NAUGATUCK — It was almost a perfect ending to a spectacular season for the Naugatuck High School boys basketball team last year as the Greyhounds made a run to the Class L championship game.
Countless Naugatuck fans filled the Mohegan Sun Arena in March to watch the Greyhounds play for a championship for the first time since 1974. The clock ultimately struck midnight on Naugatuck’s Cinderella story as the Greyhounds fell to Bunnell High School, 72-61, and finished the season 21-6.
Head Coach Mike Wilson is looking to start anew this season with the latest crew of boys and a positive attitude.
“I’ve been trying to reflect on [last season] all summer long but it’s still difficult for me to relive the championship game,” Wilson said. “Looking back on the whole season was really special. It was really awesome for the community and to see everyone come together and rally behind the boys. It was a building step for the program, and this year it’s kind of carrying over.”
Naugatuck will be looking to make a transition after losing seven core players from last year to graduation. The Greyhounds enter the season without last year’s leading scorer Jarron Chapman as well as Dayvon Russell, Josh Aviles, Trevor Davis Jason Bradley, Kevin Robinson and Charles Wall.
However, last season’s performance created a hunger for further success on the court and attracted a plethora of student-athletes in the process.
According to the coaching staff, about 100 students tried out for the team this year in hopes of making the varsity roster.
With the heavy losses, Wilson will be looking to build the new team dynamic around two key returners from last season: seniors and captains Fejiro Onakpoma and James Mesidor.
“We worked all summer for this,” Onakpoma said. “It’s not really a surprise. We knew what we were expecting last year, and we knew how well we had to play. We are trying to give our knowledge of what we learned last year to the new guys.”
With the pressure of duplicating and surpassing last season’s results, Wilson and his staff are maintaining the team’s philosophy of remaining “humble and hard working,” and are taking their winter schedule one game at a time.
Mesidor and Onakpoma and the new pack of ‘Hounds are looking to prove that last year was just the tip of the iceberg.
“I’m expecting everyone to work hard and have that intensity that they want to go back to the Sun,” Mesidor said. “I’m trying to work to get back there to show that we can do it again and that it’s not a one-time fluke. We’re trying to get everyone to work hard and keep their heads up throughout the whole game.”
With the standard and attitude set, Naugatuck is gearing up to host Ansonia in the season-opener Saturday at 5 p.m. All eyes will be on the Garnet and Grey as they begin a new journey to the Mohegan Sun.