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Perserverance pays for Mario Flaherty

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Perserverance pays for Mario Flaherty

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Skyline College is not known for attracting elite athletes who go on to renowned athletic programs at the collegiate ranks. People are quicker to associate Skyline with horrible weather.

Because of this notion, most students are unaware of the success of former Trojan and current professional athlete, Mario Flaherty who suited up for Skyline from 2006 through 2008. Flaherty now plays professionally getting paid for playing the game he loves.

I sat down with Skyline basketball coach, Justin Piergrossi, to find out more about his former player’s road to professional basketball.

“He (Mario) is definitely the hardest working player I ever have had to this point…from the beginning he’s had the right attitude, the right work ethic, the right approach,” recalled Piergrossi about Flaherty’s commitment to academics in addition to his contributions on the court. “On the floor, off the floor, he was the perfect role model for the rest of the guys on the team. He approached the academics the same way.” Piergrossi noted that like basketball, academics didn’t come easy. “For him to work at it the way he did, he was bound for great things.”

While at Mills High School, Flaherty admitted to not being “very good” when first trying out for the Vikings. His game was in its early stages and unfortunately was not enough to make the team. The genesis of the work ethic described by Piergrossi begins here at just 14 years old. Although disheartened, Flaherty received encouragement to improve his game. He established a spot on the roster for the next three years. He enjoyed a successful senior season for the Vikings but did not entertain offers from any schools.

Finding himself in this position once again, he wanted to prove he could be relevant at the next level. He concurrently enrolled at Skyline to get a step up on the competition as soon as the season ended. Piergrossi had his man.

“I remember working out with four different trainers every day in addition to doing stuff on my own,” Flaherty says about his days playing for the Trojans. “You got to put in work if you want to be great, to be good at anything you do. It’s something I learned at 14.”

Flaherty and Piergrossi worked together to help him elevate his game. In his second year, Flaherty doubled his scoring and rebounding numbers.

He ended his two-year career at Skyline ranking 23rd in All Time Career Rebounds, 21st in Single Season Rebounds, and was a back-to-back recipient of the Eddie Jones Hustle and Attitude Award. His performance against Ohlone College put Flaherty on Houston Baptist University (HBU) head coach Ron Cottrell’s radar. Flaherty became Piergrossi’s first Division I player at Skyline College.

Flaherty transferred to HBU where he had the opportunity to play against the nation’s best competition as part of college basketball’s Great West Conference. On the court, he was recognized for his play earning All Conference First Team honors while averaging 13.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game his senior year. Flaherty capped off his collegiate career with a 23 point-17 rebound performance against South Dakota in the Great West Championship game; this earned him All Tournament honors. Off the court, he remained focused on his studies and received his Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Advertising in 2010.

An opportunity earned through hard work, Flaherty was offered his first professional contract to play for New Zealand’s Taranaki Mountain. “The dream is to get paid for what you love to do,” shared Flaherty about his future in basketball. When asked about his aspirations to play in the NBA, Flaherty laughed and responded, “I’ve made it this far… why not dream?”

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Perserverance pays for Mario Flaherty