Darrius Gaeta knows exactly what it takes to be a good leader.
He’s been doing it his entire athletic career. But the way he’s been doing it lately is a lot different than the way he did it when he started his career.
It’s not even the same sport.
Gaeta is a senior on the Northeast High School basketball team, and if you’re a fan of Catholic League football, you might recognize the name.
Gaeta started his career at Father Judge, where he was a quarterback on the Crusaders’ freshman football team.
Football was his first love, and while he no longer plays the game, he still uses everything he learned from commanding huddles and running an offense at Judge now that he’s a basketball player at Northeast.
“Sometimes I miss football, I loved it, but I wanted to focus on basketball,” said Gaeta, who lives near Northeast High School. “It was hard giving it up, it was my first sport I ever played. I played growing up for Rhawnhurst and the 215 Cardinals. We were pretty good, we went to nationals.
“A lot of people were upset when I stopped playing, a lot were surprised. Some say I’m better at football than basketball. I was a scrambler, I liked to run, but I could do it all. Kind of like how we are on the basketball court. Whatever we need, I’ll do.
“I think it helped make me a better basketball player. You have to think a lot at quarterback and you have to think fast. And you have to be a leader. That’s the biggest thing about playing quarterback. I learned a lot by doing that. I’m hoping everything I’ve learned helps me in basketball. That’s how I look at it.”
He’s now looking very good, not just as an individual player, but also in leading the Vikings in Public League play.
Northeast has been getting better every year, but this year has taken a massive step. The Vikings started the season 10-1, including winning their own holiday tournament.
The Vikings are just getting started, and they haven’t won anything yet, but Gaeta is very happy with where things are headed.
“This year is very different,” said Gaeta, who runs point guard for Northeast and serves as a captain. “It’s a new team, better chemistry than last year, we have a team that has a great bond. We have different goals. I learned before the season started, probably in the summer, that we had what it takes to be really good. I knew it, we just had to do it.
“I think it’s a team thing. Everything we do is a team type of goal. Our goal is to be better every game. We want to play in states. We want to play in the playoffs. We want to go to the Public league championship. We have a lot of goals, and we’re going to work hard. It’s about getting better and better every day.”
That’s been Gaeta’s approach since the day he got to Northeast.
A three-year starter, Gaeta’s role can change from game to game. He has the potential to score a lot when needed, but in reality, that’s not his game.
A prototypical point guard, Gaeta is able to bring the ball up, run the offense and make sure his teammates get plenty of chances to score.
He has no problem with sacrificing statistics to pad the win total. In fact, the only reason he plays is to win.
How it happens isn’t important.
“I feel like it’s easy to be a player and a leader on this team because they make it easy for me,” he said. “They always find ways to get open and I get them the ball. I was the point guard, I played one and two. I flip flopped. I played one through three. I can play it all. But when I’m the point guard, I know I have to make sure the other guys get what they need.”
Gaeta is only worried about one thing right now, and that’s helping the Vikings, but he’s also starting to think about the future.
A good student in the classroom, he hopes to use basketball to get into college.
“Next year, I want to go to college. I want to study videography. I’ve always been into cameras, editing and stuff like that. I think I’d like to work in sports, yeah. I would say basketball first, but I still love football, so I would definitely do something with football.”
A return to football in any capacity would make mom, a huge football fan, happy. And for all she’s done for him, Gaeta is happy when mom is happy.
“My mom does everything for me,” Gaeta said. “She keeps me humble. She’s always been a big influencer. She’s a very big supporter of mine even when I stopped playing football and she loved football, she always supported me. She’s a huge football fan. She’s good with basketball. She’s starting to really get into it.”
Good grades make her happiest, but she’d love to see a Public League championship come back to Northeast.
And Gaeta aims to please.
“Perfect senior year? I’d say going to the Pub chip, and going in 17-1, because we have a loss,” Gaeta said. “That’s our goal now. We have a good team, and our coach is a huge part of this. He’s keeping us going. He helped me a lot, not just in basketball. He keeps me focused. He helped me in school. He helped me stay on top of things. He also improved my sense of urgency. Helped me a lot.
“I want to win. I hope we can win a championship. I want to win for a lot of people. And I think we have what it takes to win. We have a lot of talent and that’s what we’re working for.”