Ryan Coyle (@ryancoyle35)
Phoenixville senior Mike Memmo grew up a multi-sport athlete in the Phoenixville Area school district. One sport always stood out to him the most. Memmo played nearly year round, traveling for tournaments to play against high level competition.
That sport wasn’t basketball, though. Going into his senior season on the hardwood for the Phantoms, Memmo had a change of heart and decided he wanted to hang up his baseball cleats after his senior year and pursue another four years of hoops at the college level.
Mike Memmo (above, last season) decided to pursue college basketball over baseball going into his senior year. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“I never played AAU basketball before,” Memmo said. “I was always playing AAU baseball in the summer, but going into my senior season, I decided that I wanted to play basketball.”
Memmo, a member of Phoenxville’s varsity baseball roster since his sophomore year, is a third baseman and pitcher on the fourth seeded team in the PIAA District One 5A playoffs with a matchup looming against Marple Newtown on the way Wednesday.
Early in his sophomore year on the diamond though, Memmo suffered a shoulder injury that held him out for most of the season, and he lost his whole junior season due to COVID. Despite those setbacks, Memmo still was playing summer baseball and in different travel baseball tournaments that led him to getting attention from schools like Chestnut Hill, Mansfield, Misericordia, and Gwynedd Mercy.
What led to the change of heart? It could have been the setbacks and the long layoffs he had with the game that drew his attention away from his main sport growing up. But in this case, it was just his love for hoops instead.
“I just decided going into my senior year that I liked basketball more and enjoyed playing it more than baseball,” Memmo said with a chuckle over the phone. “I just have more fun playing it.”
After graduating from Phoenixville in June, Memmo will be heading to York College to play in the MAC Commonwealth conference at the Division III level.
Memmo’s head coach in high school at Phoenixville, Eric Burnett, knew from a young age that Memmo was a special overall athlete and had a bright future ahead.
“I’ve been a teacher in the district for eleven years, so I got to know Mike in second grade and taught him through elementary school in phys ed,” Burnett said. “And then I was able to see him come through our middle school program as a player coming to our camps.
“I’ve always known that he is a great athlete and would wind up being a great player.”
The 6-foot-4 guard came into high school like many other freshmen, as a skinny, lanky kid who was going to be playing JV as he developed into a potential varsity contributor.
During his sophomore campaign as he began to bulk up a little more and get used to the physicality of the game is when he began to make some strides and Burnett began to see the player that the York commit would eventually become.
“As a sophomore, Mike played JV and varsity,” Burnett said. “He didn’t play that much varsity, but as the season went on, he got more and more minutes, but never started for us in the regular season.”
At the conclusion of the regular season, the Phantoms did not qualify for the Pioneer Athletic Conference (PAC) playoffs, but they did qualify for the PIAA District One 5A playoffs as the 11th seed, where they would match up against the sixth seed, Sun Valley, who went on to win the district championship at Temple a few weeks later.
There was a layoff, though, with a three-week break between when Phoenxville wrapped up their regular season and their district game against Sun Valley, where Memmo stepped up in practice and gave a glimpse of what was to come during his junior and senior year.
“During those three weeks of practice, Mike was probably the best player in the gym each day at practice,” Burnett said.
“He went from playing JV to a few minutes on varsity and then we wound up starting him in the opening round of districts getting his first varsity start ever, in a district playoff game. We ended up losing a close one to the eventual champs in Sun Valley, but Mike came in and lit it up, scoring 16 points in his first start, which was a great set up to walk into his next season as a junior where he led us in scoring.”
Memmo came into high school regarded as a high level shooter and has continued to grow that facet of his game every year.
“I think the top part of my game is my ability to shoot the ball,” Memmo said. “I have just always been a natural shooter. Coach Burnett has always given me great advice and tips on shooting, making sure I always form shoot before games and practices, little things like that which keep my shot steady.”
Trying to not be just a one-trick pony, Memmo evolved his offensive game over his two years as a varsity starter for Burnett and the Phantoms into a more well-rounded offensive game.
“I was able to get into the weight room over these past few years and have been able to get bigger and stronger, which allowed me to start driving in the lane and finishing,” Memmo said. “I have also been improving my handle and have gotten better on the offensive glass, being able to have some tip-ins and putbacks.”
After his junior year, where he led Phoenxville in scoring and three-point makes, Memmo began to become more entrenched in the game. Due to COVID, Memmo didn’t have the ability to get in front of any coaches by playing in AAU tournaments or summer leagues entering his senior year and was virtually unknown on the radar of many small college coaches.
“We reached out to a lot of schools that we thought would be a good fit for Mike and he wanted us to kind of feel it out for him,” Burnett said.
Memmo heard from Division III schools such as Hood, Eastern, FDU-Florham, and Catholic (D.C) before committing to coach Matt Hunter and York.
Memmo had a standout senior season on the hardwood where he garnered First-Team Frontier Division in the PAC, finishing second in the league in points per game, averaging 17.0. Memmo used his improved frame and his growing offensive game to get to the rim more and foul line where he shot 83-for-115 (72.1%), attempting 28 more free throws than the second closest player in the league.
The best part about Memmo’s game, that likely is why those various Division III institutions were keeping tabs on him, is his ability to go off on any given night.
“He is one of those players where when he gets going, it is hard to stop,” Burnett said. “He has one of the quickest and most impressive releases that I have seen, where when he catches it he wastes no time in getting it off.”
Memmo will look to bring his high level shooting and growing offensive game to a York College program that did not play in the 2020-2021 season due to a COVID opt out, but went 23-6 during the 2019-20 campaign, winning the Capital Athletic Conference tournament championship and a game in the Division III NCAA Tournament over St.John Fisher.
With his ability to space the floor and knock down open shots, Memmo will try to increase the Spartans 34% team 3-point percentage from the 2019-20 season.
As he prepares to make the leap from the PAC to the MAC, don’t look for Memmo to be too stressed about the adjustment to the next level.
“We always would say how Mike was never a kid to get rattled and how he is always calm, cool, and collected,” Burnett said. “He was always cool under pressure and we always would joke that he could go out, score 20, and he wouldn’t break a sweat and his hair wouldn’t move.”
For the former college baseball hopeful, he looks forward to finishing up a strong senior season on the diamond where the third baseman/pitcher currently is leading the Phantoms to first place with a 9-1 record in the PAC Frontier division, but he is excited to make the trek out to York and continue his career on the hardwood as a Spartan.
“I know I just have to go in there and be ready to work hard for what I want to get.”