Why aren't college coaches recruiting T-More's Kyle Carlesimo?
Montville — Watching college basketball now comes with a level of amusement, challenging yourself to see if you hit the first media timeout before the inevitable clinking, clanking collection of errant shots almost makes you salute what a wonderful indoor track team these coaches have assembled.
The prisoners to athleticism and hostages to the transfer portal are missing the story of Kyle Carlesimo, the leading scorer this season at St. Thomas More. He is the 6-foot son of a coach with scant college offers, despite shooting range to the restroom, basketball IQ befitting someone considerably older and a Clorox-like toughness that is going to make the one coach smart enough to take him look even smarter.
First, the name. Yes, it's THAT Carlesimo. Kyle is the son of the great P.J. Carlesimo, who needs no further introduction. He found his way here from Seattle, where the family lives. Nobody who watches him can figure out why this kid, who had 26 points, eight rebounds and one turnover in 34 minutes the other night against hyper-athletic Putnam Science Academy, doesn't have a college offer as yet.
Put it this way: If Jere Quinn says to recruit the kid, why would you argue with a 1,000-win, multi-championship basketball deity who is a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame nominee?
"The first thing you love about Kyle is the person," said Quinn, the 40-year coach at T-More. "It's coaching an adult. A kid who understands basketball because he sat around his dining room listening to his dad talk about what the guys who play well do — and what the guys who don't play well do.
"A coach's son. A competitor. Great teammate. Straight 'A' student. That being all said, there's a lot of those kids. But this boy can shoot the damn ball. And when you can shoot the ball, that makes up for a lot of ills."
Carlesimo is shooting 54 percent from 3-point range this year, despite T-More's highly competitive league. As Quinn said: He's guarded most nights by Div. I players whose coaches are well aware of Carlesimo's range. He gets open anyway. And makes them.
"The way the game is going, if you make shots, there's a place for you in college basketball," Quinn said. "So many people are into athletes who can't make a shot. It's amazing. I watch UConn play. They don't have anybody who can make a shot. There's got to be a balance, I believe, of athletes and shooters.
"We've always tried to create a meal. Like if you're at Tony D's. You start with calamari. Then you've got the bread, the salad, the pasta Bolognese and the chicken parm. But so many basketball programs just have chicken parm and Bolognese. All the same kids."
If the rest of college basketball is chicken parm and Bolognese, Carlesimo is the Tiramisu. And who wouldn't want that? Plenty, apparently.
"I've heard it all," Carlesimo said. "I've heard, 'all he can do is shoot' and 'just leave him in the corner' and 'he's only playing because he's a coach's kid.' It makes me laugh.
"I feel like I've played so much and watched so much. I've seen the highest level up close. I know the work that has to get put in. I'm not the most athletic by any means. So I have to know where to be on the floor. I have to give myself an advantage. If I'm not in the right spot, I'm putting myself at a disadvantage."
Then he smiled and said, "You know, I'm more athletic than I get credit for. I'll dunk in warmups. Maybe not during the games."
Here is an observation made to Carlesimo and Quinn, both of whom had the forum here to dispute it: Is Carlesimo the victim of basketball stereotyping, that a 6-foot white kid must not be able to play in today's game?
Carlesimo: "It's definitely part of it. But I just keep working. It puts a chip on my shoulder."
Quinn: "One hundred percent, there's a stigma. A lot of those kids are in Division II right now because everybody's looking for athletes."
Meanwhile, St. Thomas More benefits from a young man with a famous basketball surname and notable basketball skills. Maybe there's some enterprising Div. I coach out there who can extract his eyeballs from the portal and take a shot on this kid.
"My old high school coach said you've got to be comfortable being uncomfortable," Carlesimo said. "Plus I trust the work I put in. I love being here learning from coach Quinn. My dad said he's the best in the business. It would be a missed opportunity not to be here."
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro
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A 1974 Fitch High School graduate, Scott Budner made the trip back to the area on a free day from his job as pitching coach for the Albany Tri-City Valleycats, an independent league team in Troy, N.Y.