PV graduates release documentary on school’s all-time leading boys basketball scorer


Contributed by Andre Dabaghian

Andre Dabaghian filming with Mike Blackgrove. They created a documentary on his brother, John Blackgrove, to share his story called ‘Two Way Player.’

Sarah Buttikofer and Sophie Kolax

(Editors Note: John Blackgrove was the boys leading basketball points scorer. We originally had leading basketball point scorer, but that title goes to PV math teacher Laura Ely.)

Former Pascack Valley basketball player John Blackgrove, who to this day holds the title of PV’s all-time leading boys basketball points scorer, went on to play at Fordham University following his high school graduation. It was there that he suffered a back injury during his sophomore year that ultimately took a toll on his career. However, Blackgrove refused to give up on the game of basketball.

Andre Dabaghian
Ben Bachrach and Andre Dabaghian, 2018 PV alumni, posing for a picture. (Contributed by Andre Dabaghian)

Ben Bachrach and Andre Dabaghian, 2018 PV alumni, first started creating their project with Dabaghian’s former basketball coach Blackgrove when they had to come up with an idea for a potential documentary production last April.

“John Blackgrove is a basketball player, but he had a few injuries in college that kind of derailed his career,” Bachrach said. “But [the documentary] kind of shows how he kept looking forward and how basketball is his life. That’s why we called it ‘The Two Way Player’ – because he was a player and also a coach.”

Blackgrove was a skilled basketball player, starting on his middle school team at Holdrum and continuing to play and progress at PV. He was a member of the first PV basketball team to win a state sectional championship title. Then, after graduating from Fordham, he got a job as the University of New Haven associate head coach.

“Andre played basketball for John Blackgrove and I was supposed to come up with an idea for a documentary – something local that I can actually make,” Bachrach said. “I thought [Blackgrove] would be a good story because his name is well-known in town and I knew a little bit about him, but Andre knew a little more because he played for him.”

Blackgrove started his basketball journey when he was only 2 years old alongside his dad, eventually making basketball more than just a hobby. After college, Blackgrove had full-time jobs coaching basketball at all different levels, from youth sports up to college level.

Ben Bachrach filming with Mike Blackgrove. (Contributed by Andre Dabaghian)

“I think [my] hunger [for basketball] continued to grow as I got older,” Blackgrove said. “As I got older, I got into more competitive basketball with middle school, and travel basketball was where I really felt that this is something I want to do at the highest level I possibly could. I worked every day, four-to-six hours per day just trying to be the best player that I could be.”

Blackgrove said that Bachrach and Dabaghian did a fantastic job on the documentary about John Blackgrove and his journey with basketball from playing in high school and college to coaching at PV. He said he hopes they get the credit they deserve.

“I got a chance to see an early version of [the documentary] and then I [saw it] once it came out,” Blackgrove said. “They got everything right – they really did a good job and asked great questions. Andre played for me for a long time and we have a great relationship. He really knows me and knows what I’m all about and I thought they did an unbelievable job. I was very happy and pleased with it.”

Bachrach said the experience opened his eyes to different possibilities in film and production and he is open to doing something similar in the future. Bachrach is currently majoring in sports media at Ithaca College, while Dabaghian is majoring in film at the Ramapo College of New Jersey.

“We wanted to inspire young kids in high school or even in middle school or elementary school with the way John worked and his work ethic,” Dabaghian. “How he would work for five or six hours on a craft he wanted to pursue such as basketball and it could inspire kids to do the same with football, basketball, baseball, music, school, or whatever it is and to want to be the best they could possibly be.”

Since leaving the coaching world Blackgrove continued to teach basketball. He said that he has his own basketball company that trains kids from third and fourth grade up until the NBA.

Ben Bachrach and John Blackgrove on set, preparing to film. (Contributed by Andre Dabaghian)

“I just want to be able to give kids the ability to chase their dreams in basketball or whatever they want to do,” Blackgrove said. “I want to show them that hard work does pay off and there is a lot that can be learned through basketball or any sport for that matter – the most important thing is that you have a passion for what you are doing and that you work hard.”

According to Bachrach, he and Dabaghian called themselves a “low budget film crew,” because they worked with limited resources and only had two cameras that they shot interviews with.

Dabaghian said they had to talk with the interviewees beforehand and make sure they were comfortable with the conditions, due to the coronavirus. 

“Sometimes we went to people’s houses and it was just so important to make sure everyone was on the same page and that it wouldn’t be an issue [because of the coronavirus], and that they were comfortable with it and we were comfortable with it too,” Dabaghian said.

Blackgrove said that working with Bachrach and Dabaghian was a fantastic experience and he is proud of them.

“Working with them was really easy,” Blackgrove said. “They made everybody feel comfortable and they didn’t ask any questions that were off base. They really wanted to get to the heart of what it meant for me to do what I did and who I was back then.”

Bachrach said the editing process started around November and December and they approached video production teacher Michael Sherman for advice on editing.

“I think people should watch it to learn [about] a local success story [that] can inspire them to work hard [with] whatever they want to do, like music, sports, school, and whatever else,” Dabaghian said.