By Day – Playing HS games at Mohegan Sun never gets old, and it never should


Mohegan – It was the great John Lithgow who once said: “The most exciting acting tends to happen in roles you never thought you could play.”

Nothing else could better illustrate this than the hopeful and awe-inspiring looks on the children’s faces on Monday night, out there on State Basketball Broadway, in roles they would never have. thought I could play.

Because who, as a high school student, can play The Big Room? Who, as a high school student, can play on the same floor that LeBron once played? Who, as a high school student, can play in the same arena as Springsteen and U2?

“Half the fun of playing for a state championship now,” Catholic Eastern coach Luke Reilly said recently, “is playing Mohegan Sun”.

And they got to play Mohegan Sun on Monday on the first Day Holiday Classic. The kids loved it. The coaches loved it.

Jonah Eddy from Ledyard, for example, came out of the tunnel to the field to warm up on his cell phone, taking pictures of whatever he could. I doubt he would do that to, you know, Putnam.

“Awesome,” said Waterford senior Sean O’Connell, whose 19 points and 11 rebounds earned him the Waterford Dental Health player of the game. “The best field I have ever played on. Much different from the ones I usually play on.”

O’Connell became the second member of his family to dunk here too, throwing in the first half. His brother, Ryan, also punctuated the 2019 State Championship victory with a rim pawl.

“Mine was clearly better,” Sean said.

Crazy props and witticisms all around for sure about a unique and successful business. But it begins and ends with Tom Cantone and the Mohegan Sun gang for allowing this to happen on their property. Cantone, the casino’s president of sports and entertainment, enjoys working his way through adulation. But without him and his team, including Event Production Manager Mike Libera, this won’t happen.

“Part of the DNA of our culture is building relationships,” Cantone said. “It’s our way of giving something back to the community, especially when it comes to helping kids play in a world class place. Talk about a memory for life.”

He also doesn’t mess with the “world class room” part. Lest we take our local 10,000 seat model for granted, the Neon Uncasville arena has recently gained international fame. The kids didn’t just play Billy Joel and Michael Jordan’s aura Monday.

Pollstar, one of the world’s leading trade publications for the concert and live music industry, recently ranked Mohegan Sun Arena as the # 1 indoor arena for size in the world, # 10 in US for theaters of all sizes and # 11 worldwide. Pollstar based its data on industry rankings for concert attendance and revenue.

America’s Most Beloved Arena also won the # 1 ranking as the world’s best casino, beating everything from Las Vegas to Macau.

“Having the country’s number one entertainment program which is recognized worldwide as the best will forever be ranked as a milestone in Mohegan Sun history and a proud moment for the credited men and women who run this classy venue. global, ”Cantone said.

“We found a way last year to reinvent ourselves during this historic time by remaining relevant as the only place in America open at some point during the pandemic. Credit goes to everyone who helped reinvent the arena. into a world-class entertainment program that some have called an entertainment dynasty for the past decade. “

And the kids got to play there on Monday night.

Who knew?

That’s the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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