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Lukas Fracasso-Verner. ~ Katie Fiorilla {Interview}

If you play pool competitively in the Northeast area there is a good chance that you have seen the 14- year-old B player Lukas Fracasso-Verner. The kid is everywhere; The New England 9-Ball Series, The Predator Tour, the Tri-State Tour, the USAPL pool league, the BCA Jack and Jill, and numerous other events.

Someone once asked how I felt about competing against him and I replied that I thought it was great. Not only is it nice to see young people taking up the game but Lukas is so energetic, enthusiastic, genuine, full of potential, and friendly that it is difficult to not also get excited about pool.

He might get frustrated at times during a match, but he shoots every shot with absolute confidence.

People often look on in amazement when he appears to not give a second thought to shooting in an extremely difficult shot with a hard stroke and the ball goes right in. Frequently this is followed by someone commenting that he can do that because he’s so young and young people don’t suffer from the same fears and hesitations that adults do.

One time an A player in a match with Lukas failed to make a jump shot and immediately after the game Lukas set the shot back up, whipped out his jump cue, and said, “I can show you how to make that shot.”

I laugh whenever I think about a 14-year-old sincerely offering to show an A player how to make a jump shot, but it shows that fearless confidence and that is part of what makes Lukas so memorable.

Lukas first started playing pool when he was eight years old. His father Dave, an APA skill level five, would take Lukas to Yale Billiards in Wallingford, CT with him. His parents bought him his first cue in 2010 when they were in Las Vegas attending the APA National Team Championships.

Lukas started out spending two days each week at the pool hall and found that the players there were very encouraging and willing to teach him. I can believe this because I’ve seen Lukas at many events and he’s always surrounded by a group of players from his area watching out for him.

Room owner and 2016 New England Pool and Billiards Hall of Fame inductee, Bobby Hilton gave him free lessons. Others local players such as Robert Piersa, Dave Gavrish, Nick Bosquet, and most importantly his dad have spent time working with him. He is very outgoing and curious and not afraid to ask other players to teach him.

He even befriended “The Giant Killer” Jeremy Sossei who showed Lukas drills; such as lining up five balls in a row and shooting them all into the corner pocket.

Lukas started out doing easier drills like trying to run three balls and shooting in a long, straight shot ten times in a row and now does all kinds of drills. He particularly likes the ones Darren Appleton posts on his Facebook page and now spends six to seven hours per day six days per week playing pool.

He really enjoys playing better players and loves shooting because it’s so fun and interesting.

Within two years of picking up a cue Lukas was cashing fairly consistently in events like the weekly Tuesday 9-Ball tournament at Shooters in Wallingford, CT that draws about 20 players each week. In 2014 he went to Las Vegas to compete in the USAPL team championships. He clarified for me that this was not a junior event — he was playing on a league with adult players.

His most significant open tournament was when he placed 7th to 8th as a C+ at the 2015 Predator Tour Ginky Memorial at Steinway Billiards in Astoria, NY.

Lukas began competing in junior events a little later in his career because he didn’t know about them when he first started. Not surprisingly he does well in those too.

In 2014 he placed third at the Super Billiards Expo, 12 and Under Junior Division event. In 2015 he won a USAPL Junior event which qualified him to compete in the World Junior Championships, 16 and Under Bracket in China last November. I foolishly asked him how China was forgetting that he’s a pool player and never really left the tournament location. He didn’t do as well as he would have liked in that event but it was his first time flying out to China to play in such a big tournament. Lukas is confident that he will do better next year now that he has some experience under his belt.

It’s hard to imagine that Lukas has time for anything other than pool but he does actually attend 8th grade at Moran Middle School in Wallingford, CT where is favorite subjects are Math and Science. He plays other sports such as cross-country, baseball, and basketball.

He plans to go to college after high school but also wants to be a pro pool player. Given how good he is at such a young age, his level of commitment and determination, and all the people he has supporting him I’d say it’s a good bet that there will be many pro events in his future.

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Katie started playing pool in September 2000 when her sister begged her to take her spot on her APA 8-Ball team while on maternity leave. Never having played pool before, Katie was arguably the worst skill level 2 player in the history of the league and primarily functioned as a body on the team to keep them from disbanding. Being forced to compete every week when just hitting the cue ball into the object ball was challenging was enormous motivation to learn, practice, and get better. Katie was extremely shy and never went out much and pool became her primary social activity and helped build her confidence when interacting with other people. When she first started practicing people would stop by to offer advice and lessons, but eventually people were stopping by to ask her for advice and lessons. After thousands of hours of practice Katie eventually became a skill level 7 in APA and was given the nickname ‘The Tiny Titan’. Katie also plays in the VNEA pool league, competes as a B- on the New England 9 Ball Series tour, placed 5th in the 2014 APA Jack and Jill tournament in Las Vegas, was a member of the NH Masters team at the 2015 APA National Championships in Las Vegas, and was runner-up at the 2015 Super Billiards Expo Women’s Amateur Open. Katie is sponsored by Grand China Billiards in Salem, NH and theNH VNEA pool league. Katie has an M.S. in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology from UMass Amherst and currently works in the Oncology Department at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research where she plays with robots and does research on cancer cells. [Photo credit for Katie’s bio pic goes to Steve Booth Photography] Photo: Alison Chang [provided by pictured] Editor: Shaylyn Arthurs

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