Rick Nault needed a high-intensity, high-energy counselor for the young group at his recent camp.
The Central Catholic basketball coach’s choice was a simple one. He went with the kid-at-heart, the Raider with the widest smile.
“It was great to get him, too,” said Nault about his co-captain, recent graduate Doug Gemmell. “He’s so good with the little guys, let me tell you. He’s one of them himself. It was a terrific thing to see.”
It was only months ago that Nault wondered if he’d ever see Gemmell smile. A concussion suffered on Jan. 29 against North Andover sent Gemmell into a world of pain and anguish.
“It was scary and it got pretty bad,” said Windham’s Gemmell, now 18.
“I’m an active guy, not being able to active was terrible. I’d get headaches all day and by 8 o’clock at night, I was ready to fall asleep. It felt like it went on forever, and I had no idea when it was going to be over.”
Central, at the time, was deep into a heated Merrimack Valley Conference race, with the madness of March and the state tournament just around the corner.
Five days later he attempted to give his mates a lift, showing up at St. John’s for a huge rivalry game. Maybe his presence could spark the team.
He didn’t make the opening tip.
“Coach Mac (assistant Kevin McCarthy) saw me on the bench and knew I had to get out,” said Gemmell. “It was so overwhelming. I left before it started, and then we lost. It was pretty terrible, too.”
That loyalty to the team continued to gnaw at Gemmell.
With the conference title on the line, he gallantly tried to play in Lowell (a loss) and was back at practice the next morning, but he wasn’t right.