The Springfield A’s-Summer League Legends
Before the “Big Three” in Boston, before the “Big Three” in Miami, before the “Super Team” in Golden State, there was the ultimate team… the Springfield A’s in Oreland, Pennsylvania’s summer league. From when I was a kid in 1996, to when I was a teenager in 2005; this was the best basketball team around. I was on the bench next to the head coach for every game. Fortunately, the head coach was my uncle Marc. He recently reflected on his great Oreland teams, “ Looking back now on those warm summer nights with a group of wonderful kids brings back memories of a special time and some fantastic basketball.”
My idea of a perfect summer night growing up: going over to my cousin’s before the game, riding over to the Oreland courts, doing the layup lines with the team, watching them dominate, and then going to Taco Bell with my cousins and uncle on the way home. My cousins Mike and Dan definitely put up better numbers at Taco Bell than on the court, as basketball wasn’t their best sport. They would go on to play D1 water polo at Princeton. My cousin Jake was a scoring point guard. Even if he didn’t score, he always kept that same mentality. In addition to my family who led the team in personality, the team was filled with great players from the area every season and some who went on to do big things at the highest level:
Central High’s Guard Sharif Bray- Scored over 1,000 points in his high school career. All-Public First Team, All-Public Second Team, All-City Second Team.
Wyncote Academy’s Forward Donald Wise- Scored over 1,000 points in his high school career.
Springfield Township High School’s Danny Kane- Scored over 1,000 points in his high school career.
Germantown Academy’s Jeff “Silent Assassin” Curtin- probably could have gone on to play professional basketball, if he wasn’t so busy dominating on the soccer field. He was a star at Germantown Academy, Georgetown and went on to play professionally for the Chicago Fire.
William Penn Charter’s Robby Kurz- Averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds as a senior at Penn Charter, then went on to put up big numbers at Notre Dame University and played in the NBA.
Nease High School’s Chet “Robochet” Stachitas- Averaged 24 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists as a senior at Nease H.S. in Florida and is one of their all time leading scorers with 2,505 career points. He also played on the legendary 2003–2004 St. Joseph’s Men’s basketball team that was undefeated during the regular season and featured NBA players like Jameer Nelson, Delonte West and Matt Carroll. That was my second favorite team ever.
William Penn Charter’s Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan- Current QuarterBack/MVP candidate of the Atlanta Falcons. You may have heard of him.
No matter what they had going on in their lives, when it came time to play for my Uncle’s teams, they were hoopin’! The opposing teams knew what it was when they played against us. They knew they were gonna get smoked, and it wasn’t gonna be close if we had all of our guys. Oreland’s outdoor courts added a certain rawness to the games too. There were no lucky bounces. On a double rim, you gotta take what’s yours and earn every bucket. Not to mention the three point line, which was basically NBA range, if not deeper.
I loved the game of basketball, in fact; there was a time before females, when the only things I thought about were food and basketball. Growing up in the greater Philadelphia area, I was constantly exposed to top-notch basketball, especially on the high school level. Still, I always felt that the best teams I ever saw were my uncle’s Springfield A’s teams and would put them up against any team any night. “One of my favorite teams to play on of all time. We played the right way!” said Sharif Bray. Donald Wise also added, “We had great chemistry because a lot of us played together in other leagues.”
In addition to the fact that the team was filled with big-time players, it was the way they played the game that made it special. No one had any agendas, no one wanted to be the man. They shared the ball and found the best shot. They really did play the right way. In a time before viral videos, smart phones and Twitter. These guys were as close to Must See TV as it got.
It was a joy for me to watch, and a joy for the players that played. Florida legend Chet Stachitas had this to say, “We had fun, but probably more fun because we were winning, and I think that gets lost in this day and age in youth sports. Being rewarded for winning is much better than the alternative, or being rewarded for simply partcipating.” On top of the fact that the team had so many great players, what made it even cooler was how they were all nice guys from great families. It was more like a family than a team in a lot of ways. They also treated me like I was part of the team, and I felt like I was. From Steph Curry’s Golden State Warriors to MJ’s Chicago Bulls to Bird/McHales Celtics to Magic’s “Showtime” Lakers to the great UNLV Runnin Rebels teams of the late 80’s and early 90’s. It is hard to say with any certainty what the best basketball team of all time was/is. But one thing is for sure, no one can deny the greatness of Oreland’s Springfield A’s-the summer league legends!
Here are some videos of some of the former Springfield A’s Ballin:
First up, is Jeff Curtin. He did get a double yellow and ejection while playing for the Chicago Fire. However, notice the closing speed and intensity. I would love to get kicked out of any professional game, in the league is in the league. Also, that ref clearly needs to get his eyes checked. Jeff Curtin is the truth!
Video Credit: MLS Archives. “Jeff Curtin Red Card.” Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, Sept. 16, 2016. Web. Jan. 11, 2017.
Here is a video of Sharif Bray with the silky handle and the buzzer beater:
Video Credit: ShootersTouch1. “Cheney All American Sharif Bray hits game winner and crowd goes BANANAS @ Danny Rumph Classic.” Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, Aug. 17, 2011. Web. Jan. 11, 2017.
Here is a video of Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan making it happen:
Video Credit: NFL. “Matt Ryan 331 Yards & 4 TDs! | Saints vs. Falcons | NFL Week 17 Player Highlights.” Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, Jan. 2, 2017. Web. Jan. 11, 2017.
Here is a video of Rob Kurz ballin:
Video Credit: nbadleague. “Rob Kurz, Call-Up #35.” Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, Feb. 21, 2013. Web. Jan. 11, 2017.
Here is a video of Jake Kind and I in Jamaica two summers ago:
Video Credit: Destination South Coast Jamaica. “PMBL Treasure Beach Basketball Camp 2015 Highlights. Yeah Coach!!” Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, Aug. 31, 2015. Web. Jan. 11, 2017.
Last, but certainly not least. Here is a video of Chet Stachitas playing in the And1 season 3 PMBL All-Star Game at the Palestra. After the five minute mark is when most of Chet’s highlights are:
Video Credit: PMBLeague. “And1 Season 3 PMBL All-Star Basketball Game Highlights July 6, 2012 at the Palestra.” Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, Jul. 9, 2012. Web. Jan. 11, 2017.