Boys' basketball preview: Big things expected of East Lyme

ECC Division I

East Lyme

Coach: Jeff Bernardi (5th year)

Key returnees: Sr. G Dev Ostrowski, Sr. G Luke Leonard, Sr. F Jacob Peters, Jr. C TJ Horner.

Top newcomers: Jr. G Nate Diaz, Sr. G Drew Menghi, Jr. F Joey Grubb.

Outlook: Big things are expected from the Vikings this season after going 20-5 a year ago, winning the ECC Division I title, finishing second in the ECC tournament and reaching the Division III state quarterfinals before losing to Enfield. East Lyme returns four starters, led by all-state guard Ostrowski (27 points, eight rebounds, four assists and four steals per-game as a junior) and Leonard (14 points, 6.5 rebounds, four assists and two steals per game). Bernardi also beefed up the schedule, starting with Notre Dame of West Haven (No. 7 in the preseason state poll) at home on Saturday night.

Ledyard

Coach: Dave Cornish (8th year)

Key returnees: Sr. F Ken Turner, Jr. G Omar Whitmore, Jr. G Jaiden Bickham.

Top newcomers: Sr. F Seamus McGrath, Jr. G Elijah Morton, Jr. F Syncere Gray, Fr. F Dorell Cagle.

Outlook: The Colonels went 13-7 last season, but must replace four starters, including All-Area big man Trevor Hutchins. Turner will provide a strong presence inside, but Cornish will have to be patient. "We will go through some growing pains," he said. "But this is a hardworking group that will compete every single night. Our goal is to get better each day in practice and be a much better team by the end of the year."

New London

Coach: Craig Parker (25th year)

Key returnees: Sr. G Nick Fleetwood, Sr. F Richard Henry, Jr. G Noah James Iv, Jr. F/C Derek Raymond.

Top newcomers: Sr. F Zekhi Burgis, Sr. G Adrian Cicero, Sr. G Elijah Robinson, Sr. G/F Tyrone Santiago, Jr. G Eddie Reyes-Suarez, So. F Jabari Jones, So. G Lawensky Osias, Fr. G Tayeshawn Cunningham-Pemberton, Fr. G/F Sean Raymond, Fr. F/C Camaree Williams.

Outlook: The Whalers finished 16-8 overall a year ago, reaching the second round of the Division II tournament, but graduated the bulk of their lineup, including All-Area guard Gio Lopez. Fleetwood gives New London a dynamic player in the backcourt and some talented newcomers have a chance to make their mark, too. Parker's goal is to have the Whalers playing their best basketball in time for the postseason.

NFA

Coach: Chris Guisti (6th year)

Key returnees: Sr. G Nik Hay, Sr. G Carlos Montrond, Sr. G Andrew Gromko, Jr. G Xavier Marquez, So. G Mason Jackson.

Top newcomers: Sr. G Osman Surur, Jr. F Nolan Molkenthin.

Outlook: The Wildcats are coming off a solid 13-7 regular season, but like other teams in the division were hit hard by graduation losses, including All-Area guard Aidan Miller. Guisti will look to four seniors to lead a young group of talented guards in order to be competitive in the division and make a run at a state tournament bid.

 

ECC Division II

Fitch

Coach: Charles Silvan (3rd year)

Key returnees: So. G DJ  Beaudet, Jr. G Adreil Atad, Jr. G Kiki Roman, So. F Seamus Greaves, Jr. G Ajia Brown.

Top newcomer: Sr. G Sean Morales.

Outlook: The Falcons, who struggled to a 3-17 record last season, moved down to Division II in the ECC's new realignment. Fitch is still young, but has one of the ECC's top guards in Brown. "We have a young team that has shown great resolve and commitment to improve and establish a standard of performance at Fitch," Silvan said.

Waterford

Coach: Bill Bassett (4th year)

Key returnees: Sr. G/F Liam Spellman, Sr. G JJ Brennan.

Top newcomers: Jr. G/F Payton Sutman, Jr. F Ryan O'Connell, Sr. C Nate Landon, Sr. G Cadin Maynard, Sr. G Dylan Eckhart, Sr. G Kenny Hill.

Outlook: The Lancers delivered the program's second state title a year ago, finishing 25-2 after walloping Avon 90-67 in the Division III final. Mikey Buscetto, The Day's All-Area Player of the Year and Waterford's career scoring leader, graduated along with five other key players, but Spellman and Brennan played key roles during Waterford's title run and will lead a team that will still look to push the tempo. "Many new faces will have increased roles and look to make an impact," Bassett said.

 

ECC Division III

St. Bernard

Coach: Mark Jones (7th year)

Key returnees: Sr. G Max Lee, Sr. G DeAndre Williams, Sr. G Joseph Beltran, Jr. C Nate Avery, Sr. F Cameron Beaudet, Sr. G Zach Clark, So. G Frank Pacheco.

Top newcomers: Sr. F Quincy Francois, So. G Walker Baillargeon, So. G Connor Ullrich, Sr. Max Adams.

