By Stephen Dravis
12:36PM / Monday, December 10, 2012
Outside of the dunk, the 3-pointer might be the most exciting play in basketball.
And since we probably will not see too many of the former in Berkshire County high school gyms this winter, we will celebrate the latter with three points to keep in mind about local teams as the season tips off this week.
Coach: Jack Racette
2011-12 record: 11-9, lost in semi-finals of Western Mass Division 2 Tournament
Drury senior Nolan Bird is the only starter returning this season.
Point one: The Blue Devils do not open the season until Dec. 17 against Mount Greylock, and that lengthy preseason could pay dividends for a team that returns just one starter, senior Nolan Bird. Racette is not too worried about Drury's relative youth.
"I think we can win nine games and make the tournament," he said. "And by that point in the year, I always say, sophomores aren't sophomores anymore. They're juniors. The juniors are seniors. And the seniors have been there before."
Point two: That one senior returner for Drury is a good one. Bird averaged more than 12.5 points, nearly eight rebounds and just fewer than three assists per game last winter. "He's been playing since he was a sophomore," Racette said. "I think he has the system down pretty good. He's a pretty good leader. People look up to him for sure."
Point three: The rest of the starting lineup is up in the air. At the Northern Berkshire jamboree last week, the Devils rotated nine players, and the starting lineup could change on a nightly basis depending on matchups, Racette said. Among those vying for time are Isaiah Pantoja, Alex Boulger, Isiah Clark, Tyler Briggs and Cameron Parrino, a 6-foot-3 senior who went down with a knee injury at the beginning of last year but returns to give Drury size up front.
Coach: Bill Robinson
Junior point guard Sean Ryan-Kut is back with a young and 'hungry' Hurricanes team.
Point one: After a very un-Hoosac-like campaign last winter, the Hurricanes are ready to come storming back.
"The kids have a little hunger," Robinson said. "They don't want to have back-to-back years like last year. ... I'm excited. We have some young kids out there who are sponges. They're taking everything in. We'll see where it leads us."
Point two: One of the silver linings in last year's season was the fact that a lot of youngsters saw a lot of playing time, including Robinson's projected starting five for Tuesday's opener against Commerce. Junior point guard Sean Ryan-Kut will be joined by classmate Matt Braman (10 points per game, 2.4 assists per game) in the backcourt. Seniors Corey Puccio and Andrew Milesi and junior Trevor Alibozek (10 ppg, 7.6 rebounds per game) figure to start up front.
Point three: Three freshmen help round out the varsity lineup, including Matt Koperniak, who enters the year as Ryan-Kut's backup at the point. Other youngsters who will see time include sophomores Austin Milesi and Nate Tomkiewicz. Senior forward Jake Hall adds some experience off the bench.
Coach: Mike Nykorchuck
2011-12: 11-10, lost in first round of Western Mass Division 3 Tournament
McCann looks to senior T.J. Therrien for leadership this season.
Point one: Nykorchuck joins the program, taking over for Justin Kratz, and brings a wealth of experience — much of it gained as an assistant and junior varsity coach at Taconic.
"In the beginning, it's going to be rocky because everything I'm teaching them is new," Nykorchuck said. "Once they get used to me, it's going to get better and better."
Point two: Senior point guard Josh Superneau will handle much of the scoring, and classmate T.J. Therrien provides leadership and ferocious rebounding in the post, Nykorchuck said. Justin Cote and Anthony Duprat will draw the tougher defensive assignments. Senior center Mitch Zajac rounds out the starting lineup.
Point three: Chad Raimer is yet another senior on a team that boasts six of them. Nykorchuck plans to make the most of the Hornets' depth and athleticism. "I think we're going to look to push the pace and have our defense create easy baskets for us," he said.
Coach: Bob Thistle
2011-12 record: 17-6, lost in semi-finals of Western Mass Division 3 Tournament
Injury kept senior Hank Barrett off the football field but he's back for court play.
Point one: The Mounties are a little deeper than the team that ran all the way to the Cage last winter, and that means more, well, running.
"Certainly we're looking to get out in transition," Thistle said. "When you're deeper, you can do that."
