A special group coming together at St. Pius

The St. Pius V boys basketball team. (COURTESY PHOTO)

LYNN — Over the next couple of years, a new crop of young basketball players will burst onto the North Shore high school basketball scene. And there’s a decent chance that at least a few of those players will all come from one Catholic school in Lynn.

The varsity boys basketball team at St. Pius V School has gone on a serious run this season. With 10 eighth-graders on the 12-player roster, St. Pius V used its experience and athleticism to roll to a 12-0 record in the regular season. As coach Paul Greaves puts it, this has all come together over the years.

“I’m just really proud of how the guys have played this year,” said Greaves. “I’ve been coaching a lot of these guys for years now, and I’ve really seen them grow over that time both as players and as people. It’s all come together this year and it’s been a lot of fun so far.”

And while the success on the court is certainly nice, it’s success in the classroom that is pushing a number of these players to even higher heights.

Topping the list of notable student-athletes is Orvis Nijika, who has been accepted into the Garrity Scholars Program at St. Mary’s High School. The most prestigious award St. Mary’s offers, the Garrity Scholars Program is a four-year, full tuition scholarship program given to just 10 students each year. The scholarship covers full tuition and mandatory fees for four years.

“Orvis works really hard on the court and in the classroom, and he’s earned everything he’s gotten,” said Greaves.

Another group of student-athletes — Aidan George, Michael Anderson, Henry Azzun and Dominic Greaves — were named St. Mary’s Scholars. These merit-based scholarships are based on the students’ strong academic record, leadership potential, and high scores on the high school entrance exam. The program offers these students special enrichment opportunities as well as merit scholarships during their time at St. Mary’s.

Aside from Nijika, these players are still deciding between a number of high school options. Some of the players hope to attend St. John’s Prep, while Dominic Greaves has been offered a scholarship to Bishop Fenwick as well. The student-athletes have until March 15 to decide where they will attend in the fall.

“This is a pretty big decision for these guys, because basketball won’t define them in life,” Greaves said. “What I want to instill in them is intensity, toughness, compassion and wisdom, not just in basketball but in life. I try to teach these guys as much as I can before they go and give them the tools to make good decisions going forward.”

But there’s still basketball to be played for St. Pius V, who’ll compete in the North Shore Catholic Elementary School Basketball League (NSCESBL) playoffs next week as the No. 1 seed.

“We’re a good team, and we always compete hard on defense,” Greaves said. “We’ll always be right in the game, and as long as we can knock down some shots I think we can go a long way.”

Greaves also notes that this playoff run will provide key experience for his players who plan on continuing to the next level.

“I don’t think any of these guys have been in these kinds of situations where it’s the playoffs and it’s a one-and-done scenario,” said Greaves. “So I think this will provide some much-needed experience for them as they start to take the next steps in their basketball careers. These guys will probably be playing in the playoffs once they get to high school, so any experience now can only help.”

St. Pius V will take on Our Lady of the Assumption (Lynnfield) in the NSCESBL semifinals next Thursday (5:45) at Immaculate Conception School in Newburyport.

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