In Naugatuck, the Rado surname has evoked instant recognition for decades.
Start with the Borough’s colorful mayor, the late William Rado, who served no fewer than seven terms – the first six as a Democrat, the last as an independent.
His son, Billy Rado, is generally considered Naugatuck’s most talented basketball player, a guard with well-rounded skills who set scoring records at Naugatuck High School and the University of Georgia, and who, some say, could have played in the NBA. Later, he achieved coaching success at Thomaston High and at his high school alma mater.
The younger Billy’s son, Keith, followed in his dad’s basketball footsteps as a scholastic player, breaking the Naugatuck High single-game record with a 51-point eruption (against Torrington) and earning All-State recognition in 1984. Then he took his game to Sacred Heart University, where he was a member of the Pioneers’ 1985-86 NCAA Division II national championship team.
Keith Rado, who now lives in nearby Woodbury, is employed as a corrections officer at the Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown, but has remained in the game as an AAU coach. This summer, his Connecticut Basketball Club’s U13 team won the state championship and placed 14th in the National AAU Championship at Memphis, Tenn.
One of the players on this fine team happens to be the coach’s son, 13-year-old Keith Rado.
“He’s a great three-point shooter, one of the best in the state at this level,” says the father with pardonable pride. “In the nationals, Keith scored 23 points – including six three-pointers – against the Indiana Soldiers. He’s also a great passer.”
Keith Sr., was delighted by his team’s 30-6 record during the season, and its succession of victories in area tournaments on the road to Memphis.
“We won the AAU Super Regional in New Haven. We won the AAU District Championship in Hartford,” he explains. “We won the Memorial Day Jamboree in Brewster, N.Y., and we won the Connecticut Knights Father’s Day Classic in Manchester. We ‘played up’ in that tournament (against 14-year-olds) and still won it.”
In the National AAU Championship, which took place June 26-July 3 in Memphis, Rado’s squad won two of its first three games in “pool play” and advanced to the championship bracket.
“We went 4-and-3 in the tournament,” he says, “but because we finished 14th in the nation, we automatically qualified for next year’s national tournament, at the Wide World of Sports at Disney.”
Rado describes himself as a tough taskmaster – “I’m very hard on the kids, kind of old school” – but he speaks warmly of his players.
“Any one of our top six players could score 18 to 25 points in a given game,” he says. “But after every game this year, not one of our kids asked to see the scorebook. All they cared about was winning.
“They’re all great kids. They listen. They never talk back to the referees.”
The coach’s comments on the other members of the CBC starting five:
“Jake Heaton, from Shelton, is probably the fastest kid for his age group you’ve ever seen. He scored 28 points against the Western Connecticut Warriors in the state quarter-finals. Jake will attend Notre Dame of Fairfield this fall.
“Jonathan Mowatt, from Waterbury, is a great defender and rebounder, and he’s got a great 10-to-12-foot jumper.
“Charles Fisher, who attends Waterbury Arts Magnet, is a true point guard, great passer, dribbler, shooter. He scored 20 in the nationals against the Tennessee Panthers.
“Mike Sulik, from Shelton, is 6-3 but he can run the floor really well. He’s a good finisher and defender. He scored 39 points against a Bronx team, the Playmaker Pumas.”
The squad’s “sixth man” is a 6-foot-5 diamond in the rough named J.T. Riddick, another student at Waterbury Arts Magnet. “He’s a great shot-blocker,” says the coach. “He’s had 8 to 10 blocks in a game, sometimes 12.”
Young Keith, who is entering the eighth grade at Woodbury Middle School, works on his shooting with his dad, sometimes on the court at home and other times at Taft School in Watertown.
“Being the coach’s son, sometimes he’s hard on me,” Keith says, “but it’s for the better. It’s made me a better player, mentally and physically. And it will help later on.”
Tracey DiStasio Rado, wife, mother and teacher, had some early misgivings about AAU ball and its all-consuming nature, but she has embraced it. “What I like about it,” she says, “the kids on the team are such good friends.”