By Sean Lynch
*Written July 31st, 2018*
NEWBURGH— Everything looked normal at the Kaplan Recreation Center on Monday evening.
The Mid Hudson Basketball team was practicing for the Basketball Coaches Association of New York (BCANY) Summer Hoops Tournament that begins Friday at Johnson City.
Sneakers squeaked against the hardwood, balls clanked off the rim and teammates barked at each other as they competed in drills. To the naked eye, nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
For those who knew John Guerra, there was something very out of the ordinary, he wasn’t on the court with the team he was supposed to play for.
A week earlier, Guerra died in a single car crash when his car went off Union Corners Road and hit a tree. He had just turned 17 years-old earlier that month.
Guerra, who would’ve been a senior at S.S Seward this fall was a two-time all state basketball player and a midfielder for the soccer team. In his two years starting for the Spartans, he led them to a 40-6 record.
In his career, he averaged 23.8 points, 3.7 assists and three steals in 46 games with the Spartans. In total, he scored 1,041 points and made 95 3-pointers.
Though Guerra’s accomplishments on the court are extraordinary, Guerra’s teammates and opponents alike will always remember what he was like off the court.
Cornwall senior Will Fredericks got to know Guerra from an Early Risers AAU tryout. “I’ll never forget when I walked into the gym for the tryout and I didn’t really know anyone. John came up to me and introduced himself and it made me feel a lot more comfortable on the court.”
Newburgh Free Academy senior Caleb Simmons became close with Guerra after playing on the same Early Risers AAU team this past July. “John was different from the average person. He reminds me of John Stockton because of the way he sees the floor and how he involves all his other teammates.”
Simmons paused, “There’s no better type of point guard to play with.”
John was a camper at the St. Joe’s basketball camp in Middletown. The camp was organized by BCANY Deputy Executive Director and Monticello head coach Chris Russo. “He’s every coach’s dream. He was a hard-worker and a great person.” Russo said.
“He was always smiling,” said Russo’s son Michael. Michael, a Middletown senior played at the camp with Guerra and is on the BCANY Mid-Hudson team. “His positive attitude spread throughout the gym every time I played with him.”
Both Russo and BCANY president Todd Rose agreed not to give anyone on the Mid Hudson team Guerra’s #7 jersey.
The jersey will be brought to Johnson City and Guerra will be posthumously honored.