Fitch basketball players to test waters in New York event

When Jay Bills drives by outdoor basketball courts in Groton, he's bothered by what he sees, or doesn't see.

The courts are usually empty, according to Bills.

Bills, a 1998 Fitch High School graduate and former player, would like to drum up more interest in the sport that he loves.

So he's taking some members of the Fitch High School boys' basketball team to the House of Sport in Ardsley, N.Y., this weekend to participate in the 2013 BasketBull High School Shootout.

"I hope if they do well, then you'll get more kids that are willing to play hoop," Bills said. "I love basketball. I just want kids to like basketball. When I was growing up, I'd go to the park and kids would play all day. It's not like that anymore."

Fitch is one of 12 high school teams from Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York playing in the two-day, double-elimination tournament. Bills, a former AAU coach, is coaching the team because rules prevent Fitch coach Alick Furtick from working with his Falcons during this time of year.

"I didn't want the kids to miss out on a tournament when they could play against higher caliber teams than local tournaments," Bills said. "I wanted to see what they could do, and if that helps them, that would be great."

Games start at 10 a.m. today. Fitch will compete in the Open Varsity Division, opening up against Springfield (Mass.) Cathedral. Other teams involved include: White Plains, N.Y., East Longmeadow, Mass., West Springfield, Mass., Somers, N.Y., Harrison, N.Y., and Career of New Haven, which reached the Class L quarterfinals last winter.

Cathedral features 5-foot-9 guard Darrick Boyd, one of the top rising juniors in Massachusetts.

Coaches from the Division II, Division III, junior college and prep school levels are expected to attend.

Furtick, who was hired last month, is happy his players are competing in a quality tournament. He's still in the getting-to-know stage with his team, holding just one introductory meeting so far.

"I'm still trying to figure out who's who and who played last year and who didn't," Furtick said. "I'm not going to have a grasp until the meeting in the fall."

Bills, who coached Fitch in a summer league two years ago, is glad to help the kids out.

"I didn't want the kids to miss out on some good solid play," Bills said. "I have no doubt in my mind that (Alick) is going to do well at Fitch. I didn't want them not to have a coach to bring them there. That was my goal."

g.keefe@theday.com

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