Basketball booster club starts scholarship fund for seniors

Booster club raises $500 for each player in first year of initiative

Special to the Sun (Tracy McNichols): The Clearview Regional Boy’s Varsity seniors, left to right, Dan Sullivan, Marco Piccone, Alex Soriano, and Jimmy Heise

As the seconds tick off the clock of another high school basketball season, the Clearview Regional High School boys team can be sure the community enjoyed watching it play.

This year’s Pioneer squad was led by four seniors: Jim Heise, Dan Sullivan, Alex Soriano and Marco Piccone.

All four are planning to attend college next year. The team’s booster club, now in its sixth year, started a scholarship fund to assist the young men with higher education expenses.

Sherri Piccone came up with the idea before the start of the season after looking into similar scholarship funds at other schools. Piccone’s son is a senior on the team.

Tracy McNichols, a mother with a sophomore son on the varsity team, is playing an imperative role in making sure the fund gains traction and continues to grow. McNichols’ son Justin has hopes of playing basketball in college.

For the first year, the booster club aimed to offer $500 to each player to go toward whatever the young man may need as he begins college.

“Whether it be for books, gas money or whatever, we want to make sure they have a little something,” McNichols said.

The money is coming from local businesses and organizations.

“It means a lot. It means people are seeing children in the community succeed, and $500 is a lot of money to help them,” she added.

McNichols is confident the scholarship will continue to grow, and, eventually, the booster club may hand future seniors more than $500 to get started in the next chapter of their lives.

McNichols stated any extra money will be placed in an account for the following year.

Rob MacKerchar, the team’s coach, said, “The booster club has been amazing. Our parents have been so creative and dedicated, and they enable us to do things as a program that I’d never be able to do myself.

“Seeing these four young men go off with a head start on college is so deserved and so enriching, and it’s a tradition that speaks to the development of people more than basketball. I’m incredibly proud of Jimmy, Dan, Alex and Marco, and this tradition just reinforces the pride we all have in them.”

In a heartfelt reflection of his time coaching the boys, he had much to say about each player.

Of Heise, a player he considers a “program-first kid,” he said, “He’s naturally unselfish and never once has a bad thing to say about his team or teammates. He’s a loyal, hard-working player, and he’ll be missed next year.”

Of Sullivan, a player who made the move from Kingsway to Clearview, MacKerchar said, “He immediately fought hard to earn a spot on the team and with his teammates. He fit in naturally with the group we already had in place… Whether it is begging me to keep the gym open for some extra jumpers or watching some extra film to prepare for a game, Dan does whatever is needed to make himself a better player. Off the court, he’s a great student and better person, and he’s been a joy to have this year.”

Soriano missed a year of play due to injury and had to fight his way back into the starting lineup.

“He never complained and he never spoke out of turn,” the coach said. “He earned a captain’s role partway through the season because he set an example for the younger players. He’s picked teammates up who didn’t have rides, driven out of his way to get them home, and is probably the toughest player we have in the program. Watching him grow from a sophomore player two years ago into an outstanding player and man this year has really been a pleasure.”

Piccone is a booming voice on the team and, according to MacKerchar, is quite the role model. “Marco is the heart and soul of this team. Everyone respects him, everyone listens when he speaks, and everyone tries to emulate his actions. When the team is dragging, Marco makes them step it up. If someone hangs their head, Marco picks them back up. He is absolutely everything that I could have hoped for in a captain and leader, and although it will hurt to see him go, I smile about what I know he’ll accomplish and how much better our program has become for having Marco in it. I’m forever indebted to him.”

The Pioneers first playoff game was scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 27 against Atlantic City. Check for results.