NEWTON, Mass. -- Newton North star shooting guard Tommy Mobley began his basketball career the same when way many people did -- playing hoops in the driveway with his friends and his brother.
The games against his brother, Greg Kelley -- a 6-foot-8 forward currently playing at Yale University who is nearly six years older than Mobley, were always something of a mismatch.
“I’ve lost probably 1,000 one-on-one games against him,” Mobley said. “It’s gotten me better. At points, I was a 5-foot-2 guy going against 6-5 guy. I got beat a lot, and I got shutout a lot. It was always good though. He got me a lot better. And he was always nice to me when I’d make a play and he’d stop me. He’d tell me ‘when you go this way and I cut you off, you gotta cross back left.’ He taught me that kind of stuff."
The result of those one-sided losses has been Mobley wreaking havoc on the MIAA, since assuming a starting role as a sophomore last year. That is especially true from behind the three-point line, where Mobley has become one of the best shooters in the state -- and seemingly isn’t fazed even with a defender playing up on him, with a hand in his face.
“One of my good traits as a shooter is that if I can get it off clean, the pressure of the defender doesn’t always affect me,” said Mobley. “It did help me out playing against Greg. Playing against a really tall guy, I had to shoot over him. I had to get a good picture of the rim when I was about to shoot and visualize it and just let it go.”
Added Newton North coach Paul Connolly: “When you play a guy that much taller, you move further and further away from the hoop. He’s not just a 3-point shooter anymore though. His game is expanding every day. He’s getting better every day. He’s got a terrific mid range game now, he can create for other people and get to the rim a little bit now. But he still gets that shot.”
Growing up playing against his brother helped him develop one of the best 3-point strokes in the state, and over the last few years, his Tiger teammates have made sure things didn’t get any easier.
“Every day in practice, the guys I go up against on my own team are just incredible defenders,” said Mobley. “I don’t know what I would do if I played against Newton North right now. If you came and watched a practice, you’d think ‘Mobley? He’s not that good.’ Those guys shut me down.”
Mobley, who said he only had a three-point jump shot as a freshman, has seen the rest of his game evolve as a result. He showcased the development of those other skills a year ago, when he was named MVP of the Bay State League.
His transformation has continued into this year. The junior guard is averaging better than 20 points per game, and the Tigers’ offense is as tough as ever to stop.
“He’s such a prolific scorer, and prolific shooter, that he’s going to get the other teams attention,” said Connolly. “They’re in the locker before the game talking about ‘we gotta stop Tommy Mobley,’ so it’s going to happen where people are going to scratch and claw and try to take him out of the game. He’s a focal point of other teams, and when you start playing that chess match a little bit other things open up for us.
"It opens up driving lines, and guys like Jack Boucher or Liam Bruno who are good at beating people off the dribble, you see them getting to the rim, or being able to lay it down to the big guys down low a little bit.”
Mobley -- who could approach 1,000 career points this year with continued success and a deep tourney run -- has started to garner interest from some Div. 1 schools at the next level, including Harvard, Boston University and Kelley’s Yale. He knows that his sharp-shooting is only part of the recruiting process, as well as the continued success for the Tigers (10-1), who currently sit atop the Bay State League standings.
“I’m still working on my shot, but I’ve lowered the number I take everyday and I’m working more on my handles, more on my defense, I try to lift a little bit, and work on my driving,” said Mobley. “Now I can score in more ways than just the three. I need to play defense, I need to rebound and I need to be a team player.”
It would appear Mobley has done a good of all of that, especially the team player part as he was tabbed a junior captain this season, a distinction not to be taken lightly as Mobley has had the same effect on his team that his brother did on him.
“We’ve been lucky to have a lot of guys here over the years who really get our program, and Tommy is another one of them,” said Connolly. “He’s been around me since he was in the fourth grade when Greg played for me. He’s been in the locker room and he’s heard all of the pregame speeches, all of my halftime speeches, and he’s just grown up with Newton North basketball since the fourth grade. He’s a great kid and he’s really coachable. I get on him and I demand a lot of him, and he just wants to get better and make us better.”