A former guard himself, Paul Ellwood appreciates good guard play. So, when discussing the three talented guards he has on his Mattituck High School boys basketball team, a happy grin creases the coach’s face. He knows what he has and he likes it.
What the Tuckers have are three quality guards who are basically interchangeable. All of them can play point guard and all of them can play shooting guard. And, to top it off, none of them are seniors, which means they will be around for a while. That’s a luxury for a small school.
“It’s like baseball, you can’t have enough pitching,” Ellwood said. “In basketball, you can’t have enough guards, so it’s not a problem.”
The guards in question are junior Will Gildersleeve, sophomore Joe Tardif and sophomore Parker Tuthill. Gildersleeve and Tardif started a lot of games for the Tuckers last year. Gildersleeve was All-League honorable mention, and Tardif was the runner-up for the League VII rookie of the year award. Tuthill, meanwhile, had what Ellwood called “a great year on JV.”
Gildersleeve may be the most physical of the three. Ellwood expects Gildersleeve to force teams into foul trouble. Tardif has blazing speed and can bring the Tuckers fast transition points. As for Tuthill, Ellwood, who has coached Mattituck since 2003, said, “He’s incredibly skilled, maybe the most skilled guard I’ve had since I’ve been here in terms of handling the ball.”
Another guard, Jon Dwyer, is good enough to play for the varsity team but has been assigned to the junior varsity team. “There’s just not enough room,” explained Ellwood.
The last time Ellwood saw this type of talent in his back court was during the 2010-11 season when he had Connor David and twins Steve and Tom Ascher playing for him. That team won a Long Island championship.
“I guess you could say we’re lucky, but definitely a plus for us,” Gildersleeve said before Monday’s night’s practice.
In order to maximize his back-court strength, Ellwood is adjusting his offense accordingly. He said he has done a lot of reading on offenses and installed some offenses he never used before, including a four-guard offense that Jay Wright used at Villanova.
“When you let the kids be creative, it’s fun to watch,” Ellwood said. “It’s fun for the kids and it’s harder for the other team to defend. The key is they have to make good decisions and not force it, and use their teammates.”
Ellwood expects a lot of kickouts for 3-point looks, but he likes the instincts of his guards. “All three of them like to attack the basket, which is good,” he said. “They don’t settle for the three. A lot of times guards these days are happy to just sit outside and shoot a three. So we’ve been stressing attack the basket, the three is always going to be there. We’d rather attack first and shoot second. It gives us a better look.”
The running style seems to suit the guards just fine.
“We play the best when we just don’t run an offense, we just fast break points,” said Tuthill, who is Gildersleeve’s cousin. “That’s the best way to keep a fast-paced game. Let the other team adjust to that.”
Tardif smiles at the mention of fast-paced play, but he also understands the importance of gaining possession of the ball in the first place. “We have to make sure that we rebound,” he said. “Rebounding and defense are the first thing, then scoring will come after that.”
Gildersleeve said: “I think we’re like a guard-built team. I mean, all of us are fast so that’s how hopefully we’ll get most of our wins this year, by outrunning teams. The whole idea this year is we want to run fast break. We don’t really want to have set offenses, just beat the teams down the court and outwork them.”
Babylon and Southampton are seen as League VII’s two powers this coming season, but Ellwood said the league is strong and a case can be made for seven of the league’s eight teams getting into the playoffs. He said, “If you’re not loaded with guards, you’re going to struggle in this league.”
The Tuckers should be covered in that area.