Before she had ever played in a high school varsity girls basketball game, Shannon Dwyer had already experienced the school of hard knocks in the form of — would you believe family pickup games?
Those games in the Dwyer driveway of their Cutchogue home are not for the faint of heart. They get physical.
“No blood, no foul,” said Dwyer.
Dwyer and her three younger siblings, two of whom are brothers, tangle under the basket. Sometimes their mother, Tracey, who played for St. John Fisher College (N.Y.), gets into it, too.
“Last night we were playing at like 1 in the morning,” said Shannon Dwyer.
That sort of a background has helped make Dwyer a more valuable member of the Mattituck Tuckers basketball family. A player of undeniable talent, Dwyer was the rookie of the year in Suffolk County League VII the last school season as a freshman. This coming school season she will undoubtedly be one of the players who will have her hands on the ball for the Tuckers.
“She’s really smart,” junior guard Alexa Orlando said. “She always knows what to do. She’s good at making things happen.”
The Tuckers suffered a blow before last season even started when they lost their point guard, Alex Berkoski, to an injury. Coach Steve Van Dood went to a point guard by committee. Sometimes the Tuckers played with a three-guard lineup on the floor. Other times they had four bigs on the court at one time. “It’s all about matchups in that league,” explained Van Dood.
Van Dood saw some good things from his mix of Liz Lasota, Dwyer and Orlando at point guard. Berkoski has returned from her injury, and all of them except Lasota are playing for Mattituck’s summer league team.
Dwyer, who like Lasota and Orlando saw time as a starter last season, is seen as a player the Tuckers can build around. She has already shown that she can handle the pressure of playing against tough teams like the Wyandanch Warriors and the Center Moriches Red Devils.
“She’s a young kid and she’s been put in some tough roles, and she’s been put in some pressure-cooker situations for us last year, and I thought she did a good job,” Van Dood said. “She has a good composure about her.”
In outlining Dwyer’s game, Van Dood said: “She’s got a good basketball IQ. She can go left, she can go right. She’s not one-dimensional. She has a decent shot when she takes it. She’s got to shoot a little bit more.”
Van Dood said Dwyer’s love of the game should serve her well. “The girls who show up to play and play with a smile on their face are going to get better, and she’s going to get better,” he said. “She’s one of those kids.”
This summer has been an adjustment for the Tuckers. Dwyer, Orlando and junior Allie Wilcenski are the only players on the summer league team who have prior varsity experience.
Those three veterans led the way Monday evening when the Tuckers defeated the Westhampton Beach Hurricanes, 28-19, in a Town of Brookhaven Summer League game at Eastport/South Manor High School. The result left both teams with 3-5 records.
Wilcenski put in a full day’s play despite fouling out with 60 seconds to go. She totaled 10 points, 10 rebounds, four steals, two assists and a block. In addition, Wilcenski defended two of Westhampton Beach’s taller players, Kristen Polan (13 points) and Alex Walker.
“I was especially impressed with Allie Wilcenski tonight,” Van Dood said. “I thought she did a very good job. The ball didn’t drop for her in the basket, but she got a lot of rebounds, a lot of second, third and fourth rebounds. She’s a hard worker. Even though she fouled out, she was still a good presence on defense.”
Who will be running the point for the Tuckers when the school season starts?
“I don’t know,” Van Dood said. “It could be both of those girls, [Dwyer and Orlando]. I don’t even want to designate a point at this point. It’s going to be in the hands of a couple of girls.”
What Van Dood does know is that he can rest easy when Dwyer or Orlando have possession of the ball.
“The one thing that impressed me, though, was the number of turnovers that those girls had last year,” he said. “For young girls, they didn’t turn the ball over much, and that’s a stat that I like to check. It doesn’t show up in the papers much, but I know when those girls are in tough situations, you can trust them with the ball. That’s important.”