By Janee Law
Reese Grossman and Matt Licciardi, seniors and co-captains of Cold Spring Harbor High School’s varsity boys basketball team, don’t carry themselves the same way on and off the basketball court. In fact, their polar opposite personalities and leadership tactics have helped mold the program and lift it to its current success, making them the dynamic duo.
“Matt is the sparkplug to our team. He’s super fiery and gritty. He gets other people inspired and he’s the most competitive person that I know,” Jason Mercurio, four-year head coach of the Seahawks, said.
Grossman, on the other hand, is “super calm, completely unflappable and focused no matter what. He just has a way about him that makes everyone around him confidant.”
Tensions were high for the Seahawks late last month when they took on conference rival Locust Valley. Grossman, an All-County shooting guard who stands at 6-foot-1 and weighs in at 160 pounds, and Licciardi, an All-Conference, 5-foot-6, 150-pound point guard, led the team on the path of redemption. Earlier this season, the Seahawks fell to the then-undefeated Falcons, 52-47.
“They’re one of the top teams in Nassau County and I don’t think a lot of people thought we were going to win,” Mercurio, 40, of Greenlawn, said.
While Grossman, 17, took on the role as an offensive leader in the game, Licciardi, also 17, was the vocal leader who kept the Seahawks in the game mentally.
Grossman scored 12 points and dished out four assists while Licciardi finished with three points and 11 assists, and Cold Spring Harbor won, 49-40, putting an end to Locust Valley’s undefeated streak in Nassau’s ABC Conference.
Selected to play varsity as a sophomore, Grossman currently averages 20 points a game for Cold Spring Harbor, while Licciardi, who started playing varsity as a freshman, averages 10 points and eight assists per game. They’re co-captains along with Matt Taglich, who said playing alongside both Grossman and Licciardi has helped him grow as a player.
Licciardi explained that his role on the court isn’t to be a major scoring threat, but instead to insure that the Seahawks are always in the position to get the “best shot we can.”
“I put guys in certain positions and get Reese in certain spots where I know he can take the best shot and give us the best chance to score,” Licciardi said.
Carmine Rotolo, a four-year assistant coach, said Grossman and Licciardi are leaders both on and off the court.
“I think together they give us a dynamic duo, not only basketball wise but I think more importantly they form a strong bond with whoever is out on the court with them,” he said.
Both Grossman and Licciardi began playing basketball at a young age and have been playing together since they were in fifth grade.
Grossman said he remembers the first time he played with Licciardi for a team called the Shamrocks, of St. Patrick’s Catholic Youth Organization, during a Sunday night practice at Coindre Hall in Huntington. The duo then went on to play together with the Long Island Lightning AAU Club.
“I never really played with someone of that skill before and that was also the first time I really got exposed to a team that was that good before,” Grossman said. “That definitely helped me grow as a player, playing alongside of him and playing against him.”
Grossman said that Licciardi’s command for the game is what he admires about his teammate.
“He amazes me every day, how he’s able to just control every aspect of the game that’s going on,” Grossman said. “He sees things before they happen, which is very impressive.”
When they’re not on the court, the Lloyd Harbor residents occasionally meet up to shoot some hoops or go to the same basketball trainer at the Salvation Army in East Northport.
Licciardi said, “It’s been so fun to play with him because he’s not only my teammate but he’s one of my really good friends that I’ve known for a long time.”
Licciardi agreed that when it comes to leading the team, he is the “fire” and Grossman is the “ice.”
“I’m always telling my guys what to do so things are more hectic on my part, but every time I look at him he’s always calm, no matter what’s going on. It’s nice to have that on the court,” Licciardi said. “He’s the kind of guy who leads our team by the way he plays, what he does on defense and the way he moves in transition. He does so many things for us that he doesn’t need to say that much to lead us, he can just show it.”
Both Grossman and Licciardi have played a big part in team’s success ever since they became upperclassman, Mercurio said.
“Once they hit junior and senior year they kind of just led in a way that was able to inspire other kids around them to get us over the hump,” Mercurio said, adding that the Seahawks tout a 28-8 record through the duo’s junior and senior years. “I couldn’t be more proud of them to be able to do that.”
The success has, again, resulted in a playoff bid for the Seahawks. Both Grossman and Licciardi said their goal for their last year on the team is to advance as far as they can in the playoffs, which are set to begin next weekend.
Aside from basketball, Grossman was also a defender for Cold Spring Harbor’s soccer team, and Licciardi is gearing up for his final season of lacrosse as a middie. Grossman said he hasn’t yet decided which college he will attend in the fall, but Licciardi has decided on Cornell University, where he’ll play lacrosse.
Mercurio said that he expects the duo to be “successful at whatever they do in life.”
He added, “I will miss Matt and Reese and all they have done for this basketball program on the court but they are even better people off it.”