BY DAVE SEAMON (SPORTS EDITOR)
Hike along Honey Hole Road from Route 309 in Butler Township into Nescopeck State Park and Dennison Township on a summer day and the silence could be deafening.
Maybe you'll hear an occasional car taking a fisherman to Lake Frances, leaves being rustled by a gentle breeze, a deer scampering through low brush, a woodpecker hammering away at its favorite tree, the dissonance of different birds chirping simultaneously, or the idle chatter of fellow hikers.
But get closer to the backyard hoop at the Fazzini house on 1081 Honey Hole Road and the relative hush is interrupted by the sound of a bouncing basketball, the squeaking of sneakers rubbing against concrete, the ball swishing through the net or clanking off the rim and the grunts and groans - OK, even some trash talking - by three growing young men feverishly honing their skills in the sweltering summer sun and sometimes stifling humidity.
This is where Kevin and Sharon Fazzini's sons, Adam, John and Chris, each developed their passion for the game.
"We've had times where our parents had to come out and tell us to cool the shouting,'' Adam said by telephone from Stonehill College in Massachusetts, where he's a history major and a member of the school's basketball team. "My mom would say, 'They can hear you on the other side of the lake.'''
Yet, it's that same backyard hoop where Adam repeatedly worked on his skills en route to becoming an all-state player at Crestwood High School. There, he became the school's second all-time leading scorer with 1,433 points and earned a full scholarship to Stonehill, an NCAA Division II power.
It's where John first learned that Adam's work ethic - combined with his talent - separated his big brother from other players. Then John went out and worked hard on his own game to become Crestwood's starting point guard by his junior year.
It's also where Chris followed suit, getting pushed around by his older brothers until he became old enough and big enough to push back. It's where his game evolved to the point and he soaked in enough bits of advice from his older brothers that he was ready to contribute significant minutes for the Comets varsity as a freshman forward this season.
Probably most importantly, it's the place where the tight-knit bond of three brothers helped each establish himself as a main cog in Crestwood's boys basketball program past, present and future.
"They're obviously three very talented kids, not only (basketball-wise), but they're three great kids,'' Comets coach Mark Atherton said. "It helps that they have very positive parents.''
A decade of Fazzinis
Consider this: from the time of Adam's arrival at the Mountain Top school in 2005 until the time that Chris graduates in 2014, the Comets will have a Fazzini as one of their key players for 10 consecutive seasons.
Credit that to having someone who shares the same hoop and the same last name, as well as someone who played baseball and soccer together growing up with their dad coach until they focused on basketball in junior high school.
Credit that to a hard-working trio of brothers.
"We've always done a lot together... always hung out together,'' said John, identifying kayaking and "anything to keep us active'' as the brothers' favorite activities. "We're really close. We just get along real well, always looking out for each other.''
Despite being a few states away in college, Adam remains a phone call or text message away for his younger brothers. They call him after every game to let him know how they and the Comets did. He, in turn, informs them about his team and his studies at Stonehill.
"Seeing (Adam's) work ethic at practice and on his own in his senior year really motivated me,'' John admitted. "I saw how much work and time he put into the game and it encouraged me to do my best.''
While John had only one year to play varsity basketball with Adam, Chris will have two seasons with John as his teammate.
"I love playing with John... He has helped me tremendously,'' Chris said. "Both John and (Adam) are big role models for me. They push me harder to become a better player. They're always there for me if I have a question. I've watched them both play for so long that I'm always picking something up from them... And if I have a bad game, they're there to pick me up.''
Chris said that John has been an invaluable asset in terms of his help with learning Atherton's offenses.
"You have to be versatile,'' Chris said. "John said, 'You're not just a guard or a forward in our offense; you have to learn every position.'''
John's willingness to help his kid brother extended to summer camp, where he diagrammed plays for Chris on a soap box while their teammates were leaving their dorm rooms at Penn State's main campus.
Meanwile, having older brothers play before him gives Chris instant goals.
"Adam won three out of four district championships and (he) scored more than 1,000 points,'' Chris said. "It makes me want to do the same, and even better... Adam proved himself. Now it's our turn, even this year. We have the potential to win districts again.''
Mom and dad's pride
Kevin Fazzini coached his boys for 12 years in youth baseball, basketball and soccer leagues. He built the backyard hoop for them to practice their skills by themselves and against one another, although he stopped playing himself a little while back.
'I'm getting too old to be playing with them,'' he laughed. "But they work at it (and) they're dedicated to it.''
For now, he and his wife are content to watch the hundreds of junior high, high school, AAU and now college games involving their sons.
"They've all made us very proud,'' Sharon said, referring to not only their play on the court, but also their work in the classroom and as well-spoken young gentlemen.
And as brothers.
"John and Chris are both always learning something from Adam,'' Sharon said. "He's a great teacher for them... As their mother, that's heart-warming to see. Even when he (Adam) comes home from college, he spends a lot of his free time with (John and Chris).''
With Adam's future plans possibly including teaching and coaching, he already has a leg up on his classmates, for he has been a mentor to two pupils.
Even if they share the same name and the same hoop.
"I try to be a good role model for my brothers,'' Adam said. "Whenever they call me for advice, I tell them to keep working hard and play the same way every game... and always stay positive. And if you really put your mind to something, it will always work out in the end.''