METHUEN – First-year head coach Blane Gann couldn’t have been blunter.
“These boys certainly didn’t come to PMA for the basketball,” said Gann. “So we have a long, long way to go.”
The trek might be long, arduous and daunting, but Presentation of Mary Academy has made the move. A little over a year since the school invited boys into its institution, the Panthers boys are in the game, competing on an official sub-varsity schedule for the 2012-13 season.
“We are the first, and hopefully we do a good job with this,” said Danville, N.H.’s, Patrick Gallagher, a 17-year-old junior. “Being the first, we don’t want to stink. We want to set the example for all the teams to come. So there is responsibility, and maybe even a little pressure there.”
Gallagher came to PMA seeking the unique, small-school experience. To him, basketball was a major bonus.
“I hadn’t played in a long time, and I love basketball,” said Gallagher, one of the taller Panthers in the program at 5-foot-10. “Other than music (playing mostly guitar and a handful of other instruments), it’s my favorite thing to do.”
Basketball tryout week at Massachusetts and New Hampshire high schools try even the most savvy, stable high school ballers.
Suicides (four-stop full-court sprints) are run. Defensive slides are shuffled. And hearts are torn apart at cut-down time.
For the first-time ever for boys on the PMA campus, it happened to them, with a little bit of a twist.
“Let me tell you, I have made things tough on all these kids here, but they remain enthusiastic and excited about it,” said Gann, who spent time in coaching at both Dracut High and most recently at Nashoba Tech.
“So many of them are just learning about the game right now, and they just want to absorb as much as they can and get better. They’re attitudes have been sensational.”