College Hoops

Basketball has stolen heart of NCAA’s Charlie Baker

Basketball has stolen heart of NCAA’s Charlie Baker

Somewhere in Massachusetts, there is a driveway full of kids playing basketball. They’re dribbling, they’re shooting, they’re having fun. … Wait a second. Who’s the tall older guy? Wasn’t he the governor of the state? And now he’s the president of the NCAA?

“I spend tons of time playing basketball in the driveway with the kids in the neighborhood,” Charlie Baker said. “That’s the best part about basketball. All you need is a hoop and a basketball. You don’t even need somebody. I can’t tell you how many games I’ve won with last-second shots on the court in my backyard growing up. You just go out there and play by yourself from one end to the other. There’s not a lot of sports you can do that with.”

Somewhere else in Massachusetts, there is a proud mother whose daughter Sarah was just named Naismith Player of the Year for girls high school basketball. Sarah Strong would seem to have the sport in her blood, but why would anyone be surprised? Her mother is vice president of team operations and organizational growth for the Boston Celtics. And a new member of the NCAA Board of Governors. And before that, a longtime WNBA and international player. And before that, a star at Harvard. And before that, a varsity member of her high school team — in the seventh grade. And before that, the only girl on her team in a boys recreational league.

“The impact in many senses has been immeasurable,” Allison Feaster was saying about the game of basketball. “It’s really been a vehicle for me to grow as a person, to connect with different people across all walks of life around the globe. It’s allowed me to pursue parallel passions in community service and organizational growth and team building. It has really been my life 24/7 on and off the court, all-consuming but at the same time fulfilling in every sense. I don’t mean to be dramatic, but that’s really true.”

Both Baker and Feaster are in leadership roles now, with a connection to college basketball that is official and comes with formal titles. President of the NCAA. Member of the Board of Governors. But the game has been in their hearts long before they sat in an office. 

This is Baker, talking about one of the passions of his life.

“The thing I always loved about basketball was because it’s only five people on each team, it’s a really unusual combination of individual effort and collaboration. I always used to say if I played basketball with anybody for…

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