When Ryan Scago joined the local Knights of Columbus, he took a look at the list of charitable events in which the organization was involved. One that stood out was the group's annual basketball foul shot competition, which is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at 1 at the St. Joseph's High School gymnasium.
Scago, a 2005 St. Joe graduate who recently received his diploma from Albany Law School, thought it might be a good fit.
Scago? Basketball? A good fit? Yeah, I think so too.
Ryan Scago is the son of Frank Scago Jr., who if you use the words iconic or legendary, still come up short when describing the imprint he made on the Berkshire County sports landscape. The elder Scago, a 1965 St. Joe graduate, is fourth on the all-time scoring list in Berkshire County boys' basketball. He trails only Sedale Jones of Pittsfield High, 'Tank' Roberson of St. Joe, and Chad Misiuk of Hoosac Valley, all of whom took advantage of the three-point shot.
Ryan Scago is trying to put some energy back into the foul-shooting event. It is, by his own admission, somewhat of a "vanilla" enterprise whose history with the Knights of Columbus dates back to 1972. But that's no reason for the area to send fewer than a dozen youngsters to the St. Joe gym, which Scago said was last year's count.
The event is for ages 9 through 14, with the younger kids shooting from a lesser distance than their older friends. Ball size will be appropriate to the respective ages, and best of all, the event is free. All who participate will receive a certificate and get to attempt 15 shots.
The Knights of Columbus actually produced a state champion last year, when Pittsfield's Lexi Mercier emerged as the winner in the age 11 division. Scago said there's no reason the turnout this year shouldn't be strong. The youth leagues at the Boys and Girls Club are booming -- there are more teams than available coaches -- and there is no NFL playoff game Saturday afternoon to keep mom or dad home.
The free throw, Scago said, may not be the most exciting play in basketball. But it's a select few who are willing or want to be on the charity stripe with the game on the line. Practice now and be a high school hero later.
Come on, kids. Give it a try and see how you stack up. If you do well, then great. If not, you know what to work on.
Information: Scago (413) 822-3501 or Jack Lavolette (413) 442-3527.
A generation of yore remembers Frank Scago Jr. throwing down bombs from all over the court. They were, of course, deuces and not treys no matter what the distance. But the great Scago was no shrinking violet at the free-throw line.
In the spring of 1965, in a contest played at the neutral site that was Wahconah Regional in Dalton, St. Joe faced Adams High in an extra-game tiebreaker that would decide the Northern Berkshire League crown.
Favored Adams fell to St. Joe, and it was Scago who sealed the win by going 16 of 18 at the foul line. Ryan Scago said it was one of many aspects of the game that were stressed by his dad to he and his brother, Frank, both of whom played for St. Joe.
It's hard to believe that Frank Jr. has been gone almost four years now, as leukemia took him at age 62 in March 2010.
The Scago family is doing well. They now own Jilly's ice cream on Elm Street and open seasonally, Frank, meanwhile, has his own plumbing and heating business locally. And while Ryan contemplates a future in commercial law, he's currently on the Pittsfield High basketball coaching staff, which is under the direction of head coach Steve Rae.
"I'm a friend of Steve's," said Ryan, who addressed the allegiance switch -- at least in basketball -- from St. Joe to PHS. "The first time we played St. Joe we lined up on the opposite side of the gym from what I was used to. But other than that, it's been an awesome experience."
And what does he tell the PHS players about taking foul shots?
"Breathe and concentrate," he said. "And my dad used to tell me to focus on the front of the rim. Just get the ball over the rim, he'd say, and the ball will softly bounce in."
So, folks, why not softly bounce over to the St. Joe gym on Saturday and bring the kids. Have proof of age, a good attitude and a sharp eye.
Who knows? There might be another Scago among us.
Brian Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.