The sound of thumping basketballs and sneakers squeaking on the court echoed off the walls of the Mattituck High School gym. Basketball is back, but Tiana Baker isn’t.
The Mattituck Tuckers have undergone a major face-lift. Not only do they no longer have the graduated Shannon Dwyer, but their other all-conference player from last season, Baker, is gone, too. The sophomore shooting guard, one of Suffolk County’s rising talents, has transferred to St. Anthony’s High School.
Talk about taking a punch in the gut.
“We lost a lot,” said Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood.
Guard/forward Lisa Angell said: “Tiana definitely was a big help to us last year, one of our highest scorers, but I mean it’s definitely good for her to get experience out there. She’ll definitely go on to do great things in basketball. I’m happy for her — but sad for us.”
So, the Tuckers began preseason practice on Wednesday without a couple of major cogs from last season’s team and with plenty of new faces. In fact, the Tuckers have only four returning players from last season. Katie Hoeg, a junior forward, is an all-league player heading into her fourth varsity season. She was named the team’s most valuable player. Liz Dwyer, Shannon’s younger sister who plays forward, was the League VII rookie of the year last season as an eighth grader. Courtney Murphy, who can play guard or forward, is entering her fourth varsity season.
Angell and Murphy are the team’s only seniors. Furthermore, the Tuckers have only four juniors: Courtney Penny, Hannah Fitzgerald, Phurlamu Sherpa and Brianna Perino. They all played for the junior varsity team last season.
Baker was selected the MVP of a showcase game last spring and drew interest. Van Dood heard speculation that his young guard, who averaged 16.1 points per game, may be on the move west.
Who will fill Baker’s position?
“That’s going to be tough,” Van Dood said, adding, “That is a question that needs to be answered still.”
And how does the team replace Shannon Dwyer?
“That’s another big issue,” he said.
A coach’s work is never done. Continual change is the nature of high school sports. Players come and go every year. Rebuilding is part of the process.
Asked about Baker’s departure, Murphy said: “There’s nothing we could do about it. Yes, she was a good player and it was great to have her on the team, but we just move forward from here on out and we play with the girls that we have and make the best of it.”
Van Dood likes how Liz Dwyer has progressed. He said Dwyer matured with each game last season, and he pointed out that Dwyer was Mattituck’s leading scorer with 15 points in a loss to Hampton Bays in the Suffolk Class B final.
Standing on the side of the court while his players conducted drills during Thursday’s practice, Van Dood said, “There’s a lot of good athletes on the floor right now, and that’s going to be the future of our team.” He added: “We’ll just keep building. That’s what we do.”