Michael Cerulli showed that he’s one of the best eighth grade basketball players in the area, receiving the MVP Award in the 39th Annual Brother Anthony CFX Tournament at Malden Catholic High School.
Cerulli, a 5-foot-6-inch point guard for the St. Pius School varsity, led his team to the championship game of the tournament where it lost a thriller, 27-20, to Cheverus School of Malden in overtime. Cerulli averaged 18 points a game for St. Pius who reached the finals of the elite tournament for the first time. St. Pius bested perennial power Fidelity House of Arlington in the semifinals.
The tournament brought together twelve of the top Catholic school teams in Massachusetts. Several high school coaches were on hand to watch the event.
Cerulli, whose father, Michael, is the head coach of the St. Pius team, nearly carried the school to the title, netting 17 of his team’s 20 points in the championship game that was an epic defensive battle.
Cerulli has also been on a tear for St. Pius in the North Shore Catholic School Basketball League. With Cerulli averaging 16 points a game and running the show, St. Pius is off to a 3-0 start heading into a crosstown showdown against Sacred Heart Friday night.
Cerulli wears Derrick Rose-style Neon basketball sneakers that make him stand out on the court. His shooting, rebounding, scoring, and passing skills are drawing the attention of high school coaches. He is interested in two high schools, Malden Catholic and St. Mary’s of Lynn, where he was named the MVP of the Spartan Basketball Camp last summer.
Cerulli credits his father for teaching him the fundamentals when he first began playing the sport. Michael Cerulli played basketball at Shrewsbury High School and later at Lester Junior College.
“My dad taught me most of what I know,” said Cerulli, a St. Pius co-captain. “I give a lot of credit to him for having confidence in me and giving me the confidence to get out there and do my best every game.”
His enthusiasm for basketball has soared the past few years.
“We had a basketball hoop in the backyard since I was very young, but I never took advantage of it until a couple of years ago,” said Cerulli. “Playing on the court behind Lynn English during the summer and after school has also helped me to compete as a skilled player. ”
In addition to attending the Spartan Basketball Camp at St. Mary’s, Cerulli has sharpened his game at the Lynn English King of the Court Camp, the Salem State Vikings Camp and in the Lynn Parks and Recreation summer basketball leagues at Lynn English and Marvin Gardens.
Cerulli is enjoying his final season at St. Pius, noting that there are other skilled players on the team including co-captain Brian Nju-Ghong, and starters Frederic Blaise, Jaason Lopez, and Cameron Weaver.
“I enjoy playing with my school team because we have good team chemistry,” he said. “I also play for the St. Pius CYO Cadets. I love both teams.”
Though he wears Derrick Rose sneakers, Michael said his favorite NBA player is Kevin Garnett of the Celtics. “He [Garnett] plays with all he has every game.”
Two years ago St. Pius basketball observers could see signs of Cerulli’s leadership on the court. As a sixth grader, he led his team to a perfect 12-0 season.
Both father and son are hoping they can get back to the top of the league once more.
“We have a really good group of players,” said Coach Cerulli. “We’re going for all the marbles in our league.”