Keidy Cardoso’s road back to Amherst boys basketball hopefully just the start

  • Amherst Regional’s Keidy Cardoso puts in a shot contested by Pittsfield’s Francis Mensah in the fourth quarter Thursday in Amherst. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 12/31/2021 7:21:15 PM
Modified: 12/31/2021 7:20:51 PM

The chants started even before halftime when the outcome of the game was far from decided.

“We want Keidy!” CLAP. CLAP. CLAP. CLAP. CLAP.

Amherst Regional senior Keidy Cardoso smiled under his mask on the Amherst Regional boys basketball bench.

The Hurricanes were locked in a tight contest with Pittsfield on Thursday exchanging baskets. It might not be the night to make his season debut after two injury-marred years. Then Amherst clamped down on defense and ripped off two extended scoring runs in the fourth quarter, pushing the lead to double digits with two minutes remaining.

Amherst coach Jamahl Jackson called timeout and summoned Cardoso from the bench. When he checked in, the crowd – which included classmates and former teammates – roared louder than for any basket.

“We usually struggle with getting the crowd loud, so when I step on the floor and see everybody going crazy — it’s erupting — it’s the loudest I’d ever heard the gym,” Cardoso said. “I had to take it all in and and be like ‘dang, this is real.’”

For much of the previous two years, it was a moment Cardoso could only imagine or simulate in video games. He suffered a knee injury after being hit by a car in middle school and has recovered from multiple surgeries on it.

He dislocated his knee at the beginning of last season, rehabbing alone at home while most of the world remained locked down amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  In order to stay around the team, Cardoso accepted a team manager role as a junior.

“I just swallowed my pride and take that role that can be a little bit embarrassing for some people,” Cardoso said. “But just to be around the team, it was a sacrifice I was willing to make. Staying at the programming has been helping me be even more excited to come back.”

It appeared Cardoso would be able to play basketball at the start of this year, his senior season, until he hurt his ankle in gym class.

“It was definitely hard. There were definitely times where I was like, ‘will my knee ever get better?’ or ‘will I ever play?’” he said. “My support system just kept me up so we’d be back here.”

Cardoso credited friends, coaches and trainers for motivating him to keep going. When he was stuck at home not able to play basketball, football or any sport, he played the NBA 2k video game and watched basketball highlights on YouTube, sharpening the mental side of the game. He built a regular following on the Twitch streaming platform on his KeidyTv account.

“Just keeping my head up and controlling what I can control,” Cardoso said.

He finally practiced all last week and participated in the Hurricanes scrimmage against Belchertown. The buzz built quickly – Thursday could be the night.

After Cardoso checked in, Amherst did everything it could to get him a bucket. They passed ran plays for him and had him operate in the pick and roll. He missed his first attempt as the crowd sighed – time was winding down.

“I felt a little pressure to get the ball and score but it was also calm,” Cardoso said. “It was really cool. I was like yeah, I need to get the ball, I need to score, put it in the baskets so all the cheers didn’t go up for nothing.”

Finally with 30 seconds left, the Hurricanes offense worked Cardoso into a position on the left block against a smaller defender. He received the ball and turned over his left shoulder for a simple bank shot off the window. When it dropped, the crowd exploded like Amherst won a Western Massachusetts championship.

The Hurricanes starters jumped off the bench as if he’d dunked over three Pittsfield players.

“He’s loved by many,” Amherst junior Ian Waite said. “We’ve all heard his story, and time after time he keeps getting back up.”

As much as checking into Thursday’s game represented its own achievement and scoring pushed it further, Cardoso hopes it’s just the beginning. He wants to learn the playbook better and earn more minutes as the season progresses.

“We’re just going to keep going up,” Cardoso said. “Do the most for my team.”


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