Heart Over Height

At five feet, seven inches, senior point guard Tim Giovino has heard doubts about his ability to play basketball his whole life. This season, however, those doubters have grown silent. Giovino has taken the Tri-Valley League by storm with his three point shooting and crafty finishing, averaging 16 points a game, 4 rebounds and 3 steals taking home two tournament MVP honors as well as receiving the TVL MVP.  “Timmy Buckets” as he is referred to by the Westwood faithful has been long in the making. The three year varsity player – two year varsity starter – has fought for everything he has ever gotten on a basketball court.

When Tim was four years old his father, Chris Giovino gifted him his first basketball hoop. It was a plastic Fisher Price hoop that extended to six feet and came with a small rubber ball. Chris set it up in their backroom and the rest as they say – was history. Tim fell in love with the sport immediately, begging his six foot two father (who played on his knees) to play against him any chance he got. “I remember losing every time we played,” laughed Giovino thinking back on it, “he would never let me win.” When his dad was unavailable, Tim would play simulated games, making up situations in his head, playing so hard that when he finally emerged from the back room his forehead would be covered in sweat and his knees would be covered in rug burn.

When Tim was in fourth grade he tried out for his first basketball team, the Westwood Travel Team. Tim made the team and quickly became a key component, establishing himself as the team’s best shooter. He was a point guard equipped with goggles, shaggy blonde hair and a sized small #12 jersey that somehow still was baggy on him. There was nothing flashy about the way Tim played, as he was as technically sound as they come, beating defenders with his ability to dribble strongly with both hands for a kid his age, utilize a pick-and-roll and of course, his signature stutter step. Despite this, when Tim tried to take his talent to the next level, he met a road block.

“Hey, we’re not sure you have what it takes to play for this team.” The words came out slowly and hung in the air over a fourth grade Tim Giovino as he stood in front of an AAU coach after a tryout. Tim looked around at the other players, and he understood. He was the shortest kid there by about 4 inches. It didn’t matter that he could ball handle or that he could shoot, they thought he was too small to make an impact on the court. So Tim wandered over to the bleachers, untied his sneakers and took off his fogged up goggles and stuffed them into his gym bag. As he walked from the gym the staccato squeaking of sneakers on hardwood rang in his ears he thought to himself “do I belong?” He wasn’t sure. For Tim, basketball was feeling like a one sided bad relationship. No matter how much love, work and effort Tim put into it, basketball gave him nothing in return. If anything, it felt as though it was pushing him away and he was attempting to cling to something that was no longer there.

Tim wasn’t a starter the next year when the travel teams became filtered into teams ranked by ability as he made the “A Team,” the more skilled team. He wasn’t a starter the year after that or the year after that. “I’ve always been doubted as a player, because they only look at my stature, it’s always the first thing they see. People are too ready to write me off.” It wasn’t until Tim got to high school did he really develop the confidence he has today. His freshman year he made JV, which Giovino says meant a lot to him because it showed the Westwood program saw something in him. He played well enough that in his sophomore season he made the varsity team, featuring as a spot up shooter off the bench. Still however, Tim doubted his place on the roster. It wasn’t until Giovino – who was going into his junior season – was granted the opportunity through Westwood Basketball to play overseas in Germany on a team made up of numerous kids from Massachusetts did he really find his niche. “Up until I went to Germany, I wasn’t sure I belonged. I didn’t have a ton of confidence. But when I went overseas and saw that I could compete with that level competition I realized that I might be able to really contribute back home.” It’s funny really, Tim had to travel 3,714 miles just to find something that had been inside of him for 16 years.

Now Tim is far removed from the kid who once was unsure if basketball was for him, so different from that scrappy little goggle wearing kid who people told were too small to ever be even a shadow of what he currently is. Tim still isn’t flashy; he isn’t cocky (in fact when researching for this article I told him he was named to the Boston Herald TVL All-Scholastic team to which he replied, “oh really?”) but he plays with an undeniable confidence, with a little bit of swagger in his step. Tim no longer wishes to be taller, or to be different. As his dad said, “I think Tim finally gave up asking if he was going to grow about a year ago. When he was little we told him it was because he wasn’t drinking enough milk and getting enough sleep,” laughed Chris. “Now we have a theory: it’s what makes him so quick. Low center of gravity.” Tim now wears his height like a badge of honor. He wants to show everyone what he’s capable of, and he loves when people don’t believe in him. In a close game, he always wants the ball in his hands. “I always want the last shot,” the point guard said smiling, “because I think there’s a mark on my back. I feel like I always have something to prove to everyone in the gym.” Proved he has, as this season alone Tim has scored two game winning baskets one against Walpole and the other against Medfield. Some teams have even implemented a box and one (a defense that attempts to smother one player on the other team) to which Tim says, “I’m honored when the other team puts me in a box in one especially when the kid who’s covering me is 6 foot 4 because I’m supposed to have no business being on the court with this kid.”

Standing at center court, Tim Giovino is greeted by teammates, friends, family and strangers slapping his back, rubbing his head. It’s senior night, and Giovino’s impressive season has reached its end – playoffs excluded – and Tim has achieved so much in a game that has tried so hard to turn him away. At five feet, seven inches and a buck thirty-five soaking wet, Tim isn’t exactly your prototypical basketball player, let alone star. However, “Timmy Buckets” has never been one to listen when someone says he can’t do something. His whole life he’s been told he’s too small to be anything more that a shooter at best, most likely being too small to play at all. But that didn’t stop him, he just kept coming.

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