TORRINGTON >> In along area history of basketball families, the Pergolas – Dean, Sherrie, Luke, Brie and Leah – are the latest to hit the spotlight with the emergence of Brie as a freshman mainstay for Torrington High School’s girls team and Wolcott Tech senior Luke just 41 points away from the Wildcats’ 1,000 career points list.
As usual for such families, the background runs deep.
Those who are amazed at Brie’s confidence and poise as a freshman shouldn’t be surprised to know she’s been playing AAU basketball since the sixth grade. She’s been a member of the CT Attack AAU team, based in Hartford, for three years. This year’s schedule has the team traveling to play against similar state age-group all-stars in Pennsylvania, the Junior Nationals in Washington, D.C., Long Island, Rhode Island and, of course Connecticut.
And, oh yeah, Dean, Brie’s Dad, is the coach.
That’s where the roots start to dig in.
Parents Dean and Sherrie preceded Luke at Wolcott Tech, class of 1987.
They were high school sweethearts, so, after playing basketball for just her freshman year, Sherrie watched Dean play a high school career in which the Wildcats qualified for the state tournament in three of the four years they were at Tech. Dean average 21 points a year as a senior and nailed 39 points in one memorable game.
Was he the star of the team?
“I think he was,” laughs Sherrie.
Twenty-seven years later, Luke is the undisputed star of this generation’s Wildcat team. Averaging 24 points a game through the first 13, Luke, too, hit 39 once this season.
“My senior year was the first year for the 3-point rule,” says Dean in a conversation with the whole family. “I hit something like 7-for-11 three-pointers for my 39. Luke got there with just one.”
Dean’s pride comes from his dual roles as Dad and a coach, the latter dating to Luke’s days in PAL basketball, where Dean, a teacher at Wolcott Tech, started coaching with an in-house team, then moved up to the travel team. Currently, he coaches the Torrington High School boys and Wolcott Tech boys in the summer league, along with AAU and an eighth-grade PAL team.
“Eric Gamari and I are friends and we follow the same system,” says Dean. “No matter what the level, my coaching philosophy is to stay with the fundamentals and all the other things will flow into that.”
Dean’s coaching assessment of Luke is a good example.
“The key points of his success are control, balance and strength,” Dean says. “He goes to the line a lot because of that. He’s become a student of the game with a lot of basketball IQ.”
The irresistible question is whether Dean, 6 feet and recovering from hip replacement surgery, and Luke, a burly 6-1, have played against each other.
“Yes, but it didn’t work out too well,” laughs Luke. “He kept his reputation for outside shooting, but he’s too slow.”
“(Luke) could be a little faster,” says Dean.
Brie, on the other hand, seems to have inherited her mother’s speed as a 5-8 guard who can shoot past defenders on drives to the hoop.
Who won childhood sibling matchups between Luke and Brie?
“I did,” Brie laughs.
Her combination of size and speed presents serious matchup problems for NVL defenders. She still comes off the Torrington bench, but her eight points a game through 11 this season make her the third highest Red Raider scorer after Caroline Teti (11.7 in 13 games) and Paige Middleton (8.5 in 13).
Tuesday, in a close showdown loss at undefeated Holy Cross, Brie was Torrington’s high scorer with 13 points.
Despite Tuesday’s loss, Torrington is sailing through a 12-4 season.
“At the beginning of the year, I was a little scared to go into games. I’m a little more comfortable now,” she says.
And, despite Brie’s claims for victory in childhood driveway games, Luke is a fan.
“She adjusts for the team she’s playing with,” he says. “At Torrington, they need a scorer. In AAU, they need a facilitator.”
Luke’s job with 5-8 Tech, in a league with truly fearsome city schools like Career and Capital Prep, is to be an all-around leader.
“I just go out and do what I do,” he says. “I try to work real hard and help the team.”
Beyond his scoring, Luke’s 7.4 rebounds a game, along with 2.1 assists and 2.2 blocks shows that what he does is pretty good.
Luke takes a course at Wolcott Tech that lays the groundwork for a major in electrical engineering in college, with no plans for basketball.
At the other end of the Pergola spectrum, eight-year-old Leah, too, has a few doubts about her continuing basketball career.
Leah plays on a PAL team on Saturdays that’s not coached by her Dad, but, so far, her first love is gymnastics.
“We get to do fun stuff,” she says.
Still, there’s hope for Torrington and/or Wolcott Tech fans.
“(Saturday basketball) is just fun,” says Leah. “We get to play some games.”
“The kids are doing so well, it’s been a lot of fun this year,” says Sherrie, enjoying her hectic role as a fan in the midst of basketball on every side, with a touch of gymnastics.