Point two: Thistle expects that depth soon to be augmented by the return of senior guard Hank Barrett, who had a season-ending injury late in the football season. Other top returners from last year include guards Tyrell Thomas and Nathan Majumder and center Tyler Picard. Expect bigger things from forwards Brett McCormack and Cole Jackson and swing man Ian Brink. Among those looking to move up from junior varsity are Taylor Carlough and Jake Benzinger, and senior Ethan Ryan joins the basketball program this winter after rushing for more than 2,000 yards on the gridiron this fall.
Point three: Speaking of football, the Mounties played a lot of it, and their final win — in the Western Mass championship game — came less than two weeks before the basketball team's season opener on Dec. 14 against McCann.
"We're just being smart about it," Thistle said of the short transition from football to basketball. "They're banged up from a hard-fought contest, obviously. Our first full practice was (Dec. 5). I'll give them credit, though. They've gone from one sport to another seamlessly."
Coach: Steve Ray
2011-12 record: 14-7, lost in first round of Western Mass Division 1 Tournament
Pittsfield junior Amancho Adopo averaged 15 points a game last year.
Point one: Amancho Adopo, who missed the first part of last year while visiting his native Ivory Coast, returned to average more than 15 points per game the rest of the season and is back even stronger as a junior. Ray said in his opinion Adopo is one of the premiere players in the county.
"He's up there with Tank (Roberson of St. Joe) and the other guys," Ray said. "Certainly, Tank is a special player, too."
Point two: Although the Generals return five seniors, they also boast nine sophomores, of whom seven will see time on a rotating basis. Evan Lanoue, Chad Shade, Scott Simon and Anthony Jones are among the sophomores Ray is expecting big things from. With 40 players in the program total, the future is encouraging for the program.
Point 3: Don't forget about upperclassmen Aaron Bradley, an all-league pick last year as a junior, Josh Conant and Matt Capeless. "The cupboards are not bare by any means," Ray said.
Coach: Paul Brindle
2011-12 record: 20-6, lost in state championship game
St. Joe has a WMass title to defend.
Point one: Brindle challenged his team with non-league games against programs from Braintree, New York City and Hartford, Conn.
Point two: The defending Western Massachusetts Division 3 champs are up to those challenges with a senior-laden lineup led by Berkshire County MVP Tavarick "Tank" Roberson. He will be joined in the starting lineup by classmates Lavante Wiggins, John Bianchi and Michael Carpenter.
Point three: Carpenter can play all five positions, and Brindle considers him the best defensive player in the county.
That's a potent combination that allows the Crusaders to match the 6-foot-1 Carpenter against the opponents' top offensive threat no matter his position.
Coach: Bill Heaphy
2011-12 record: 7-14, lost in first round of Western Mass Division 2 Tournament
Taconic will have a bench of young players but many had playing time last year.
Point one: Taconic is young, with just two seniors, but a lot of youngsters saw playing time last year with a changing lineup. The good news is that Heaphy welcomed 38 members of the freshman, sophomore and junior classes when practice opened this month.
Point two: Heaphy said all five starting positions were still open as of Dec. 5, but figure on returning starter Tyler Murphy and sometimes starter Trayvon Sims (both seniors) to see plenty of time in the backcourt.
Point three: Heaphy said his team had a lot of things to work on in the preseason, but one of them is tempo.
"I'd like to play faster," he said. "With the group we have here and if it stays together, we can do that. With that comes some chaos, so we've got to keep some of that chaos to a minimum."
Coach: Ed Ladley
Wahconah will be getting back to basics.
Point one: Wahconah is getting back to basics in practice this December after a disappointing 2011-12 campaign. The good news: It can build on the success of its football squad, which won a Western Massachusetts Division 2 Super Bowl title earlier in the month. The bad news: The long football season meant late arrival at practice for several of the cagers.
Point two: Senior co-captains Nick Dargi and John Bracci lead a solid class that includes Jordan Fiske and Joe Dimassimo, two of the captains on the football team. Juniors Marcus Duncan, Pat Culliton and Ethan Wells move up from the junior varsity this winter.
Point three: Sophomore Collin Parrott is back to run the point, and his classmate Marco Anastasio also saw significant time on the varsity as freshman. Parrott will be joined in the backcourt by Bracci, Wells and sophomore Kevin Boino.