It’s grunt work. Battling under the boards for rebounds is hard, exhausting, anything but glamorous. But it’s also vitally important for a basketball team that wants to win.
That’s what makes Austin Hooks such an important player for Greenport. Unlike past years, the Porters don’t have a big man like Dantré Langhorne or Ryan Creighton to rely on for points in the paint or to crash the boards. They do have Hooks. The 6-foot-2 center/power forward may find himself at a height disadvantage from time to time, but his effort on the court cannot be questioned.
“It’s all about hard work,” Hooks said. “Hard work will win a game for you.”
This past high school season, the Porters not only lacked depth, but were vertically challenged. That only made it even more vital that Hooks, who was a sophomore in his first varsity season, was able to do what he did. Without his presence, it is hard to imagine Greenport being able to go 12-7 and reaching the Suffolk County Class D final. Hooks turned in quite a performance in that final, a loss to Bridgehampton. That day at Suffolk County Community College’s Brookhaven Gymnasium in Selden, he gathered 12 rebounds to go with 9 points. It was a demonstration of the potential he has.
“Every game he’s going to go out there and give you 110 percent,” said Rodney Shelby, who coaches Greenport’s team in the Town of Brookhaven Summer League. “On the floor I think the best thing he does is rebound. He’s got that nice little jump shot when he’s on. When you make that little shot down there, that opens it up for everybody.”
Including people like sharp-shooting guard Gavin Dibble, who appreciates the toil and trouble Hooks goes through for the team’s greater good.
“He doesn’t give up,” Dibble said. “He works hard. That’s the most important thing about him.”
Hooks said he did a better job boxing out and refining his post game as last season progressed. Still, his assessment of his sophomore season is rather modest. “I didn’t really play greatly, but I didn’t play poorly,” he said. “I had my on and off games.”
The Porters are counting on more of the “on” variety from this point on and, who knows? He may be getting some help on the glass.
Myles Waters, who played for the Porters as a sophomore before moving to Florida, may play his upcoming senior season in Greenport. Shelby said the 6-2 power forward, who is playing for the Porters this summer, is contemplating returning to school in Greenport.
“It would help a lot,” Dibble said. “It would be another low-post presence for us, someone who’s tough inside and can rebound. He can shut down people defensively, too.”
Shelby said Hooks is one of five Porters who have been playing year-round, the others being the brothers Gavin and Matt Dibble, Devon Trent and Brian Tuthill.
Hooks said this summer he wants “to work on my explosiveness, work on every aspect of my game, really, just to get better at it and help out my team.”
He surely did that Thursday night when Greenport, despite leading for most of the game, dropped a 55-52 overtime decision to Eastport/South Manor at Eastport/South Manor High School. The result left both teams with 1-1 records. Hooks turned in a well-rounded game, with 12 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks. He shot 4 for 4 from the foul line.
Gavin Dibble is some pure shooter. “And he’s got a heart this big,” said Shelby, holding his hands about a foot apart.
Gavin Dibble showed off his skill, draining three three-point shots (one in overtime), canning 7 of 7 free throws and finishing with 18 points.
It was only the third summer league loss for the Porters in two years, and it bothered them.
“Every loss hurts, and that was a tough one,” Gavin Dibble said. “We should have won that game. We let it slip away.”
In 2011, Greenport reached the Brookhaven League small schools final for the sixth time in seven years, losing to Mount Sinai. Shelby said, Thursday’s loss aside, the Porters are on the right course.
“They’re looking pretty good,” he said. “I like where they’re headed.”