By Jim Sullivan
---- — NEWBURYPORT — It’s not often that brothers, four years apart, get to share varsity time together, but Newburyport basketball senior forward Jake Baribeault and his brother, Dan, a freshman guard, are doing just that in the state tournament.
“There’s been times when we check into the game at the same time and it’s like, ‘Wow, we’re both going in,’” says Jake. “And our parents, they love it when they see us both at the free-throw line together. It’s a fun experience, I think.”
Tonight will be singular challenge for the brothers as the sixth-seeded Clippers (14-7) will be traveling to third-seeded Whittier Tech (19-2) in the second round of the Division 3 North tournament.
“They’re very well coached, they’ve got a lot of savvy basketball players,” Clippers’ coach Tom L’Italien says of the Wildcats. “They don’t need a lot of time to prepare. We certainly could use the extra day’s preparation. They’re going to come out and do their thing. We’re going to come out and do our thing to a certain extent. But we have a few adjustments to make to prepare for a good basketball team.”
“It’s going to be a good game,” echoes Jake. “Whittier is really good. We can’t get away with the mistakes that we made on Monday.”
Jake had11 points against Lynnfield recently and Dan dropped 14 on Georgetown a little over a week ago. Each has an individual style that suits their opposite positions, according to L’Italien.
“He’s got a high basketball IQ,” L’Italien says of Jake, who has been playing basketball since the fourth grade. “He plays excellent interior defense. He makes good decisions with the ball for us. He’s been nice a presence in practice. He’s helped bring along (junior) Dillon Guthro. He’s done a nice job teaching him little things about the position.”
“Danny can play one of three positions,” L’Italien says of the freshman who has been playing since he was 6 years old. “The one, two or three. He knows everything that’s going on on the floor. He can shoot the ball from the three well. He’s got a good pull-up, he’s got a good left hand. He’s a good decision-maker. He knows when his feet are set and when they’re not set. He doesn’t force shots.”
L’Italien has known that Dan was coming up since the fifth grade. But it was the insistence of his players that truly sold the coach on the young man.
“They were right,” L’Italien says of his upperclassmen. “Danny has really sparked us. But Jake deserves a lot of credit too. He’s the older brother. At times, Danny has gotten more attention than him. Jake is a very humble, quiet kid. I think part of Danny’s growth is that Jake has been such a great older brother to him.”
It’s a situation where sibling rivalry could rear its ugly head, but Jake was happy to welcome his younger brother to the squad.
“I was excited when he made the team,” Jake says. “Not everybody gets the opportunity to play with their brother. Especially now that we’re on the same floor. It’s very interesting to see how that works out. The brotherly competitiveness comes out.”
“I think it’s something they appreciate now, but I think, the older they get, they’re going to appreciate the time they had to play together (even more),” L’Italien says. “The Fontaines (Brett and Colt) had that last year and Mike Shay, who is a sophomore, he’s got a younger brother, Robbie, in the eighth grade, who’s a good one too. (The Baribeaults) look like they’re really enjoying their time together and it’s nice to see.”
Jake has been playing varsity since his junior year while Dan has been helping the team from the first game of the season when he came off the bench against undefeated North Reading.
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” Dan says of playing varsity as a freshman. “I played against some big guys before in AAU and stuff, but I never really played with my brother or anyone else in his grade in a normal game. But the coach doesn’t treat me like I’m a freshman. He holds me to the same standards as (the rest.)”
Whatever tonight’s outcome, these brothers know they have only just begun a bond that will be with them forever.
“It’s good to know that this isn’t the end,” Jake says. “I’m going to be able to watch him for the next three years. And after that, we’ll always be able to talk about it, we’ll always be able to go outside in the backyard and play.”