By Mike May
Since 2002, young area basketball players have had the good fortune to access one of the most well-organized youth travel basketball programs in the country. It’s the Wellington Wolves Youth Basketball organization based at Village Park.
Under the leadership of Chris Fratalia, the Wellington Wolves president for the last 12 years, the league currently has 17 different youth basketball teams serving both boys and girls. The youngest players are in the third grade, and the oldest players are in the 11th grade. Each team has an average roster size of 11 players, which means the Wolves have nearly 200 players under their supervision on an annual basis.
Aside from local travel, some Wellington Wolves teams will travel across the United States to compete. For instance, earlier this summer, the Eighth Grade Boys Gold team played in a showcase event in Las Vegas. That team placed eighth out of 97 teams.
Playing for the Wolves can be an avenue for taking your game to a higher level. For instance, two of the more well-known graduates of the Wellington Wolves are current University of Illinois senior point guard Trent Frazier and current NBA superstar John Collins with the Atlanta Hawks. According to Fratalia, four eighth-grade girls playing in the league — Jade Jones, Sophia Kateris, Aubrey Beckham and Janiah Suprius — have already been offered scholarships, upon graduation from high school, to Florida Atlantic University.
The Wolves also host one of the more popular travel basketball tournaments in the country.
The event is called March Madness and is planned for the second weekend of March next year. For this event, teams come from all over the state and nation. According to Fratalia, he and his staff have been recognized for conducting one of the best-run tournaments in the country. This tournament is so well known that a girls basketball team from Maine made the trek to Wellington to compete.
The traditional basketball seasons for the Wolves are the end of November until early June for third through eighth graders. For high-school-age players, the season runs from early March until the end of July.
One of more dynamic aspects of the Wellington Wolves is its Council of Dads program, under the tutelage of John Sitomer. The program started about two years ago before being put on hold during the pandemic. According to Sitomer, he hopes the Council of Dads program will be reinstated this fall.
The Council of Dads is a hands-on, in-person, one-on-one academic program that provides academic assistance, guidance and tutoring to athletes who play for the Wolves and need some assistance in the classroom with their studies. “With the Council of Dads, we sharpen the academic skills of our players, while the coaches help sharpen their basketball skills,” Sitomer said. “We want our players to be known as true student-athletes and not just as basketball players.”
Sitomer and his board members on the Council of Dads have been working with students from the King’s Academy, who provide the one-on-one academic assistance.
“We have a tremendous arrangement with TKA,” Sitomer said. “During pre-COVID times, the students, mostly juniors and seniors from TKA, met twice a week with many of our players. Our athletes have become better students, and the TKA students get community service hours. It’s a win-win.”
Last season, the student instructors from TKA used online resources to connect with the athletes from the Wellington Wolves.
“A Zoom connection is helpful, but there’s nothing like a personal presence for a tutor,” Sitomer said. “We hope to return to in-person learning this fall.”
Visit www.wellingtonwolves.com to learn more about the Wellington Wolves.