“He makes boys into men.”
Five words are all it took for Boston Amateur Basketball Club (BABC) forward Kevin Marfo effectively sum up his head coach.
For the past 38 years, Leo Papile has constructed BABC into one of the most storied basketball programs in the world. He is widely regarded as a legend in the grassroots basketball landscape, finding and cultivating the best talent in Boston since 1977. Papile’s program is responsible for 17 AAU National Championships, as well as professionals ranging from Patrick Ewing, to Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams.
Simply put, Papile has turned himself into a living legend. The casual observer might assume that BABC’s best work is in it’s past. Quite the contrary, actually.
In 2015, Papile and company proved that the BABC program is as good as ever.
Catching fire during the third session in Lexington, KY, BABC won their final nine EYBL games en route to a Pool A-winning 13-4 regular season record. Led by three-year EYBL veteran Bruce Brown, Papile coached a group of underrated, albeit very talented players. Marfo, the only true post player on Papile’s roster, blossomed into a major contributor. They have extremely valuable role-players, including Thomas Mobley, who knocked down 58 three-pointers - good for second most in the EYBL.
BABC employs the most unique defensive strategy on the circuit, applying constant pressure with the 1-2-2 and 2-2-1 press. While extremely exhausting, the press has turned into something the opposition needs to game-plan for.
“Oh man, the press kills us,” Brown said, question about the effort that goes into BABC’s defense. “The press is really hard. Just going 100% in every game, your legs wear out. But it’s effective. We take away the middle, speed it up and cause turnovers.”
They aren’t the most athletic and don’t have elite size, but they always find a way to be competitive and pull out wins.. Papile has built a system of excellence over the years, and his players cite that as a reason he’s been so successful.
“Leo really emphasizes that each guy do their job and fill their specific role,” starting guard Thomas Mobley explained. “He has a system that has worked for decades, he just uses new players in it every year.”
Toughness is a trait of every Papile-led BABC squad, and that’s exactly where Marfo said Papile helped most.
“He gave me the confidence and swagger to be me,” Marfo explained. “He helped me mentally more than anything. He’s tough on his guys for a reason.”
Papile is a hard-nosed coach, but he’s added team personnel to keep things in perspective. Papile’s dog, Cotton, travels to each tournament with BABC, sitting right next to Papile during every game. Well-behaved and always attentive, Cotton’s impact is evident to Papile.
“This little guy really keeps things in perspective,” Papile said. “It reminds you that it’s just a game. When I sub a player out, Cotton will go sit on their lap. He’s a true team player.”
Papile’s impact stretches a wide landscape. He knows just about everyone in the realm of grassroots basketball, and is always there to assist his alumni. He’s built up a reputation chocked full of integrity, and those connections are put to work for his players.
“In Boston, he knows everyone, period,” Mobley explained. “The connections he has is crazy. If a former player needs his help or uses him as a reference for a job, he’s always happy to help.”
The 2015 grassroots season isn’t quite complete, but Papile can already be proud of his work. They will have a tough schedule at Peach Jam, but this resilient bunch isn’t ready to back down. How can we be so certain?
Easy. At this point in the season, the boys have been weeded out.