BY DEXTER MCCREE, Feature Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – Eckerd College was the site of a reunion of sorts that could possibly be a sequel to the film “Love & Basketball.”
The action took on the flavor of a sibling rivalry where big brother returns home to find that his younger brother has grown to be stronger, faster and jumps higher than when he left.
Then there were the brothers brought together by marriage who are so connected that they refuse to be separated by life and often use this same gym to play one-on-one full court with just the two of them. Speaking of full court basketball, joining the younger cousins was the All Sunshine State guard who wooed many crowds on this same floor for four years as a member of the Eckerd College Triton basketball team.
Rounding out the players are two brothers who are both in high school, one a star in football and basketball and the other in track. Brothers and cousins connected as family and brought together by a sailor who returned home for a visit and a game of basketball.
Brittany, Jordanyn and Jaron McCree
“It’s nice coming home and being around family. Coming back and playing in Eckerd’s gym brings back memories from high school,” said Jaron McCree, a 2007 graduate of The Boca Ciega High School.
Jaron brought his wife and daughter as he tried not to get trounced by the younger generation.
“I’m trying to act like a spring chicken when I know that I’m not,” he said.
Jaron said he doesn’t often get a chance to play ball with family when he’s deployed, so enjoying moments such as this and “getting the support from so many people makes it all worth it.”
Living in Virginia Beach, Va., along with his wife Brittany and their three-year-old daughter Jordanyn, he’s in his seventh year serving in the United States Navy. After his glory days at Boca Ciega where he played football and basketball, he went on to Baker University in Kansas where he played football prior to joining the U.S. Navy. His brief return home brought a lot of fun, love and basketball.
“It felt like a reunion. Some of us moved away so we don’t see each other although we talk on the phone,” stated Roderick McCree II, who recently moved back to St. Petersburg after living in Plantation, Fla., for seven years. “It brought back a lot of memories and reminded me how much I enjoy family.”
Be it a reunion of sorts or a challenge to be the best, basketball is the one thing that will bring together this family of athletes.
Oh, and you can count on a lot of smack talk, one-on-one challenges within the game, physical play and a lot of running up and down the court. It’s brutal; those past their prime just watch. Only the strong will survive, but the family continues to play together.
Along with the fellowship of the day and the competition of the games, the McArthur Center gym holds especially fond memories for one family member, Sharrod McCree who played on the Eckerd College Men Basketball team from 2000-04.
“Man it has been a while since I’ve had this feeling in this gym,” said Sharrod. “I had a great career playing [basketball] at Eckerd.”
While there, Sharrod had 20 plus win seasons. In 2003, the team had the most wins in school history and went to the Elite 8 signifying one of the top eight teams in the country for Division II schools. Eckerd won the Sunshine State Conference Championship in 2004.
“This is home and I had a great time here,” Sharrod said. “Today brings back that feeling.”
So how does Joshua, the younger brother in this sibling rivalry who has grown up to be stronger, faster and jumps higher than when big brother last left, feel about his day on the court with his bigger navy brother?
“It was great. I gave him buckets,” said Joshua, smiling.
They rode off together looking to fill the next few hours that they’ll have together to play.