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Northport’s 1995 LI championship teammates raise money to rebuild court

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Five men are looking to help rebuild a basketball court that helped shape them as young basketball players.

Those same men went on to capture an LI hoops title in high school.

The five starting players of Northport High School’s Long Island Championship-winning 1995 boys basketball team have reunited to raise money for the Cow Harbor Park basketball court.

The group — Doug Trani, Chris Wiebke, Greg Dunne, Rob Sanicola and Thomas Radman — partnered with the Eaton’s Neck Youth Basketball organization, a nonprofit that will accept donations, to renovate the court.

With a goal of $50,000, a GoFundMe page has been created to install two commercial-grade tempered glass backboards, rims and poles, refinish and repaint the court’s surface with new markings, and to purchase or construct new benches.

The old team reconnected over Zoom last winter, Trani said, and conceived and presented the plan to the Village Board this past summer. They agreed to name the court in honor of John Kennedy of Northport, a community-involved basketball coach who”was always an encouraging person for all of us and someone that we always looked up to.”

“Here we are, 26 years later, the same guys that were able to accomplish the goal of winning the championship, are putting there heads together again to do something to give back to the community that supported them when they were kids.”

Halfway there

As of Aug 26, the nonprofit and the five champs have raised just more than half the money they are seeking before their Sept. 19 Cow Harbor Day deadline.

Many benefactors submitted donations in the hundreds and even thousands.

Kevin O’Neill and Richard Dolce, the owners of the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, donated $7,000 and have pledged to raise an additional eleventh-hour donation. The proceeds of two performances of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s musical, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, held on Sept. 16 and 17, will be donated to the GoFundMe.

“The community support has been incredible,” said Trani, the captain of the ’95 team. “Everyone thinks it’ll be a wonderful spot for kids to use. And, you know, those adults who don’t want to hang ’em up can use the court themselves.”

school days

Trani, still a Northport resident, recalls forging lifelong friendships with several future teammates on the park’s court during their middle school days.

“You could get on your bike as a kid, head down to the court and meet up with your friends, spend the day down there,” Trani said. “Grab a piece of pizza, play some basketball. Get some ice cream, play some more basketball. And by the time the day’s over you’re heading back home to wake up and do the same thing the next day.”

Back then, the court was fairly new. Since then, Trani, has watched the court deteriorate.

“The baskets are old, the rim is unforgiving,” he said. “It doesn’t have any give. So it’ll withstand anyone dunking on it, but there’s better baskets out there that are resilient and can make it more of an enjoyable experience for people to play on.”

While not all of his teammates are in the area — or even on the island — Trani said many former teammates are passionate about the project because the court laid the foundations for their futures.

“Basketball has touch our lives and it stays with us to this day,” he said. “We are all somehow connected to sports and basketball. There are a lot of guys on our team currently coaching college, high school or youth basketball. So it makes it really special that 26 years later, the love for the game is still there.”

Top: Photo credit, Michelle Trani