Two kids worth watching, Buscetto and Ostrowski grabbed the state's attention this week
It is doubtful that two consecutive nights of progress will change the perception of the Eastern Connecticut Conference, once called a “mid-major” in state high school basketball by a CIAC official. Remember: We’re still tucked away east of the river, which to the folks in more populated posts qualifies as two casinos and Rhode Island.
It’s noteworthy, though, how eyes were opened Thursday and Friday nights, after two of our kids authored some history. Two nights, two school scoring records set … and suddenly, those bumpkins down there can really shoot the pumpkin.
Thursday: Mikey Buscetto of Waterford High rains 48 points on Ledyard. But he does so at Xavier High in Middletown during a holiday tournament before gushing coaches and media members from other parts of the state.
Friday: Dev Ostrowski of East Lyme drops 45 on Bristol Central — East Lyme coach Jeff Bernardi originally thought it was 43 until he watched the video — and suddenly, Jim Calhoun, who will be coaching Division III St. Joseph next year, wants to talk to Dev and the family. Calhoun was in attendance Friday night in Bristol and came away, spies say, “impressed.”
No piggery here, either. Buscetto needed but 24 shots to get 48. Ostrowski needed 22. That’s called efficiency.
Still, you wonder. If Buscetto and Ostrowski set the same school records in their own gyms here in our corner of the world, would people of influence across the state have cared? Even noticed? But because they did so in Middletown and Bristol, perceptions of themselves, their teams, their games, their potential and their league have changed.
Buscetto and Ostrowski, who made the state’s preseason top 25 players to watch, just emerged into legitimate state player of the year candidates. Their teams will rise in the GameTime CT top 15 poll to be released in a day or two.
So maybe this is another cautionary tale for ECC coaches in all sports: Our geography won’t change. It’s an albatross. Hence, it’s not necessarily what your program accomplishes … but where. And against whom. If you want to change the perception of the conference, you’ve got to play beyond its borders. The residual effect helps everyone. Go play good teams in more, shall we say, populated places. And while you run the risk of imperiling your win-loss record, look what happens when the universe conspires with you.
Followers of sports in our corner of the world knew Buscetto was a whiz kid with the ball in his hands. Now the rest of the state does, too. The same followers knew Ostrowski has Division I potential. Now everyone else does, too. Because their coaches didn’t settle for scheduling tech schools and winning by 50.
Then there’s this: ECC schools haven’t been this successful playing nonconference games in years. East Lyme has beaten defending M champ Brookfield and Class LL Bristol Central. St. Bernard just beat Berlin. Ledyard has beaten Class LL Xavier. Waterford has drilled Class LL McMahon and Class LL Glastonbury. New London throttled Hartford Public on Saturday at Conway Gym. Norwich Free Academy, too, has a very competitive nonleague schedule and will have its opportunities to help the ECC’s mythical RPI.
Meantime, we get to enjoy a fun season with two kids who have already illustrated they can get 40 against brand names. Buscetto and Ostrowski are as good as anybody else in Connecticut. It’s not like this every year. But it is this year. It is a privilege for all of us who appreciate local sports to have them among us.
It should be noted that they both attended the New London game for a while Saturday, talked for a while and watched the game together. surrounded by some of their teammates. All good stuff.
It wasn’t long ago that the perception of the ECC across Connecticut was New London … and then everybody else. No more. This is a legitimate league in 2017-18. Led by two kids worth watching.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.
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