St. Joe Loaded Once More
The Crusaders win in Division III Western Mass title last season.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Opponents might have a little control over the St. Joseph boys basketball team this winter, but it will not do them any good.
The Crusaders' foes will be able to pick their poison when they face the defending Western Massachusetts Division 3 champions.
Go big, and St. Joe coach Paul Brindle can insert an extra big man into his starting lineup.
Go small, and Brindle can go with a three-guard look.
"The fifth spot is still open," Brindle said as he reviewed his lineup this week. "There are going to be team we need size and inside bodies, and there will be teams where we'll need more guards."
This much is certain: Whatever lineup Brindle puts on the floor, it will be talented and experienced.
Nine of the 11 players on varsity are seniors for St. Joe, which gets a jump on its Berkshire County brethren by opening the season on Saturday against Braintree's Archbishop Williams in Boston.
The four returning starters who figure to get the call again every night are Lavante Wiggins, John Bianchi, Michael Carpenter and the reigning Berkshire County MVP and all-Western Mass point guard, Tavarick "Tank" Roberson.
Roberson is poised to do big things this winter on a personal and team level for St. Joe, which went 20-6 last year on the way to the state championship game.
"He has 1,090 points right now, so he has a chance to break the St. Joe all-time record, which I think was 1,525 in the '60s by Frank Scago," Brindle said. "[Roberson] is already the school's all-time leader in assists with 401. Of course he's our main guy and one of the best players in Western Mass."
But he is not alone. Carpenter scored 13 points per game and had nearly one and a half 3-pointers per game in an all-county campaign. Wiggins added 10 ppg, and Bianchi is a 3-ball threat and a distributor at the 2-guard spot.
The fifth starting role could be filled by "bigs" Zach Neary and Josh Kelly or guards Kyle Gregory or Matt Begrowicz.
Although many of the Crusaders were major contributors in the school's run to last week's Western Mass football tournament, the short preseason might be less of a factor for St. Joe than it could be for other teams.
"They've all been on varsity since either freshman or sophomore year," Brindle said. "They know our style. There's not a lot of learning or getting to know each other.
"Our style is fast-paced, full court press, getting the ball and going up and down the court. That's how we've been since I've been at St. Joe."
Brindle is taking that show on the road this winter, starting with Saturday's game against perennial Southern Mass Division 3 tournament participant Archbishop Williams.
Other big independent games on the schedule include dates against Flushing, N.Y.'s, Holy Cross, a city champion as recently as 2008, and Hartford, Conn.'s, Capital Prep, which features 5-11 guard Kahlil Dukes, who last month signed a national letter of intent to attend the University of Southern California on a basketball scholarship.
"And then we have our normal teams around here that are very good," Brindle notes.
"We do not have an easy schedule this year, which I think will help us. We're expected to be one of the better teams. We're expected to compete for a Western Mass championship this year. The schedule will help prepare us."