In talking with senior boys’ basketball player Max DiLeo’s parents, head coach Mike Fries and teammates, one theme reigned prevalent: drive, passion, diligence.
DiLeo joined the 1,000-point club this season, passing his father, Tony, Uncle Frank and brother, TJ, who now plays at Temple University. Max currently has 1,197 points entering the second round playoff game against Haddonfield tonight at home. He ranks third all-time in Cinnaminson High School history.
Joining Max on Monday night was senior Napoleon Blamon. Blamon now has 1,015 career points and spoke very highly of his teammate.
“Oh my God, he’s so competitive, even in practice,” said Blamon. “There’s no out-competing him. Every drill, suicides, he’d be out of breath and still always come in first. I never saw anyone beat Max in the suicide. He’s always pushing himself to the max. It’s been great having him on the team.”
Max comes from a family rich in basketball. Tony and Frank played together at Cinnaminson High School. Tony went on to play at Tennessee Tech and LaSalle and has been working with the 76ers for quite some time. He was the interim head coach last year.
“I was at a Temple game watching my brother play when somebody called me,” said Max. “They saw it on the Bottom Line of ESPN or something like that. So, they called me and said my dad was coach. And I noticed my parents acting weird a little bit earlier that day. I guess my dad knew. I don’t know if my mom knew or not, but my brother and I had no idea. That was exciting.”
Tony met his wife, Anna, during his time in Europe after school. Anna was originally from Romania and played basketball there until she was 21 years old. She then defected to Germany, gained citizenship and played for the national Olympic team and German Club Team.
Tony and Anna came to Cinnaminson and TJ and Max were born. TJ is four years older than Max. Anna jokes that the minute they were born, she put a basketball in their cribs. Tony and Max both give a lot of credit to Anna for TJ and Max’s success.
“Pretty much everything I know about basketball comes from my parents,” Max said. “My dad taught me how to shoot. My brother’s always giving me tips. We play each other one on one. My mom, same thing, she’s always watching the games. She’s the loudest one on the court—you can hear it. She’s always helping me out and giving me tips. She knows the game real well. She gives real good advice.”
Coming into his sophomore year, Max wasn’t a starter. One of the players did not play one game and Max took advantage of the opportunity, getting his first start against Medford Tech. He wasn’t much of a scorer that year, but played his role well.
During his junior year, Max and alumnus Mike Gallo were the leading scorers, followed by Blamon. Max was the shooting guard and led Burlington County in scoring. He averaged 20.5 points per game last year.
This year, no one really knew how good Cinnaminson was going to be. Talking to Max earlier in the season, he knew they could beat anyone on the schedule. Max attributed that to the team doing well together in the summer at the Albright Camp and summer leagues.
“The way we play sometimes, I can’t see a team that can beat us,” Max said early in the season. “But, we can’t play the best every single time.”
Max continues to impress as the Pirates make their way through the postseason. His drive and passion for the sport doesn’t seem to be slowing down, either. He hopes to play at a Division I school, getting help from his parents to make the smart decision on where to go.
You’d have to think that this type of talent and drive comes from good parenting. Tony and Anna are a bit more modest about it.
“We tried to [teach our sons discipline and hard work],” said Tony. “But, I think Max is really driven. I think that comes from the inside.”
“When he sets his mind to something, he really goes after it. Basketball is really important to him, so he’s really trying to make the best of his senior year as far as conditioning and working on his game. I think it’s a combination. I think it’s part that he’s born with that drive and that we try to structure and put Max and TJ on the right path,” Tony said.
Max plays soccer, as well and keeps in good shape in the offseason, but he’s also always shooting around and working out, by himself, with Fries, his dad or his brother. Earlier in life, he also played baseball. Overall, he was never pushed toward basketball—he just ended up here by osmosis.
“We’ve really supported them,” said Anna. “We let them choose what sports they would like to do. They were involved in many sports and activities. I hope we give them a well-rounded education and lead them in the right path.”
Max hopes to go on to the NBA as his ultimate dream, but if that doesn’t work out, he’d still like to be involved in basketball in some way, shape or form. Whether it’s refereeing or something else, he hopes his drive and connections can hook him up.
“I can’t see myself not being involved in basketball,” Max said.