Outlook: The Saints will be one of the ECC's strongest teams this season after finishing 22-3 a year ago, winning the ECC Division II tournament title and reaching the Division IV state quarterfinals before losing to Rocky Hill in overtime. Lee, Williams and Beltran are dangerous backcourt threats and St. Bernard proved it was comfortable playing any style. "We look forward to having a great season,"Jones said. "We want to play hard and be the best version of ourselves that we can be."

Stonington

Coach: John Luzzi (5th year)

Key returnees: Sr. G RJ Parrilla, Sr. G Marquis Jackson, Jr. C Jacob Geary, Jr. G Zach Scott, Jr. C Ayden Morrison.

Top newcomers: Sr. G David DeFanti, Sr. G Cooper Wall, Jr. F Marco Tedeschi, Jr. G Tyler Fidrych, Jr. G Peter Fernholz, Jr. G Aaiden Borsher.

Outlook: Expect the Bears, who went 10-10 a year ago, to be right in the thick of the Division III race in the ECC's new realignment. Luzzi welcomes back four starters, led by Parrilla, Jackson and Scott in the backcourt and Geary and Morrison inside. Stonington has a group of newcomers that will provide the depth needed to challenge for Division III honors, compete for the ECC Division II tournament title and make a good run in the state tournament.

 

ECC Division IV

Montville

Coach: Derek Wainwright (4th year)

Key returnees: Jr. F/C Zac Southard, Sr. F Ryan Champagne, Jr. G Ethan McKinney, Sr. F Naseem McIntish.

Top newcomers: So. F Griffin Pontbriant, Sr. G Emmanuel Mayfield, So. G Trevor Meaike, Jr. F Collin Nickerson.

Outlook: The Indians, who were 3-17 a year ago, move from Division II to Division IV (joining Wheeler, Lyman Memorial, Putnam and Tourtellotte) and hope to earn a state tournament bid for the first time in nearly a decade. "The move to Division IV will help the program," Wainwright said, "and should be a competitive division."

Wheeler

Coach: Neal Cobleigh (11th year)

Key returnees: Jr. G Bowen Baker, Jr. G Clayton Carini, Jr. F Scott Pion, Sr. G Seth Jones, Sr. F Liam Patrick, Sr. G Nolan Arruda, Jr. F Ian Spracklin, So. G Lukas Jones.

Top newcomers: Sr. F Cerek Keramidas, Sr. F Michael Warren.

Outlook: Wheeler returns four starters (Baker, Carini, Pion and Spracklin) from a team that struggled through a 2-18 season, so Cobleigh expects a big leap forward this season, especially with some added depth provided by Jones, Patrick, Warren and Keramidas. "We have some good athletes, the key being how they transition to being basketball players," Cobleigh said. "We will prepare, show up and compete hard in every ball game. We expect to contend in the division."

 

Others

Grasso Tech

Coach: Gregg Antoch (15th year)

Key returnees: Sr. C Silus Wiggins, Sr. C David White, Jr. G Luis Duran, So. G.F Tyrell Dennis, Jr. F Ethan McAvoy, Jr. G Jacob Cortes.

Top newcomers: Fr. G Domonic Martinez, Jr. G Brendan Decora, So. G Donnel Brown.

Outlook: The Eagles went through some major growing pains during a winless season a year ago, but Antoch believes, "the major positive is that many of our underclassmen got a lot of varsity minutes and invaluable experience that will hopefully translate to more success this season." Grasso Tech's goal is to qualifying for the Connecticut Technical Conference and state tournaments.

Norwich Tech

Coach: Muhammad Hasan (1st year)

Key returnees: Jr. F Brian Betha, Jr. F Evander Dorcin, So. F Morvens Jean, Sr. G Brandon Mayersohn, Sr. G Maison Mebane, Jr. G Alex Murray, So. G Giovani Yeung.

Top newcomers: Jr. F Kadin Ducot, Sr. F Ethan Lehr, Sr. G Ismael Rivera-Garcia.

Outlook: Hasan takes over a team that went 6-14 a year ago and returns some key athletes this winter as they prepare to compete in the Connecticut Technical Conference. "This is a good group of student-athletes that are expected to improve throughout the season," Hasan said.

Old Lyme

Coach: Kirk Kaczor (17th year)

Key returnees: Jr. C Aedan Using, Jr. G Brady Sheffield, Sr. G Quinn Romeo, Jr. G Ray Doll, Sr. C Olin Frederiks.

Top newcomers: Jr. G Connor Hogan, Jr. F Jared Ritchie, Jr. F Ty Dean.

Outlook: Old Lyme returns three starters from a team that went 15-5 a year ago, including Using, an All-Shoreline Conference first team pick who provides a dominant presence inside. Kaczor loves the chemistry the Wildcats have developed during the preseason, adding, "We have some talent, but will have to work hard to reach some of our goals."

Williams

Coach: Kevin Steuer (1st year)

Key returnees: Sr. G Zain Alam, Sr. F Nick Bonner, Jr. G Quinn Furgueson, So. G Grayson Guinan, So. F Max Sarwar, So. F Jack Yost.

Top newcomer: Fr. F Sterling Frost.

Outlook: Steuer takes over the Blues, who should be competitive in the SENE. Alam is closing in on 1,000 career points and is their top outside shooting threat. Alam and Bonner are the captains, and Steuer expects Williams to improve its depth as the season progresses.

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