Paul Giorgetti likened the crowd at Houston’s NRG Stadium for last year’s NCAA men’s basketball Final Four to the loudest event he’d ever witnessed.
Giorgetti, from Manhasset and a 2012 graduate of Villanova, said he never misses a game. So when his Wildcats stunned North Carolina at the buzzer on Kris Jenkins’ three-pointer in the NCAA championship game, Giorgetti’s trip became unforgettable.
“Villanova basketball is near and dear to my heart,” he said.
Basketball is not the only reason Giorgetti, 26, maintains ties to his alma mater. He was a recipient of the Families of Freedom Scholarship, which is awarded to children of Sept. 11 victims.
The scholarship fund takes center stage on Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, during the inaugural Never Forget Tribute Classic. Villanova and Notre Dame will play at noon in the first game, with Pittsburgh vs. Penn State in the second game at 2:30 p.m.
Giorgetti’s sister, Alexa, 21, also received the scholarship. She is a senior at Villanova, majoring in both finance and real estate.
They lost their father, Steven Giorgetti, in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Giorgetti worked at Marsh & McLennan in midtown and was in the North Tower for a meeting that day, said Paul Giorgetti who now works at the insurance company’s midtown office.
Earlier this week, Giorgetti joined Villanova coach Jay Wright and the Wildcats at practice, where Wright spoke to his players about the impact of 9/11 on both the Long Island community and the rest of the nation.
“We’re honored to be a part of the inaugural 2016 Never Forget Tribute Classic,” Wright said in a press release. “To participate in an event that raises scholarship funds for the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks mean so much to our program and University.”
Wright had just accepted the Villanova job in March 2001 after leading Hofstra to two straight NCAA Tournament appearances. He recalled to his players the worry and devastation the attacks caused on Rockville Centre, where Wright lived before taking the Villanova position.
The Giorgettis are from Manhasset, where Paul said the tight-knit community grieved together after losing family, friends and loved ones. Wright’s emphasis on family and remembrance left its mark on him.
“He cares about family so much,” Giorgetti said. “He’s just such a family man, and it hit so close to home. The fact that he can be part of this great tournament and help a cause that’s close to his heart, it’s just a slam dunk for him.”
The fund, which was established within one week of the attacks, has provided children of people killed or permanently disabled in the terrorist attacks with millions of dollars in educational assistance.
The fund will continue through the year 2030, with the goal of providing over $100 million in financial aid.