Vasquez, Carlino to play college hoops

State champs headed to St. Joe’s, CCRI


Big happenings continue with the Johnston boys basketball program, as two of its most notable players made their college decisions official. NeAri Vasquez will be heading up to Maine to play for DIII St. Joseph’s while Michael Carlino will be staying nearby to compete for CCRI.
The standouts were key pieces to the program’s 2022-23 championship season, helping the Panthers capture their first title in nearly three decades. They were also starters this past season when the team returned to the semifinals and open state tournament.
Vasquez elected to pursue basketball over football and is looking forward to reconnecting with former Panther Derek Salvatore, who just wrapped up his freshman year with the Monks.
“I wanted to keep playing basketball, basketball is my passion. I chose St. Joe’s because I felt like it was a good fit and I have a good relationship with the coach already. I get to reunite with Derek Salvatore, so it should be a fun four years,” said Vasquez. “(Salvatore) told me how fun the campus is, how the school is, how fun the basketball team is. I went to watch one of their games and they play really well together. They’re a fast paced team with great plays. They have great speed, size, a great coaching staff.”
Carlino is looking forward to staying local and is confident that he will be able to produce for the Knights from the get-go.
“It may be a little difficult at first, but as we get into the season, once I get to know my new coaches and teammates, it will be good. I give it my all on the court, I play with a lot of toughness and heart and that’s all you need to play. I’ve been in tough experiences in games. Having that, you go into games with the mindset of, ‘I have done this before and I can do it again,’” Carlino said.
Vasquez will be starting on the St. Joe’s bench as a freshman, but he is embracing the opportunity to develop his game and provide tough competition in practice while he looks to earn a larger role moving forward.
“As a freshman, my role is going to be to help push the older guys. (Not getting a lot of minutes) will give me the advantage in the weight room, in the gym to work out and to prove to the coaches in practice that I can be an asset to the team,” said Vasquez.
With the duo set to graduate and move to the next level, along with guys like Branden and Jayden Testa and Cam Walker, the 2022-2023 championship core will be moving on, but its impact on the Johnston program will be felt forever.
“That 2023 championship team was a hell of a team. We gelled together and stuck together. We did go our separate ways, but those are my guys forever. That will always be a special team in my heart. That chemistry we had, playing from elementary school, to rec, to travel, then high school. It was a special group,” said Vasquez.
Carlino added: “Looking back, I have no regrets at all. Coach Mike (Bedrosian) is a great coach, more like a brother to some of us. It was the most fun I’ve ever had. It was a smart group of kids that wanted it bad. We worked hard that year and the summer and it led to big things. Rings and a championship banner. We made history.”


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