BY Nate Rubinstein
Versatility is a characteristic that many high school basketball prospects lack. The ability to play as either a leading scorer, or a role player, depending on the team’s situation, does not come easy.
Players must be willing to do whatever it takes to win basketball games rather than focusing on their individual performances. Joe Kasperzyk, a rising senior at Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Connecticut, is a perfect example of a player who is able to transform into any type of role on the hardwood.
Ranked No. 12 in Connecticut’s class of 2017 by New England Recruiting Report, Kasperzyk plays with Expressions Elite, a powerhouse AAU team from the New England area that competes in tournaments across the country. The program has had over 30 players since 2009 that have competed at the DI level, and a couple players that went on to play professionally.
There is a shift in talent when Kasperzyk leaves his Hillhouse Academic squad at the end of the March, and begins running with the Expressions Elite. At Hillhouse, the 6-foot-1 guard is noted as the star player, taking on majority of the scoring load. As for Expressions, Kasperzyk is turned to more for his defensive talents.
“When I am at Hillhouse I feel like I have to do a lot of stuff,” Kasperzyk said. “With Expressions I have a special role, focusing on defense.”
The speedy athletic guard has two DI offers on the table, with one being from Sacred Heart University and the other from Iona College. With the early understanding of what a role player means to a team, Kasperzyk knows that when he steps onto a college campus, he will need to do what his team asks of him.
“I know that when I step into college I am not going to be ‘The Man’,” Kasperzyk said. “I am going to have to play my role, and do what my coach asks me to do.”
Last season, the Academics were victorious over Weaver High School in the class LL final, beating the Beavers 94-83 in double overtime, but that is the past, and now the Hillhouse team is focused on defending the state title. In fact, Kasperzyk and company has already begun their training for the 2016-2017 campaign.
“We (Hillhouse) have gotten back in the gym,” Kasperzyk mentioned. “We have been doing a lot of conditioning to get ready for the season.”
CIAC teams will have to highlight Hillhouse again this year, as they have nearly everyone returning from last year’s roster. Christian Adams, Tyler Douglas and Byron Breland III are a few of the names that create the Hillhouse nucleus, along with Kasperzyk.
The versatile Kasperzyk will continue to receive interest from college coaches as the AAU season wraps up, and he begins to primarily focus on his last season in a Hillhouse uniform.