Returning players, experience key for area boys' hoop teams
By Julia Green
Margaretville Blue Devils
After graduating only one senior from last year’s squad, first-year head coach Dave Goodchild is looking to a strong core of returners to set the foundation for the Blue Devils squad this season.
“I think the biggest thing that we’ve got – there are four guys from last year, and we pretty much have all of our starters back from last year, so I think we just go on that experience,” Goodchild said.
This season marks Goodchild’s first at the varsity helm, after serving as the JV coach at Margaretville for seven years.
“I’m looking forward to doing it,” Goodchild said of the season, adding that he feels comfortable with the players, having coached them at the JV level. Goodchild and former head coach Jeremey Marks traded duties this season, with Marks taking over at the JV level, though Goodchild emphasizes that they work together.
The Blue Devils faced the Roxbury Rockets in a preseason scrimmage last week, and Goodchild said he was encouraged by his team’s performance.
“I thought we did pretty well against them,” he said. “I think we’ll be competitive. I was happy with the way we played.”
In addition to returning a strong core from last year, including seniors Brian Faulkner, Mitch Vankeuren and Marcus Moore and juniors Patrick O’Connell and Danny Jenkins, Goodchild will be looking to earn some experience for his younger bench players.
“I think with Brian we’re going to be pretty good in rebounding, and our guards aren’t looking too bad,” he said. “Marcus has been on varsity for three years, and with his experience and the way he’s been driving I think he’ll have a good year, and Mitchell’s doing a much better job this year at point guard. And we just have to figure out the bench, and where to fit the guys in, because most of the guys coming off the bench are new.”
Despite being new, Goodchild said, he anticipates that those players will certainly have a role this season.
“I think the guys we brought up from JV last year, they’ve all improved from last year, so they should help us.”
And, while the experience is certainly there, Goodchild predicted that the defining factor for his team’s season will be their work ethic.
“To try to get them to come and play hard in practice and get them to carry that over into the games, that’s the biggest thing I’m looking for,” he said. “I think that we can play with anybody – it all depends on the way we practice. But I think we can play with anybody. It’s all up to the guys.”
And as far as style of play goes, Goodchild’s is pretty straightforward: “Play hard defense and get out there and run a lot,” he said. “We’re going to keep it pretty basic.”
“I’m looking forward to being .500 or better,” he said of his expectations for the season. “I’ll be disappointed if we’re not. A lot of coaches want to go to sectionals, and I really can’t see us not going to the sectionals.”
The Blue Devils will travel to Roscoe for a nonleague game on Monday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m., and will face the Rockets in Roxbury on Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m. Both games will be preceded by the JV match-ups.
As Roxbury Head Coach Tom Faraci heads into his 15th season at the helm of the Roxbury hoops squad, he is cautiously optimistic about the season that lies ahead. Following preseason scrimmages against Margaretville, Worcester and Onteora, he believes he has a pretty good idea of where his team stands as the season tips off.
“We have a lot of new players and a lot of new faces, so I think it’s been very good for us as far as trying to point out what we do well and what we need to improve on, so it’s been good that way,” he said. “I just feel like we have a fairly young, inexperienced team, and so we definitely needed those scrimmages.”
The Rockets graduated two key players from last year’s squad, which went 11-4 in league play and advanced to the sectional quarterfinals: 1,000 career-point scorer Ryan Skipper and Tim Douglas, who averaged 10 points per game. Still, a strong core of returners is where Faraci will be looking for leadership.
“We’re returning DaVaun Morgan, whose track record speaks for itself,” Faraci said. “He’s had a lot of honors and highlights, so he’s definitely a big part of that backbone of our team as far as the guys looking to him for scoring and defense and rebounding. He’s going to do a lot for us that way, we hope.”
In addition to Morgan, who reached the 1,000-career point mark last year, senior guard David Clark, senior forward Andy Merwin and junior forward Garrett Hall are the returners to whom Faraci will be looking for leadership. Senior guard Earl Thomas is also on the Rockets’ roster, though he is currently out with an injury.
“Garrett has been with us for awhile and has developed quite nicely, so I’m hoping for some nice things to happen from him this year,” Faraci said. “He’s hitting the boards pretty hard and he’s looking pretty good right now.”
“We’re not an overly big team, and I think quickness and our ability to put some pressure on the ball will be one of those things we’ll develop, hopefully,” he said. “And I see no reason why we can’t push the ball up the floor, get out and transition a little bit. But right now I feel like we’re just trying to mesh things together, and I think that’s going to take a little time.
“We do have some guys coming back with that experience; however, my starting lineup is young, and I really believe it’s going to take some time for us to develop this season and kind of catch our new players up to a couple of the guys who did start and who were some of our main players from last year,” he added. “I think that’s kind of the challenge right now.”
The Rockets opened the 2009-2010 season with a home game against Milford on Tuesday night; no result was available at press time. They will host the visiting Blue Devils of Margaretville Central School on Wednesday, Dec. 9.
After two preseason scrimmages, Andes Head Coach John Bernhardt said his basketball team “has a lot of work to do.”
“There’s no question, we have a lot to do,” he said. “We learned from the scrimmages, we did a few things well. I was pleased in our ability to handle full-court pressure, and we did very well against both their zone press and their man-to-man press, so I was pleased about that.”
The Mountaineers return all but two players from last year’s team, which went 10-10 overall and 6-9 in league play and qualified for the sectional tournament, where they fell to sixth-seeded Roxbury.
Among those returners are seniors Cody Ruff, Josh Bonifacic, Russell Koronowski, James Litaker and Corey Barrett.
Ruff and Bonifacic are two players Bernhardt believes will be vital cogs in the Mountaineers’ lineup this winter; Ruff led Andes with 79 assists and 40 steals last year, though Bernhardt said he is looking for him to increase his shooting percentage and points per game, and Bonifacic averaged 8.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game last season, while Bernhardt said he believes the senior could average over 10 points and 10 rebounds per game this year.
Bernhardt added that a key focus for his team, particularly early in the season, will be defense.
“I felt that in both scrimmages we were defensively soft,” he said. “It’s time now that they start to match up to what their physical talent holds, and that will come a lot through the defensive end of the floor. Any teams I’ve every coached that have been successful have been successful because they could play defense, and this team has the physical tools to play defense but we don’t have the mental concept that is definitely a part of the game, and without that we cannot compete with the better teams in the league. With it, we could potentially compete.
“My goal always, and I don’t look at it in terms of wins and losses, I want to compete against the better teams,” he added. “I want every team to know that they have to prepare hard. I’d like to see us be more consistent; we seemed to pick and choose who we thought we could play against, and I’d like to see us play with a consistency of mental focus. I really do believe we’re our own worst enemy, and the gap between good teams and poor teams is often how close the teams come to their ability. If we can get closer to our ability than we’ve been and we can do the non-basketball skill things with a passion, I’ll be happy no matter what the final outcome – and I think the final outcome will be good.”
The Mountaineers open up the regular season Thursday night at Davneport; their first home game will be against the visiting Rams of South Kortright next week.