MILLIS – Jackson McKersie had never played basketball before.
His father, John, was a Division I hockey goaltender at Boston University in the 90s, so it was only natural that the Millis resident followed in his father’s footsteps.
“I was at hockey rinks every day,” McKersie said.
In college, however, McKersie began to burn out of the sport. Around the same time, the lanky caretaker was approached by his neighbor, Spencer Mirken, with an idea.
“Watching a seventh grader 6-2, I was like, ‘What isn’t this kid doing on the basketball court? “Said Mirken.
So he recruited McKersie to play hoop. “We became best friends,” Mirken said. “Every day we would walk home, go to my house and shoot for two hours.”
Mirken showed the hockey player how to dribble, screen, shoot and pick and roll. McKerzie was a work in progress in the field. Previously, he had picked up a basketball only once in his life.
“He was awful,” said Mirken, now 19.
“I was absolutely excruciating. I was awful,” said McKersie, 18. “But I tried. It felt like I was really playing basketball for the first time and I fell in love immediately.
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On Wednesday, Mirken and McKersie played hoops together outside Millis High.
For the past three summers, Mirken’s has run a basketball league called “spencesummeruns” for the best hoosters in the state. It’s a group he started during the COVID-19 pandemic to give basketball players exposure while improving their skills.
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“I’m just trying to build a community of guys who love to play basketball and want a chance to be seen or heard,” said Mirken, a student assistant at Keene State. “I think it connects a lot of people.”
The roster for the final pickup game included varsity athletes from Divisions I, II and III.
The group also included some of New England’s top high school hoosters as well as a few former Daily News All-Stars in Todd Brogna (Algonquin), Stevie DiGregorio (Marlborough), Dante Kikuba (Framingham), Dan Liberatore ( Hopedale), Kyle O’Connell (Lincoln-Sudbury), Luke Rinaldi (Dover-Sherborn) and Jalen Samuels (Franklin).
“It’s fun. No arguments. It’s okay,” said Kikuba, who will play ball this fall at Bridgewater State. “I know everyone here is so grateful to Spencer.”
“He brings in a lot of great guys,” said Liberatore, who plays basketball at Worcester State. “When everyone is playing, it’s high level racing.”
Spencer Mirken pits the best hoosters against each other
Geino Scaringello was one of the youngest hoops to play on Wednesday. The rising Franklin High senior was able to share the land with his older brother, Nico. Young Scaringello enjoys the challenge of playing against college athletes.
“Spencesummeruns have been great for me to get stronger and play against older players,” said 17-year-old Scaringello, “and just play against the best players in the region.”
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Barrett Loer went to college with Mirken. The 16-year-old from Millis is a sophomore at St. George’s School in Rhode Island – but has been part of ‘spencesummeruns’ since its inception in 2020.
Loer likes to see the progress of the van league – while receiving free car rides from Mirken.
“I like their height,” said Loer, who is 6-foot-5. “They went from racing in a small town to a bunch of D1 guys and pro guys and all that. So the competition has really increased over the years. It was fun to be part of it.
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Although Mirken goes to Holliston and McKersie hangs out with Dexter Southfield in high school, the two friends stayed connected on the basketball court during Mirken’s summer runs. That’s the point of it all. Mirken enjoys connecting through basketball and wants to share his passion with others.
Just like he did with his hockey player neighbor six years ago.
“I haven’t looked back since,” said McKersie, who will play hoop at Middlebury College. “He’s one of my best friends and that’s one of the main reasons I found out about this sport that I love and now play in college. So he’s a big part of my life.
“It’s just a really cool thing,” Mirken said. “Because he’s a guy I started out with and someone who didn’t like basketball and (he) grew into someone who’s a basketball guru and a junkie like me.”
Tommy Cassell is a senior multimedia reporter for the Daily News. He can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @tommycassell44.