Metrowest youth basketball league brings competitive spirit to Dartmouth’s largest cohort ever

Jan 23, 2024

Dartmouth has been part of the Metrowest travel basketball league for nearly two decades — meaning a generation of players have graduated through it. 

“I believe that most of the kids that are playing high school — girls and boys teams — came through Metrowest,” said Peter DeFusco, travel coordinator for Metrowest and Dartmouth coach. 

That connection to the league also means some high school students continue to help out and cheer on the younger players. 

“It was great to see the high school team come last weekend — there was probably about 10 of the boys from the high school team to cheer the eighth grade boys on,” DeFusco said. “It’s a great thing for the town, it really really is.”

With the largest roster in the organizations’ history, Dartmouth’s Metrowest travel basketball season is well underway. Dartmouth has nearly 90 kids this year, split up into nine teams. MetroWest includes over 1,300 teams from across Massachusetts and Rhode island. 

DeFusco said the numbers dwindled a bit during the pandemic, but it’s been growing every year since. This year, they even had more kids than the facilities could accommodate, and had to turn a few families away. 

Along with growing numbers comes growing success: Last March, the Dartmouth seventh-grade girls won their first MetroWest state championship against Lexington

MetroWest players travel up to an hour-and-a-half away, but all of their home games take place right in Dartmouth, at the middle school gym, on Sundays. 

The league allows kids to learn what it’s like to play competitive basketball, DeFusco said. The kids can then decide whether they want to continue on to high school basketball. 

“You’re playing other towns — you’re putting a Dartmouth uniform on, green and white, and you’re representing the town,” DeFusco said. “[The kids] get a chance to see what’s out there. If they want to be competitive basketball players, they … have an idea of what it takes.” 

The kids also learn some camaraderie, as practices are more frequent and games are more difficult. 

“A lot of these kids have a higher understanding of the game,” he said. “Some of the stuff, as you get to seventh and eighth grade, you’re running stuff the high school teams run.”

As opposed to the recreational leagues, travel basketball lets kids play different teams each week. 

“It’s next-level basketball. It’s working the fundamentals and executing the fundamentals, instead of just trying to teach the fundamentals,” said sixth-grade girls coach Aaron Zexter. 

Coaches follow their teams over multiple years, giving them a chance to see their players grow. 

“We’re blessed to have a great group of coaches,” DeFusco said. “Give them a shout out because they do a great job … It’s almost like a full time job.”

Sixth-grade girls coach Karen Watson also coaches the Dartmouth Girls Athletic League’s recreational program, so she’s seen some of the players grow and develop from the time they were in kindergarten. During that time, their love of the game grows too, Watson said. 

“You’ll see a lot of these girls, even on days when there’s not basketball, even when it’s freezing cold outside, they’re outside shooting hoops,” Watson said.