StevePratt

Steve Pratt, center, stands with longtime friends Joe Hohn and Wayne Lafley.

When Steve Pratt was living in Bennington, he would hitchhike up to Rutland every Saturday during the summer to play in pickup basketball games at the outdoor courts on Meadow Street.

“Those were great games. There would be guys playing like Charles McDonough, Jeff Eaton and Sean Dillon,” Pratt said.

McDonough scored more than 1,000 points at Mount St. Joseph where Dillon eclipsed he 1,500-point milestone.

“I didn’t have a car. I would leave Bennington in the morning, play until 3 or 4 in the afternoon and hitchhike home,” Pratt said.

Pratt loved playing pickup basketball, yet he did not play for coach Dave Fredrickson’s Mount Anthony Union High School basketball powerhouse. Instead, he played football for coach Dan Laughlin at MAU.

“I couldn’t see my path in football,” Pratt said. “I loved to play pickup basketball. I decided to train myself to be a basketball player.”

He went to Johnson State and got cut as a freshman but was allowed to keep practicing with the team after he asked to do so.

“I was starting at Johnson as a sophomore but I wasn’t very good,” Pratt said. “I took a year off to train after I heard you could do that.”

He went over to Peoples Academy in Morrisville which was coached by the legendary Bob Rowe. He asked Rowe if he could be a volunteer coach for him.

It was mid-season and the Wolves were 10-0 but Rowe allowed him to come aboard.

“Bob Rowe was a great coach and a great person. That was the beginning of an amazing journey,” Pratt said.

Pratt was hired to coach varsity boys basketball at Cabot High where one of his players was Will Voigt, who went on to become the first head coach of the Vermont Frost Heaves, a team that played in the Barre Auditorium as a member of the American Basketball Association. Voigt also coached national teams in Angola, Nigeria and other far-flung places.

Pratt moved just down the road to take the reins of the Hazen Union High School boys varsity basketball program.

He was very successful at the Hardwick school and loved the community support, much of it coming from the late Dave Morse, sports editor of the Hardwick Gazette.

“Dave Morse wrote so many stories in the Gazette, not just about the stars but about the role players. They wound up on a lot of refrigerators,” Pratt said.

“He helped so many kids. I asked him if he could help some players to get to Five-Star Basketball Camp in Pennsylvania and he couldn’t do it fast enough.”

It was a great ride for Pratt at Hazen but something was pulling at him to pursue something bigger.

He got a job in Chicago which lasted all of eight months before he launched his own venture Fullpackage Athletics.

That was in 2000 and it’s still going strong.

The 54-year old Pratt’s Fullpackage Athletics trains both players and coaches for basketball.

He figures more than 50 of those he has trained have reached the NBA and well over 30 have ascended to the WNBA.

“I have trained Jon Scheyer (the successor at Duke to coach Mike Krzyzewski after this season) since he was in the sixth grade,” Pratt said.

Pratt said that what he does is a little different than what many training organizations do. He does not teach players how to shoot the jump shot or the mechanics of other skills.

“I teach how to apply the skills in games,” Pratt said.

Pratt lives in Chicago but his thoughts often return to Vermont and those days of growing up in Bennington or coaching at Cabot, Hazen and even at Johnson State where he was an assistant under Buddy Mahar.

“Vermont has a very warm place in my heart,” Pratt said.

Much of his formative basketball life took place in his home state.

There were those hitchhiking excursions up Route 7 to play on Rutland’s Meadow Street playground, hallowed ground for pickup basketball. There were the coaching stints at Cabot, Hazen and Johnson State.

Pratt pointed out that Fredrickson was always very accommodating to him, allowing him to work out with his MAU players, even though Pratt never played for him.

“It’s hard to say,” Fredrickson said of Pratt’s basketball talent on the varsity level if he had committed to the game much earlier. “He certainly worked hard at it.”

Then, there was the time that Pratt found out through Ken Wells, a man involved in Vermont print journalism and radio, that Dick Harter spent his summers in the Northeast Kingdom town of Orleans.

Harter was regarded throughout the NBA as one of the truly outstanding defensive minds.

Wells set up a meeting between Pratt and Harter.

All of these Vermont experiences led to the founding of Fullpackage Athletics, a developmental club that will train anywhere from 300 to 450 people at a time to be high-level basketball players or coaches.

Pratt’s successor at Hazen is Aaron Hill and he is still winning state crowns.

Pratt makes a comparison between Hill and Fredrickson inasmuch as they are not only outstanding at coaching the game, but at serving Vermont high school basketball.

Fredrickson, in his retirement, has been the executive director of the Vermont Basketball Coaches Association, coordinating the North-South Senior All-Star Game, conducting coach’s polls throughout the season and much more.

Hill has been to libraries and newspaper archives to do exhaustive research on Vermont high school basketball history and has compiled much of it for fans and coaches to be able to access.

Fredrickson and Hill have served Vermont basketball tirelessly. And Steve Pratt has carried its banner far and wide.

tom.haley

@rutlandherald.com

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