There’s A New Game In Town
WILKES-BARRE — Basketball’s been good to Chris Shovlin and Dave Jannuzzi.
Shovlin was entering his senior year at GAR when he was selected to play at a week-long Nike All-America camp, where he shared the court with future NBA first-rounders Corey Brewer, Rudy Gay and Jordan Farmar.
Jannuzzi went from playing at local parks, to Meyers High School and Wilkes University, to professional arenas in Italy, Spain and London.
Years later, Shovlin and Jannuzzi are still very much involved with basketball, which brings them back to where it all started.
“This is the foundation of youth basketball in Wilkes-Barre,” Shovlin said last month from inside the Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
Here, the 32-year-old Shovlin and 40-year-old Jannuzzi are in charge of basketball operations.
That means running S&J Clutch Basketball Academy, a service that has Shovlin and Jannuzzi training 40 to 50 local kids on a regular basis.
The CYC will also soon be home to the Wyoming Valley Clutch, a semi-professional team owned by Shovlin and Jannuzzi that will play its inaugural season this fall in the ABA.
“Hopefully, we’re going to be able to fill this team with a lot of local standouts and a lot of high-flyers and guys from out of this area,” Shovlin said.
Tryouts began this weekend (starting Saturday and continuing 1 to 4 p.m. today) under the direction of head coach Jerry Rickrode, who coached Wilkes men’s basketball from 1992 to 2014 and had a career 382-191 record.
The Clutch will make its home debut Nov. 3, when it hosts the Philadelphia Cannons. While some details are still being worked out, one thing set in stone is that admission for students — elementary, high school and college — will be free.
“We’ll never charge youth to come watch us play,” Jannuzzi said. “That’s a huge reason why we wanted to start our own team and buy a franchise; to provide the youth of our area ... an opportunity to see high-level basketball on a professional level in our hometown for free.”
The Clutch has a good start on the court with Shovlin and Jannuzzi.
Shovlin scored 2,564 points in his high school career at GAR. He then went to Wilkes where he made an immediate impact for Rickrode, winning MAC Freedom Rookie of the Year.
Jannuzzi also played under Rickrode at Wilkes where he scored a school-record 2,132 points and played his way into its athletic Hall of Fame.
Don’t let Jannuzzi’s age fool you into thinking he’s lost more than a step or two.
“In times when I’m not focused on working out and playing basketball, I feel old,” he admits. “When I’m out there competing with guys half my age, I feel young and energetic because I have to, I guess.”
Members of the Wyoming Valley Clutch will be rewarded with paid contracts.
Given the involvement of Shovlin, Jannuzzi and Rickrode — three of the biggest names in local basketball — the hope is that the Clutch brings some excitement to the CYC and Northeastern Pennsylvania.
“I kind of grew up here, playing in leagues all my life — from 5 years old until I hit high school,” Shovlin said. “This is where I kind of grew up playing basketball and learning the game of basketball. It’s the foundation of youth basketball, as far as I can remember.”
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