The sound of basketballs bouncing inside and outside their home can be heard at all hours of the day and well into the night.
The smell of food fills the air, with dinner served at 4 p.m. and again at 9 p.m., and somethin’s always cookin’ at 1 a.m.
The sight of a fresh load of laundry right out of the dryer sends this North Jersey family into a frenzy.
Say hello to West Milford’s Eileen and Ty Basket, parents of seven sons ranging from age 13 to 26. At least one Basket has been active in the West Milford High School hoops program for more than a decade.
All seven have a voracious appetite for basketball, food and clean clothes.
“It’s a frat house and I’m the house mom,” Eileen says.
The seven Baskets
Eileen and Ty met through work in 1988. From 1992 to 2005, they brought seven boys into the family: Tyrone Jr., now 26; Joshua, 25; Luke, 23; Noah, 21; Blaise, 19; Josiah, 17; and Seamus, 13.
“When I used to grocery shop with them all, people would say, ‘Oh, is this daycare?’ and I’d say, ‘No, they’re mine,’” Eileen remembers. “People would give me lectures on overpopulating the world. You can’t believe the things that people said, but I just laugh it off.”
And, yes, this basketball family’s last name really is Basket.
Ty, 55, grew up in Neptune and stood out on the basketball court for now-defunct Central Jersey Christian Academy in Asbury Park. Eileen, 54, grew up in West Milford and ran cross-country and track at DePaul.
“It’s funny, because the name kind of sticks out, and people think it’s fraudulent,” said Eileen, whose maiden name is Morris. “I remember one of the kids had their travel jersey and they finally got their names on it, and a bunch of kids were like, ‘Who does that kid think he is?’ And this big kid that we know, an older brother, says, ‘That’s their name – you want to make something of it!’”
Somethin’s always cookin’
The Baskets have three refrigerators and a freezer in a ranch-style home that includes a big addition.
Asked to estimate the food bills, Ty doesn’t even want to try.
To accommodate schedules that range from an eighth grader to a working adult, two dinners are served, the first at 4 p.m., the second at 9 p.m.
“We try to eat together when we can, but with all the schedules – at some point there were six kids playing a different basketball schedule,” said Eileen, a middle school special education teacher.
“And at 1 o’clock, I’ll wake up and the kids are cooking eggs, or meat, or something,” said Ty, a landscape designer and sports referee. “I’ll go downstairs and say, ‘What are you doing? My kitchen is closed!’ But it never works. They’re constantly eating. Constantly.”
“You always have to rush home to make sure there’s still food left,” said Josiah, a senior and the sixth son to play basketball for West Milford High School. “Sometimes it’s gone when I get home. We live by a pizza place, so we just go over there.”
Three baskets in the backyard
One basket wasn’t enough for seven Baskets, so their backyard now features three hoops.
Even in freezing temperatures, the Baskets play hoops in the backyard. They sweep the snow off the court, and they cut off the fingertips of their gloves so they can maintain control of the ball. Holiday games are especially intense.
“That was our way of calming them down,” said Ty, who has coached all his sons and plays in a Sunday men’s league with most of them. “Think about seven boys in a house. We’ve got to do something with them. So that’s what we would do. I would put them through drills, make them run, and they just loved it.”
“You always have someone to play with,” said Josiah, who leads West Milford (11-5) in scoring at 24.2 points per game and has scored exactly 1,200 career points. “You come home and you can just say, “All right, do you want to play one-on-one or two-on-two?’”
Basket full of dirty laundry
The pile of dirty laundry can grow to the size of a small car.
To hold it all, Ty built a laundry bin that is four feet long by eight feet wide by four feet deep, and it’s on wheels. Basketball uniforms are forbidden from that bin.
“We started a system that any type of uniform would have to stay separate in their bottom drawer, even if it’s dirty,” Eileen says. “And then we wash it separately. We didn’t want it to go into what we call, ‘The Population.’ If your uniform got mixed into the big pile, it could be lost forever.”
Five loads of laundry get cleaned in a day, sometimes more. Clean clothes are so coveted that the brothers often “borrow” each other’s shirts and pants.
“You do a big load of laundry and your brothers will be wearing your stuff,” Josiah said. “You leave for a second and it’s all gone.”
A high school tradition
West Milford had at least one Basket on the team for more than a decade now. During the 2011-12 season, they had three with Joshua, Luke and Noah playing varsity together.
“When I was little and going to the West Milford games and watching them play, I thought it was like the NBA,” Josiah remembers, “and I always wanted to play.”
The Highlanders’ gym is their second home, so much so that Seamus often slept in the stands as a toddler.
“When he came to the games, all my friends would give us their coats and we would make a little bed in the bleachers,” Eileen said. “And when he got tired, he would lie down, and he would sleep every night in the West Milford bleachers.”
Each Basket has contributed in a different way to the West Milford program. Luke was a shooting guard who scored 1,272 career points. Noah was a point guard whose job was to push the pace and distribute. Josiah, at 6-foot-4, is the tallest, a swingman who has college potential.
“Every single one of them has had a different personality, has played a different position and different role on our team,” said John Finke, in his 30th season coaching the Highlanders. “It’s really been quite unique out of the same family.”
So many games, so many people
Basketball has done so much for the Baskets. The family has forged so many friendships through the game.
“We’ve met so many people because of basketball,” Eileen says. “It’s really our village, and it means a lot to me.”
While Ty will continue to play, Eileen looks forward to taking a break from basketball, probably in about four years or five years. That’s after Seamus graduates high school and Josiah is finished with college.
“But then I’ll miss it,” Eileen says. “So hopefully I’ll have some grandchildren … but not yet.”
She said it: Eileen Basket
On having seven children: “The last few were all my last, then there was another last, and another last, and Seamus was four years later.”
On raising seven sons: “We really never had toys. We just had balls. Everybody was talking about Legos, and we would have no use for them. No regular kid toys, just a hoop in the living room since before they could stand.”
On a kitchen that never sleeps: “There’s food cooking now all 24 hours. Someone’s making chicken at 2 a.m., because the older ones are still around, so it’s a scene.”
On living with very active children: “That’s what’s wrong with the whole world today. Everyone’s on their couches, instead of outside playing.”
On spending time away from the boys: “We have a girl dog named Annie, so I can have someone on my side without too much testosterone and no foot odor.”
On cheering for her sons: “We’re both very vocal, and when I used to sit behind the bench, I was quarterbacking too much for (coach John Finke). So he banished me, so I went across the gym.”