NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — As opening night inches closer day by day, the West Essex High School boys basketball team is focusing on incremental growth to produce what they feel will be a successful 2019-2020 season.
“I really focus on our progression—where are we now, how much better are we at the end of today’s practice, at the end of the week—and for me it’s a building process,” said head coach Bill Humes. “We obviously try and win games, but for me it’s about progression of are we getting better and are we being the team we could be, and those wins take care of themselves.”
The Knights have a fairly complex system on the offensive end that is based off the looks from opposing defenses. The group is currently fine-tuning their basketball IQ to perfect the art of producing points offensively.
“We’re more working on pacing in our offense, reading our defense and rotations within our defense,” said Humes.
West Essex is expected to have a fairly deep lineup with as many as 11 players contributing in one way or another. The coaching staff is working tirelessly during scrimmages and practices to find the right fits for rotations.
In the backcourt, West Essex has its most depth at any unit. Aaron Gonzalez and John Baskinger will join Justin Waack and Adam Cinque to round out the group. The quartet will all be used in a myriad of ways to exploit mismatches on the court.
“All four of them are playing for time,” said Humes. “We’re probably going to go 10 deep as a team.”
Sophomore standout Chris Corbo will also return to the lineup for West Essex. In the frontcourt positions, Corbo collected more than 12 points per game last season as a freshman.
“[Corbo] started for us last year,” said Humes. “He shoots the ball very well, he’s big, he’s physical, he’s got a strong game going to the hole and should have a big year for us. It’s really a matter of finding our combinations, who works well together, who has chemistry together and we’re slowly finding that out now.”
Also return to the fold is Daniel Brener, who was a solid supplemental scorer for West Essex last year and will play in the frontcourt this season.
“[Brener] looks to be one of the starters,” said Humes. “He’s more of a swing man for us, shoots the ball well, [and] he’s got a good jumper.”
At the five position of center for West Essex will be Henry Sanok. The 6-foot-6-inch junior excelled at rebounding last season and possesses a solid post game that Humes hopes to capitalize on.
“[Sanok] is a big, tall kid,” the coach said. “He’s really developed his post play for us in the offseason, so he should have a big impact.”
The Knights will open their season on Thursday against Christ The King High School.
“For opening day, the focus is to be able to perform under pressure [and] not worry that it’s the first game of the season and it goes on your record,” said Humes, adding that the team will instead “worry about what we’re doing and the process of what it’s going to take to get a good shot, run our rotations in press and defense—that’s the key.”