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Ray Duckler

Ray Duckler: It’s time to bring Pembroke back into the fold

Pembroke Academy needs allies quickly, before basketball schedules are submitted sometime this summer.

Anyone willing to extend an olive branch to this beleaguered program and play the Spartans next season?

It’s time. Time to lay down your arms and declare peace, time to withdraw the boycott directed at the boys’ basketball program, time to allow the punishments already administered to serve as a deterrent.

Anything more is a flagrant foul that makes our state look petty, the equivalent of a full-court press with a big lead. It’s called piling on.

Right now, two of the public schools in Manchester have agreed to play Pembroke, and that’s it. The rest of the Division I schools won’t budge because of a recruiting scandal that began last year and is far from over.

Two players, suspected of transferring for athletic purposes, were

declared ineligible to play for Pembroke last season. A third player is appealing the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association decision to forbid him from suiting up next season.

And it’s been years, actually, since the state’s basketball community began looking at Pembroke with suspicious eyes. Ever since Coach Matt Alosa took over eight years ago.

Matt and his father, Frank Alosa, work together coaching the Granite State Raiders, an elite AAU program that stresses fundamentals, encourages year-round practice, promotes itself as a possible path to college ball and emphasizes a drug-free lifestyle.

The Alosa surname has been synonymous with fire and basketball for decades, dating back to Frank’s playing days at Bishop Brady. His coach then, the late Frank Monahan, called him an “assassin.”

Frank is our Bobby Knight, a coach whose passion for winning sometimes rubs people the wrong way.

Frank coached at Franklin High, where his winning ways packed the gym, but his confrontational manner irked the school administration. He groomed Matt from a young age to handle a basketball like a magician; oversaw the recruiting process that led to Matt’s scholarship at Providence College, where Frank openly questioned Rick Barnes’s coaching style; clashed with University of New Hampshire Coach Gib Chapman after Matt transferred to UNH; and has turned the Raiders into a nationally known institution that draws talent from across the state.

But like everything else Frank has touched, controversy followed him to the AAU landscape. Coaches far and wide have long accused him of funneling players from his Raiders, whose rosters are not limited by boundary restrictions, to Matt-led Pembroke, which, like all public schools, has an enrollment based on a specific school district.

Some believe Pembroke has gotten what it deserved this year, while others think the school is being targeted unfairly.

In the end, both sides have a point, because there are more shades of gray connected to this controversy than in the recent best-selling book.

Is it fair to believe Raiders players who live outside the Pembroke School District and later move to the area and play for the Spartans are influenced by the Alosas, even if neither says a word?

Is it fair to believe that personal problems could lead to a family split, and that a parent may choose to move to an area in which the student feels comfortable, which, thanks to the AAU, happens to be Pembroke?

Is it fair to think that the NHIAA should have no say in determining where your child goes to school? Or that the NHIAA needs to serve as a watchdog so education remains the priority over athletics? Or that a Pembroke player who won a prestigious award this year justifiably had it stripped because he tweeted profanity, aiming it at another team? Or that the same player was unjustifiably punished because he plays for the state’s bad boys, Pembroke Academy?

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.

Those following this saga have been critical toward all involved.

Matt and Frank Alosa are guilty of creating this recruiting conveyor belt. Mike Readron, Pembroke’s headmaster, is guilty of allowing Matt and Frank to run wild. Pat Corbin, the executive director of the NHIAA, and his eligibility committee are guilty of coming down too hard on Pembroke, partially because, frankly speaking, they don’t like Frank.

In the end, we all know who will be hurt if this scheduling boycott remains in place: kids.

What’s the goal here, the purpose of denying Pembroke the right to play? With the sanctions and negative publicity and investigations in place, Pembroke already paid the price and should have a full schedule for 2014-15.

The Division I coaches and principals who voted to avoid Pembroke should have thought this through more carefully.

Or Corbin should have flexed his muscle and told them that this isn’t the way to go.

If you want to teach Pembroke a lesson, folks, beat them on the court. Run up the score, if that makes you happy. Beat them in a tournament game in Durham, in front of 2,000 fans at Lundholm Gymnasium.

But don’t shut them out.

You’re giving us a bad name.

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or rduckler@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @rayduckler.)

So often kids are punished when adults cannot agree. I do not know enough about all the incidents but it does seem to be a continued practice. Adults should be able to resolve this with NHIAA reviewing the bylaws and making sure the rules are better defined as a organization that members throughout the state run they have that power. Pembroke has heard the complaints for years and looked the other way. Realize that D2 schools were not planning on playing them because of the perceived violations. Not taking the responsibility and working as a partner in NHIAA has lead them to be banished. Responsible adults within Pembroke should step up and change the way there program views the rules and why everyone is upset. If done so in good faith I am sure the invitations to play would be received before the next season. Yes I feel sorry for the boys that will not be able to play. The boys that grew up in the district, went to recreation leagues and now will not have a high school basketball experience because they could not play as well as some of out of towners . Come on adults fairness is easy once communication begins.

Having followed NH Basketball for over 35 years in NH, this is the largest issue in basketball the state has ever had to deal with. The Alosa reputation is mixed, as pointed out in the article. The solution that will get Pembroke Academy & the kids the opportunity to play a schedule is simple. Remove the adults who are to blame. All of them. Pat Corbin is already on the way out as he is retiring. The Pembroke administration in Mr. Reardon & Athletic Director Klink need to step down, and Coach Alosa - and his staff need to move on. All of them have played a role in creating this mess and they all need to go. Let these kids play. To the parents who believe that the AAU experience will lead to the magical scholarships, just look at the track record of the Raiders program, and the other large AAU programs in NH, of overselling their kids and program. Most of the Raiders AAU players do not get scholarships. The ones who do almost always, not all players, but most end up transferring to smaller programs. This is high school basketball. This is not AAU. Get a high school coach.

Yes, schedule. This is an adult problem and should be fixed on an adult level, because after all, it was created by adults. It is more a symptom of the monetary interests that govern sports and the excess cost of college, filtered down to aspirations at the high school level. Make college accessible and less burdensome. Return sports to being a part of the college experience, and not its ruler. That will go a long way to ending things like this.

"If you want to teach Pembroke a lesson?" I believe the NHIAA is doing just that. Teaching Pembroke to follow the rules that the rest of the state has to follow. An olive branch will be extended as soon as Pembroke Academy stops accepting transfers from the Raiders. One question still remains; if Pembroke has such a great coach then why do they need transfers? I hope the NHIAA stays strong and keeps the integrity of all NH sports programs. Peter Welch

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