Last week, Worcester Academy boys’ coach Jamie Sullivan gave his student athletes a day off. By “day off,” the coach didn’t mean to be at the gym under any circumstances.
However, Sullivan suspects that some of his players have searched high and low and eventually found a loophole to take advantage of the opportunity to get some extra work.
Work ethic is simply a survival instinct for players who compete in arguably the most competitive pre-school basketball league in the country and who dream of playing at the highest level of college basketball.
Despite a challenging schedule that often includes opponents who are sure to play big college basketball and perhaps one day turn pros, the Hilltoppers are off to a 9-4 start with a spell winning eight out of nine games.
Much of that success can be attributed to Sullivan, a graduate of Holy Name High, who keeps some of the top talents in the area close to home.
Worcester Academy is run by a host of local talent, including junior TJ Power and Kayvaun Mulready. Sullivan has known both players ever since they needed help tying their sneakers while learning how to play at Friendly House.
A Shrewsbury native who played two seasons at St John’s, Power is a high-level six-foot contestant who has performed well against the nation’s biggest competition.
“TJ has grown physically; he’s all six feet now and getting stronger,” Sullivan said. “He is no longer the biggest and strongest player on the field (as he often played against Central Mass. high school players), so he has learned how to adjust his game and what to do in situations. If he has a smaller man with him, he can use his post-up game. He has made big improvements in his handling of the ball, so if he has a bigger man with him he can take his own shot.”
Sullivan said Power has the ability to play in multiple positions but believes he will find his ideal in college playing small forwards. Power has also taken his game to the next level by matching with top players in practice and in games.
On Wednesday, Power and his teammates faced Wilbraham & Monson, a team led by 6-foot-11 star Kyle Filipowski, who will play for Duke next season and likely later in the NBA. The Hilltoppers lost 81-65.
Power’s growing list of suitors currently includes Iowa, Boston College, Georgetown, Miami, Georgia Tech, and Penn State, just to name a few.
Meanwhile, Mulready will also be busy weighing opportunities in Division 1 for years to come. Mulready has blossomed in basketball and beyond during his time at Worcester Academy.
“(Mulready) is young for a junior,” Sullivan said. “His game has grown as he has been playing against really good players since he was 14. The ability to play at that level – he had nine points in the league game as a freshman – has given him confidence. More importantly, he has made incredible progress made in the academic field.”
Mulready, a 6-foot-4 player with off-the-charts athleticism, was born to be a basketball player, you might say.
His father, the late Kevin Mulready, played at North High and was arguably the best player Inter-High has seen in the past 20 years. His mother, Trafficia Warburton, was a standout at Burncoat before playing for Anna Maria, where she earned several accolades, including first-team all-conference player and Defensive Defensive Player of the Year.
Mulready already has several Division 1 offerings, including from UMass and Iona.
The Hilltoppers roster also includes former Algonquin star Todd Brogna, a 6-foot-6 junior; Ryan Sulivan, an Auburn freshman; Shrewsbury freshman Mike Ellerbrook; Jake Blackburn of Southborough; Dylan Cote, a Boylston sophomore; senior Matthew Grniet from Oxford; and Gargey Suryadevara, a 6-foot-9 sophomore from Southborough.
“We’re trying to build around talented local kids and give them the opportunity to face the toughest competition while staying close to home,” Sullivan said. “One of the great things about having local children is the bond they and their families form with the children who come from outside the area. It really is a family atmosphere (at Worcester Academy). It’s nice for a kid from Switzerland, or LA or New York City to be able to go to a teammate’s house for a home-cooked meal.”
—Contact Tom Flanagan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tgsports.