They had every reason to give up.

They weren't tall enough. They weren't skilled enough. They weren't good enough.

Charlie Lane, Alex Calvello, and Mark Tuzi tried out for the Clearview High School boys' basketball team as sophomores. They all were cut.

"At that point, how many kids today keep trying to find a way to do everything they can to get better?" Clearview coach Tom Gross wondered. "These kids, they wouldn't quit."

Clearview opened its season Friday night against Schalick. Lane, Calvello, and Tuzi were in the starting lineup.

This would be some story, if one of these guys refused to take no for an answer as sophomore, kept working on his game, attended every offseason session, set the program standard for hustle and determination, and emerged as a senior leader two seasons after the coach told him he wasn't good enough to make the team.

But this isn't the story of one young man's perseverance.

It's that tale in triplicate, the remarkable case of three athletes who inspired each other to beat the odds.

"We definitely pushed each other," Tuzi said. "We all worked so hard to get here. We still push each other. I come out to practice every day trying to get the better of these guys, and they always try to get the better of me."

Gross said his three senior leaders "still play and practice like they might get cut tomorrow."

It's no wonder they take nothing for granted. They are all about 5-foot-9, all have average skill levels in terms of their ballhandling and shooting.

They all play with an edge, diving on the floor for loose balls, battling on every defensive possession for every inch of space on the shiny hardwood.

"We're scrappy," Lane said. "We fight for everything."

All three played basketball in middle school and were members of the Clearview freshman team during the 2012-13 season.

But by December of 2013, all three were cut from the program.

"I was hurt by it," Lane said. "But it just made me hit the gym and the weight room twice as hard.

"I fell in love with this sport at a young age. I wasn't going to give it up."

Tuzi said the bad news as a sophomore only made him more determined to improve his game.

"It just told me I wasn't good enough," Tuzi said. "It made me want to push myself even farther."

Calvello said he knew he had nobody to blame but himself.

"I was disappointed in myself," Calvello said. "I didn't work hard enough to get ready. I wasn't as prepared as I needed to be."

Stick-to-it-ness sometimes seems in short supply among today's youngsters, especially in the face of adversity.

These guys became a positive example for their teammates - for everybody in the school, actually - by their reaction to rejection.

"They came to everything the following summer," Gross said. "I mean, they didn't miss a workout. No matter who else was there or wasn't there, I always knew those three would be there.

"If the gym was open, they were there."

The three athletes said the organized workouts with the team were only part of their preparation.

"We worked so hard together away from school, always pushing each other," Calvello said.

Gross and his coaches decided to keep all three in the program as juniors. But they were junior-varsity players for most of the season, earning a few varsity minutes in a couple of long-decided games at the end of the year.

"Basically, they were rewarded with some garbage time minutes for working so hard all year on JV," Gross said.

Last summer was more of the same - Lane, Tuzi, and Calvello were front and center at every workout, setting the tone for the Pioneers with their hustle and enthusiasm.

Gross made all three of them starters after a preseason in which they assumed even more of a leadership role.

"These guys never take a drill off," Gross said. "They never take off anything. They are diving on the floor in practice.

"These kids, they are role models. They are examples of everything that coaches are always preaching and so many kids today don't want to hear."

The three still play every possession with "full intensity," according to Tuzi.

Lane said it's "amazing" to be starting as a senior.

"We know we're probably never going to be able to do this again," Lane said. "We're living it up."

Calvello probably speaks for the three of them in mentioning how much it matters to him to be part of the Pioneers program.

"I just wanted to wear a jersey," Calvello said. "I wanted to be on the team so bad. I would come to games as a sophomore and see people cheering in the stands and I was like, 'I want to be out there. I want to represent Clearview.' "

@PhilAnastasia

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