Favorite athlete: Allen Iverson
Favorite team: Cleveland Browns
Favorite memory competing in sports: Buzzer beater against Pennsbury
Funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: My friends in the student section
Music on playlist: Lil baby
Future plans: Attending Fairfield University and majoring in Finance
Words to live by: “Make the right decision even if you’re standing alone.”
One goal before turning 30: Shoot under par in golf
One thing people don’t know about me: I like to play poker with my friends
By GORDON GLANTZ
The answer is “The Answer.”
Although we are a generation removed from 11-time All-Star Allen Iverson’s career, CB East senior point guard Joey Giordano considers the former Sixers star, who won Rookie of the Year in 1997 and MVP in 2001 and played his last NBA game in 2010, his favorite all-time player.
“That would make sense,” said his coach Erik Henrysen. “He’s tough as nails. He’s kind of an old-school kind of a player in that way.
“He will never tell you that he’s injured. He’ll run through a wall for you. He is one of those guys icing his knees on his off days.”
Also a fan of current Cleveland point guard Darius Garland, Giordano explained that he “likes those quick point guards.”
He added: “I just like a player that is really smooth. Watching his crossover, it was just so cool to watch.”
A season ago, Giordano’s role was smaller but clearly defined. He came off the bench, playing about 10 minutes per game, and he was like the Energizer Bunny for a team that reached districts.
“It was a significant role,” said Henrysen. “When he came in the game, he gave us a spark.”
Not willing to rest on those laurels, Giordano saw the opportunity to step up and into the role of the lead guard.
“I wasn’t the scorer, which I understood, but they needed me for certain things, like playing that tough defense and creating that spark," Giordano said.
With an expanded role in the current season, he is now averaging roughly 11 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.5 steals per game for an East team that captured the SOL Colonial Division title and has surpassed the 20-win mark in the regular season. The Patriots are also top-four seed in the district field.
“I accepted my role coming into the year, and that’s what makes teams win,” said Giordano. “This year, we have that spark player coming off the bench, just like I was last year. That’s what completes a team. You can’t just have all scorers. You need everybody.
“I knew that I was going to have to step up this year and go into my new role. I actually stopped playing AAU just so that I could work on my skills. I had to work on my shot. I was doing that like 2-3 times a week. I was trying to work on my ballhandling. I did really work hard this offseason.”
This came as no shock to the coaching staff.
“He’s just all basketball,” said Henrysen. “He really works his tail off. I really can’t remember all but a handful of times during the offseason when he missed a workout. He not only puts the work in, but he puts the extra work in, and that’s throughout the year.”
A case in point was the 5-10 Giordano meeting assistant coach Jimmy Katasak, the same coach he worked with all summer on shooting, after what he felt was an off game from the floor.
“He didn’t feel comfortable with the way he played, so he met one of my assistant coaches before school just to get some shots up,” said Henrysen. “He’s just a hardworking, hard-nosed kind of kid.”
And, lo and behold, the extra work paid off. He turned around to hit a buzzer beater to quell a Pennsbury comeback and give East the important win.
“It just kind of happened. We were up by like 8, but they came back and we were down by 2,” Giordano said. “We got to the halfcourt line and there was like 3.8 second left. The coach set up a play with me coming toward the ball. I got it, and it was just kind of a reaction thing. I didn’t have time to think, so I just went for the hoop.”
Not counting summer league, it was his first career buzzer-beater.
But beyond the big shot, Henrysen was quick to point out that Giordano has the knack for making the big play at the right time.
“He kind of does whatever we ask and finds a way of coming through in those moments,” said Henrysen. “Sometimes it’s a steal. Sometimes it’s a drive. Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding somebody else. He just plays the game the right way. When there are openings, he takes advantage of them and it doesn’t always have to be for him.”
From his perspective, Giordano views it as a matter of knowing his role within the team concept.
“I think it’s just trusting in my teammates,” he said. “It’s just a matter of making the passes. That buzzer-beater could have been anyone else. I’m just trusting in my teammates. In the next big game, while it might not be me, someone else could be the one taking that big shot.”
Additionally, Giordano displays the kind of natural leadership skills that can’t be taught.
