UPDATED: Newest basketball Hall of Fame members grateful for CYO experience

November 22, 2023 at 2:10 p.m.
Shown are the women and men who were inducted into the Mercer County Catholic Youth Organization during a Hall of Fame dinner Nov. 19. Carter Hillsdon photo
Shown are the women and men who were inducted into the Mercer County Catholic Youth Organization during a Hall of Fame dinner Nov. 19. Carter Hillsdon photo

By Carter Hillsdon, Correspondent

The Hall of Fame dinner has become a tradition and a place for inductees and attendees to share their memories not only of youth basketball, but also how the Catholic Youth Organization has developed lifelong friendships and helped children and adults flourish, both spiritually and athletically.

PHOTO GALLERY: CYO Hall of Fame dinner


Members of the Catholic community across Mercer County gathered for the annual CYO Hall of Fame dinner Nov. 18. The annual dinner, which shines a spotlight on individuals who have contributed to the league’s success, added 12 new members to its highest honor and included former players, coaches and league organizers.


As a player, coach, referee, and now a Hall of Fame inductee, Joe Smiegocki shared recollections of his days at the Trenton CYO since his teens.


“I was there five days a week, 52 weeks a year,” he said. “When it was open on Saturdays, I’d be there.”


As for what it has given him, Smiegocki says that he has been left with “the opportunity to meet a lot of great people and learn a lot of life lessons.”


La’Keisha Sutton, a new inductee along with Smiegocki, noted that “the CYO is incredibly important because it gives us access and an opportunity to play.”


Sutton also noted the importance of the schools’ hospitality, in particular St. Raphael School, Hamilton, where she would practice in the off-season during her time playing for the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. Sutton would go on to play professionally in Europe and eventually become a member of the Harlem Globetrotters. Even in light of those accomplishments, she said memories of the CYO are still very fresh in her mind.


“The referees were always so kind, the coaches were kind, and the atmosphere was always amazing,” she said.


Another inductee, Khalid Lewis, played basketball at Trenton Catholic Academy, (now Trenton Catholic Preparatory Academy), Hamilton, where he led the varsity high school team to a victory over nationally-ranked St. Anthony School in Jersey City. Lewis described basketball as his passion during his induction speech.


“There were moments where I really questioned if this was something I wanted to do, and the answer was always ‘yes,’” he said.


The CYO is where Lewis began to develop not only his love for the game, but also his faith. “One thing we are always taught,” he emphasized, “is to trust in God.”


Related Stories

The Hall of Fame dinner has become a tradition and a place for inductees and attendees to share their memories not only of youth basketball, but also how the Catholic Youth Organization has developed lifelong friendships and helped children and adults flourish, both spiritually and athletically.

PHOTO GALLERY: CYO Hall of Fame dinner


Members of the Catholic community across Mercer County gathered for the annual CYO Hall of Fame dinner Nov. 18. The annual dinner, which shines a spotlight on individuals who have contributed to the league’s success, added 12 new members to its highest honor and included former players, coaches and league organizers.


As a player, coach, referee, and now a Hall of Fame inductee, Joe Smiegocki shared recollections of his days at the Trenton CYO since his teens.


“I was there five days a week, 52 weeks a year,” he said. “When it was open on Saturdays, I’d be there.”


As for what it has given him, Smiegocki says that he has been left with “the opportunity to meet a lot of great people and learn a lot of life lessons.”


La’Keisha Sutton, a new inductee along with Smiegocki, noted that “the CYO is incredibly important because it gives us access and an opportunity to play.”


Sutton also noted the importance of the schools’ hospitality, in particular St. Raphael School, Hamilton, where she would practice in the off-season during her time playing for the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. Sutton would go on to play professionally in Europe and eventually become a member of the Harlem Globetrotters. Even in light of those accomplishments, she said memories of the CYO are still very fresh in her mind.


“The referees were always so kind, the coaches were kind, and the atmosphere was always amazing,” she said.


Another inductee, Khalid Lewis, played basketball at Trenton Catholic Academy, (now Trenton Catholic Preparatory Academy), Hamilton, where he led the varsity high school team to a victory over nationally-ranked St. Anthony School in Jersey City. Lewis described basketball as his passion during his induction speech.


“There were moments where I really questioned if this was something I wanted to do, and the answer was always ‘yes,’” he said.


The CYO is where Lewis began to develop not only his love for the game, but also his faith. “One thing we are always taught,” he emphasized, “is to trust in God.”

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