Meet the two men who have made Chelsea the center of the high school basketball university for the last seven Augusts:
Kyle Umemba is a former BB&N prep school basketball standout who walked on for a tryout with the Division 1 George Washington University team. He works in the finance industry and walks on international runways as a fashion model.
In fact, Kyle called in from Scotland for the pre-tournament interview for this story, having just made a professional modeling appearance in Berlin.
“I’m here [in Scotland] for one day and then I’ll be heading to the best city in the planet – Chelsea,” said Kyle, co-director of the Let It Fly Basketball Classic which is scheduled for this Saturday at Chelsea High’s Saul Nechtem gym.
Cesar Castro, 31, the other director of Let It Fly, is the second-leading scorer in Chelsea High School boys’ basketball history with 1,252 points, standing only behind the great Craig Walker on the all-time list. A 2010 graduate, Cesar continued his career as an All-Region player at Bunker Hill Community College and is now poised to take over the Chelsea High School boys basketball team as head coach. He has worked in the Chelsea school system since 2015.
“We’re very excited to host the seventh annual Let It Fly Classic,” said Cesar, son of Cesar Castro Sr. and Noemi Castro. “It’s always an amazing time, having everyone come together for that one special day of basketball. Everybody looks forward to the Let It Fly every year, every summer, especially the kids, for whom this event is all about – giving them the spotlight to showcase their talent.”
Building an event
Kyle knew from the beginning. Cesar said, let’s do it.
The first Let It Fly Classic was held outdoors at Highland Park, drawing a sizable crowd. The atmosphere was electric like Rucker Park in New York City. Kyle knew that he and Cesar were on to something big, and the tournament’s following grew steadily the next year.
The duo moved the tournament indoors to the Jordan Boys and Girls Club which was packed for the games. One of the special guests one year was University of Kentucky and NBA 6-foot-11-inch center Nerlens Noel, who came over from his hometown of Everett to be a spectator for what was now a showcase event for elite high school basketball players.
“At the first tournament, I saw the crowd of people around Highland Park on a hot summer day, and I felt like, wow, we were really about to have something special in the city,” said Cesar. “The crowds kept getting bigger and bigger and we had to move from the Jordan Boys and Girls Club to Chelsea High.”
Kyle isn’t surprised that the tournament has grown to be one of the most anticipated events on the New England high school basketball scene.
“I knew Cesar and I had the mindset to get it there,” said Kyle. “It’s just pushing through and having that vision.”
Chelsea students will once again benefit from Kyle and Cesar’s efforts. Let It Fly will present eight scholarships to Chelsea students at the tournament.
Free Food For All
One of the unique aspects of the Let It Fly Basketball Classic is that the tournament provides free food for all – players, coaches, and spectators alike.
Kyle’s mom, Joan Cromwell, is one of the primetime caterers, and she never disappoints with her keen culinary talents. You can ask the Georgetown University football program for whom last season Joan Cromwell prepared 120 post-game dinners for the players’ return trip from Holy Cross in Worcester to Washington, D.C. Her son, Kingsley Umemba, played football at Georgetown.
There will be free breakfasts thanks to Muffin Town, Dunkin Donuts, and McDonald’s.
Michael G’s, owned by Chelsea High Class of 1982 graduate Michael Giannasca, will provide lunches.
Each player will receive complimentary game jerseys and customized Let It Fly shorts.
The championship game uniforms are being dedicated in memory of Kentucky basketball star Terrence Clark, who grew up in the Boston area.
Both Kyle and Cesar are grateful to the tournament’s sponsors and supporters, with the main sponsor being the Chelsea Black Community (CBC), which is led by Joan Cromwell, the organization’s president.
Converse returns as a major sponsor.
Concepts, a fashion boutique based in Cambridge, is also on board. Basketball publication Slam Magazine will show highlights of the tournament.
“We want to thank the school administration for allowing the use of high school and for the efforts of the Chelsea High custodians and security,” said Cesar. “I want to give a big shutout to Chief [Brian] Kyes] and the Police Department for always supporting us and having their officers at the tournament and keeping everybody safe.”
Tournament kicks off
at 10 a.m.
Saturday’s tournament starts at 10 a.m. There will be a girls basketball All-Star game at 2 p.m. The championship game is 6 p.m.
“This is going to be our biggest and best tournament yet,” promises Kyle. “Last year, we were big. This year it’s even bigger.”