Alexander Aurrichio, three-sport standout at Half Hollow Hills West, dies in cycling accident
Alexander Aurrichio was loved all the way from Long Island to Australia. The former three-sport standout at Half Hollow Hills West High School became a star in Australian Rules Football and was known affectionately as “The Rooch.”
Aurrichio was killed Monday night in a cycling accident in Australia’s Northern Territory. He was 30.
“My son was working out and getting in peak shape, like he always did, and was on his bicycle in the Darwin area when he was hit by a car,” said his father, Lou Aurrichio, of Dix Hills. “The coroner’s office confirmed that he died from severe head trauma. He was such a happy guy and halfway across the world pursuing his dream of playing professional sports.”
Aurrichio, who grew up in Dix Hills, moved to Australia in 2014 in hopes of pursuing a career in the Australian Football League. He represented numerous clubs across Australia and most recently played for the Waratah Football Club in the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL).
“My son put everything he had into the pursuit of his dreams,” Lou Aurrichio said. “The bigger the challenge, the harder he worked to succeed. He believed nothing worth fighting for is easy. He truly felt there was no challenge too big. We went to Australia three times and he showed us beautiful places with tremendous mountain views and coastlines and introduced us to all the people he knew. He loved Australia.”
Aurrichio made a name for himself as a throwback high school athlete, preferring to play three sports rather than specializing in one. He was a goalkeeper for the Hills West soccer team, shutting out Massapequa, 1-0, in the 2007 Long Island Class A soccer championship.
“He was the best to ever walk through the halls of our school, an All-American in soccer,” Hills West soccer coach Doug Gannon said. “He was a true captain and the ultimate team player. He wanted everyone to be happy around him and loved life to the fullest. I spoke with him last week and he was having so much fun on the coast of Australia enjoying life.”
Aurrichio’s brother Chris was a ball boy in eighth grade and remembered the team mantra, “Find a Way.”
“I know my brother lived by that motto,” he said.
Aurrichio went from the soccer pitch to the hardwood. Hills West basketball coach Bill Mitaritonna called him “the greatest competitor I’ve coached.”
“It didn’t matter if it were on the basketball court or in gym class playing Ping-Pong, he just wanted to compete and win,” Mitaritonna said. “We beat Brentwood in a semifinal his senior year and his stat line was legendary. He had 21 rebounds, 13 points, four blocks, four steals and took three charges. He willed the win for us.”
NBA star Tobias Harris of the Philadelphia 76ers, Aurrichio’s high school teammate for three years, tweeted, “Can’t believe it, and don’t want to. The loss of my good friend Alex Aurrichio. Alex was seriously one of the greatest human beings I’ve come across. I’m hurt today. I’ve lost a friend that I will forever miss.”
Mitaritonna said Harris called him Tuesday to talk about the tragedy.
“Tobias considered Aurrichio a mentor and a longtime friend,” Mitaritonna said. “Alex taught Tobias the value of training hard in the offseason.”
Aurrichio, a 6-6, 220-pound power-hitting first baseman, was a Newsday All-Long Island baseball selection, earned Suffolk’s Gold Glove Award, and batted .491 with five home runs and 27 RBIs in 2008.
He capped his high school career earning the Butch Dellecave Award, given to Suffolk’s top scholar-athlete.
He played two sports at Columbia University while maintaining a 3.7 GPA and started on the men’s soccer and baseball teams.
Aurrichio was a two-time All-Ivy League selection, including a first-team honoree as a sophomore after slugging a team-high 13 home runs. He finished his career third on Columbia’s all-time home run list with 23.
“Alex’s love and passion for Columbia men’s soccer and his teammates was second to none,” said Columbia men’s soccer coach Kevin Anderson, who coached Aurrichio from 2008-11. “When he walked into a room you knew it, and he made you feel it deep into your soul. His personality and smile were even larger than he was. He was a guy who always looked to grow, challenged himself, held guys accountable and only played to win while truly enjoying the challenge and opportunity. Alex was the beginning of change for this program. He got the most out of every day and the most out of everyone.”
His mother, Jill Aurrichio, said her son made quite the impression when she brought him into this world. “He was 13 pounds, 9 ounces, a very big baby, and our third boy and everyone wanted to see him,” she said. “We hadn’t decided on a name and I wanted Alexander and his dad didn’t. The Huntington Hospital nurses made a big banner ‘Alexander the Great’ and my husband loved it.”
He inspired older brother Michael Aurrichio of Deer Park.
“We went scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef and we went at night and I started to panic and said I can’t do this,” Michael Aurrichio said. “He said he wouldn’t dive without me, we needed to do it together. I collected myself and we did it.
“It was amazing. It was so dark and all we had was flashlights. The instructor said stay close and we could go 12 meters deep. But my brother was fearless and pushed the limits, and it seemed like he’d gone to the bottom of the ocean. At night all you see is sharks and he would swim right up to them and they’d swim away. I did things I would have never done, but he gave me the courage to do them.”
He is also survived by another brother, John Aurrichio of Hampton Bays, and a sister, Jillian Aurrichio of New York.
“Please take some comfort in knowing he was loved by his family spreading across Australia," said Rohan Langworthy, the president of the Waratahs Football Club. "Rooch came to the club and made an instant impact, with his strong play on the field, and even stronger character off the field, and quickly became a favorite at Waratahs. He had recently discussed moving to Darwin permanently and was immersing himself in the lifestyle, taking in all the Territory had to offer including fishing and camping. Messages of condolences have been coming from far and wide, and he had clearly touched all who met him, with everyone in disbelief that we have lost such a loveable larrakin. Love you Rooch, Hoorah baby!”
A GoFundMe page was set up by Abbey Holmes, a former Australian rules footballer in the women’s league. In less than a day the “Lets Get Rooch home” page has raised more than $110,500. Harris contributed $15,000.
Holmes wrote, “Let’s give Rooch the send-off he deserves, and get him home to his family. We are all absolutely shattered. The tragic passing of Alex has left a gaping hole in our hearts. Rooch came to Australia chasing the adventure of a lifetime and my gosh did he live large!”