St. Raphael Academy boysâ basketball coach Tom âSaarâ Sorrentine (right) tells his players which play to execute as sophomore point guard Charles Correa (left) receives a pass from a teammate during Tuesday afternoonâs practice at the Saintsâ Wellness Center. St. Raphael will play in the open state tournament semifinals tonight at 6 p.m. at the Ryan Center against North Providence High.
There are times when Tom âSaarâ Sorrentine probably wishes he had a traffic light on the bench. Instead of making tiresome gyrations with his hands and feet and straining his vocal cords, Sorrentine could simply stand and rely on the signaling device to get the message across.
Charles Correa would also reap the benefits of having his peripheral vision pick up something as basic as red-yellow-green. Instead of looking over and seeing his coach writhing in frustration, Correa would use the traffic light as a means of showing confidence or disapproval relating to his play. If Sorrentine selects red, thatâs a direct order for Correa to slam on the breaks. If green is chosen, Correa would get to showcase his freewheeling ways, which can also be interpreted that the veteran St. Raphael coach senses thereâs a mismatch the Saints can exploit.
Yellow? Thatâs called the middle ground, where youthful spunk collides with set-in-stone, old school mannerisms. Such a description epitomizes the head coach/point guard relationship in place between Sorrentine and Correa. At times itâs contentious, other times thereâs harmony and all is forgiven.
Without Correa, St. Raphael isnât playing in URIâs Ryan Center tonight in the open state tournament semifinals against North Providence. He is the driving force that makes the Saints go, a claim backed by the sophomoreâs stats. Correa leads the Saints in scoring (16 ppg) and 3-pointers (41).
Without Sorrentine, Correa isnât as refined in his handling responsibilities. The youngster whoâs never been accused of lacking confidence knows that the man with the funky sideburns is responsible for introducing him to an entirely different side of the game, something Correa admits took some time to realize.
âEvery time he calls a play, Iâm like âShould I run my own thing?â The only thing Iâve ever known is streetball,â said Correa, leaning up against the hallway of the Wellness Center one day earlier this week. âI would always get the ball and run. I never had someone stop me; Iâve always been a one-man team.
âNow itâs like Saar is always in my head. Everything he tells me is true,â went on Correa, who might be 5-foot-7 on a good day. âHeâs just trying to help me.â
THROUGH THE YEARS St. Raphael has opened its doors to many an acclaimed hoopster, and Correa certainly fit the mold upon his enrollment in 2009. He was a local lad and a known commodity, having starred for Harris Nachbar at Jenks Middle School, located a jump shot away from the Wellness Center. He was also used to running the ship as he deemed fit, his quick-as-lightning step granting him a huge advantage over his peers.
The task fell upon Sorrentine to de-program Correa and then re-program him. It would take some time, but as the mentor looks back, he knew upon looking at Correa run like a deer in preseason drills that St. Raphael had found its next point guard.
âI had considered him a varsity player right from the get-go,â said Sorrentine.
Technically Correa wasnât. He missed a close to a week of school and subsequent practice time while fulfilling his duties on the Central Falls Panthers midget football team. The Panthers were vying for national honors in Orlando. Correa returned to the fold just as the Saints were set to start the season, but Sorrentine had already made up his mind. Talent or no talent, the ninth grader would have to work his way back into Sorrentineâs good graces while playing at the lower levels.
âHeâs a young kid and thatâs his option, but he hurt the team,â Sorrentine said. âI couldnât reward him for going away. Itâs a high school team and youâve got to be dedicated.â
Naturally Correa took it as a form of punishment. No way was he a junior varsity also-ran. He was right, but Sorrentine was the one holding the cards.
âHe made me play a freshman game, so I was mad about that,â recalled Correa. âI was in a rush to play.â
Prying minds wanted to know more about Correa after capping off a 40-point explosion against Woonsocketâs JV outfit with a bank shot as time expired. The theatrics came exactly one week before Christmas, meaning the holiday break was forthcoming. With no games scheduled, Sorrentine thought the down time would be the best time to infuse Correa into the varsity way, which looking back was the plan all along.
