Team of 'Unknowns' Starts Basketball Practice at Chatham

Natalie Washuta returns to lead Chatham from her point guard position Credits: TAP Chatham
"Veteran" sophomore Cassandra Falone should be a top scorer for Chatham this season Credits: TAP Chatham

CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham varsity girls basketball coach Joe Gaba calls it a "team of unknowns" this season because of all the new faces.

Gaba lost all but one starter from last season's team -- point guard Natalie Washuta -- that went 18-11 and reached the semifinal round of the state sectional tournament. Two years ago, Chatham won its section and advanced to the state semifinal round.

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Washuta and sophomore guard Cassandra Falone, who gained a lot of playing time as a freshman off the bench last year, are the only two with any real varsity experience. But Gaba isn't worried.

"What I know is that we have a lot of interchangeable parts," Gaba said. "So we have the ability to go deep. We've always played up-tempo, but we can really extend our full-court defense for almost the entire game. I can go with wholesale substitutions."

Washuta, who signed a national letter of intent to play lacrosse at Colgate recently, will be counted on for her leadership.

"She's our point guard and she's one of our captains," Gaba said. "She's lightning fast. She can shoot. she can get to the rim and she's a great leader.

"Natalie is going to look to do a little more scoring for us this year, but her primary job is to handle the ball because she's our point guard. Our point guards don't normally lead the team in scoring, but she's going to have to score more from that position."

This is going to be one of those years where there is a collection of scorers. One of them should definitely be Falone.

"Cass spent a lot of time working on her game," Gaba said. "Her role this year is really going to increase. She's going to do a lot off scoring for us and handle the ball at times to give Natalie a break."

Two players who figure to give Chatham a presence inside are senior Colleen Mulvaney and junior Morgan Monson.

"Monson has improved a lot and she gives us good size inside," Gaba said.

"It's going to be tough because we have a lot of younger players coming in and filling  positions," Washuta said. "We lost a lot of really good seniors, but I think we have a lot of talent and speed. We can out-run a lot of teams. I think we'll do great in our conference and the county tournament.

"Cassandra has a really nice shot and she plays year-round and plays her role really nicely."

Falone says she feels more comfortable in her role as one of the top scorers after playing on the varsity last season.

"We're really athletic this year and we should be able to run a lot," Falone said. "I'm more comfortable playing here. I've improved driving to the basket and dealing with having pressure on me."

The rest of Gaba's deep roster include: Olivia Diaz-Saavedra, Shea Matta, Emily Walczyk, Alexandra Paschenko, Allana Oliveira and Ava Fomaro.

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