at Hoophall

By Daniel Curren

Patrick Crenshaw – East Longmeadow

Being from the area, what does it mean to you to play at Hoophall Classic?

You know, being born in Springfield Massachusetts and being a current resident, I used to come to these events all the time, and in my last year it’s a pleasure to be able to finally play on this playing field. It means a lot.”

Patrick Crenshaw (2) on the court against Longmeadow High School at Day One of the 2022 Spalding Hoophall Classic presented by Eastbay. (Joe Arruda/The Student)

Do you have a favorite memory of attending this event?

Yeah; I saw Jalen Green go for like 30 points, and the crowd was packed. I saw LeBron James… it was crazy, but this is now my new favorite memory.”

You had a couple of clutch threes towards the end of the game to secure the win for your team. How did it feel to play that kind of role on this stage? 

I was missing a couple, but shooters shoot and I couldn’t keep my head down because that’s not what’s best for the team. So, my point guard, Ray Carter, gave me the ball. It was an open look and I knocked it down. Twice.”

What are your goals for this season? 

We still have a long season ahead of us. We just take it day by day, going to practice, and we’re grateful to have the opportunity to be here, especially last year since we couldn’t play like that. We’re going for the Western Mass Championship and then we’re gonna fight for states.” 

Sam Fleming – Springfield International Charter School

Going to school in this area, what does it mean to you to play in this tournament?

It’s very exciting. This is my first Hoophall so I’m really excited to play in it. Really excited to have won MVP my first time.”

Sam Fleming (44) dunks on Baystate Academy on Day One of the 2022 Spalding Hoophall Classic presented by Eastbay. (Joe Arruda/The Student)

As a freshman, you’ve had a tremendous amount of success early this year. What do you attribute that to?

I want to thank my coaches, really. They push every single time. If I’m not running hard, not laying the ball up, not dunking the ball every practice, not making practice exciting, not finishing when I’m not shooting well, they help me do all those, so I’m really happy for them.”

How has the pandemic affected your life as an athlete? 

“At first, it was really bad. I was stuck in the house for a month or two. Then everything started slowly opening back up, so I was going for jogs to build my stamina back up. Hoops started getting put back up, gyms started opening, so I went to the gym as much as I could because you never know, basketball could shut down tomorrow, so I gotta take every single chance I can.”

William Watson III – Springfield Central

Going to school in this area, what does it mean to play on this stage? 

We’re just out here having fun, showing our city what we can do, but also for people from down south and further up north in New York or New Jersey who think we can’t ball easily. We have talent here. We’ll show them.”

William Watson III moves down the hardwood against Putnam High School on Day One of the 2022 Spalding Hoophall Classic presented by Eastbay. (Joe Arruda/The Student)

Two years ago, your team was 22-1 and had just won the state semi-final game before COVID shut everything down. How heartbreaking was it not to compete for the state title? 

Ahh man, I felt bad for the seniors. We told them we were gonna do it for them. We get there, and they shut it down. I’m glad everybody got to go to college and get other opportunities, but we wanted that as a family to go prove everyone else on the eastern side of Mass. wrong.”

Since this is kind of the first real season since then, and for those of you who were there on that team, how have things changed since then, and how determined are you to get back to that point? 

We came up as underclassmen; we didn’t have to talk a lot. We just listened and played our games. But now, we have to take on that leadership role. I’m going to have to talk more, Joe Griffin Jr. has to talk more, and we have to lead this team to a state championship again.”

Why did you decide to continue playing basketball as a top football recruit? 

Coaches love multi-sport athletes. I grew up playing football, basketball, and running track all my life. I’m just doing me, but coaches love to see that, especially football coaches. Should be seeing a couple of coaches here tomorrow to watch us play Bristol Central. Pitt and UMass will definitely be here, and who knows who else is showing up.”

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