It had all makings of a lame Christmas newspaper column.
For North Reading High basketball coach Joe Casey, maybe Santa could bring a 6-foot-4, skywalking transfer with elite grades.
Only it really happened.
Christmas came early for Casey when John Mastascusa transferred to North Reading from Malden Catholic during the summer. He had made all-conference as a junior in the tough Catholic Conference and was a member of the National Honor Society at MC.
Casey said, “He just fell into our lap and I couldn’t be happier. ... I used to joke with his dad (about him transferring.) Then I got the call in June. It was a pleasant surprise, to say the least.”
Even before Mastascusa came aboard, the Hornets were optimistic they’d have a big year. But with him, they went from promising to historic. They powered through the regular season unbeaten and were 21-0 until falling to Wayland in the Division 3 North semifinals. The 21-1 record tied the best in school history, which was set in 1977.
Of the surprise move from MC, Mastascusa said, “It was tough schedule-wise. It was a 30-40 minute ride every day. I never really had time to get my homework done and have three square meals. I’d get home at 9 p.m. and then have to study. It was a really tough decision after being there three years. It was tough to break those ties but easy coming back to the people I know in North Reading.”
He clicked from the start.
Casey explained, “With his addition, it took pressure off some of the other kids. Last year we expected some kids to do too much. We didn’t have a go-to guy. He was our go-to guy.”
They went to him enough for him to win Cape Ann League Division 1 MVP honors. He averaged 12.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.5 blocks a game.
Mastascusa estimated he had more than a dunk a game including four vs. Lynnfield. That memorable game he accomplished something few players in CAL history ever have done: slamming home a rebound.
“He has tremendous athleticism,” said Casey, who lost a similar type athlete when budding superstar Kyle Lentini transferred to Pingree two years ago. “He can jump through the roof.”
That athleticism also shows up in spring track. After making the 13-player All-Catholic Conference team last winter, he was a force in track, placing second in the Eastern Mass. Division 2 Meet in the javelin (174-9) and fourth in the high jump (6-0).
Mastascusa, who is widely known as John-O, followed his brother to MC. His brother, Domenick, is averaging 5.3 points for 26-2 WPI.
John-O, who scored a 1,980 on his SATs, has been admitted to WPI and is waiting on Tufts and RPI. He plans to study engineering.
His philosophy on his academics is straight forward.
“I make sure I do everything right,” said Mastascusa, whose sophomore brother, Cullen, is the scorekeeper for the Hornets. “You have to work eventually.”
Coaches and athletic directors can send Moynihan Scholar-Athlete nominees to Michael Muldoon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the program
The scholar-athlete program is sponsored by Moynihan Lumber and The Eagle-Tribune. ADs and coaches nominate seniors who should be all-star caliber athletes and ranked in the top 25 percent of their class. At the end of the school year, one boy and one girl are honored at a banquet and will receive a $1,000 scholarship.
Last month nominations were submitted by: Andover (girls basketball), Central Catholic (girls track), North Reading (boys basketball), North Andover (wrestling, girls track), Pelham (boys basketball), Pinkerton (boys hockey) and Wilmington (girls track).