Full-Court Press

Winter has hit, which means NA has come down with a violent case of NABA fever.


Nolan Collery

Nico Sfeir and Spencer Barnett take the tipoff to start a NABA game.

Nolan Collery, Staff Writer

In a school district with an athletics department as prestigious as North Allegheny’s, it seems unlikely that any athletes who play a recreational sport will receive any attention or serious competition during the season. 

This is true of most sports, but not basketball. In fact, a strong argument could be made that NABA, NA’s recreational basketball league, is as competitive and as intense as many of the most successful PIAA teams in the school.

NABA is open to all students in NA, despite their age, height, gender, or skill. The league is loved by all its players and fans, but no division is more popular than the 11-12 grade boys’ league, which is crowded with talented players, deadly accurate shooters, defensive workhorses, and crafty shot-creators. 

One of these talented athletes is center Drew Lopuszynski, who has played basketball for years – both for NA teams and NABA. The NASH senior is not shy to say he prefers the latter. 

“NABA is the most fun I have ever had playing basketball, and it’s not really all that close,” Lopuszynski said. “I just love it for the atmosphere. Everyone knows each other, which makes the competition fun, but it is just that – a competition. Everyone out there is playing to win. It’s a great balance between enjoyment and intensity.”

Lopuszynski was selected first overall in this season’s draft, placing him in a small club of talented players to share the honor.

“It felt pretty strange to be picked first, to be honest,” Lopuszynski admitted. “I’ve never been picked that early, and I know there are tons of guys who could’ve gone in that spot. Still, it’s pretty exciting to be at the top of the list. I know the expectations are higher, and I’m prepared to show what I’ve got.”

In NABA, teams are coached by the parent volunteers. Therefore, coaches are guaranteed to have their child on roster. NABA can create some intense rivalries between siblings on different teams, but NASH senior Lliam Woodworth and his brother, junior, Jonas Woodworth, won’t have that issue this year, as they both play for a team coached by their father. 

“It’s really fun. We both just know what the other wants to do with the ball or on defense,” L. Woodworth said. “We haven’t been on the same team since playing together on the middle school team, and that was my favorite season I’ve ever played. Getting to talk strategy beforehand with Jonas and my dad has been great, and I am having tons of fun this season already.”

NABA often gets a bad reputation as a league where kids take bad shots and don’t give any effort on defense. However, NASH senior Jason Pazin strongly disagrees. 

“The defense in NABA is intense,” Pazin said. “If I had to choose between playing against the ‘Bad Boy’ Pistons or any NABA team, I’m taking the Pistons easily. Every game, defense is played with full intensity, like a Game 7 in the NBA finals.” 

But what about the students who don’t play? It hardly feels like a valid argument to say NABA is widely loved if only the players care. One non-player who is outspoken about his love of spectating NABA games is senior Erik Bloomquist, a retired NABA player himself. 

“It’s really entertaining to see my friends match up against one another, as I always know at least one or two of the players on a team,” Bloomquist said. “It’s just so awesome to see one of my friends hit a tough shot or make an impressive play and equally as entertaining to see them turn the ball over or get scored on. Sometimes, I think I’m having the most fun in the gym, and I’m just a spectator.”

So, even if the talent in NABA can’t stack up to the athletes on the Athletic Department’s rosters, it’s futile to deny the allure of the league. By all accounts, NABA always has — and always will be — North Allegheny’s favorite recreational sports league.