It made for an unusual sight last month when Southold settled in for a non-league boys basketball game at Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School. What was so strange about it was there were not enough seats in the bench area to accommodate all of the Southold players.
Then again, that really shouldn’t have come as a great surprise.
For a basketball team, it’s ideal perhaps to have 12 or 13 players on the roster. To keep 14 or 15 players is a lot, and things can get a little tricky. So imagine what it is like for Southold, which carries no less than 17 players on its varsity team.
That’s right, 17!
Rather than make cuts during tryouts, coach Phil Reed elected to retain all 17 players who came out for the team.
“What’s the sense of cutting two kids?” said Reed, referring to an envisioned roster of 15. “We look at it like this: If it was 25, that’s different. You might as well just keep them.”
And so the First Settlers leapt into the season with 17 players, enough to put three teams on the court, and then some.
“It’s a lot,” said Greg Gehring, a senior guard who had never seen so many players on one basketball team before.
Southold’s starting lineup typically consists of Pat McFarland, Noah Mina, Dominick Panetta, Aidan Walker and Gehring. Reed said the team’s rotation has players like Michael DiCandia, Gus Klavas, Doug Fiedler, Dylan Clausen and Tyrese McRae coming off the bench.
“It’s tough because how do you play?” Reed said. “It is tough to try to get everybody in to play.”
In a game Saturday against Pierson, the First Settlers had only 13 players available because of vacations and ineligibility. Reed said 11 of them played.
The hardest thing about dressing 17 players is finding minutes for them on what Reed said is a “very talented team from top to bottom.”
“Kids work hard in practice,” he said. “They want to get their time in. They want to show that they belong out there.”
“They know how it stands, that your minutes are going to be limited at times,” he continued. “Some of you may not get a lot of minutes, some of you may not play.”
Perhaps the biggest impact of the large roster can be seen in practices, where players are in daily competition for positions.
“Everyone knows that practice is where they get to show what they can do,” said Gehring.
McFarland, a junior guard, said carrying so many players cuts both ways for a team. Sure, there is competition, but there is also not as much practice time for individual players.
“That makes it a little tough,” he said. “You’re not getting as many shots. You’re not getting as many touches with the ball in practice, and I think that’s playing a little role in games now.”
Pierson coach Dan White brought 11 players to Southold on Saturday. After he was told about Southold’s large roster, he said: “I’m sure it’s tough for Phil.” White added: “Seventeen is tough, though. I don’t know. He must be doing one hell of a job if they all want to stick around, so good for him.”
Of course, this is not entirely new to the First Settlers. Last season, Reed said, the team had about 16 players.
Still, 17 players is a lot. It’s not easy keeping 17 people happy with limited, or no, playing time.
Reed said, “I’m O.K. with it — as long as it’s not 25.”
Photo caption: Playing time is precious for Southold, which has 17 players on its team. (Credit: Garret Meade)