Since September, I have been traveling around the Northeast, popping into schools’ open gym practices. As much as I love tracking the progress of the teams and players, my favorite part of the open gyms is the drive and checking out the campuses. I always like viewing new parts of the region and seeing the different cultures from school to school. Now that my ” Open Gym Tour” has ended let’s see which schools were my favorite to visit this fall.
When I went to Holderness at the beginning of October, I did not know what to expect since it was my first time going that deep into New Hampshire. I immediately loved the vibe when I got off at the school’s exit. It honestly felt like the roads should’ve been filled with horse and carriages instead of cars. The serenity of the area, combined with the rustic and autumn feel, won me over.
Hamden Hall (CT)
Connecticut has some of the nicest campuses, and add Hamden Hall to that list. This may seem like a minor deal, but you can sell me on great lawn care and shrubbery. It looks like the Red Sox grounds crew is employed at Hamden Hall, the way that grass looks. The school also has an extensive basketball history on both the girls and boys sides dating back 2+ decades which was cool to learn about during my evening at the school.
Loomis Chaffee (CT)
Juliette (JTShotz) and I ventured down to Loomis, and the campus is so gorgeous. I wish we had gotten pictures of everything outside the gym, too. It’s a wide open campus with aesthetically pleasing athletic fields and facilities. The campus is easy to navigate (that’s a big thing for me), and the gym is small. When I say small, I mean that compared to other schools, there isn’t much bleacher space. So I will try to get to a Loomis home game this winter because it must feel like the crowd is on top of you at games, creating a fun basketball atmosphere.
St. George’s (RI)
I was the lunatic who woke up at 4AM to prepare for a peaceful trip to Rhode Island for an early morning open gym at St. Geroge’s. Well worth it! Watching the sunrise over the Rhode Island water was awesome, and I almost pulled over and enjoyed my coffee by the waves. I didn’t realize that the school was that close to the water, but what a selling point. Can you imagine working there and you can sneak in a beach day before or after work? I might have to look into any job openings there the more I think about the school.
Northfield Mount Hermon (MA)
Not to sound like I am a thousand years old, but you can feel the history when walking into Northfield Mount Herman’s gym. The floors, the lighting, and the atmosphere give off this old-school vibe, and without knowing anything about the institution, you know there is a winning culture there. I remember going there last winter when NMH played Choate and absolutely loved the campus. NMH has a nostalgic feel to it and the gym always reminds me of gyms I played in as a kid.
I was a little concerned on my way to Kent because you lost phone service for about half an hour before you hit the campus. Weirdly enough, as soon as you turn onto the street the school is on, your phone gets 5 bars, and you can tweet away! I got the whole campus experience thanks to head coach Jason Coulombe who showed me around, and for the first time in about a decade, I ate in a dining hall. The food at Kent? Pretty good! I enjoyed my teriyaki chicken and rice. The area is quiet and is within walking distance of stores which is a big plus for me. I love nothing more than a good walk to pick up items I need and not needing a car to get around.
Nobles is a top 5 campus based on location alone. I have some location bias being 15 minutes from the school, but even so, Nobles is still an easy place to get to when coming from various directions. It also is called “The Castle,” which is all you need to know about the campus. It really feels like you’re in Medieval times, and the icing on the cake is the majestic purple uniforms and logo.
My trip to Cathedral took me back to my youth. Being from Boston, using public transportation isn’t anything new to me, and when I got invited to Cathedral’s open gym, I was lowkey excited to hop on the train and walk the Back Bay streets en route to the school. I sometimes forget how pretty the walk through the city is and the atmosphere on a fall afternoon evening. Seeing people outside enjoying meals and shopping at places I can’t afford, along with all the new structures and buildings constructed in that area, is fun to observe. Now, if there is any way the train service could not be a massive game of Russian Roulette, that would be great because you never know how long you will be waiting for it.
Long Island Lutheran (NY)
When I got the invite from LuHi head coach Christina Raiti to attend her team’s open gym, I couldn’t clear my schedule fast enough! How do you not love New York basketball? It is a different culture and vibe from New England, so I love covering the area and learning about the players and teams in that state. I made a one-day turnaround trip to Long Island (kind of a psycho move, don’t judge me), and the hours of standstill traffic were 100% worth it. Walking into the gym and seeing a row of big-time colleges lined up like it was the July Live period was something I hadn’t seen in any open gym before. Duke, UNC, Michigan, Michigan State, Temple, Penn State, Syracuse, Northeastern, and Manhattan are just the schools I can name off the top of my head who attended! The talent on the court spoke for itself, and the gym was electric. I enjoyed watching that group compete.
Berkshire being #1 might stun many people, but hear me out. There is no more enjoyable commute than the trip to Sheffield, MA. I am not a big foliage guy, but I cannot deny the incredible scene when driving in that direction on a clear fall day. Unfortunately, the drive back wasn’t as pleasant as I was driving in a monsoon but let’s stay positive! Between the trees, hills, mountains, and the occasional deer on the side of the road resulted in a pleasant drive. The Berkshire campus is beautiful and spacious. The athletic facility is as official as it gets, too. As soon as I stepped foot in the gym, I was “wowed,” and it’s a place I recommend to anyone to check out if you get the chance.