Archbishop Wood's Matt Cerruti (above) was an invaluable part of the Vikings' PCL and state championship runs. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Jeff Griffith (@Jeff_Griffith21)
Matt Cerruti finished his high school career on about as high a note as he possibly could.
A four-year path that started at Lower Moreland ultimately finished with a Philadelphia Catholic League title and a PIAA class 5A state title at Archbishop Wood, but an unprecedented senior year didn’t end there.
Two months after his final high school game – a dominant state championship victory over Meadville in which Cerruti contributed seven points – the soon-to-be graduate took the next step on his basketball journey with a commitment to Lock Haven on May 5, exactly one month before his graduation from Wood.
Cerruti also considered the likes of Assumption, St. Anselm, Chestnut Hill, Holy Family and Daemen.
“It’s just a huge sigh of relief,” he said. “I can kind of relax and enjoy the rest of senior year, get healthy and not have to worry about this big looming thing over top of my shoulders trying to decide where to go. Luckily I have it all done now and I feel at ease with where I’m going, I feel like this is the right choice."
When it came down to it, the relationship he was able to build not only with the Lock Haven players, but most notably with the coaches – whose effort to stay in touch with their recruit by any means possible stood out to Cerruti – made the difference.
“The coaches, coach (Mike) Nester and coach (Brian Oleksiak) made a great not only with me but with my family but with me, too,” he said. “They’re just really great people.”
A close friend and former AAU teammate of Cerruti’s, fellow senior Jesse McPhearson of Archbishop Carroll, recently committed to play at Lock Haven as well.
Although Cerruti said McPhearson provided some space to make a choice, having a familiar face on the court – and in the dorms – certainly didn’t hurt when it came time to decide.
“We roomed a couple of times on AAU trips and I’m going to be rooming with him next year,” Cerruti said. “I’ll get to beat up on him a little bit.”
The 6-foot-4 good guard, who plans to major in something sports related – whether it be sports management or sports journalism – is known best for his shooting ability, which he believes will be his biggest contribution to his new team.
All in all, Cerruti felt that the playing style at Lock Haven fit his game well and that he could contribute in multiple ways within the Nester’s system.
“Even just the style of play, they get up and down the floor and that’s something I think I could do,” Cerruti said. “I can go and help them, they need some outside shooting which I think I could bring and help my freshman year. Just fitting in with the guys on the court, too, it seems like the right fit for me.”
Cerruti will join a slew of young local guards on the Bald Eagles’ roster like Tarojae Brake (Octorara), Khaleeq Campbell (Chester), Jihad Barnes (Philadelphia Electric) and Amir Hinton (Abington).
Last season, Lock Haven finished 13-14 with a 9-13 record in PSAC play, and has finished with a winning record just once in the last seven seasons.
“When I went up for my official visit I kind of bonded with all the players like Amir Hinton and Tarojae Brake,” Cerruti said. “They’re all just cool dudes, just people that even not when we’re playing basketball they’re just people I see myself hanging around with.”
With such a wealth of players at his position, Cerruti knows there’s no promise of significant playing time, but is certainly willing to work for a spot on the court and recognizes the ways he can improve in order to do so.
“They didn’t promise anything, but obviously there’s a chance for earning your spot, which takes some hard work but I’m ready for it,” he said. “Definitely (need to work on) my ball-handling, trying to get into the lane and create for others. They think I can, but they definitely want me to do it a little bit better.”
And after a senior year for the books, Cerruti hopes to bring the winning mentality he developed at Wood to a Lock Haven program looking to continue to improve.
“I think it carries over a lot, just bringing kind of a winning culture,” he said. “Trying to get Lock Haven back on the map and get closer to championships, because really that’s all we knew at wood, just going to win a championship. It was never ‘Let’s get to the final,’ it was always ‘Let’s win it,’ so hopefully I’ll just bring that and it’ll carry over to everybody.”