The Mattituck High School boys basketball team looks pretty darn good. It has speed. It has shooters. It has ball handlers. And it has guards, plenty of guards — even some forwards who play like guards.
What the Tuckers don’t have any more is the high-flying, above-the-rim dimension that Gene Allen afforded them.
With Allen’s graduation, the Tuckers lost a two-time all-conference forward who averaged 15.8 points and 13 rebounds per game, both team-high numbers. He was the top rebounder in Suffolk County League VII.
It isn’t the points, though, that the Tuckers are nearly as concerned with replacing so much as the rebounds and the defense Allen provided.
“I told the kids last night, the worst rebounding team in the league lost the best rebounder,” coach Paul Ellwood said in an interview before Thursday night’s practice. “That’s crazy. Just think about what he was doing. Some games he was pulling down almost 70 percent of our rebounds. So, it’s not going to be one person that’s going to do that. It’s just going to be a team effort.”
Ellwood sounded confident that the Tuckers can adapt. Offense shouldn’t be a problem. It wasn’t last season, when they averaged 68 points per game with their uptempo style. The team shot close to 50 percent from the field and was deadly from long range. In a half-dozen games, the Tuckers shot over 50 percent from 3-point territory.
Four of the top seven 3-point shooters in League VII wore Mattituck uniforms. Chris Dwyer and Will Gildersleeve led the league with 40 3-pointers last season. Joe Tardif dropped in 27 and Parker Tuthill had 25.
But the Tuckers don’t settle for threes; they attack the basket.
“People that haven’t seen us up west, among the coaches, they say, ‘You guys must be mad bombers,’ but we’re really not,” Ellwood said. “We drive to the basket a lot, too. We get to the basket. That’s why we make so many threes … because off the drive we get really good looks.”
Last season Gildersleeve averaged 14.6 points a game, Dwyer 12 and Tardif 9, so putting the ball in the basket shouldn’t be a problem.
“In terms of offense, I think we’re one of the best teams,” Gildersleeve said. “We’re all confident and I think we can all score, so taking Gene out of the picture, we can make up for it in the scoring, definitely. I think the challenge is rebounding, but with that being said, that is what our main focus has been.”
With players like Gildersleeve, Tardif and Tuthill, the Tuckers are guard-rich in a guard’s league, and Ellwood doesn’t believe Mattituck will suffer from a lack of size. He believes the Tuckers have closed the gap on Babylon and Southampton, who each lost two all-county players.
Ellwood said the Tuckers will keep the same offensive schemes that were installed last season. The focus, he said, will be on defense, while he will put the offense in the hands of his new assistant coach, former Mattituck standout Tom Ascher.
“I told the kids I’m going to be like a defensive coordinator,” Ellwood said. “I told the guys, ‘You’re pretty much only going to hear me talk about defense until our first game.’ ”
Tardif said: “A lot of times kids just care about scoring, but on this team, everybody cares about defense, and it’s going to work for us this year.”