âI just wanted to show Saar that I belonged on varsity,â said Correa, who as the calendar flipped to 2010 was humble and ready to open up to the idea of being coached.
Wasting little time in flashing his playmaking ability, Correa began his varsity career with 21 points in one game and eight assists in another. He was the starting point man on a St. Raphael squad that wound up defeating Bishop Hendricken and North Kingstown, the two teams that played in the Division I championship game, yet saw its season end in inglorious fashion (61-39 loss to Central in the first round of the playoffs).
With his first year behind him, Correa was primed to take the next step, with Sorrentine serving as his guiding hand.
HIS SPEED IS a blessing and a deterrent, a contradiction that brings out a wry smile in Correa. Seeing the entire floor is what Sorrentine implores his pet project to gravitate towards and understand. Slipping into another gear, Sorrentine relayed, didnât mean Correa had to sacrifice other aspects of his game.
âJust try and slow down,â is Correaâs response when Sorrentine tells him to ease up. âIâve got to get into that rhythm to just stop whenever I get the ball.â
âHeâs a scoring point guard, so he has even more value. A lot of point guards can distribute and they canât score, but heâs got the whole package,â said Sorrentine. âWith the younger kids you get away with being quicker than everyone else, but not with the older kids. Youâve got to be able to change speeds because if you donât, everyone will draw in right to you.â
Correa started to realize the error of his ways when passes started glancing off teammatesâ fingers and land out of bounds. Now his timing and instincts have improved so that Trevor Vasey and Cesar Mejia now anticipate when the ball is heading in their direction.
âHeâs the most talented kid on the floor almost all the time,â said Vasey, a senior who has taken on the role of big brother with Correa. âIt takes a little time to get used to his passes, but if youâre wide open and catch the pass, youâll score easily.â
Said Mejia, a junior, âHeâs always there; heâs just basically waiting for you to get there.â
PART OF A point guardâs job description is to realize what play the coach is calling and execute it flawlessly. Sorrentine and Correa admit this is one area that has taken time for the youngster to get used to.
âI was like, âWhat is this?â I canât be running all these plays, but they work and we need them in the game,â Correa says. â(SRA assistant coach Dana Smith) is always telling me not to look towards the sideline when heâs calling a play. Listen to what he said and run the play. Donât be looking back and forth.â
Correaâs decision making has ripened to the degree that Sorrentine has allowed him to improvise in practice.
âLast week we had him calling different offenses and he was doing okay,â Sorrentine relayed. âHeâs going to get to a point where heâs going to run it himself. Heâs just got to get the whole game down, the score and what we want to do. Do we hold the ball or do we push the ball? Heâs got to make those decisions, and once he does, heâs going to be pretty good.â
SORRENTINE DOESNâT WANT Correa to become complacent, hence why heâs always on his burgeoning pupil about something. In Tuesdayâs quarterfinal win against West Warwick, the coach felt Correa was shielding his body from contact, which resulted in not getting any calls.
âHe wants my defense to get better,â Correa said.
âHeâs got to add to his game every year,â deadpans Sorrentine.
If anything, Correa understands why Sorrentine sometimes nitpicks the way he does.
âYou canât let him get into your head. My freshman year he was in my head. I was scared to play,â Correa said. âOur relationship has gotten much better throughout this year. We have a better connection.â
Comparisons have been made to Jeff Xavier, the former SRA standout who went on to enjoy a fine college career at Manhattan and later Providence College. That illustrates just how much faith Sorrentine has in Correa and his capabilities.
âHeâs a lot better around school and is getting his work done. He never had a lot of homework and suddenly he has a lot of responsibilities. It took him his whole freshman year to figure it out,â said Sorrentine. âHe knows what heâs got to do. Heâs come a long way.â
And figures to climb even loftier heights in the coming years.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03
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