Real-time sports news for Western Massachusetts

Outdoor basketball court at William DeBerry School dedicated in memory of Springfield 9/11 victim Tyler Ugolyn

Victor Ugolyn, speaks during the ceremony dedicating the new basketballl court at William N. DeBerry School in Springfield in memory of his son Tyler.
SPRINGFIELD - Tyler Ugolyn never felt happier than when he was on a basketball court.

His family and friends on Thursday strove to keep his memory alive by sharing that feeling with others.

City officials, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the YMCA of Greater Springfield YMCA and the Tyler Ugolyn Foundation dedicated a refurbished outdoor basketball court at the William N. Deberry School on Union Street in honor of Ugolyn.

The 23-year-old Springfield native was killed Sept. 11, 2001 in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. He was at his job on the 93rd floor of Tower 1 when the airliner struck.

"We're celebrating the life of a young man who was born in Springfield, and his love of basketball," said John L. Doleva, Hall of Fame president and CEO. "His love of the game will not be forgotten."

He was recalled as not only a loving son, brother, friend and teammate, a student-athlete at Columbia University, but someone who looked to help others. While at Columbia, he helped establish a basketball clinic for kids in Harlem.

His father, Victor Ugolyn recalled the words his son wrote in one of his college papers: "It is the little things you do in life that matter most."

Since his death, his family formed a foundation dedicated to youth basketball programs. In particular, it seeks out and fixes up courts in inner city areas.

The newest "Tyler's Court" is the second in Springfield and the fourth overall. The foundation reconstructed the court at Emily Bill Playground off Franklin Street last year. The others are in Detroit and San Antonio.

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said it is inspirational how the Ugolyn family experienced tragedy "and turned it into a positive legacy for Tyler."

Deberry principal Mary Worthy said that for as long as she is principal, new students will be brought to the court at the start of each school year to learn about Tyler.

"I assure you that it will happen," she told his family.

Victor Ugolyn, who is also a trustee with the Basketball Hall of Fame, grew up in Springfield and attended the Deberry School. He recalled playing on the same court as a child.

Dave Cooks, Tyler's one-time coach, told the children gathered around that to follow his example, they need to be passionate about the things they value, to always work hard and to dream big.

"Tyler was a person who dreamed. Success begins with a dream," he said.

Following the speeches, the Deberry children who sat quietly through the ceremony were invited onto the new court to play.

University of Massachusetts basketball coach Derek Kellogg, a Springfield native, and members of his team led the children through shooting and defense drills.

James O'S. Morton, president of the YMCA, said the court underwent a top-to-bottom overhaul worth more than $30,000, including a new surface, new hoops, a perimeter fence, and benches.

"It's very exciting to see it transformed from what it was before," he said.