Last season was a bit of a struggle for many of the local high schoolâ€™s boys basketball teams. Berlin and Newington were the only two teams to qualify for the postseason and were also the only two to finish above .500. This season many of the teams enter with renewed hope.
Newington expects to be a contender for a state yet again, while Goodwin Tech and Innovation expect to compete for their respected league titles, despite the fact that both of those schools combined for just nine wins in the 2015-16 season.
The rest of the local teams, New Britain, Berlin, Plainville and Southington, all lost key players from last season and are expected to give key minutes to young players. With young players comes unpredictability so those four teams could go in any direction during the 2016-17 season.
Here is a closer look at each of the local boys basketball teams:
Head Coach: Todd Stigliano (7th season)
Last Year: 6-14
Key Losses: Donavon Lighty (Shooting Guard)
Key Returnees: Jordan Williams (Guard), Daniel Kownacki (Center)
Key Additions: Jhailin Mann
Outlook: The New Britain boys basketball team is accustomed to being successful, but it is coming off of a down 6-14 season in 2015. This year could feature much of the same as the Hurricanes come in with a lot of young players and the team has a lot to prove. The good news is that a lot of the young players got some quality experience last season playing against some good teams. Head coach Todd Stigliano expects his team to be very competitive this season but wants his team to prove it can restore the winning reputation New Britain basketball has had in the past.
Head Coach: Mike Veneziano (8th season)
Last Year: 11-9
Key Losses: Jake McCarthy (Center), Evan McKinnon (Guard), Kyle Mahoney (Guard), Nick Mozzicato (Forward), Evan Cornwall (Forward), Ryan Cop (Forward)
Key Returnees: Spencer Duke (Senior/Guard), Jack Lynch (Senior/Forward), Kyle Mogielnicki (Senior/Guard), Izayah Bailey (Senior/Guard, Dyland Frisk (Junior/Forward), T.J. Beardsley (Junior/Guard)
Outlook: The Berlin boyâ€™s basketball team is coming off a pretty good season where it finished a couple of games above .500. This year though, the Redcoats will have to replace a very good and productive senior class including Evan McKinnon who was a prolific three-point shooter. But this seasonâ€™s Berlin team is a senior laden squad also and is expected to be led by Spencer Duke, who coach Mike Veneziano says has All-State potential. The Redcoats might get a boost at some point this season if Jack Lynch is able to return. Lynch missed the entire football season with a torn ACL, but could be back at some point. Veneziano has an inexperienced team overall, but sees good chemistry between the players so he has high hopes.
Head Coach: Scot Wenzel (14th season)
Last Year: 24-2 (lost in Class L state semifinals)
Key Losses: Nick Guadarrama (Guard/Forward, Transfer), Zach Tinkham (Guard), Pablo Ortiz (Forward), Brett Frank (Forward), Dante Phillip (Forward), Connor Buckley (Guard), Cam Fedina (Forward)
Key Returnees: Jared Simmons (Senior/Guard), Andres Ithier-Vicenty (Guard), Matt McKinnon (Forward)
Key Newcomer: Isaac Ortiz (Senior/Guard), Timmy Rivera (Senior/Forward), Nate Alleyne (Senior/Forward), J.P. DeCastro (Junior/Guard), Cooper Johnson (Junior/Guard).
Outlook: The Newington boys basketball team is coming off of a banner season for the program when it finished 24-2 and made it to the semifinals of the Class L state tournament. The Indians graduated many key seniors from last yearâ€™s team and had another transfer down to Pennsylvania. They will be hard to replace, but the talent is there. Head coach Scot Wenzel says his team is very athletic and it returns two-time All-State player and the schoolâ€™s all-time leading scorer in Jared Simmons, who will be the main focal point of what has the potential to be a good offensive team. Wenzel says that the team will need new players to step up this season to sustain last yearâ€™s success. Newington will be tested early and often this season as it is expected to face an extremely difficult schedule.
Head Coach: Jim DiNello (3rd season)
Last Year: 7-13
Key Losses: Matt Festa, Keandre Blue, Mikal Salmon, Tim Dixon, Andrew Schuman.
Key Returnees: Cam Clifford (Senior), Jared Demmons (Senior), Jordan Bishop (Junior), Brady Callahan (Sophomore)
Outlook: The Plainville boys basketball team graduated all five starters from a team that finished last season 7-13. The Blue Devils will only have two players on their roster this season with any sort of varsity experience (Jared Demmons and Brady Callahan) so this team has a big learning curve ahead of it. Head coach Jim DiNello expects the beginning of the year to be tough for Plainville as it learns the ins and outs of varsity basketball but hopes last season was a motivating factor for the very young team.
"The guys who are returning this year know what it's like to be in a tournament race in a tournament atmosphere,â€ť DiNello said. â€śPlaying in front of big crowds was enjoyable for them. Hopefully, this year's team remembers the rewards that came from hard work and what working toward a common goal with teammates each day in practice means."
Head Coach: John Cessario (3rd season)
Last Year: 5-15
Key Losses: Mark Lindberg, Nate Blitz
Key Returnees: Michael DeFeo (Senior/Guard), Brendan Taylor (Senior/Guard), Michael Mauro (Senior/Forward), Tim Oâ€™Shea (Senior/Forward), Andrew Lohneiss (Junior/Guard), Jeremy Mercier (Junior/Forward), Joe Koczera (Junior/Guard), Jack Herms (Junior/Forward).
Outlook: The Southington boys basketball team is coming off a season in which it finished with a 5-15 record. The season before though, the Blue Knight had just one win so it appears the team is headed in the right direction. Southington had many of its key players from last yearâ€™s team graduate, so this team is very inexperienced. Only three of the players on this yearâ€™s roster have varsity experience, but head coach John Cessario says the players are hungry and working hard heading into the season. Cessario thinks the Blue Knights should excel on defense and in transition.
Head Coach: Reuben Charles (18th season)
Last Year: 7-13
Key Losses: Carlos Rivera (Guard), Oshea McKensety (Center)
Key Returnees: Franky Santiago (Junior/Guard), Damion Martin (Senior/Forward), Tommy Hughes (Junior/Guard)
Key Newcomers: Luis Aguiar (Freshman), Edgar Torres (Freshman)
Outlook: The Goodwin Tech boys basketball team is coming off of a 7-13 season but the team expects to be much better this season. Head coach Reuben Charles thinks his team has a very good chance to be a contender with a solid blend of experienced returning players and talented freshmen. Franky Santiago, Damion Martin and Tommy Hughes are among the key returnees, while Luis Aguiar and Edgar Torres are incoming freshmen that Charles is very high on entering the 2016-17 season.
Head Coach: Matthew Lance (2nd season)
Last Year: 2-18
Key Losses: N/A
Key Returnees: Jonel Domonique (Senior/Guard), Armoni Alonso (Sophomore/Guard), Leonard Okonya (Sophomore/Forward)
Outlook: The Innovation boys basketball team is coming off a season where it didnâ€™t have much success and only won two games, but those two games were the first wins in the programâ€™s short history. This season though, head coach Matthew Lance expects his team to be in contention for the league title. Lance believes his team will have more depth and more size this season than it did last year which will be a big help and there are some key returnees including senior Jonel Domonique, who is expected to be a senior leader. While the team does expect a big leap in its record, it will be very young so that will be something to watch.