By Tom Robinson
Kathleen Rose has been around basketball for much of her life, but she points to the spring of seventh grade, when she first joined a JB Hoops AAU team, as the time when she began taking the sport more seriously.
The connections formed with several players that have remained teammates over the past five years made for an emotional day when Rose played her last JB Hoops game during a tournament in York in the first weekend of June.
“I knew it was going to be sad, but when coach (John) Bucci came over to me and said ‘thank you for the many years here’, I actually started to cry a little bit,” Rose said during an interview at Backcourt Hoops. “Then, when my teammates, after the last game, all came over and gave me a hug, it was just really sad knowing I was not going to be on the same team with them again.”
Rose has joined Hannah Smith, Lisa Tallo, Victoria Toomey, Gianna Delfino, Gracie Guarino and Morgan Haefele each spring as they have built friendships and teamwork at JB Hoops while developing their skills to become key players on successful teams – sometimes going against each other – on the high school level in the winter.
In that first spring together, Rose found something special.
“I think just my whole seventh-grade year was my favorite at JB Hoops,” she said. “I met my best friends. They’ve stuck with me for five years and we’ve become very, very close and our coach, Corey Valvano, pushed us so hard.
“It was an amazing experience. We all individually got to be so much better basketball players and better people and that’s what coach Bucci did, too, he pushed us to be the best versions of ourselves.”
Rose, who last week completed her junior year at Scranton Prep, will still get in some games with her high school teammates in local leagues this summer. Other commitments, however, meant she went into this knowing her AAU season would stop before the JB Hoops Bucci/Carra team played its final tournaments in July.
A hectic summer schedule includes an upcoming trip to Germany with other members of the Scranton Prep class of 2019, followed by a charitable service trip to South Dakota.
Backcourt Hoops and JB Hoops owner Bucci agreed to the partial final season with the team in an arrangement that was made prior to the season.
“I can’t thank her enough for the dedication she’s shown to the program,” Bucci said. “She’s been here a long time.”
Rose first came to Backcourt Hoops to play in the Green Ridge League as a youngster on a team coached by her father, Tim.
The 17-year-old still can find plenty of basketball opportunities within the family, including 2-on-2 games among siblings in the driveway behind their home in the Green Ridge section of Scranton. Timmy, home from Binghamton University where he plays NCAA Division I basketball for the Bearcats; younger sister Rachael, an all-state high school player and Kathleen’s teammate at both JB Hoops and Scranton Prep; and 13-year-old Patrick provide the competition before she heads off to Backcourt Hoops, Scranton Prep’s Xavier Center or other area gyms.
Tim and Kathy Rose have five children, including Kathleen’s older sister, Maddie. Kathleen’s basketball background and support extends wider in a family that includes her aunt Missy Rose-McTiernan, a captain of a University of Connecticut national championship team during her playing days.
“There’s definitely always basketball going on in our house,” Kathleen said. “My brother just came home, so we’ve been out playing. … I went to a lot of his (Binghamton) games this winter; my whole family did.
“And, all of my aunts and uncles and grandparents come to our games during the school year and even now, too, so there’s always some kind of basketball going on.”
The time spent in and around the game has helped create a versatile, knowledgeable player who takes pride in trying to lead the way for her teammates.
When Scranton Prep needed a point guard in Kathleen’s sophomore year, she ran the team’s offense. When Rachael took over that role last season, Kathleen moved to the wing and served as the team’s second-leading scorer while frequently taking on the most important defensive assignments.
“I’m very comfortable now defending whoever the coaches put me in to defend,” said Kathleen, who defended all five positions at some point during Scranton Prep’s 2017-18 championship season.
Bucci appreciates that part of Kathleen’s game.
“I never really considered her to be a position as much as a basketball player,” he said. “That’s why she was so good in our program. We try to get them to believe that they are a basketball player that plays a lot of positions rather than a position player that plays basketball.”
The coach said he can always count on Kathleen to lead by example.
“She plays the game the right way,” Bucci said. “When she was younger, sometimes she would take things a little too personal and lose focus, but as time went on, as she matured and grew as a player, she became a leader and someone the kids look up to.”
Kathleen takes that role seriously and is now in a position where she’ll be a returning senior starter on a highly regarded team looking to defend titles and possibly climb to even loftier accomplishments.
“I really hope that I’m a leader on the court,” she said. “I hope that I encourage my other teammates.”
The senior year at Scranton Prep could be Kathleen’s last shot on the basketball court. She is unsure at this point whether she will be able to coordinate basketball with her planned nursing studies in college.
The Classics are coming off a special season in which they had one of two unbeaten records within Lackawanna League play, won a District 2 championship, reached the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class 4A state quarterfinals and ranked second among District 2 teams in all classes in wins with a 25-3 overall record.
Kathleen earned honorable mention from NEPABasketball.com on its Lackawanna League Division 1 all-star team.
“I knew we were going to develop into a good team,” she said, “but I didn’t think we’d be as good. I was extremely happy with the way the season went.”
Summer’s commitments will keep Kathleen’s life as varied as her game is on the court, but she’ll find her way back onto the court at Scranton Prep, working with her other set of teammates toward a common goal.
“We’re all excited to go back,” she said. “We really can’t wait ‘til the season starts.”
The trip to York – her last as an active JB Hoops team player – gave Kathleen cause to assess what she has shared with her basketball teams and what she hopes remains ahead.
“I was really happy with what JB Hoops and Prep have given to me,” she said. “I think I’ve gotten a lot better from the coaches here and the coaches at Prep. I’m hoping my senior season is one to remember.
“I’m sad that my last season of AAU has ended. It was a great run and I had a lot of fun, but I’m hoping this continues, because my sister is in JB Hoops now and I hope she has the same experience that I did.”