NEW HAVEN – Joey Kasperzyk remembers watching four of his teammates at Woodstock Academy signing national letters of intent last fall to play basketball at Division I schools.
“I had to step up and work harder to be where I wanted to be. That (watching those signings) helped motivate me,” Kasperzyk said.
Several months later, there Kasperzyk was, not at Woodstock Academy, but at the friendly confines of the Floyd Little Athletic Center where he authored many an impressive performance while wearing the uniform of the state’s most successful CIAC championship boys basketball team.
Kasperzyk, the former Hillhouse High standout guard, signed his own National Letter of Intent Wednesday morning to play at Division I Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island. He verbally committed to the Bulldogs’ program on April 5.
“I wanted to show my (former Hillhouse) teammates that anyone can do it if you put in that hard work,” said Kasperzyk, who said he didn’t have any Division I scholarship offers before taking a post-graduate year at Woodstock Academy.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Kasperzyk, now 19, said he has put on 13 pounds of muscle in his time at Woodstock Academy. The strict workouts and the exposure helped improve his stock.
“We were playing in front of so many college coaches. A lot of the games were packed,” Kasperzyk said.
But it’s the passion Kasperzyk has displayed on the court that caught the eye of Jared Grasso, the new head coach at Bryant.
“Joey is a kid who plays with a lot of passion,” Grasso said. “Passion and emotion, you can scale them back when you need to. Kids who don’t have that never get it. I like kids who play with emotion and passion. It means they love to compete. I’m a passionate person.”
Kasperzyk, a two-time Register All-State selection and three time All-Area pick at Hillhouse, said when he verbally committed that he also had offers from Manhattan and St. Francis (Pa.), but he has had a connection with Grasso since he attended a summer camp at Iona College before his junior year at Hillhouse. Grasso, a former player and assistant coach at Quinnipiac University, was a longtime assistant at Iona before taking over at Bryant.
“He offered me (a scholarship) right on the spot,” Kasperzyk said. “He was always interested in keeping up with me, keeping in touch.”
Grasso confirmed that scholarship offer was indeed made. Grasso was officially introduced as the new head coach on April 2. His first phone call was to Woodstock Academy coach Tony Bergeron to mention who he wanted to award his first full scholarship to.
Grasso drove to Woodstock three days later and Kasperzyk became his first commitment.
“I love the fact that Joey has played for winning programs,” Grasso said. Hillhouse won back-to-back Class LL state championships at Hillhouse and helped Woodstock win over 30 games this past season.
“The first thing that jumps out at you is his competitiveness,” Grasso said. “When the lights go , his game goes up another notch. I need kids with toughness and who expect to win. Those are the guys I want in the program. I love winners.”
Kasperzyk will play either guard position. Grasso said he “wants a team of five playmakers on the floor and he is a playmaker.”
That will also include forward Patrick Harding, the former Fairfield Prep standout. The 6-8 Harding is spending a post-grad year at Suffield Academy and was signed by the previous regime at Bryant. But Grasso indicated he is glad to have Harding in the fold.
Kasperzyk and Harding were once AAU teammates. Now they get to spend their collegiate years together.