“Joey is just a huge piece of our entire program,” said Henrysen. “He’s kind of an example of what we want our entire program to be. He’s selfless. He’s a leader. He’s one of our captains. He’s all effort, and he’s just super coachable. He always just looks you in the eye and says ‘OK’ to whatever you need him to do.
“He seems to be the center of our entertainment. Even last year, when we traveled, Joey’s room always seemed to be the room where all of our guys just kind of gathered. I think he just has that in him. Everybody wants to be around him, and he always seems to be the center of the fun.”
But not reaching the team’s full capabilities this year will certainly not be much fun.
Said Giordano: “If we can play the type of basketball that I know we are capable of, I think we can make a big run this year,” he said. “We just need to play tough and physical. We need to play with swagger and play with confidence. Sometimes, you know, you go in there against a team with a big name and big reputation and play their basketball. If we play our basketball, we can compete with anyone.”
Giordano also admits that the leadership he displays will play a major role in whether or not they play with that chip on their shoulders that would make Allen Iverson proud.
“I do lead more by example, but I will get on them if I think that they are slacking," he admitted. "I haven’t had to get on them that much.”
As for himself, it’s a matter of staying within himself and taking care of his own world.
“I just try to control what I can control,” he said. “If I’m not shooting the ball well or not making my layups, I always try to make up for that with hard work and effort. I think that’s something I always bring to the table. If you do that, I feel like everything will fall into place.
“I know my teammates will always have my back if I’m not shooting the ball well, but I always come with that energy and that determination and hard work.”
Beyond the Court
Giordano brings the same energy to the school community, as he is a member of the National Honor Society and helps to lead the student cheering section during football season.
“They had a good year this year,” he said. “I think they were something like 8-2, and we were at all their games.”
Giordano is active in Athletes Helping Athletes and also East’s annual Coaches vs. Cancer event.
With a course load of honors and AP classes, including two this semester, he boasts a GPA of 3.89.
“It extends beyond the court,” said Henrysen. “He’s great in the classroom. His teachers love him. His peers admire him. He gets along with everybody. He’s just a great kid.”
While he could have likely continued his basketball career at the collegiate level, Giordano will be attending Fairfield University and will major in finance.
“Joey is definitely a Division III-level basketball player, but he was interested in just going to school,” said Henrysen.
While he is beyond willing to give it all he has until the ride ends, hopefully after a deep playoff run, Giordano is at peace with the decision.
“I think I kind of looked at myself in the future,” he explained. “I love the game of basketball. I really love it. But, I still couldn’t see myself being 100 percent committed, even at D-III. After visiting Fairfield, I loved it. I saw myself there.
“Also, after playing basketball all my life, it has been tough on my body. My knees have really been hurting this year, I just don’t think I’d be able to go all the way through with it. I have other interests in my life, other than basketball.”
He is getting more serious about golf, a sport he can play into his golden years.
“I just picked up golf, maybe like a year ago,” explained Giordano, who gave up baseball after Little League and football after ninth grade. “Once I’m onto something, I kind of get addicted to it. I think I’m going to do it more in the future.”
Other than possibly playing intramural basketball at Fairfield, he is coming to grips with the reality that his basketball career will be ending.
“Even on Senior Night, with that last home game, I found it hard,” he said. “I just try not to think about it.”
And, when the final buzzer of the final game does sound, he will be thinking of all those who helped him along with way.
“I want to thank all the coaches I’ve had in my life,” he said. “Coach Henrysen, obviously, but also I think Dan O’Sullivan really brought out a lot in me with a lot of hard work. He coaches football, too, but he coached basketball when I was in elementary school. He just made me a physical presence on the court, which I am grateful for.”
In addition to his brothers, Anthony (older) and Nicky (younger), he thanked his parents – Maria and Tony – for pushing him.
“Through all the lows, especially, because not a lot of people see that,” he said. “My mom and dad told me to keep going and keep pushing through.”
He also thanked his grandfather, Richard Prendergast, a longtime high school coach in New Jersey and current color commentator for La Salle University games.
“He coached a lot of basketball and put a lot of IQ into me, about basketball and about life,” said Giordano.