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Here and back again, from Australia to Scarsdale

By TODD SLISS


Wayne Kaye brings a new meaning to the word “homecoming.”

The Australia native lived in Scarsdale with his family for three years as a teen in the early 1970s, and has been back twice — in 2011 and earlier this month — since going back down under in 1974. Both return trips were made as the head of St. Edmund’s College basketball program group touring the United States to play ball and see the sights.

Kaye finished high school in Australia. Once he did, he said the options in those days were public service, teaching or learning a trade. His love of sports led him to physical education.

After studying at Canberra University, Kaye began teaching P.E. at St. Edmund’s, an all-boys’ Christian high school and member of the Edmund Rice Education Australia network from the country’s capitol city, Canberra. He has been there for 32 years in various roles, including master in charge of basketball for the last 17.

Kaye has led his students on four biennial trips to the United States since 2009, and each time Scarsdale has been on the itinerary.

Twice when he was growing up, the Kayes moved to Westchester County for a three-year span. With his father working at the Australian consulate in New York City, Kaye and his brothers attended Mamaroneck schools and then, when they returned to the United States, lived in Scarsdale for a more memorable half of eighth grade and two and a half years of high school.

Had the family stayed, Kaye would have graduated from Scarsdale High School in 1976.

“I hadn’t been back,” Kaye said. “When I went back [to Scarsdale] in 2011, it was kind of surreal … We went back to my old house this time.”

Seeing her husband’s old house — which the St. Edmund’s students noted was much bigger than what they were used to seeing back home — was the highlight of the trip for Kaye’s wife, Caroline, who was making her first trip to Scarsdale.

“He talked about that part of his upbringing and I really wanted to see the house and the school,” Caroline said.

The Kayes — dad Barney, mom Valerie, older brother Graeme, Wayne and younger brother Bernard — moved to Scarsdale in January 1971 when Wayne was 12. His best friend was Steve Gruber, who visited Kaye in Australia after graduating from SHS. Kaye played rec baseball for Fox Meadow and junior varsity basketball at SHS.

The school year is different in Australia. Students start at the end of January and have four semesters, each 10 weeks long with two weeks in between, then a break for summer in late November, which this year was marked by the start of the trip to the United States.

The structure of the school year was why Kaye’s family was always relocated in January, though he said it was rare for someone in his father’s position to be relocated to the same office twice as his dad was.

“The school I loved,” Kaye said. “I loved the sports, obviously because I’m a P.E. teacher now.”

Kaye was “originally unhappy” moving to the United States as a pre-teen, but was soon happy to stay. He said he greatly missed his family back home and had a grandparent die while he was gone.

“I had some very good friends around the place,” he said. “It was good and bad times.”

Kaye said the trips to the U.S. with the St. Edmunds basketball team have been good chances to return to his other home — even for only a few days — to share that part of his life with others.

Days before embarking on this year’s trip, Kaye was honored with a national award for his service to the sport. His colleagues on the trip, basketball coach David Monck, sports director David Mead and former police officer and current trip director Steve Kirby — they were also accompanied by Caroline and Mead’s wife, Amanda — agree Kaye is a “reluctant hero” when is comes to his contributions to St. Edmund’s.

“His involvement in basketball is massive at our college,” Mead said. “He’s the reason we’ve revitalized it. Before him it was a just a sport, not a big focus.”


2015: Tour No. 4

Nineteen student-athletes ages 13 to 18 from St. Edmund’s made this year’s journey, along with six chaperones and, for the first time in the trips’ history, a group of parents.

The Nov. 28 through Dec. 19 journey started in Honolulu, where the group stayed for four days of sightseeing.

Next up was San Francisco for four days. There the team played in the Charles Shin Tournament at Oakland High School and did homestays with players from Menlo Atherton High School, where it just so happened a St. Edmund’s alum lives.

Finally it was time for Scarsdale from Dec. 7 to Dec. 10. The St. Edmund’s boys stayed three nights at the homes of Scarsdale families, scrimmaged the junior varsity and freshman teams and one day shadowed their host family students at the high school.

“The culture between Australia and America is in some ways very similar, but by having the opportunity to go to the school and see what the classes are like, how they are different in structure to our classes and our curriculum, is a good learning experience for them,” Mead said.

The chaperones also spent some time at Kaye’s old stomping grounds, visiting with current SHS principal Ken Bonamo, assistant principal Sue Peppers and athletic director Ray Pappalardi.

“The American kids are trying to put on the Australian accent and the Australian kids are trying to put on the American accent,” Caroline said. “It’s quite funny to hear.”

Kirby has been on all four trips with Kaye. He enjoyed seeing Kaye’s former house and the local haunts Kaye used to frequent.

“Totally different world in the way we talk, the way we eat, the way we sort of greet people,” he said. “[The kids] like the differences. It’s a learning curve for them and they’re developing life skills. That’s what the trip is all about.”

Kaye agreed.

“It’s about the relationships of the kids getting together and playing basketball, going through homesickness and doing the silly and dumb things and getting to know us as teachers and coaches,” he said.

