With the weather turning cold and snow on the ground, it is time for the boys basketball season to begin for the local area teams.
A new season brings new expectations and a fresh start for each coach trying to build upon last year and each player looking to make a move and help their team achieve the goals set for the season.
While St. Paul led the area last year with a 17-7 record, both Bristol Eastern and Central are looking to take that next step with some key players returning and another offseason under their belt to grow on the court.
Below is a closer look at each area team:
Head Coach: Timothy Barrette (11th season)
Last Year: 10-10 (Lost 1st Round Class L tournament to Windsor)
Key Losses: Aaron Collins (guard), Mike Lemke (guard), Luis Diaz (forward)
Key Returnees: Jaekwon Spencer (sr., guard), Isaiah Miller (sr., guard), Alex Bernier (sr. forward), Dathan Hickey (sr., forward), Alex Lape (sr., forward), Noah Plantamuro (sr., guard), Justus Fitzpatrick (jr., guard), Sr. Brett Kempton (sr., forward)
Outlook: Experience will not be an issue for this year’s Rams group.
With seven seniors expected to see meaningful playing time, an improvement on last year’s record is expected from head coach Tim Barrette.
“We return four starters from last year’s team that went 10-10,” Barrette said. “[Jaekwon] Spencer is a 2-time all-conference player. Miller leads the team at the guard position and is an emotional leader. Hickey, who will attend Yale on a football scholarship, is the defensive stopper for the group. Alex Bernier and Alex Lape should control the paint for us.”
While it is an experienced team, only one player on the roster has basketball as his primary sport.
“This team has great size and athleticism but lacks true basketball players outside of Spencer,” Barrette said. “Looking forward to a successful campaign and should be able to build on last year’s record.
Head Coach: Bunty Ray (2nd season)
Last Year: 5-15
Key Losses: Rod Jenkins (guard)
Key Returnees: Carter Dziedzic (jr., forward), MacGregor Goulet (sr., forward), Tyler Mason (sr., guard), Rajon Collins (sr., center), Nathan Silva (sr., guard), Camryn Tate (sr., guard), Ariza Kolloverja (sr., Guard), Jake Lafferty (sr., forward), Benjamin Chaisson (jr., forward), Brendon Gayle (so., guard), Matt D’Amato (so., guard), Adam Case (sr., guard)
Outlook: Last year the Lancers improved three games after winning just two in 2015-16. With the five wins last year, Bristol Eastern is expecting to again be competitive but loses Rod Jenkins, an all-conference guard who accounted for 60 percent of the Lancers points as the primary ball handler.
“This is a new year and we have to find an identity as the year moves forward,” Ray said. “We have had to implement new offenses to fit our personnel and we are adjusting to a whole new line-up. The players’ goal is to qualify for the state tournament and they have worked hard in the offseason to improve their strength and skills.”
Bristol Eastern’s junior forward, Carter Dziedzic, will be the player to watch on the court this season and is expected to take a big step forward.
“Carter has put in the time and had added a lot to his game,” Ray said. “He is a well rounded player that can attack the defense in many different ways.”
Getting all-around production is something that Ray is hoping to see out of his group.
Nathan Silva and Adam Case are threats from deep, capable of knocking down long range shots.
Ariza Kolloverja and MacGregor Goulet will be secondary scoring options to Dziedzic.
Camryn Tate is expected to run the point guard spot while Tyler Mason will be an all-around threat for the Lancers, serving in whatever role the teams needs him to.
Rajon Collins and Jake Lafferty will be the bigs for the Lancers.
“Collins and Lafferty provide [us] with some size inside,” Ray said. “However, [we] are undersized which will be an issue this season. “
Bristol Eastern will be an interesting team to track throughout the year and are looking forward to improving.”
“We are excited to get going and play,” Ray said. “I like the effort so far, I feel like the kids are up for the challenge.”
Head coach: Steve Phelps (27th season)
Last Year: 17-7
Key Losses: Austin Jones (guard), Tommy Houle (forward), Eli Kennedy (guard), Darek Wiecki (return uncertain due to ACL surgery in July)
Key Returnees: Mike Palmieri (sr., guard), Tyler Arbuckle (sr., guard), Matthew Garry (sr., guard), Brian Considine (sr., forward), Donovan Symes (jr., swingman), Seth Foley (sr., swingman)
Outlook: Coming off of a 17-7 season, which St. Paul finished as the NVL Copper Division Champion, this year has some question marks.
With the return of Darek Wiecki uncertain for the Falcons this season, that will be a big loss as he was a key rebounder for St. Paul.
“The current loss of Wiecki is huge,” Phelps said. “His toughness and speed is difficult to replace. We are hoping that [Mike] Palmieri, [Tyler] Arbuckle and Matthew Garry will pose matchup difficulties for opponents.”
Palmieri, a senior guard, an All-NVL selection and first-team All-Stater who averaged 15.0 points per game, 3.2 assists per game and 3.1 rebounds per game, there is a lot of production to replace with him gone.
Arbuckle, meanwhile, averaged 19.1 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game and 3.4 assists per game last year.
With some offseason work put in, Foley is expected to step into a key role this year.
“Although [Seth] Foley has seen limited varsity action previously, he has crashed on the preseason scene due to offseason dedication,” Phelps said.
Phelps believes that his younger guys can step up and contribute.
“The younger guys are feeling their way around,” Phelps said. “Learning every day what they need to do to compete and will be relied on heavily as the season wears on.”
Head Coach: Mark Fowler (18th season)
Last Year: 10-10
Key Losses: John Grimes, Mike Gudeczauskas
Key Returnees: Evan Dorso (sr., guard), Mike Tiscia (sr., guard), Shawn Iwanow (sr., forward), Colin Bamrick (jr., forward), Adam Pelz (sr., forward), Ethan Rheault (sr., guard), Dominic Zappone (sr., guard), Zack Hamzy (sr., guard), Kyle Mirando (jr., forward)
Newcomers to Watch: Albert Molina (so., guard), Devonne Dao (so., guard), Zack Rinkavage (so., guard)
Outlook: This year’s Terryville group lacks in height but makes up for it with the ability of its guard play.
“The 2017-18 edition of the Kangaroos is one of the smallest, in terms of height, in many years,” Terryville head coach Mark Fowler said. “However, the roster is stacked with guards who are capable of putting the ball in the basket.”
Evan Dorso leads the guards.
“It starts with Dorso who has rounded into a solid all-around player who has 3-point range and can get to the basket and finish,” Fowler said.
For Terryville it’ll be a struggle on the boards.
“It will have to be a team effort on the boards every single night,” Fowler said. “When you don’t have someone who can pull in 12 boards a game, everybody has to chip in and help out.”
Though, the Kangaroos believe this year could be a good one.
“If the Kangaroos can hold their own on the boards and find some balanced scoring behind the three guards, doubl-digit wins would be a great goal,” Fowler said.
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org