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Something is brewing well south of Boston

August 19, 2012 Columns No Comments

SOUTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. – Well south of Boston and still a good drive from Providence, the South Coast seems an unlikely spot to be a hotbed for basketball in New England. It’s an area that at first seems most important as a gateway to the vacation spots on Cape Cod. While no city in this region will make anyone forget New York, D.C., Chicago, Atlanta, or any of a number of other cities with big-time reputations in basketball, New Bedford and surrounding cities might come to mind even less than others. But there is something brewing in this area.

New Bedford is an area that has not been immune to the basketball bug over the years. It is where former Northeastern forward and current Missouri assistant Dave Leitao grew up. It was also home to Marcus Wills, who later was recruited by Leitao to Northeastern before later playing two years at Maine. The city has seen other notable talents as well, and nearby towns have also had a few come through. So it’s not exactly a stranger to basketball. If it becomes even more than that, chances are Steve Burgo and his facility and organization will have something to do with it.

The Complex is the name given to the Burgo Basketball Association’s home in South Dartmouth. Consisting of five basketball courts, two volleyball courts and more to come, it came about at a time when New Bedford didn’t have lights near a court, allowing for basketball at night. That all changed for Burgo, the founder of The Complex, when his son had an encounter one evening with a drug dealer one night. His son never believed he would build a basketball court, but that happened within two weeks.

The rest, as they say, well, isn’t exactly history – but it was the beginning of something. Burgo founded a league in the summer of 1994, wanting to provide a safe place for the kids to play. Its humble beginnings might now seem like a distant memory, what with 84 teams in a kids league, a college womens league and a high school boys league, to go along with instructional leagues for kids as young as six years old. For that matter, former Georgetown star Reggie Williams comes every summer, and former Boston College star John Garris works out there regularly.

Burgo was once an executive at Sears, but this is his life. In fact, his wife is very much a part of things as the treasurer, and the kids respect her not unlike they respect Steve. If he knew he could have pulled this off when he was younger, he would have done it in a nanosecond. He has had to fight many battles, including with the town, to make this happen, but he will tell you it’s worth it.

“Whatever it takes, that’s what I’m going to do,” Burgo said. “This is me. This is a former ballplayer wishing I had this as a kid.”

Much of what is there came from in-kind donations, the result of his relationships and the effectiveness his programs have had. Some has come from Best Buy; much of the engineering design work came from a long-time friend.

And there’s more to come.

In October, work will begin in earnest on a building that will do right next to the outdoor courts. The facility will have four basketball courts, including one that can seat about 1,200-1,600 people and eventually become the home court for Bristol Community College. (Currently, BCC plays its home games at Bishop Connolly High School in Fall River.) It will also include spaces for academic work, conference rooms and more. Completion is projected to be in April 2013.

The Complex was home to a day camp for talented high school players on August 13, with many coming from Boston to spend the day there. Wills was among the coaches, along with fellow Maine alum Raheem Singleton, Courtney Eldridge, Al Brodsky, Buddy Wheatley and Mike Conceicao.

Plenty of talented players who came from Boston shined on the day, from Malik James (6’0″ Jr. PG, Dorchester (MA) Brighton HS) and Stanley Davis (6’0″ So. PG, Jamaica Plain (MA) Boston English HS) to James’ high school teammate Nick Simpson (6’3″ Jr. SG-SF, Brighton (MA) High). But there was local talent that shined as well, with Tyree Weston (6’0″ So. PG, New Bedford (MA) High) chief among them. Curtis Cobb (6’4″ Fr. SG, Fall River (MA) Wilbraham & Monson Academy) also impressed on the day.

The camp was invitation-only, and those who came made the most of the day. Among the aforementioned players, James will be the unquestioned leader of a talented Brighton team hoping to make another deep state tournament run, while Davis could turn into one of the most improved players in the city after being thrown right into the fire as a freshman last season.

As if what’s already happened is not enough, Burgo has 17 acres of land in the back of the facility. Is there more to come in South Dartmouth? Time will tell. At the moment, there is one development in the South Coast whose completion is eagerly awaited.

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