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Sports Notebook

Central Catholic legend Scott Hazelton joins UMass-Lowell

Scott Hazelton during a Portsmouth Gaslight Summer Basketball League game in New Hampshire.

Globe file/2006

Scott Hazelton during a Portsmouth Gaslight Summer Basketball League game in New Hampshire.

Central Catholic star joins UMass staff

A passion for the game and a strong competitive drive helped transform Scott Hazelton , a Somerville native, into a storied player on the court at Central Catholic High School in Lawrence.

The state’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 1999 and a McDonald’s All-American in 2000, the talented forward went on to play college hoops at the University of Connecticut and Rhode Island before playing professionally in Europe (2005-2008).

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But the urge to give back to the game that he loved was overwhelming. As much as he treasured playing, he thrived on helping others achieve their dreams. And he had a particular interest in the girls’ circuit.

“I felt there was a lot of good talent in our area, but not a lot of people had taken an interest in girls in the area of skill development,” Hazelton said. “A lot of people were coaching, but not a lot of people were around developing them.”

Hazelton established the foundation for the Rivals Elite Girls AAU program in New Hampshire, which is regarded as one of the top clubs in New England, and at Bishop Guertin in Nashua, where he resurrected the girls’ program. In two years, he guided Guertin to a state title (2012) and a runner-up spot.

Now, the 31-year-old Hazelton is taking on a new challenge, joining Sarah Behn’s staff as an assistant with the women’s program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, which is moving up to Division 1, and the America East, for the 20-13-14 season. He will be joined by Kerry Cashman, an Exeter High graduate who played at Boston University and was on his staff with Rivals.

“Going to Division 1 was a draw for me, and it’s local so I don’t have to get up and move,” said Hazelton. “I’m right at the forefront of them going into Division 1 and can be a part of rebuilding. That’s quite the challenge, and that’s what drives me.”

After his playing career was over, he turned to coaching with Vin Pastore , a former head coach at Malden and Malden Catholic who adopted Hazelton prior to his freshman year at Central Catholic and became his legal guardian.

Pastore established the boys’ extension of the Rivals AAU program; in 2008, Hazelton created the girls’ program. In 3½ years, 29 players from his program have received basketball scholarships at the NCAA level.

Prior to starting Rivals, Hazelton opened the Scott Hazelton Basketball School at Greater Lawrence in Andover.

Because of NCAA regulations, Hazelton can no longer coach or associate with the Rivals program or his basketball school; that will be in the hands of Pastore and Haverhill coach Mike Trovato .

“It was a tough decision,” Hazelton said. “But the programs will continue on, will still be vibrant and still be good.”

Through the Rivals AAU program, Hazelton was introduced to Behn, the Foxborough High and Boston College legend who has carved out a successful coaching career at Franklin High, Franklin Pierce, Foxborough, and UMass-Lowell.

“I’m really excited that we were able to hire him and he accepted,” Behn said. “He brings a lot to our staff. We especially need it right now as we’re transitioning. He has great visibility, and is well respected as player and a coach.

“He has a lot of passion and knowledge about the fundamentals and he really will be a tremendous asset to us recruiting wise and on the court.”

Three of Behn’s recent recruits, sophomores Amra Elezovic (Manchester Memorial) and Melissa Frase (Kennett High), along with incoming freshman Nicole Hayner (Bishop Guertin), all played in the Rivals circuit under Hazelton.

“The big draw was coach Behn,” Hazelton said.

“She has a great reputation as a player and a coach. She recruited some of my kids, so we share the same philosophy when it comes to basketball. She is someone I wanted to work with so when the opportunity came up, it was a no-brainer.”

Behn respects Hazelton’s passion for the game.

While the transition from Division 2 to Division 1 will be difficult, Behn is confident she’s surrounded herself with coaches necessary to ease the change.

“He’s a great motivator,” Behn said. “He’s 31 years old and played at such a high level. He didn’t have it easy and he overcame a lot of obstacles as a player; he doesn’t accept excuses. He’s going to be great as far as motivating and pushing [the team], and will help them develop in the way I demand.”

Hall of Fame inductee

Twenty years have passed since Tewksbury native Chris Sullivan powered the men’s basketball team at Wheaton College to a 20-5 record, the best season in program history. But that achievement has not been forgotten by the baskeball community.

The St. John’s Prep graduate, the all-time leading scorer at Wheaton (1,935 points), was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame on June 22 at the DCU Center in Worcester.

“It’s been a while, so it’s nice to be recognized,” said the 41-year-old Sullivan.

His former teammate at Wheaton, Mahlon Williams , was also inducted.

“We went through a lot together when we played,” Sullivan said. “We played a lot of good teams and had good experiences, so it was nice to get our families back so many years later.”

At the ceremony, which recognizes athletes across all divisions, Sullivan said he enjoyed being inducted in the company of elite players and coaches, including Kentucky head coach John Calipari .

“He spent some time talking to me, and I thought he would just brush us off,” Sullivan said. “He had people ushering him to the stage to do his portion of the ceremony and he put them off to give us 10 minutes.”

Sullivan now resides in Franklin with his wife, Cheryl , and sons Brayden , 11, and Caden , 6. He coaches Brayden in the Mass Mavericks AAU program.

Calipari didn’t share any coaching secrets, but he did talk with Brayden about coaching elite players like New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis and Everett product Nerlens Noel , who was drafted sixth overall after his freshman season at Kentucky.

“My son is a basketball junkie, so that was a pretty cool time,” Sullivan said. “It was a good event and a fun time, and the best part for me was my two sons were able to join.”

Anthony Gulizia can be reached at gulizia.ant@gmail.com.
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