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Nothing like the gym on a 90 degree July day

POSTED July 29, 2013
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson


                                 Nothing like the gym on a 90 degree July day


      THOMASTON – For the second week in a row the Thomaston High School gym is buzzing. And none of it has to do with summer cleaning, the sanding of the floor or any other normal school vacation activities.

            Despite the warm, sunny late July conditions, there is more of a December, January feel to the home of the Bears these days. The hum of activity and the sound of bouncing balls reverberate off of the walls as 30 or so young and older bodies work up a basketball sweat.

            The faces even have a winter feel to them. Thomaston High girls basketball coach Bob McMahon and one of his top lieutenants, the always ready to roll Tony Geraci, are in the house. McMahon, who has won three BL titles in four seasons and took his team to the Class S title game in March, did his thing last week.

            This week belongs to THS boys basketball coach Gary Franklin, who worked with McMahon last week at the girls camp, and who also has his aide-de-camp, A.J. Bunel, in mid-season form and intent of making some basketball players better players. Bunel looks somewhat surprisingly sprite considering he just got married and recently returned from his honeymoon.

            The camp runs 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with the morning session devoted to a combination of the big and small (and they come as young as six) while after a lunch break the afternoon session is for the older boys.

            With July hanging on for dear life and losing the battle this is still a day for running the sand through your toes and body-surfing the afternoon away. But, don’t tell that to Franklin. Every season is hoop season.

            “I’m ready to go now,” says Franklin. “I’ll be in the gym here looking at the banners with the Berkshire League schools listed on them  thinking about what players they lost and what players they are bringing back.”

            Franklin is a no-nonsense guy as is McMahon but they have the teacher’s touch with this stuff. They know with the younger ones especially it has to be a mixture of message and fun. The message Franklin is two-fold.

            “If you want to get better you have to practice and we spend time a lot time on fundamentals, ball handling, one-on-one moves and a lot of shooting drills, “ said Franklin. “I want these kids to improve and I want them to realize that they can’t stop playing. I don’t want them to leave here and then not pick up a ball until Thanksgiving. They need to play.”

            The fun part comes with doing things more game-related. Drills like dribble knockout where a host of players try to steal the ball from a dribbler elicit more than a few smiles. Other activities like seeing how many baskets can be made at one station before moving on also have the player’s attention.

            The afternoon gets a little more serious.  In Franklin’s words, “it’s a lot more high school varsity-type instruction. “More half-court drills and 5-on-5 scrimmages.

            On this day, in the steam of the afternoon, a few of Franklin’s recently graduated players, Andrew Stern and Jack Kelly show up to take part. A couple of McMahon’s current players, Sarah Guay and Morgan Graham are also suited up to join in the festivities.

            There are players from Thomaston, Litchfield and Wolcott Tech sweating away another rapidly disappearing summer afternoon in the non-air conditioned gym and not unhappy to be be where they are.

            For the afternoon guys it is December because that is what this is about. For many in the morning group it is about five years down the road, maybe 10. But is also about having some fun.

      Ask Franklin and a number of others hanging out on Branch Road in July. The gym isn’t a bad place to be at any time. Anyone for a little hoop and a lot fun?

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