During his time at New Providence High School, Steve Siracusa enjoyed the adulation that often comes to those who excel in sports. For Siracusa, the star status was well deserved. But unlike many athletes in similar situations, he did not succumb to steroids, get into trouble, or develop a wild ego. About all Siracusa has in common with them is that he plays basketball. He's basically the anti-jock.
Off the court, the boyish sophomore at The College of New Jersey, does not have the personality his 6-foot-3, 215 pound frame would suggest. He's laid back, friendly, and fun-loving, like many other college students. On the court, the ultra competitive Siracusa is a far cry from his usual goofy personality.
"Even in practice he could never lose," high school teammate Paul Carroll said. "We would do three-on-three drills to warm-up and if he lost we knew it was going to be a long practice because he would be so pissed the entire time. He could never accept losing."
Siracusa's competitive nature has been part of his personality since he was very young. Siracusa's father, Steve Jr., recalls an incident at practice when he was Siracusa's coach in middle school. Steve Jr. was trying to demonstrate something to his team but Siracusa kept stealing the ball despite repeated scolding by his father. Finally, Steve Jr. kicked his son out of the practice.
Siracusa can't explain his competitive nature, but says two knee injuries have caused him to "take every game like it's my last." When he was in second grade, Steve tripped playing tag, naturally trying to catch his brother. He needed 100 stitches to repair a gash on his knee and tore his patella tendon. Then in his sophomore football season, he dislocated the same knee. "At the time I thought it was possibly the end of my sports career," he says.
Siracusa rehabbed hard and carried his athletic career to Moravian University. He now has a 4.0 GPA at TCNJ after transferring following his freshman year.
A three sport athlete (football, basketball, and baseball) in high school, Siracusa has always been very down to earth despite his starring role. "In a CYO game Steve's team was playing against a team with a player that had Down Syndrome," Steve Jr. says. "At the end of the game the kid missed a shot, and Steve kept rebounding it and giving it back to him and on the third try the kid made it."
Stories like this about Steve are not uncommon. In high school, one of Siracusa's biggest fans was an elementary school special education student. The student sent Steve an admiring letter, and the two began exchanging notes on topics ranging from basketball to life in general. Toward the end of Steve's career, he bought the student a basketball, autographed it, delivered it to the student's house and thanked him for coming to all of his games.
"We're close friends and through high school I saw him grow into a star," Carroll says. "But the other side of him didn't change." Incidents like these make Siracusa an ideal role model for his younger brother Jimmy.
Now a senior at NPHS, Jimmy has followed in Steve's footsteps as a three sport athlete and wants to play football next year at either TCNJ or Montclair State University. The two grew up playing sports together and when Jimmy finally beat Steve in a game of basketball last year, he didn't let Steve hear the end of it for quite a while. "I would always dive for loose balls on the concrete of our driveway and get all scraped up," Jimmy says. "He'd just look at me and laugh; he could never understand why I wanted to beat him so bad. Winning came so easy for him, but when I finally won I wouldn't let it go."
Captain of all three high school teams; it's no surprise Steve was the Independent Press Athlete of the Year his senior year. He is widely considered to be one of the best athletes ever to come out of New Providence. "He's one of the best kids I've ever had," New Providence basketball coach Art Cattano said. Cattano recalls when Siracusa bought him a nice gift at the conclusion of his senior season. "Not many players do that," Cattano said.
For his part, Siracusa credits his upbringing for his modesty. "My dad was my best coach and my parents taught me how to behave on and off the court," he said.
Steve Jr. continued coaching Siracusa through high school. The two had a unique method of communicating during Siracusa's games. Steve Jr. says his son would never look at him during the games, but Steve Jr. whistled to get his son's attention so he could point out which way to go to steal the ball. "Between him and Jimmy, it was the best time of my life watching them play," Steve Jr. says.
Siracusa transferred to TCNJ because the school has a good program for his major and future career, physical education. Siracusa also hopes to coach the three sports he played through high school. "I think it would be an awesome job," he said. "I'd get to play sports with kids all day. I really can't see myself behind a desk; I like the idea of being able to wear shorts everyday." He would never admit it, but everyone who knows him agrees that kids would be lucky to have a coach, teacher, and role model like Siracusa.