Make room No. 33, because No. 34 is coming.
Al Edwards’ old No. 33 jersey will have company alongside its exalted place on a Greenport High School wall overlooking the basketball court. The No. 34 jersey that Ryan Creighton wore when he played for Greenport before graduating in 2009 will be retired next week, joining Edwards’ No. 33 as the only two uniform numbers to be so honored by the Porters.
“To be up there with Coach Al [who has coached the Porters since 1979] is definitely going to be honor,” Creighton said in a telephone interview from North Carolina, where he lives. “It’s just a great honor, and I really couldn’t do it without all my friends, family and the Greenport community.”
Creighton made his place in New York State basketball history. By the time his five-year varsity career ended, he was Long Island’s all-time scoring leader and the state’s No. 2 scorer with 2,799 career points. A four-time all-state player and five-time team most valuable player, Creighton led the Porters to their first state championship game and three straight trips to the state final four. After a senior season in which he led Suffolk County in averages for points (27.5), rebounds (8.9) and assists (5.7) per game, he was named Suffolk’s player of the year by Newsday, and the Suffolk small schools player of the year by the county’s coaches.
“It was just a matter of time; it was just a matter of when,” Greenport athletic director Robbie Costantini said of the decision to retire Creighton’s number. “So, it was decided, let’s do it sooner rather than later.”
Edwards, who is the school’s second all-time leading scorer with the 2,117 points he collected prior to his high school graduation in 1972, sounded delighted to have company in the exclusive club.
“I’m really happy to have his number next to mine,” Edwards said. “He’s meant a great deal to Greenport basketball over the years and it’s quite an honor. I feel really happy for him, and over the years he’s brought a lot of excitement to Greenport, and I don’t think anybody would doubt the fact that he would belong up there. I feel that throughout the years he carried himself as a real gentleman, not only with his playing skills, but as an icon in the community.”
The 6-foot-2 Creighton was not only a prolific scorer who could knock down long-range attempts with seeming ease as well as power inside for a basket, but he was notably unselfish, a superb passer and a relentless rebounder.
“I think he got just about all he possibly could have gotten out of himself,” Costantini said. “He wasn’t real tall and he wasn’t real fast. He took what God gave him and really nurtured it. I didn’t realize how hard he worked at his game. And he was the total package. He could score, he could pass, he could rebound.”
Over the course of his career with the Porters, there was little Creighton did not achieve, aside from winning a state championship, although he did come close. In his final game for Greenport, Creighton registered 31 points and 12 rebounds in a 47-43 loss to South Kortright in a state final.
Creighton went on to accept a full basketball scholarship from Franklin Pierce University (N.H.). After starting all seven games that he played for Franklin Pierce, Creighton provided stunning news when he decided to leave the school during his freshman season. He said he was burned out and had no desire to play any more.
Edwards recalled the 1992 ceremony when his jersey was retired. It was the same day in which Greenport’s gym was named Richard “Dude” Manwaring Gymnasium.
“That was quite an honor and it was a great feeling,” he said.
Creighton’s big day will come before Greenport’s home game against Southold on Jan. 30. Ron McEvoy, Greenport’s former public-address announcer, will preside over a pregame ceremony in which Creighton will be presented with his framed jersey. At some time in the near future, Costantini said, the framed jersey will be hung up on the wall next to Edwards’ No. 33. The ceremony is expected to start around 5:30 p.m., with the game scheduled to start at 5:45 p.m.
Creighton’s uncle, Rodney Shelby, an assistant coach for Greenport, wore No. 34 when he played for the Porters, and Mike Murphy was the last Greenport player to wear that number before Creighton came on the scene. Creighton being assigned No. 34 was more of a practical matter than anything else. He said that when he was brought onto the varsity team as an eighth-grader, the No. 34 jersey was the only one that fit him.
Creighton said the thought of his number being retired never occurred to him during his playing days.
“I honestly I never really thought about none of that stuff,” he said. “Once you get on the court, all you think about is playing and trying to win.”