Michael Crotty Jr. is thrilled that his Middlesex Magic 17U team went 21-1 and won three tournaments in July. He takes a greater deal of pride in the way his program is perceived on a local and national basis.
“I think what we did in July is a testament to us having a great group of guys who are more focused on winning than individual success,” Crotty said. “We’re very proud of what these young men did because it’s something our program has never done before.”
The Middlesex Magic is near and dear to Crotty’s heart. His father Mike started the program 25 years ago with a basic formula of having fun and using basketball as an avenue to get a better education. When he suddenly passed away in February of 2010, the younger Crotty was quick to assume the mantle.
In many ways, Crotty is the poster child for what the program is supposed to represent. An All-Scholastic guard at Belmont, Crotty went on to do a postgraduate year at Exeter (2000), before embarking on a prolific career at Williams. A two-time Division 3 All-American, Crotty led the Ephs to the National Championship in 2003.
“All I’ve wanted to do was pick up what my dad started,” Crotty said. “He laid the blueprint and we’re just trying to continue his tradition, work hard and make the program better every day. I think my dad would have been very proud of this team.”
The Magic captured the Orlando Prime Event, Hoop Group Showcase League and Big Apple Showcase events, while reaching the finals of the Hoop Group Summer Jam Fest. Several of the key players are well-known throughout the MIAA hoop circles, including a trio of Boston Herald All-Scholastics in Tommy O’Neil (St. John’s Prep), John McCoy (Mansfield) and Danny Yardemian (Belmont) as well as Patrick Mogan (Xaverian), Mykel Derring (Brighton/Proctor Academy) and Jay Dieterle (Franklin/Rivers).
“I’ve always known about the program,” Yardemian said. “This is my second year with the Magic and playing with them has really opened doors for me. To get a chance to work with players like Thomas Shaughnessy, Patrick Connaughton and Cormac Ryan has been great.”
The Middlesex Magic has sent more than 350 kids to college (including current pros Pat Connaughton and Duncan Robinson), many of them due in large part to their play during the AAU season. The recent NCAA ruling limiting college coaches from seeing kids play more than one weekend during the red-hot July period strikes a nerve in Crotty. He feels that many of the AAU programs are paying a price for a few bad apples.
“I know that in this day and age coaches can always find a way to see games via live stream and things like that, but there’s nothing like being able to evaluate in person,” Crotty said. “We’ve always been a program that provides an opportunity for these players and the NCAA limiting this is a detriment to great programs around the country that do it right and are doing it for the right reasons.”
Crotty points to John McCoy as a perfect example of someone who benefited from a summer of being able to compete in front of college coaches on a regular basis. He arrived in the spring as a player looking at Div. 3 and prep schools and performed so well that he wound up getting a scholarship from Delaware.
“Kids like Johnny are the ones who will really be hurt by this new ruling,” Crotty said. “He comes in with no scholarship offers, played very well and caught the eye of Delaware coach Martin Ingelsby who loved the way he played.”
No one was more surprised than McCoy. Fresh off leading Mansfield to the school’s first Div. 1 boys basketball title, he wasn’t sure what his next avenue was.
“I really didn’t have any offers when I came to the Magic,” McCoy said. “The big thing was the exposure I got from playing with the Magic. Getting a Division 1 offer is something I never really thought was possible.”
Whether the NCAA eventually decides to relax its ruling on coaches remains to be seen. Crotty said he will continue to run the program in a manner that would make his father proud.
“We’re going to continue mission that my dad started and that is to use basketball as a way to learn life lessons and earn the ability to get a great education,” Crotty said. “The Magic has expanded its reach and footprint while adhering to the same principles that my dad founded the program on.”
Mike Crotty gives a short scouting on several members of his tournament-winning team.
Tommy O’Neil (Vermont Academy/St John’s Prep) – The tournament MVP put an exclamation mark on a remarkable season and an outstanding July. He had 28 points and 15 rebounds in semifinal win over NY Rens and 22 points and 13 rebounds in championship game win over ITPS. The centerpiece of a group that loves to share the ball on offense and stay connected on defense, O’Neil led the team to a 47-6 overall record.
Danny Yardemian (Belmont) – The Belmont point guard was a catalyst for the Magic all year long, mixing his signature drives to the basket with long range jumpers and creating for his teammates. His ability to push the ball and create plays in the open floor was a constant problem for the opposition, and his on ball defense stifled opposing guards all year long.
Johnny McCoy (Mansfield /Tilton) – McCoy showcased his plethora of guard skills throughout the season for the Magic. He drilled threes, attacked the basket at will, and always guarded the opposing team’s best player. He showed his knack for making a big shot or big play in the biggest moments throughout the season, and he is the Magic’s first college commitment in the class of 2019 with a pledge to Division 1 Delaware.
Jay Dieterle (Rivers) – The Rivers guard delivered back to back double figure scoring games in the semifinals and finals in Orlando. Dieterle hit from beyond the arc and slashed to the basket with great success. It was his ability to get big rebounds on both ends, including the final one of the championship game victory, that proved most important.
Patrick Mogan (Xaverian) – Mogan was charged with the task of guarding nationally ranked big men Kofi Cockburn and Oscar Tshiebwe in the semifinal and finals in Orlando, and the 6-foot-8 big man was up to the task. He showed his great ability to play smart, tough post defense and his timing on blocked shots. He averaged 11 rebounds over the weekend and was the backbone of the Magic defense.
Mykel Derring (Brighton/Proctor) – It seemed every game Derring came in and immediately gave the Magic the offensive pop they needed. Hitting and average of three trifectas per game during the championship run, and mixing in attacks to the rim and pull-up jumpers.
Rhett Carter (Milton Academy) and Conor Gibson (Noble and Greenough) – Two longtime Magic players who consistently provided exactly what the team needed off of the bench, and often finished games. Carter’s rebounding and scoring and Gibson’s athleticism and versatile skill set were keys to the Magic’s success.
Here is a video of Middlesex Magic, courtesy of Andrew Bronstein