When Spencer Aronson was in middle school, his father often brought him to MIAA basketball state tournament games, immersing him in the wild atmosphere often referred to as “Mass Madness.”
The Holliston resident sat in crowds at Newton North, Cambridge Rindge & Latin, and Needham, where his father, Damon, starred before playing at UMass-Dartmouth.
But the biggest impression on young Spencer came when he watched the great 2014-15 Catholic Memorial team, led by Guilien Smith (now at Dartmouth College) and Kellan Grady (Davidson), stifle opponents on CM’s swelteringly intense home floor at Ronald S. Perry Gymnasium.
“I always thought about playing in that environment,” said Aronson, 17. “That’s what I love about the MIAA. All those towns and schools coming together. Everyone is hyped up the whole day thinking about games and in places like CM, you can do things you don’t normally do, because there’s so much adrenaline from playing in front of everyone.”
Aronson was a two-year varsity starter at Holliston High. He transferred to Lawrence Academy and re-classified as a sophomore in an effort to gain more exposure to college recruiters.
But after averaging 15 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals per game over a year at the Groton boarding school, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound guard decided to transfer to Catholic Memorial, where he could live at home and seek a more communal atmosphere.
“I kind of felt a bit lost,” Aronson said about his time at Lawrence Academy. “I had heard great things about CM and everyone just brought me into the community. It’s been life-changing for me. Every day I wake up, and I get excited to go to school.”
And Aronson is excited to play CM’s trademark style. Led by 18-year coach Denis Tobin, the Knights use a relentless full-court press and fast-paced offensive attack to string together a 39-game home winning streak from 2014-2017.
On the first day of practice in November, Aronson said Tobin told the team this group might not be the most talented in the state, but they’re going to work the hardest.
The team put that pledge into writing, signing a contract to buy into the system before running sprints as a quick introduction to the level of conditioning required to play CM basketball.
“[Aronson] has done a great job so far buying in and adapting to the CM style of play,” said Tobin. “He’ll benefit greatly from playing alongside one of the state’s premier point guards in [sophomore] Kurtis Henderson.
“I envision this team similar to the 2015 [state championship] team. We might not have the same talent, but we’ll run ‘five-out’ and we’ll certainly be able to score. The question is rebounding and defending.”
Luckily for CM, which fell to Bridgewater-Raynham in the second round of the D1 South state tournament in 2017 and in the first round to B-R last year, Aronson is capable of changing games with his defense.
His older brother, Tyler Aronson, was named NEPSAC Class B Player of the Year as the defensive stalwart for Rivers School last year, and is now a freshman on the Tufts basketball team.
The siblings faced off in February and Spencer’s Lawrence Academy team prevailed, 59-48, over Rivers, thanks in part to his defensive efforts.
While moving from a NEPSAC school to the ranks of the MIAA could hurt his chances at earning offers from Division 1 colleges, Aronson feels confident his talent will shine through this season, as well as each spring and summer he plays for the AAU club Middlesex Magic.
“[Diminished recruitment] was in the back of my mind I guess,” Aronson said, “But if you can play, you can play.”
In a landscape where an increasing number of talented basketball players are re-classifying at a prep schools, Aronson has chosen to embrace the impassioned scene surrounding MIAA hoops.
Looking ahead to CM’s home-opener against Bishop Stang this Friday, Aronson said, “[Ron Perry Gymnasium] is going to be packed and crazy loud. Everyone says that you’re going to love playing in it and that it’s like a movie. It’s going to be awesome.”
Games to Watch
Wednesday, Xaverian at No. 17 Burke, (5:30 p.m.) – With 6-foot-8 Hamilton commit Patrick Mogan leading the way, Xaverian will look for a key early-season road win at reigning Division 3 South champion Burke. The Bulldogs have one of the most talented backcourts in the state in Devante Jamison and Levar Williams, setting up a contrast of styles.
Friday, No. 13 Bishop Stang at No. 9 Catholic Memorial, (7 p.m.) – The Spartans shocked CM for a 76-73 in this matchup early last season, but will not sneak up on the Knights this year with Damien Perry and Justin Lopes drawing plenty of fanfare. Winning at CM would clearly cement Stang as a D3 state title contender.
Friday, No. 4 Lowell at No. 18 St. John’s Prep, (7 p.m.) – Returning just about the entire team aside from program leading scorer Alex Rivera, now at UMass-Lowell, the Red Raiders should be firing on all cylinders in this crossover matchup. The host Eagles return far less experience, but are always competitive under coach John Dullea.
Friday, No. 3 Mansfield at Attleboro, (7 p.m.) – A team to watch in the Hockomock League, Attleboro brings back a number of experienced juniors, led by 6-foot-5 forward Qualeem Charles. The defending D1 state champions will face a tough conference test on the road.
Friday, Whitman-Hanson at No. 15 Hingham, (7 p.m.) – The Harbormen are primed to return to the Division 2 South final with a number of key returners, while Whitman-Hanson will look to fill the void left by leading scorer Sean Leahy graduating. Bob Rodgers squad will not be an easy out for Hingham at home.
Nate Weitzer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.