By Mark Kitchin
The boys basketball players at Hanover Park have been learning a lot more than setting screens and knocking down jump shots this summer. Raising funds for a team trip to Orlando this December has made the Hornets busy on and off the court.
The Hanover Park players have raised more than $8,000 so far and have been putting all of their efforts in an August 12th golf outing at Brooklake Country Club to earn the bulk of their $30,000 goal.
“The girls softball team always goes down to Florida,” Senior guard Matt Geisser said. “People in the community know the sports teams raise a lot of money but not this many people. We are going to try.”
Varsity boys basketball coach Todd Hartman has often considered taking his Hanover Park team on a trip over the years. This is the first time the Hornets coach has felt he had a group that he believed was dedicated and mature enough to handle the challenge of funding a holiday basketball trip.
“Four of those guys had been playing full time varsity since they were freshmen,” Hartman said. “I have seven seniors on the team and I just thought that this group is a group that has earned the right to take a trip like that. I knew it was the right kind of makeup of kids. They are the kind of kids that will go out and knock on doors. They will go out and organize some fund raisers. I’ve had some teams in the past that I loved and were good teams but maybe weren’t those kind of kids that were going to stand out in front of a “Stop ‘n Shop” with a can or hold a hose for a car wash but these kids are willing to do anything.”
Although it might mean bringing up to 24 players and as many as 30 individuals total including coaches and chaperones, Hartman did not want the trip to be a varsity-only event.
“It was important that when I had the first meeting that I had varsity and jayvee go,” Hartman said. “A lot of kids will see the writing on the wall – if I’m not going to be on the varsity why should I fund raise. To me it really is a program trip and if we couldn’t pull it off for both teams I didn’t even want to consider doing it.”
The teams would play their games at the ESPN Zone in Orlando and stay at an All-Star Sports Resort in Disney between December 26-31. They are assured four games often against teams from around the nation which also make the trip to play opponents they wouldn’t normally see. There is also one day on the itinerary dedicated to enjoying the sights at Disney.
Although the competition is usually good, the trips are often sighted as team bonding and unity experiences that they would not experience at home.
The Hanover Park program has increased in size and has generated a tremendous amount of support over the years. They have three teams in all. Last year the Hornets kept 22 freshmen, five on varsity, six on jayvee and 15 on the freshman team.
“They were closely matched and we didn’t want to let any of them go,” Hartman said. “They say if you get 50 percent of the freshmen to come back as sophomores you are doing pretty good. I think we got all but two back from that freshman group.
“My assistant coaches must be doing a good job because the kids want to play at those levels and play for me. We think basketball is important and we have kids now that think basketball is important. The school is embracing it.”
The team’s dedication was easily witnessed at the Morris Knolls Summer League this July. Hanover Park had two teams in the twice-a-week league and often seemed to invade the Denville gym as if it had its own army. The Hornets won the league title last year and reached this year’s final four.
“We have a lot of young kids trying to prove themselves,” Hanover Park senior point guard Emmet Simmons said.”They are trying to win a spot on the varsity team this year.
“It takes commitment. A lot of hard work. A lot of time. I think everyone is committed to that.”
Just as they have been committed to the fund raising. The players held a car wash themselves as well as gotten local businesses. They had a pancake breakfast at a local Appleby’s. At a Chipotle Grill night the restaurant donated 50 percent of its proceeds. Kathy D’s hair salon was very generous. The stylists donated their services and even added a celebrity into the bargain.
“For five hours they gave 100 percent of the proceeds,” Hartman said. “I tried to tip for my haircut and they put that in the jar. They had Tracy Dimarco who is on “Jerseylicious”, who is a Hanover Park graduate. She gave autographs and was giving (haircuts) and stuff.”
Hartman is thankful for the program’s parents which continue to generate interesting ideas to raise money and provide enough enthusiasm to make their schemes successful, It’s uncertain if the fund raising efforts will broaden the players’ business experiences as well as their basketball ones, but the Hornets are being kept pretty busy this summer. Even if they end up paying some of the trip’s costs themselves once December comes, the experience has been worth it.
“It’s fun to do these things,” Simmons said. “We are with our team all summer pretty much, so why not.”
Note: There are still spots open for the August 12th golf outing. There is also a chance for business to sponsor golf holes and for a fee golfers can hire their favorite HP hoop players as caddies for the day. For more information check the teams’s website at HPbasketball.org.