The Day's All-Area Boys' Basketball Player of the Year: Old Lyme's Aedan Using
Aedan Using, much like Johnny Cash — he’s been everywhere, man — could have left. Heck, he’s lived in Spergau, Germany. Oslo, Norway. Other European outposts. And so this aspiring academician and basketball player, the quintessential candidate for prep school, could have mimicked his past and left little Old Lyme High School for somewhere else.
But he stayed.
Because that’s pretty much what you get with Aedan Using, who does loyalty from habit, not reaction.
“Old Lyme is a great place,” Using was saying recently. “I love my teammates and coaches. I didn’t think I needed prep school to find a college I liked (he’s headed to Brandeis). Academically, we’re one of the top public schools in the state. For such a small school, everyone is so close. Everybody supports everybody else. I never had a bad teacher.”
Using, the centerpiece of Old Lyme’s Shoreline Conference championship team, is The Day’s 2020 All-Area Boys' Basketball Player of the Year. He averaged 20.5 points, 11.1 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 3.3 blocked shots per game, was named the Shoreline Player of the Year and would likely have led the Wildcats to Mohegan Sun and a return to the Division V championship game before the coronavirus ended the season early.
Using’s mother, Carina, met her now ex-husband Sergej while they both attended the University of Alaska. Carina, a teacher, was in grad school and met Sergej, who would play later professional basketball throughout Europe.
“After the divorce, I thought we’d move back to Colorado (she attended the University of Colorado) but my mother and grandmother moved to Connecticut,” Carina said. “My grandmother (Cecelia “Lubs” Brown) was a tomboy before that was an accepted thing. Actually one of the first female golfers in Connecticut. I moved here to take care of her. By that point, Aedan was rooted in Old Saybrook (where he attended school through fourth grade). He had gone through a lot with the transition back to America.”
Carina Using worked three jobs and saved for a house. She found a fixer-upper in Old Lyme. Aedan Using found his home.
“One of the most loyal kids I’ve ever seen in terms of his friendships,” Carina Using said. “The seniors on the team this year are the same kids he began playing with in fifth grade. They embraced Aedan with open arms. He got some Division I offers. But he said, ‘Why would I reclassify at prep school? What if I don’t want to play D-1? I’m not going to the NBA. The reason you’d be owned by a school and focus more on basketball than education is if you think basketball is going to be your career. I don’t see it that way.’”
Aedan Using’s friendships at Old Lyme weren’t confined to classmates. He’ll have lifelong relationships with his coach, Kirk Kaczor, and principal Jim Wygonik.
“Coach Kaczor has meant the world to me,” Aedan Using said. “He’s a lot of the reason I’ve been able to be successful. Always tried to push me. Always had faith in me. Pushing me never to settle. He’s been great.
“And Mr. Wygonik likes to make fun to me. I don’t dress particularly formal most of the time. He likes to make fun of my sweatpants. He’s the best. I love him. Always really good with all the teams. He makes our school the best place it can be.”
Kaczor was nearly dismissed as Old Lyme’s coach two years ago. Aedan Using and his teammates spoke on his behalf at a Board of Education meeting. Kaczor was reinstated. And the Wildcats honored their coach with runs to the state title game last year and with a conference championship this year.
Using and his classmates truly believed they’d be hoisting the state title trophy at Mohegan Sun this year. They learned on a Tuesday in March the tournament would not be completed.
“I didn’t really think there was a possibility the season would be canceled,” Using said. “No one prepared us for that. We thought maybe we’d be playing with no fans. I was actually in Mr. Kaczor’s statistics class when we found out. He let me go on a walk. All the basketball players found each other in the hallway. There were a lot of tears. I wish we had closure in a better way. It was so abrupt. But at this point, you kind of want to look forward. I’d like to look back on all the great games we have and the championship we ended up getting, not the one we couldn’t.”
Now he’s off to Brandeis, a Division III school in one of the best leagues in the country. Old Lyme and Aedan Using: the perfect marriage.
“I’m an educator. We can pick everything apart,” Carina Using said. “The only emails I’ve ever written to teachers or the administration is ‘thank you so much.’ Jim Wygonik is an outstanding human being. I don’t know how he does what he does.”
Aedan Using would say the same about his mom.
“It’s just me and her,” he said. “Always has been. She’s been everything. She’s all I have. The best.”
The Day's All-Area Boys' Basketball Team
Player of the Year — Aedan Using (Old Lyme)
Ajia Brown (Fitch)
Mason Jackson (NFA)
Xavier Marquez (NFA)
Jared Martin (NFA)
Ryan O'Connell (Waterford)
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