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Basketball — It’s a family tradition

For most basketball fans here in the Northwest Corner, the name of Leon Veretto rings familiar. If you grew up in Winsted during the early 1950s Leon’s name was a constant in high school sports. A standout performer in baseball, basketball and football during his years at Gilbert, his athletic prowess would eventually lead him to a successful athletic career at what is now Central Connecticut State University (back then it was New Britain Teachers College).Now if you were a generation or so younger and you attended Northwestern Regional High School, your recollection of Veretto was that of an industrial arts teacher and head basketball coach for 40-plus years. And if for some reason you didn’t know of him for those endeavors he was well known in other circles. For instance, he was a regular at the YMCA, he continued to play in the Winsted City Basketball League when most people his age were retiring and after school and weekends he occupied his time with a trowel in his hand as a master mason and stone cutter.As Leon Sr. continued to pursue his undertakings in the community, across town at his alma mater, the Gilbert School, his eldest son Leon was blazing his own trail on the hardwood. Yes, Junior could play — and quite well, to say the least. As a shooter he is at or near the top of the list of the many great shooters that I have observed in my nearly 50 years of watching Gilbert basketball. He combined his great shooting with tremendous leaping ability and a rock-solid body to become one of the all-time greats to play at Gilbert. Though there were many highlights during his time at Gilbert, he confided in me that his best memory of his high school career was scoring his 1000th point against his father’s Northwestern team. Like his dad before him, upon graduating from Gilbert, Leon Jr. would go on to play Division II basketball at New Hampshire University where he enjoyed an outstanding career.There was, however another chapter to this story. Leon Jr. and his wife Chris became the proud parents to a son, Tyler, and the legacy continues on. There was little question that Tyler would eventually star on the hardwood and he is currently in the midst of finishing up an outstanding career at East Catholic High School in Manchester. Standing 6-foot 4-inches and weighing in at a svelte 180 pounds, Tyler is currently among the top scorers in the state with an average of 24 points per game while at the same time carrying a 3.9 grade point average.In addition, he is a two-year captain of his team, a member of the CCC All Conference Team and was recently selected to the Senior All State Team. I had the opportunity to watch Tyler for the first time in his league tournament opener last week against Farmington in the presence of his parents and grandparents along with other family members and friends. Though his team lost, Tyler managed to put 21 points on the board against a tough defense designed solely to stop him. Even under those tough circumstances it was clear to me that this edition of the Veretto family legacy may very well be the best.What does the future hold for this young man? Tyler hopes to continue playing basketball in college as he pursues a career in the area of Health Sciences. Clark University, Springfield College and Roger Williams College are three schools he is looking at but regardless of where he ends up, it’s safe to say that he will do his share and more while adding his chapter to the Veretto family legacy.

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