SCRANTON, Pa. — The sounds of buzzers and sneakers. Some of the best, local high school basketball players are back, much to the delight of the 6’8’ center from Pocono Mountain West, Christian Fermin.
"It honestly feels great," Fermin said. "This is an opportunity that a lot of kids don’t have right now due to the coronavirus, but we’re blessed to be able to have a gym that’s open and have a team that’s ready to play."
That gym is Backcourt Hoops at Riverfront Sports in Scranton and that team is NEPA Elite, the area’s brand new AAU program – eight teams total, with talent up and down the floor on the under 17 boys roster.
"It’s definitely a lot of competition, but it’s also the times I have with my friends out there," Wyoming Seminary senior center Ethan Meuser said. "We got my man, Christian (Fermin) over there. I’ve finally got someone on my team taller than me. He gives me such great competition every day."
"I’m hoping to get as much exposure as possible," Fermin added. "Get myself out there to some college teams that are wanting to talk to me and play some good competition to make a name for myself.”\
Something he can do, playing in the Hoop Group Showcase League, one of the premiere AAU circuits in the Northeast – and NEPA Elite founder Kevin Clark is taking every safety precaution to join the competition.
"Per PIAA guidelines set forth by the state, kids do not need to wear masks while actively participating, but we do require temperature checks with our thermal camera, practice social distancing," Clark said. "We do our best to sanitize and disinfect the basketballs.”
"It’s really all out trusting our teammates, knowing that if we are exposed, we’re going to be honest with each other and it’s about sanitizing, washing your hands, doing all the things that the guidelines say," Fermin added.
So Fermin and his new teammates can play between the sidelines.
"They still need to get recruited," Clark said. "They still need to develop their skills, play basketball, stay active. Our goals don’t change. If we can do them or achieve them safely, we’re going to continue to try to do so.”
Thanks to those efforts, this U17 boys team will get to play their inaugural game next weekend. The following weekend is their first AAU tournament at East Stroudsburg University. The U17 girls team gets their first tournament that weekend in Manheim Township.