Its official name was the Southeast Rec Center. Everybody in Bridgeton called it the "Tin Can." That's where Charlie Kates got his start in basketball, a gangly kid with athletic ability but little direction, and little expectation that his life would stretch far beyond the chained-link fences that surrounded those asphalt courts.
They had every reason to give up. They weren't tall enough. They weren't skilled enough. They weren't good enough. Charlie Lane, Alex Calvello, and Mark Tuzi tried out for the Clearview High School boys' basketball team as sophomores. They all were cut.
The front of Jason Snyder's jacket reads, "Lindenwold soccer." The back explains what that means. Snyder is the coach of a memorable success story in South Jersey sports. The Lions are the champions of the Colonial Conference's Patriot Division - home to perennial powers such as Haddon Heights and Haddon Township - and they will be the No. 2 seed in the Group 1 sectional tournament, which begins Tuesday.
Phil Anastasia is an award-winning sports columnist for The Inquirer. His work has been cited by the Associated Press Sports Editors and the New Jersey Press Association, and his 2011 column on the tragedy at Mainland Regional High School won first place in the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Anastasia has written sports in the Philadelphia area since 1980, serving as a Philadelphia Eagles beat writer as well as a sports columnist and sports editor at the Courier-Post in Cherry Hill, N.J. before joining The Inquirer.