The Greenport High School boys basketball team is brimming with confidence these days. So much so that senior center Sam Strickland Jr. stated several weeks ago that he had already made a room reservation for Glens Falls, the longtime site of the New York State final four.
When that tale was related to coach Ev Corwin, he pointed out a problem with Strickland’s plans. “Well, too bad, because [the state championships will be] in Binghamton, so he’ll be sitting up there by himself,” said Corwin.
It is true. The state tournament will conclude March 17-19 at Floyd L. Maines Arena in Binghamton. Whether the Porters will be there or not is another question entirely. Regardless, Corwin expects his team to take a big step this season.
“No question,” he said. “I’m not going to make any Rex Ryan proclamations because these guys want to. As much as I want to, these guys want to.”
If Greenport (3-13 last season) is to have a noteworthy season, it will need strong play from All-League junior guard Jordan Fonseca (10 points, six assists per game) and sophomore center Julian Swan (12 points, 15 rebounds per game), the League VIII Rookie of the Year. With the 6-foot-5 Strickland and the 6-4 Swan, Greenport should do well on the boards, with help from seniors Tashan Lawrence, Jack Webster and Darrius Strickland, who is Sam’s cousin.
“We can do a lot of different things,” Corwin said. “We can jam it inside to the two big guys. We can shoot the ball. We have real good guard play.”
The other half of the team consists of newcomers, led by heralded freshman point guard Ahkee Anderson. Anderson and sophomores Jaxan Swan (Julian’s brother) and Brandon Clark played for the Boulevard Boyz team that won the AAU Division III 14-and-under national championship in July. Also new are juniors Antonio Anderson and Matt Tuthill and senior Maleek Boisseau.
“Because we are so young, there’s going to be a lot of firsts for a lot of these guys, the first time you walk into Bridgehampton and have to play a game there,” Corwin said. “It’s one thing when you’re sitting on the sideline watching the other guys. There’s going to be the first time you play the Greenport-Southold rivalry. There’s a lot of firsts for these guys that they’re going to have to get through.”
Referring to his players, Corwin said: “I’m excited because they’re excited. … It can be a fun ride.”
Southold (6-11) is something of a mystery team this season, and that’s just fine with coach Lucas Grigonis.
“Everyone seems to think that,” he said of that mystery label. “I love that. I think the outlook is optimistic. I think we’re capable of doing many things and not necessarily having one style, and with our chemistry and athleticism, that’s a good combination for us to compete.”
One known quantity Southold has is All-Conference player Pat McFarland. The senior shooting guard was good for about 17 points per game.
“I think he did great,” Grigonis said. “He lived up his potential as a shooter, but his overall game can progress. But he really had a lot on his shoulders in terms of offensive production.”
Grigonis likes the way McFarland draws defenders toward him, opening up opportunities for teammates. “Obviously he can shoot, but his ability to penetrate and get other people open is going to be important this year,” Grigonis said. “I think he has the potential to be the best player in the league.”
More senior know-how is supplied by forwards Anthony Klavas, Gus Klavas, Doug Fiedler and Dylan Clausen and point guard Matthew Cardi.
The team’s juniors are shooting guard Zachary Grathwohl, small forward Billy Burns, small forward Lucas Hansen and power forward Jacob Dominy. Sophomore point guard Michael Daddona and freshman forward Steven Russell are also on the team.
“I think that we’re capable of playing multiple styles,” Grigonis said. “Their work ethic and enthusiasm is inspiring to me. They show that they care.”
It’s a new era for Mattituck (11-8).
With the graduations of Joe Tardif and Parker Tuthill, Mattituck will have an entirely new starting backcourt for the first time in five years.
Just who Mattituck’s starting guards will be this season is still up in the air. Then again, coach Paul Ellwood said, “Everything’s up in the air.”
The Tuckers, coming off three straight winning seasons, have precious little experience. “If we scored around 1,100 points, I graduated 1,050 of them,” said Ellwood, who takes a 95-156 record into his 13th season with the team.
Mattituck’s most experienced players are senior forward Brendan Kent and senior center Carter Montgomery, both of whom saw limited playing time last season coming off the bench. Five other seniors also return: forwards Ryan Shuford, Alex Burns and Tyler Seifert and guards Ryan McCaffrey and Matt Mauceri.
New to the team are: Xavier Allen, Omar Loum, Bryce Grathwohl, Tucker Felipe-Johansen, H’Nadahri Joyner and Nick Perino. All of them are guards except for Joyner, a forward.
“The last four years we had a star backcourt,” Ellwood said. “This year I just want my backcourt to manage the game, don’t turn the ball over. Don’t be the reason why we lose. If the guards can be just stable and learn and get confidence, I think we can be competitive.”
Change is in the air in other ways, too. Last season’s Tuckers couldn’t rush the ball up the court fast enough. This season they want to limit possessions, playing at a more deliberate pace.
“High school coaches have to continually reinvent themselves,” Ellwood said. “We’re going to be the team we didn’t want to play last year, the team that tries to slow you down, take you out of your rhythm. We’re not going to be afraid to foul. We have a lot of fouls to give.”
The Tuckers can be expected to be physical on defense. “The lane is not going to be a popular place for people to go,” Ellwood said. “We’re going to clog it up.”
Mattituck will play a more forgiving schedule, with traditional powers Southampton and Wyandanch having moved out of League VII.
While reinvention presents some challenges, it can also be fun for a coach.
“It’s like a new start for me,” Ellwood said. “Now we’ve moved on, closed that chapter, and I’m enjoying this group very much.”
Photo caption: All-League junior guard Jordan Fonseca (3) averaged 10 points and six assists per game for Greenport last season. (Credit: Garret Meade)