It was a typical scene for a summer league basketball game. Just moments before the opening tipoff, Chris Dwyer rushed into the sticky Patchogue-Medford High School gym and dropped off what looked like a small lunch box onto the Mattituck bench before heading onto the court. His coach, Paul Ellwood, joked about how Dwyer is a blue-collar player who literally brings a lunch box with him to the game.
The truth is, the container held a blue ice pack that Dwyer has been bringing to games this summer to give him some cool relief in hot gyms that could double as saunas.
Of course, that is not to say that Mattituck doesn’t have blue-collar players — not to mention talented players, improved players, up-and-coming players. In short, the Tuckers have a lot, and a lot to look forward to. The team has remained largely intact since the last school season. Mattituck players are refining their skills by playing in two summer leagues (Brookhaven and Southampton), and the results on the court have been encouraging.
“We’re looking good,” said Gene Allen.
That certainly includes Allen himself. The 6-foot-1 guard, who is Mattituck’s marquee player, looks taller and stronger as he prepares for his senior season.
Allen’s transition even caught Ellwood by surprise. “He just turned into a man overnight,” Ellwood said. “Unbelievable. I didn’t see him for like two weeks, and I couldn’t believe how much he changed.”
Allen’s above-the-rim game is undoubtedly coming along, too.
“He’s the role model of this team pretty much,” Dwyer said. “He’ll find everybody [with passes]. He makes other players look great.”
But Allen is only one of many familiar faces that seem to have given Mattituck a head start against many of its summer league opponents. Will Gildersleeve, Joe Tardif and Dwyer were also regular starters during the last school season. Twin brothers Ian and James Nish, who are both 6-2, have athleticism that helps the team defensively.
Of the younger players, though, sophomore point guard Parker Tuthill might be the one that raises some eyebrows.
“Parker’s going to be a sensational player,” Ellwood said. “He needs to get physically just a little stronger, but he’s got the skill set, a tremendous point guard.”
Of course, the one person who will not be surprised by any of the Tuckers is their coach. “I know I have a lot of good players who are going to step up, and they’re getting better,” said Ellwood.
With Allen pouring in a game-high 17 points, Mattituck brought its Brookhaven League record to 5-0 with a 50-32 romp over Southold at Patchogue-Medford High School on Thursday night. Allen also accounted for seven rebounds, three steals and two assists, but he lamented his 1-for-7 free-throw shooting.
Dwyer may have played his best game of the summer. The junior forward put up 11 points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds.
Southold’s talented junior guard, Liam Walker, played well, too, supplying his side with 11 points while Alex Poliwoda added nine.
Mattituck shot 48.7 percent from the field, but what Dwyer liked best was its passing, which he raved about. All but one of Mattituck’s 19 baskets were assisted. “It looks good,” he said. “We’re flashing to the ball more. We’re driving.”
Allen explained: “You trust the person you’re passing the ball to. You know they’ll do something good with it.”
Despite the undefeated record in Brookhaven, Ellwood said he is even happier about how Mattituck is doing in the more competitive Southampton League, where it has to tangle with tough teams like Southampton, William Floyd, Riverhead, Bridgehampton and Center Moriches. The Tuckers were 3-3 in that league through Thursday.
By playing in both leagues, the Tuckers have the opportunity to play as many as four times a week. Ellwood said they will play a minimum of 25 games this summer, and as many as 29.
Allen said it amounts to “a lot of laundry.”
Not to mention playing experience.
Ellwood said the Tuckers have things to work on. He noticed that sometimes the team’s play gets stale when it settles for too many jump shots. Improvements need to be made, he said, in defensive toughness and interior offense. Still, all in all, it’s hard to complain about how things look in the middle of July.
“It’s encouraging,” Ellwood said. “I’m not so concerned about the record. We are 5 and 0. That’s nice, but you just want to see us taking steps in the right direction.”