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.