Plum's Cressler brothers pair up in Pro-Am League
Their one-on-one driveway showdowns and pick-up game brush-ups are epic. Flying elbows, an extra shove, straight-up hacking on the way to the basket — Drew and Nolan Cressler wouldn't have it any other way. It's what the basketball-playing brothers from Plum have done for years.
“One time we were playing 3-on-3 and he kept fouling me,” said Drew, who will be a senior at Pitt-Johnstown. “It went to blows. We had to be separated. It was intense.”
So, is it time to bury the sibling rivalry-sharpened hatchet? Maybe.
“It's gotten pretty heated and pretty physical sometimes,” said Nolan, a two-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week as a freshman at Cornell. “I don't want to give away too much. My dad might read this.”
This summer, the Cresslers will team up for the first time since Drew was a senior and Nolan was a freshman on the Plum High School team. They'll play for the South Hills Audi team in the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am Summer League, which tips off Monday and runs through July 17.
Ultimately, both 6-foot-4 players push one another because they want to see the other succeed. Now, they'll get to work together — potentially in the same backcourt — against top talent while preparing for another college season.
Both were invited to play in the renowned league, which carries the reputation as the top summer hoops league in Western Pennsylvania for current and former college stars.
Rosters are dotted with players from Pitt, Duquesne, Robert Morris, West Virginia, other surrounding schools and some semi-professional players.
The Cresslers' teammates include former Pitt players Chevon Troutman, John DeGroat and Ronald Ramon.
Games are played at two locations: the Greentree Sportsplex and Montour Sports Complex.
South Hills Audi opens against Oliverio's Peppers at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Green Tree.
“I went to a couple of games last summer,” Nolan said. “I always knew about the league and how good it was.
“It will help me stay sharp and play against a high level of competition. I try to do all I can to work on my game (in the offseason), but there might be some things I still need to work on. It's good to stay competitive.”
Nolan played in all 31 games for Cornell, averaging 9.3 points and 3.7 rebounds while leading the team in 3-pointers made (54). He made 12 starts at point guard.
Nolan is working as a lot attendant for P&W Foreign Cars in Pittsburgh. His boss, Tracy Foster — who runs three car dealerships — also plays on the South Hills Audi team.
“I get to drive BMWs around, so I don't mind that,” Nolan said.
Foster, who is from Fort Wayne, Ind., is a former draft pick of the Philadelphia 76ers.
“I want to be able to make strides,” Nolan said. “I want to be a better on-ball defender. I also want to work on my pull-up and find more ways to score.”
After bouncing around from Fork Union Military Academy and Seton Hill before settling at UPJ, Drew averaged 10.8 points and 6.1 rebounds last season.
Drew, whose summer job is with Keystone Turf Products, also hopes to hone his skills while gauging where he stands against strong competition.
“It'll be fun,” he said. “I want to work on getting to the basket more and finish off one foot. I want to go harder to the basket. And I really want to get better defensively. I want to be able to shut someone down.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.