When any team loses its entire starting five and a total of nine seniors to graduation, on paper some may look at the following season as a rebuilding one.
Head coach Chris DiCintio and the Somers Tuskers, however, have other ideas.
“Anybody would see seven sophomores and say, ‘That team’s rebuilding,’” DiCintio said. “I don’t want to say we’re rebuilding and then we go out and compete at a high level. And yet if we lose a lot of games because we can’t close them out because of our inexperience, then it looks like we’re rebuilding. I don’t know if the inexperience will catch up to us down the stretch of games, but I wouldn’t necessarily say we’re rebuilding. I think we definitely have some work to do to get these kids to play consistent basketball at this level, but I also think that the light at the end of the tunnel is a little closer than most people would think being this young.”
Somers went 17-4 and made its first County Center appearance since 1992 last season. The Tuskers fell to Byram Hills in that semifinal contest but last year’s squad left a lasting impression on the Somers community with a team that won with hustle, hard work and grit.
With 10 newcomers on the roster, the 2015-2016 version of the Somers varsity boys basketball team will be a young but talented one.
DiCintio is preaching a “strength in numbers” approach this season as the Tuskers will utilize their depth.
“We have a lot of players to grab off the bench,” said DiCintio, who enters his fourth season as Somers’ head coach. “Our strength is in our numbers and that’s what it’s going to be all year. We don’t know who’s going to play game to game. I’m not into that whole, ‘We’ve got to come down with a certain rotation.’ This particular group being very inexperienced, we’re just going to mix and match game to game what we think is working. And again, I think our strength will be in our numbers to just constantly rotate and put high pressure defense on. When you have these kind of numbers and these kind of athletes, you can press a lot.”
Somers has just one senior on the roster in 6-foot-4 forward Reid Killeen, a team captain.
“Reid brings experience,” DiCintio said. “He’s been playing basketball his whole life and obviously being the oldest kid he’s got that natural leadership that kids are going to look towards simply because he’s been in the trenches.”
The two other captains are 6-2 junior forward Marc Maestri and 5-11 junior point guard Matt Pires. Pires broke his ankle during football season and is slowly being eased back in.
“We’re getting him there,” DiCintio said of Pires. “I wouldn’t say he’s 100 percent by any stretch. He’ll be a work in progress just to get him back into the rhythm.”
Somers has three junior newcomers on the squad in 6-3 forward Ross Dietrich, 5-11 guard Pearse Martin and 5-10 guard Ryan Maloney, the younger brother of Matt Maloney, a starting guard on last year’s County Center squad.
“(Ryan Maloney) is very basketball knowledgeable,” said DiCintio, whose associate head coach is Darryl Atkinson. “His biggest thing this year is acclimating himself to the speed of the game. Ross Dietrich is tall and has a good shot from the outside. The kid who is really elevating his game right now and seems to be really acclimating himself to this level quicker than anyone is Pearse Martin. He can shoot from the outside and has a great stroke. He hits the boards, plays good D and is very intelligent on the court.”
The Tuskers boast a talented slew of sophomores with seven of them making the jump straight to varsity from an undefeated freshmen team. The seven sophomores are: 6-0 guard Lorenzo Bicknese, 5-10 forward Chris DiCintio, 6-5 center Nick Gargiulo, 6-2 forward Jack Gilroy, 6-0 guard Justin Lancaster, 5-11 guard Kevin Olifiers and 5-7 guard Gio Tradito.
“The difference going from freshmen basketball to varsity basketball is night and day,” DiCintio said. “However, these kids not only were undefeated as freshmen, all seven of these kids have played AAU basketball together for many seasons. I would say at least four or five years and they have travelled all over the Eastern coast. They were in Myrtle Beach as of July playing as an AAU team. So the seven sophomores have chemistry, have a lot of talent and they do have a lot of experience. What they don’t have is the varsity level experience, but they have experience playing against very strong competition (in AAU). They don’t carry themselves like sophomores; they acclimate themselves very quickly.”
Somers opened the season by hosting Lakeland on Dec. 1 and will travel to Hendrick Hudson on Friday, Nov. 4 for a 7 p.m. contest.
“They’re so used to competing at a high level,” DiCintio said of his squad. “They look at getting to the County Center and winning the Gold Ball because they believe they can do it, not because other [Somers] teams have already done it. That being said, I think the program itself has shown numbers over the last three years that we haven’t seen here at the school in God knows how long. But I don’t think they necessarily feel like they’ve got to continue to carry the torch. They want to do it because they believe in themselves.”