When Joe Lores updates East Rockaway’s all-time scoring list — an annual postseason ritual of his — a new name will top the chart for the first time in his 27 years as the varsity boys basketball coach.
Danny Fusco broke Mike West’s record of 1,039 points, set in 1987, with a 28-point effort in the Rocks’ 72-60 loss to Wheatley on Tuesday. After scoring 36 points against Malverne on Friday night, Fusco has 1,086 with six games remaining.
“It’s a big honor,” Fusco said. “You grow up thinking, ‘Maybe I could do something like this one day.’ ”
Fusco noticed he was in range of West’s record after Lores posted the stats after last season, crediting him with 728 points through three years on varsity. He knew if he continued to average 22.6 points per game, as he did in his junior year, he would pass West with a few games to spare.
“I thought, ‘Wow, maybe next year I could take it,’ ” he said. “I didn’t think it would come this quickly.”
Averaging 29.3 points per game expedited the process, but he said he felt anxious as he chased the record.
West, who played for East Rockaway from 1984-87, was in attendance when Fusco scored the record-breaking basket. Play was stopped and West, 46, presented his successor a commemorative basketball at midcourt. The two posed with Lores for a picture, and then the game resumed.
Like that, a burden was lifted off Fusco’s shoulders. “Now,” he said, “I could just relax and play and let the game come to me a little more.”
West said he felt honored that Fusco, whom he met two weeks earlier, was the person to pass him.
“I thought the record would have been broken way before this,” said West, who said he still plays pickup basketball near his Long Beach home. “It was great to have the record all this time. I’m just happy to pass the torch on.”
A 5-8, 155-pound guard, Fusco has come a long way since making varsity as a freshman who “weighed 90 pounds soaking wet,” according to Lores.
He finishes more consistently around the rim. He handles pressure better and rotates more effectively on defense, improvements he traces to East Rockaway’s coaching staff and the mentorship of David McClure, who was a senior during Fusco’s freshman year.
Lores, who lives a few blocks from his star guard, said Fusco calls him regularly asking for access to the gym.
“If he was in the gym for 24 hours,” Lores said, “that wouldn’t be enough time. He wants to stay there more.”
All that work has Fusco in position to create some serious numerical distance between himself and West on Lores’ leader board.
Said Fusco, “I want to have that record for a while and come back when I’m 50 years old and shake hands with some little dude who broke my record.”