Meanwhile, the St. Edmund’s parents learned in their initial voyage not everything always goes as planned and you have to roll with the punches. The team lost a day when a mechanical issue with the plane re-routed them to Dallas. Despite 18 months of planning, other factors come into play when you’re in a place that’s 14.5 hours behind your hometown.

Which might be a good lesson for the year-11 boys — the equivalent of high school juniors — who are required to write a paper after the trip.

Another unique topic this year could revolve around the trip falling during Hannukah, which the boys are not heavily exposed to back home.

“There are a number of tours with different sports, but this one gives the kids an opportunity at a different lifestyle,” Mead said.


Homestays and hoops

Scarsdale sophomore Blake Goldstein’s was the lone family of a JV or freshman player to step up to host a homestay for the visiting players, so just days before their arrival, Maroon & White athletic booster club presidents Kathy Coleman and Peter Zurkow put out the word and got eight families, including their own, to make the St. Edmund’s boys welcome.

“At the last second, my dad told me we were hosting,” junior Henry Zurkow said. “The kids were fine. They’re the same as here. Some of them are cool; some are weird. The kids I had were 14, so they were two years younger. I thought it was nice of us as a community. It shows good things about Scarsdale that we did it. It was nice for my family to do it.”

On Wednesday, Dec. 9, the day after the Scarsdale-St. Edmund’s scrimmages, the Australians shadowed their homestay hosts to classes.

“My teachers made good impressions on them, like Rashid Silvera and [Bob] Draper,” Zurkow said. “My kids loved them.”

Senior varsity captains Caleb Krohn and Sam Squadron didn’t get to play basketball with the visitors, but enjoyed hanging out with them. St. Edmund’s traveled to Rockland to watch the varsity and JV teams play Ramapo for their last night in Scarsdale.

“They were super chill dudes,” Krohn said. “They loved to play Xbox and they loved all the classes I took them to.”

Squadron said, “It was an awesome experience. The kids were really great. It was fun to learn about their culture. They taught me some things about Australia and I was able to teach them about the United States and this area.”

Squadron said he did get a chance to peak his head into the old gym to watch some of the scrimmage on Dec. 8 prior varsity practice.

“They definitely were a good team,” he said. “They had some really big guys that could score in the post.”

This was Scarsdale varsity assistant/head junior varsity coach Dave Scagnelli’s second time scrimmaging St. Edmunds, having first had the honor in 2011.

“Any time you get to play against another team it’s great,” Scagnelli said. “They had a kid who was 6 foot 8 in the middle, another kid 6 foot 6. It was good for us to see another team with that size and a different style of basketball where they were pounding the ball inside to those guys. Their coaching staff is good; very motivated, very enthusiastic.”

St. Edmund’s ended up playing seven games each at the junior varsity and freshman levels on the trip, though Coach Monck’s players learned about basketball in America the hard way when they played their first game in Hawaii.

According to Monck, basketball in Australia is “a little more gentle” and any type of contact results in a foul.

“In Hawaii, we were getting assaulted, knocked over,” Monck said. “Our boys wondered what was going on so, as a coach, I had to talk to them and tell them that’s how it’s played over here. We’ve got to adjust — we can’t get them to change.”

By the time they rolled into the scrimmages at Scarsdale, the Australian players were better prepared. It’s not that the St. Edmunds boys don’t like contact — many play rugby and other sports — they just weren’t used to it on the basketball court.

Of course, there will be another adjustment when they return home.

“We’ve had that chat,” Monck said. “We’ll get back and they’ll all be fouled out before halftime. No doubt about it. And we have our little chats at night and we all probably agree they prefer this style.”

What Monck truly loved was the way scrimmages are run in the U.S., where coaches don’t worry about the number of fouls, will offer to run a certain type of offense and will add an another period or two when time permits.

“The other coaches and kids are just so inviting,” Monck said. “It was great, just how you want it to be.”

On the Dec. 10, the boys headed to New York City for community service in the Bronx, a tour of Madison Square Garden, games at The U.N. School and Brooklyn to see the Nets and Lakers play.

The final stretch of the trip brought the team to Orlando to see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play, the Magic take on the Hornets, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and the Islands of Adventure. Then it was a five-hour flight to Los Angeles and 15 hours home to Australia from there.

“Educationally, it’s fantastic,” Kaye said. “The reason I come to a lot of these places is the sightseeing part of it. A lot of these kids would never see Hawaii or San Francisco and the Golden Gate.”

Some St. Edmund’s alums have come to the U.S. to play ball in college, including, Iain Morrison, a 6-foot-9 sophomore on the University of St. Francis men’s team in Illinois. He is an alumnus of Kaye’s U.S. tour, and his younger brother was on this year’s trip.

Kaye’s latest ambition is to add Europe to a future trip, but his former hometown will always hold a special place during the planning process.

“I think Scarsdale will be in another four years,” Kaye said. “Two of the boys were here on the last trip, so it wouldn’t matter if we went to the same place every time.

Would Scarsdale basketball ever travel to Australia?

“[Varsity coach] Billy [Murphy] and I were talking about that,” Scagnelli said. “I talked to their sports master and they said we are certainly welcome, so I took down all their information. In 2016 or 2017 in the summer time we’re going to be looking to take our teams down there.”


Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of The Scarsdale Inquirer. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

 

January 22, 2016