West Caldwell Resident’s Book Tells Story of a Basketball Scandal

By: Gary Simeone


It is all about the sport of basketball in a recently debuted novel by eighty-year-old West Caldwell resident, Fred Cerrato. The book, which is entitled, “A Vermont Basketball Story” tells the tale of a fictional team who plays basketball at a college in Vermont, and is embroiled in a sordid world of point fixing scandals and unpaid gambling debts. It is the first novel by Cerrato, who is a former middle School reading teacher and reading specialist in Bloomfield.


It is hard to imagine a former reading teacher involved in a close contact, physical, grind it out sport like basketball, but Cerrato was an exceptional player in his younger days.


“Our high school basketball team in Bloomfield is still widely recognized as one of the state’s greatest teams,” said Cerrato. “From 1957 to 1959, our team won an unprecedented 64 games in a row and in 1958 we were crowned as state champions.”


Cerrato was a star on that team and his exceptional play earned him All County and All State honors. He was awarded a scholarship to play basketball at St. Michaels College in Vermont. 


He was a point guard all four years on his college team, and it was during his sophomore year that he began piecing a story together about an upstart basketball team that pulled together after being embroiled in a variety of different scandals.


“It was the day after Christmas, and I was preparing for this holiday basketball tournament up at college in cold, snowy Vermont,” said Cerrato. “As you could imagine it was pretty desolate on the campus, and all our team was doing at the time was eating our required meals and practicing for three hours a day in double sessions. To pass the time I started on this story about this fictional team in Vermont.”


He ended up filing the story away and over sixty years later decided to resume writing about a fictional team that is plagued by unforeseen events that would change the course of their season. 


“Last year, during the beginning of the pandemic, it kind of felt like that lonely time up at college with nothing to do or nobody to see,” said Cerrato. “I took out my old notes from college and started adding more to it. I created a plot about this fictional college in Vermont, called Castle College, where the basketball team is mired in scandal and they have to deal with all of these unforeseen circumstances that take place.”


He said that some of the circumstances include a point fixing scandal within the team, teammates who compile unpaid gambling debts and an All-American player who mysteriously disappears from a deciding game of a holiday tournament. Other events that take place include a player who is physically attacked and another who is a victim of a tragic accident. 


The main character in the novel, is a player named Paul Fiore, who must navigate his college experience by balancing his studies, and being a team leader on the basketball court.


“Not to give too much away, but Paul is the guy who kind of helps pull his team together to overcome the adversity there facing and helps them blend together into one cohesive unit and go on to become a championship level team.”


The other essential character in the book, is the coach of the team who is modeled after Cerrato’s real-life coach in college.


“The coach in the book is a guy named George Calzoni, whose behavior and characteristics resemble my former college coach, Doc Jacobs. He was an absolute basketball scholar who knew all about the fundamentals of the sport and was friendly with professional players like Bill Russell and Bob Cousy.”


 “A Vermont Basketball Story” was published by iUniverse Publishing. It can be found in both softcover and eBook version on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. It can also be purchased at Leezar Sporting Goods in Caldwell.


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