Family ties run deep in Gateway basketball program

Saturday, January 18, 2020 | 12:19 AM

Some may say once someone becomes a Gateway boys basketball team member, he is part of a brotherhood. For a couple of current and former players, however, brotherhood is suitable in the more literal sense of the word.

Sophomore guard/forward Will Kromka is the last of eight siblings (with five brothers and two sisters) to play basketball for Gateway while senior guard R.J. Stevenson and his freshman brother, M.J., are a pair of siblings on the active roster. Kroma is third on the team in scoring with 11.3 points per game, behind R.J. Stevenson (14.4) and Elgin Oliver (11.7).

Kromka’s sister, Mary, graduated last year and was part of 2018 girls basketball WPIAL championship team.

His brother John Paul is the lone Kromka to currently play collegiate basketball as a sophomore forward at Pitt-Johnstown. Will and John Paul missed being on varsity together at Gateway by one year.

His other siblings are brothers Joe, Mike, Tom and Jim along with his sister Kate. Joe played at Carnegie Mellon, Mike at Clarion and Tom at CMU before transferring to Saint Vincent.

Will feels all of his siblings have a hand in guiding him down the right path in not only basketball, but life.

“They have set good examples in how to work super hard and play basketball the right way,” Will said. “Not only on the court, but in the classroom, as well, which has also been very important for us. It’s been helpful to have such good role models to look up to.”

Living with a full house of siblings has its pros and cons, but an arguable pro for a basketball player is plentiful training partner options. Will, John Paul and Mary, as well as his other older siblings, find time in the offseason to work on their games with and/or against each other.

“Anyone that’s home in the offseason, we always try to get in the gym, get shots up and help each with our game,” Will said. “We always put in the work in the weight room together, as well. We have all worked out together.”

Will’s 6-foot-3 height does not quite reach John Paul’s 6-foot-7 frame, which is part of what has made the older Kromka productive and impactful in less than two years at Pitt-Johnstown.

John Paul was named PSAC West Division freshman of the year and defensive player of the year after averaging 14.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game in 2018-19.

This season, Kromka has helped UPJ to a 14-3 overall record (8-2 in conference play) as of Jan. 16 with a team-leading 16.2 ppg. He also leads the team in field-goal percentage (.642), free-throw percentage (.792) and rebounds (7.3 rpg) as well as blocks (2.8 bpg).

“I remember growing up, we would always go to the gym together, and (Will and I) would try to play follow the leader and emulate what our older brothers did on the court,” John Paul said. “We are older now and both our own players. It’s got to the point where we can both work off of each other and improve our games.”

The older Kromka admitted that even though he is the youngest, Will can give him or any of his brothers a run for their money when it comes going one-on-one on the court.

When it comes to current brothers on the Gateway basketball team, the Stevensons try to keep the same type of rapport and relationship when it comes to basketball.

R.J. is the Gators’ leading scorer and a Hilbert College commit, leading by example not only for the rest of his teammates but also his younger brother M.J., a freshman guard.

M.J. may not see varsity playing time yet, but that does not stop him from learning from his brother during practice and workouts on their own.

“It’s a very real, passionate relationship that we have,” R.J. said. “We go to the gym together any time we get the chance, especially during the summer.”

M.J. understands the opportunity that comes with having a successful brother in the sport they both play.

“It’s really good for me (to see R.J. succeed as a player) because I can learn from him and pick points in his game to model my game after,” the younger Stevenson said.

R.J. helps M.J. improve his shooting and rebounding as well as going one-on-one after drills, a competition R.J. always wins, according to the elder.

It’s important for R.J. to play on the same team as his younger brother eventually.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to have my little brother on the team with me. My whole life, I have always wanted us to play together,” R.J. said. “Mostly so I can show him what it’s like to be a top varsity-type of player at Gateway.”

Robert Scott III is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.


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