Two years ago, Wood Nation proudly wore neon green T-shirts that matched the Brentwood players’ sneakers. Last year, the scheme was bright orange. For the 2015-16 season, it’s a purple haze — in the stands and on the feet of the high-flying Indians. Yes, indeed, Brentwood basketball has been putting on a colorful show.
“Those Wood Nation shirts bring the community together,” said Rodini Almonacy, father of senior star Mike Almonacy and an active Brentwood basketball booster. “We hope it gives us a home-court advantage wherever we play.”
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There certainly is a Brentwood presence on the road, whether on Long Island, or at the past two state tournaments in Glens Falls.
“It’s special, it really is,” Brentwood coach Anthony Jimenez said. “The players thrive on it. The community thrives on it. The younger basketball players thrive on it. They know about Mike and Jamel [Allen, the team’s other senior star]. They come to the games, watch the players and wear those T-shirts. They look around and say, “Who’s going to be the next Mike or Jamel? I want it to be me.’ ”
Mike Almonacy said the T-shirt craze and popularity of the team, which has won back-to-back Long Island Class AA championships, spreads beyond the Brentwood school district.
“We have people from other high schools coming to our games wearing Wood Nation T-shirts,” the Stony Brook-bound guard said. “Students in our own school sometimes can’t get into our home games. They get turned away if they don’t arrive by a certain time. We have to sneak a few in through the back door. Sometimes it feels like the whole Island has our back. It gives us a boost to know that everyone is rooting for us because we’re a good team and because we’re nice people off the court, too.”
That’s an important lesson, Almonacy said, for the young people of Brentwood’s diverse community.
“During basketball season, our games keep kids off the streets and out of trouble,” he said. “It’s a good thing for the community and when we’re winning, like we have been, it’s an amazing thing to see.”
There is a back story to the shirts and sneakers, said Rodini Almonacy. This season’s version — nearly a thousand already have been sold — features a royal purple background with green letters that read Wood Nation. Both colors have special meaning.
“Every year, the money raised from the shirts helps pay for the kids’ sneakers, and the rest goes to a charity,” he said.
This year, that charity is personal for Rodini Almonacy.
“My dad died of pancreatic cancer in 1992 and this year we are affiliated with curePC.org,” he said of a website that raises awareness and money for the disease. “Purple is the color for pancreatic cancer awareness.”
And green, he pointed out, represents the primary school color for Brentwood, the birthplace of Wood Nation.