When the Greenport Porters step onto their home court Friday night to tip off the new high school boys basketball season against The Stony Brook School, it will mark the first time in 34 years that Greenport has played a game without Al Edwards as its coach. As much as the team’s new coach, Ev Corwin, might want to play it down, it will be a noteworthy occasion in team history.
Corwin, the former junior varsity coach who has succeeded the retired Edwards, admitted that it will not be a typical game for him and he will feel some nerves.
“I’ll definitely be anxious,” he said. “Yeah, it’ll be something special, but enough has been written about that and I’m ready to get the boys going. I just want to move it forward and get the season started.”
With a new season will come the start of the new Corwin era. He takes over a team that went 10-8 last season and returns Gavin Dibble, an All-Conference senior guard.
“He looks good,” Corwin said. “No one works any harder than him, and he’s been playing all year.”
For all that Dibble can do on the court, Corwin values his ball handling most of all. “He can score and stuff, but his ball handling is everything for us,” said the coach.
Two other starters from last season are back: Austin Hooks, a senior forward/center, and Timmy Stevens, a junior guard.
Corwin believes the 6-foot-4 Hooks can have a tremendous impact on the team.
“He’s ready to burst out here,” Corwin said. “I think a player like Austin can really take the next step and really be a big force in this league. … If he becomes a bigger player, we can really turn into a different team.”
Brian Tuthill, a senior forward who played a little last season before being sidelined with a dislocated shoulder, is back. So are three juniors: guard Angel Colon and twins Matt Drinkwater and John Drinkwater, who are both forwards.
The new additions to the team are forward Willie Riggins, forward Alex Perez, guard Ryan Weingart, forward Tyshe Williams and Dimitrios Karazas, a 6-foot-4 center from Greece.
Asked what would constitute a successful season for him, Corwin didn’t hesitate in answering, “A New York State title.” He said: “I told the guys our goal is to win the league and our goal is to win a state title. That’s what we’re shooting for. We’ll see where it ends.”
Corwin expects League VIII to have a lot of parity, aside from Stony Brook, which he considers the heavy favorite.
So, the Porters will be tested right off the bat.
“We’ll see where we’re at,” Corwin said. “It’s a great way to measure yourself. … I just can’t wait to get it going.”
Does Mattituck (5-13) have finesse? It sure does.
Does Mattituck have gritty defense? That’s what Paul Ellwood wants to find out.
The thought of having a finesse team seems to concern Coach Ellwood. As much as finesse can do for a team, Ellwood recognizes “there are times when you just have to grind it out.”
For all of the offensive freedom Mattituck has with a three-guard offense, defense could be the critical factor in determining how far the Tuckers go this season.
“Our toughness on defense is something we have to work on,” Ellwood said. “If we play to our potential defensively, we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”
The Tuckers can throw a lot at teams, not the least of which is Gene Allen, a senior forward who can come out of nowhere to block a shot or snag a rebound off the glass.
“His nose for the ball, you can’t teach,” Ellwood said. “If he’s in the paint, he’s usually going to get the rebound.”
Allen was an All-Conference choice last season who led League VII in rebounding at 12 boards a game and led team in scoring at 12 points game. He also causes matchup problems for opponents because he can play like a guard, defend like a big man, and defend guards.
As the team’s best defender and best rebounder, Allen may be considered Mattituck’s only indispensable player because of his above-the-rim game.
Of course, that’s not to say the guard-rich Tuckers don’t have any other talent. Far from it. Last season’s starting back court of junior Will Gildersleeve and sophomore Joe Tardif is not only back, but a third talented guard has been brought into the mix: sophomore Parker Tuthill. “There will definitely be times when we have what you could call a four-guard offense,” said Ellwood.
Chris Dwyer, a junior forward, is a returning starter. The front court is also aided by twins Ian and James Nish, who are both junior forwards, and Tyler Reeve, a senior forward.
New to the team are: forward Josh Conklin, guard Chris Sledjeski, guard Auggie Knuth, guard Marcos Perivolaris and forward Ryan Foster.
“I think we should be competitive,” Ellwood said. “Every night we’re going to be in games. It’s a pretty balanced league. Southampton and Babylon are a step ahead of everybody. Center Moriches wants their name mentioned with those two teams.”
Hand checking has been outlawed and coaches have been warned that referees will clamp down on physical play this season.
“I don’t like it but it works in our favor,” said Ellwood.
Southold guard Liam Walker is a highly regarded player, not least of all by his second-year coach, Phil Reed.
“The way he’s actually playing now,” Reed said, “he’s one of the best players in the league and he could be one of the top 25 players in the county, I feel.”
The dynamic Walker, an All-League junior, has tremendous versatility. He can play any position on the court, except center. “I don’t know how many other players out there can go 1, 2, 3 or 4,” said Reed, using the numeric designations for each of the guard and forward positions.
Walker may be best suited for shooting guard, but he will undoubtedly fit in well wherever the First Settlers play him.
Southold (4-13) is expecting better things this season, and has senior guard Kenji Fujita and senior center Kevin McGough, both pieces of last season’s starting lineup, to help out.
Fujita is perhaps best known for his all-out effort. “His motor goes 110 percent, 100 miles per hour whenever he’s on the court,” said Reed.
Fujita and Walker are both four-year varsity players. “These kids really know the game,” Reed said. “They know what they’re doing.”
As for the 5-foot-10 McGough, he is Southold’s enforcer, a player who plays bigger than his size. “He gets all the scrappy rebounds, he hits the floor,” Reed said. “… He’s almost like the unsung hero that’s quiet about what he does. He may get the big rebound to win the game or he may take the charge to ignite the team.”
Also back from last season’s team are junior forward Alex Poliwoda, junior guard/forward Shayne Johnson, 6-foot-4 forward/center James Penny, small forward Michael Ryan and power forward/center Jonathon Bakowski.
The rest of the team includes guard/forward Patryk Mejsak, forward/center Matthew McCarthy, point guard Ryan DiGregorio, forward/center Aidan Vandenburgh, guard Irwin Perez and guard Ryan Harroun.
“They’re one of the hardest-working teams I’ve ever coached,” Reed said. “They put a lot of effort into wanting to win. They want to make a mark. They want to make the playoffs.”
The last time the First Settlers made it to the playoffs was in 2010 when the team capped an 18-1 season with a loss to Stony Brook in the Suffolk County Class C final.
“I’m very happy with what I have,” Reed said. “I think I got it all. I have scoring. I have kids that can play defense. I have kids that can go out and bang and be physical and stuff.”