A Primer for the Resolute

How hard are they willing to work?
Marcus Edwards, above, was happy with a turnout of 20 young and eager players at a recent Hoop Hampton basketball clinic at Amagansett’s Sportime Arena. Jack Graves

When Marcus Edwards, who is overseeing intensive Sunday morning Hoop Hampton basketball workouts for kids at Amagansett’s Sportime Arena, was a young boy himself, living with his mother on the Poospatuck Reservation in Mastic, he realized, he said during a conversation the other day, that if he were ever to make something of himself he’d have to do it on his own.

And so he did, with help from others, among them Terrell Dozier, his former Amateur Athletic Union coach, Tim and Debbie Brenneman, whom he came to regard as parents, Bill McKee, the late Ed Petrie’s assistant when Edwards played a decade ago on the East Hampton High School boys basketball team, Jolie Parcher of Mandala Yoga, who, after he’d been certified as a personal trainer, put him in touch with Ari Weller of the Philosofit fitness studio here, and Weller himself.

“My father died when I was a year old, in a motorcycle accident. I was raised by my mother and grandmother,” he began.

“No,” he said with a smile when asked if he’d been spoiled. “Not at all. We were poor, we didn’t have a thing. I started working at 10, raking leaves, two hours after school. I made $50 a week. I realized that when it came to buying clothes and things, my mom couldn’t do it. She was a single parent. If I wanted anything I had to figure out a way to do it.”

He attended Center Moriches schools from first through ninth grade, becoming through hard work, he said, “the only black kid in the good classes,” but with that came the chagrin of being broadly labeled by white parents as the prime suspect whenever one of his fellow students’ iPhones or iPads went missing.

He was playing with Ed Petrie’s grandson, Mikey Russell, on Dozier’s A.A.U. East End all-star basketball team at the time. “Everyone thinks I moved to East Hampton to team up with Mikey, but that’s not so. It was because of the way I was being treated at Center Moriches. It was for personal reasons that I moved in with Terrell, who became my legal guardian.”

“I was so excited to move to East Hampton. The change of scenery was good; it was a good move.” One that was to result in a singular basketball career here (the Bonac teams on which Edwards played with the Russells, Mikey and Jerome, Hayden Ward, Liam Lee, Jarred Bowe, and others went 62-7 in a three-year span during which the team, one of East Hampton’s best ever, won numerous championships) and a college scholarship.

“I went to an all-academic camp in Jersey, in my junior year, the only camp I ever went to. Bill McKee paid for me to go. There were 200 players there, and I was one of the ones picked for the second string, the worst, but I worked hard, I had the passion, the fire, and I ended up in the top 20, playing in the all-star game, winning the Mr. Hustle award, and getting recruited by Babson College,” where he was to play on the team for two years and earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Rather than the business field, Edwards, acting on the advice of his aunt and Debbie Brenneman, earned a personal trainer’s certificate in Baltimore, where his girlfriend is a medical student at Johns Hopkins. 

“Several times I wanted to give it up, but when I saw how hard my girlfriend — she wants to become a psychiatrist — was working, I thought there’s no way I can quit! I couldn’t find any well-paying jobs there, so I came back here. That was three years ago. That was when Jolie Parcher, whose kids I’d given basketball lessons to — I’ve known her since I was 15, I consider her an aunt — introduced me to Ari Weller.”

“He wasn’t sure I’d be a good fit, but he invited me to watch and observe. It was like an apprenticeship. I went to Philosofit every single day . . . I was soaking it up. One day someone quit, and, even though I didn’t feel prepared, I was hired and thrown into the 

fire. . . . It’s interesting how things happened. It worked out really, really well, and I love working there.”

Back to basketball, Edwards, who assists Dan White in coaching East Hampton High’s team now, said, in answer to a question, that he’d love it if he could inspire kids, kids who have the same passion for work and for basketball that he has, to raise the level of their play to what it was when he was growing up.

“We always played,” he said, “every day, either at the senior citizens center or at Herrick Park. We were always playing, the year round, which is what you have to do. We didn’t put the ball in the closet after the season was over.”

“I always ask my basketball students what their grades are, to get an idea of how passionate they are. I think it translates.  If you work hard in school you’ll work hard on the court. . . . So many of them are playing video games now. I just want the kids who are interested. I want to help them develop the confidence and skills they’ll need, I want to light that fire. If you’re only training once or twice a week that’s not enough. Max Proctor, one of the varsity players now — he’ll be a senior — has it. He works hard, I don’t have to tell him. Jeremy Vizcaino has it too.”

“I want to get East Hampton basketball back to the level it was at when I was playing. To do that you start with the kids. If you can instill confidence at a young age, if you light the fire, they’ll go.”

Maleek Harris, who also grew up on the Poospatuck Reservation, helps his cousin with the two-hour Sunday morning clinics, which include drills and free play. The clinics cost $40 per session ($20 an hour), and for boys and girls looking to improve their games, it’s money well spent, as this writer, the grandfather of 12 and 7-year-old boys from Perrysburg, Ohio, can attest.

Edwards said he’d recently read a book, “People Over Profit,” which maintained that “the more people you help, the more rewarding it is for the person who’s helping. . . . It’s not about the money. I want more kids to play. We can have exciting games again. We’ve got to get that standard back up. When I played with Mikey we were expected to win, but now I feel that that winning culture has depreciated, that it’s been diminishing. That’s why I started Hoop Hampton.”