Better days are ahead for the Greenport High School boys basketball team. Evidence of that can be seen in a number of places. It can be seen in school gyms throughout Suffolk County. It can be seen on playground courts in the Greenport area. And it can be heard in Ev Corwin’s voice.
At times during the trials and tribulations of last season, Corwin, the Greenport coach, spoke excitedly about the next generation of Porters coming up through the system. A fresh infusion of welcomed young talent will make its way onto the varsity Porters.
“These guys just love to play,” said Corwin, who knows that the progress of young players comes by leaps and bounds. “I mean, we got to kick them out of the gym. They play AAU and they play and they play. You go down to the park and they’re playing.”
And what Corwin may like the best is that they are playing in Porters purple. The Porters have height, speed and ballhandling ability, enough so that the 4-14 season they slogged through the last school season could soon seem like a bad, distant memory.
Up-and-coming players from the Greenport junior varsity team that went 15-3 last season will probably find themselves wearing varsity uniforms this coming winter. Players like Julian Swan, Jordan Fonseca, Sam Strickland and Jack Webster are making a name for themselves.
They are joined by veteran varsity players like Darius Bolling, Ryan Costello, Byrone Rivas and Brendan Walker.
Possibly the biggest talent of them all, though, is Darrius Strickland, a junior guard who is Sam’s cousin.
“Darrius is just ultra talented,” Corwin said. “He can really do a lot.”
Bolling said he saw all this coming together.
“We got big men now that can rebound the ball, blocking, rebounding, everything that a big man should do,” he said. “We got guards that can do everything that guards are supposed to be doing.”
The Porters sure do have size. Sam Strickland is 6 foot 4; Swan and Webster are both 6-3.
Swan is a ferocious rebounder, as he showed in a Town of Brookhaven Summer League game last Thursday evening. The freshman grabbed 11 boards to go with 15 points, 6 blocks and 4 assists as the Porters ran over Mount Sinai, 57-35, at Rocky Point Middle School.
Swan didn’t say much in an interview afterward, but his play and his teammates spoke for him.
“Oh, man,” Darrius Strickland said, “You don’t really see kids like him doing that, especially at his age, too.”
Corwin said: “Julian Swan, he changes our team because, you know, he’s just a natural rebounder. We had a rough time over the last couple of years rebounding the ball, and just his presence alone … And on defense, it’s not a free pass to the hoop with him there.”
Swan wasn’t the only one doing nice things. Darrius Strickland scored 15 points and Bolling had 11.
And then there was Fonseca, a sophomore shooting guard who showed slick passing skills, including a nifty behind-the-back feed for an uncontested Darrius Strickland layup.
“His best attribute is he’s so confident,” Corwin said of Fonseca. “He really is, and it’s just a breath of fresh air.”
In their third win in as many summer league games, the Porters shot a sizzling 54 percent from the field and dominated the boards, 34-18.
“We’re going to develop a chemistry so we play even better,” Darrius Strickland said. “I like the intensity that comes up. When you see someone else playing hard, it motivates you to play harder. And then when you’re playing harder, everybody is playing together as one and you’re all playing harder, so it’s a win win.”
Sam Strickland said: “We’re looking very good. Everything’s just there.”
Most of the Porters play for assistant coach Rodney Shelby’s Amateur Athletic Union team, the Boulevard Boyz, so they are hardly strangers to each other.
The competition for positions is stiff.
“It’s wide open,” Corwin said while his junior varsity team was playing. “There’s a couple of guys on that team right there that can play varsity, and the seniors and the juniors, they got to know that it’s open. We’re trying to win ballgames, man.”
After last Thursday’s game, the Porters were smiling and joking, and why not? They have a lot to smile about these days.
“We’re winning, having fun winning,” Bolling said. “We’re playing as a team. We’re not doing selfish things, so I think it’s great. Everyone’s having fun.”
The real fun could begin in December when the team starts its school season.