The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

December 27, 2013

Special meaning to Medina-OP contest

BY KEVIN PRISE
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — When I checked out the Medina boys basketball schedule before the season, one game immediately jumped to the forefront of my attention. When I saw that game, I immediately smiled.

That game is tonight. Medina vs. Orchard Park, in the first round of the Pendleton Lions Club Tournament at Starpoint.

Why am I so excited for a matchup against Orchard Park? Well, I went to Orchard Park. My family and I moved to Orchard Park when I was four years old. I attended elementary school there, middle school there and high school there. I proudly gave a high school graduation speech there as senior class president, and the majority of my memories up until I left for college took place in Orchard Park. 

I also played a little basketball at Orchard Park — albeit not with much success. Believe it or not, I tried out for the JV basketball team as a high school sophomore after being cut from the bowling team. I had no expectations of making the team, but I had a decent week of tryouts, and I was thrilled to see my name on the final roster. 

Cut from the bowling team, and on to the basketball team. If anyone else has had the same experience, I would love to meet them.

Although I didn’t see the court much — I was one of the last three players off the bench —it was a great experience, and my winter on the basketball team was probably the healthiest few months of my life. I was the slowest guy on the team to start the season, but by the end, I was one of the fastest.

Our coach, Matt Lexner, was a character, and we loved playing for him. Sometimes we would do nothing but scrimmage in a practice, and sometimes we would spend 20 minutes practicing half-court shots.

We won our division that year with a 12-2 mark, but that was all for my playing career. My skills, although improved, were no match for the varsity level, and I gave bowling another go as a junior. I made the bowling team as both a junior and senior, but maintained my involvement in basketball as team scorekeeper.

Lexner is no longer the JV coach, neither is then-varsity coach Bob Rumschik. But I know current varsity coach Justin Abel from gym class, and I know JV coaches Greg Michael and Kyle Perla from high school. In fact, Kyle is my one of my best friends from childhood, and we get together multiple times a week to this day. (He joins me on the occasional J-R online sports show, when we discuss the Bills).

So when I make the drive up to Starpoint today to cover the Medina-Orchard Park battle on the court, I do so with conflicted interests. I have been lucky to build relationships with Mustang players, coaches and administrators over the last few months, and I have slowly but surely been building an emotional connection with the Medina teams. I invest a significant amount of my time now in Medina sports, and my interaction with Orchard Park sports now is admittedly limited.

But then again, Orchard Park is my hometown, my school, my team, and it always will be.

No matter what happens tonight on the court, it will be a pleasure to watch.

Contact J-R sports editor Kevin Prise at kevin.prise@journal-register.com.