The Day's All-Area Boys' Basketball Player of the Year: Waterford's JJ Brennan

Sometimes during the educational process, the lesson of cause and effect is both taught and (hopefully) learned. 

Take, for example, the case of JJ Brennan, the kid from Waterford High School whose shooting range extends to Quaker Hill.

Middle of last season: Brennan was but a bench player for the Lancers, who had suddenly lost two straight games and were mired in a scoring disorder. Then when Waterford coach Bill Bassett began to play Brennan a little more … and more … and more?

Since January 23, 2018, Waterford has lost exactly one basketball game.

Nobody in (or out) of the Eastern Connecticut Conference could guard Brennan, either, evidenced by his near 25 points per game average this season. He helped the Lancers to a 26-1 record, divisional and conference tournament championships and then the granddaddy of them all: The program’s second straight state championship and third in eight years, this time in the highly competitive state Division II. 

Brennan was named The Day’s 2019 All-Area Boys' Basketball Player of the Year.

“I’m proud of JJ. He’s always been like a little brother to me,” said Mikey Buscetto, Waterford’s career leading scorer and The Day’s 2017 and 2018 Player of the Year. “Last year, I don’t think people really knew what he could do and then he really came on at the end of the season. This year, it was his turn. He ultimately became one of the most accomplished basketball players to ever play at our school.” 

It didn’t take long for Brennan to take advantage of his “turn,” as Buscetto said. He scored 42 points in Waterford’s season-opening win at Brien McMahon, the same week his sister, Mia, eclipsed 40 at UConn Avery Point. Brennans, Brennans everywhere.

The emergence of Kenny Hill at point guard allowed Brennan to play his more natural position off the ball. Brennan was very quick to thank Hill and especially teammate and close friend Liam Spellman for always giving him the ball in the best places to score.

And boy, did he score.

“This year, I felt like when the games got close,” Brennan said, “I knew I had to start doing my thing.” 

Example: Brennan, named the Most Outstanding Player of the ECC Division I tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena, scored 10 huge points in the final three minutes, helping the Lancers hold off Norwich Free Academy’s rally.

NFA, down 16 in the second half, got within three in the final two minutes. Except that Brennan scored eight straight points for Waterford at one point.

Brennan was also his team’s leading scorer in perhaps the team’s most difficult win of the season — in overtime against Manchester in the state semifinals. He scored a game-high 28 points. Waterford had to rally from a five-point deficit in the final three minutes of regulation, capped by Brennan’s go-ahead 3-pointer with 28 seconds left.

Of course, he also fouled a 3-point shooter on Manchester’s ensuing possession, a decision they can chuckle about now. Yet that was Brennan’s appeal: He giveth and he taketh. He giveth much more, though, in what became a high school career of self-discovery.

“I’m very proud of JJ,” Bassett said. “He worked hard on all aspects of the game, including the mental part. He had to overcome some things and he did a great job.” 

Brennan becomes the third straight Waterford player to earn The Day’s Player of the Year award, joining Landon Peabody (2016) and Buscetto. Since 2016, Waterford is 90-13 with four division championships, two league tournament championships and consecutive state titles.

m.dimauro@theday.com

 

The Day's 2019 All-Area Boys' Basketball Team

Player of the Year — JJ Brennan (Waterford)

Max Lee (St. Bernard)

Luke Leonard (East Lyme)

Dev Ostrowski (East Lyme)

Liam Spellman (Waterford)

Aedan Using (Old Lyme)

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