The Southold High School boys basketball team might as well be standing in front of a mirror, looking at itself and asking, “Who am I?”
Life after Liam — as in the graduated Liam Walker — represents a big change for the First Settlers. They are in search of their new identity, and that’s not something that will happen overnight. It’s going to take time.
Walker was a big part of the team for most of his four varsity seasons, scoring 1,180 career points. The shooting guard made the all-state fourth team as a senior, averaging 18.4 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists per game. Those numbers are not easily replaced.
So, how do you rebuild after losing Walker?
Coach Phil Reed laughed when the question was posed to him. “That’s not an easy question right now,” he said. “I’ve been thinking about that for the last, I’d say, few weeks. Where do we go after Liam?”
And so, the journey of self-discovery begins for the First Settlers in the Town of Brookhaven Summer League. Positions are to be won. Roles are to be defined.
“We have to have everybody working extra hard now,” Noah Mina, a senior point guard, said. “Liam was our go-to guy last year. He scored for us. Everybody has to score now.”
It’s not as if the First Settlers are starting from scratch, though. They have varsity veterans like Pat McFarland, Aidan Walker (Liam’s brother), Michael DiCandia, Dominick Panetta, Aidan Vandenburgh and Dylan Van Gorden to build around.
A bigger role is envisioned for the team’s big men: Adam Baldwin, Doug Fiedler and Gus Klavas.
“We’re going to have to get some good rebounding and defense out of them, and when we look to penetrate, we got to find them in the low blocks,” said Mina.
On Tuesday night, in Southold’s third summer league game, the First Settlers struggled with 22-percent shooting, but outrebounded Shoreham-Wading River, 33-23, in a 33-22 win by the host Wildcats. Seventeen of Southold’s rebounds were on the offensive end.
McFarland, a junior shooting guard, is playing Liam Walker’s old position. As McFarland sees it, the new Southold will write its next chapter with an emphasis on team play.
“He was a really big part of the team, and those core seniors that we had last year were a real big part of the team,” McFarland said. He added: “Now it’s going to be a little weird adjusting without them because we played with them so much, but we just got to keep playing together and learn to really play as a team instead of just relying maybe a lot more on just one guy, just playing as a team and trying to win that way.”
McFarland certainly figures prominently in the new plans. Reed sees him as one of the team’s leaders. “He’s his own player, but I think he can put up some numbers for us,” said the coach.
Reed said he has seen some good stuff from his younger players, too.
“I think this is going to be a different team,” he said. “This is going to be a different type of team for us this year and I think we can go places with this team. As a matter of fact, I know we can go places with this team.”