Greyhounds off to strong start

Naugatuck’s Elijah Robinson (1) drives the baseline on Wilby’s Ashton Hobbs (2) Dec. 21 at Wilby High School in Waterbury. -JIM SHANNON/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys basketball team has started the season 2-0 for the first time since 2014. That year, the Greyhounds won five straight to open the season and advanced to the state final.

This year’s Greyhounds knocked off two city schools, Kennedy and Wilby, to earn the 2-0 start.

Head coach Mike Wilson gave his team credit for pulling away from two tight games to pick up wins, but he doesn’t want to get too excited just two games into the season.

“We won two hard-fought games to begin the year, and I don’t want to take anything away from that,” Wilson said. “But we have beaten city schools before too, so we don’t want to jump out of our socks just yet. We have to be humble right now.”

Naugatuck came from behind to beat Kennedy, 59-51, on Dec. 19. Naugy’s second victory came Dec. 21 in a 78-73 win at Wilby.

Naugatuck junior Jean Lukau had a monster game against Wilby with 41 points, including seven 3-pointers. Lukau had 31 points in the first half to go along with ten free throws in the second half. Jayden Anderson chipped in with nine points, and Caleb Scott added eight points with two 3-pointers of his own.

Getting off to a good start is crucial for the Greyhounds, who face an early tough stretch.

Naugatuck will host Holy Cross (2-0) on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Next week, Naugatuck will host St. Paul on Jan. 3 and rival Woodland on Jan. 5 before heading to Crosby the following week.

“We start off every year with a tough schedule, and I don’t think they have made it any easier for us,” Wilson said. “We were talking about it at the beginning of the season that it would be a blessing to get through these first six games with a winning record. If we have a winning record through those six games; that would be amazing.”

Assistant coach Jahmal Francis, who has been by Wilson’s side since he started coaching the team eight years ago, has played a major role in the Greyhounds’ successful start.

Francis guided the Greyhounds in their first two games as Wilson and his wife, Lisa, anticipated the birth of a child. Their daughter, Autumn Jean, was born on Dec. 20.

“Every year we have a tough start to our schedule, facing a lot of the top teams in the league early, so we have to move forward and get ready for our next opponent,” Francis said.

If the Greyhounds are going to come through the first six games with a winning record their offense will have to keep pace.

Holy Cross put up 199 points combined in their first two games, two lopsided victories over Seymour and Derby. Crosby scored 95 in a win over Ansonia.

Naugatuck’s Jean Lukau (5) drives hard to the basket on Wilby’s Ashton Hobbs (2) and Dezon Mayo (5) Dec. 21 at Wilby High School in Waterbury. -JIM SHANNON/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

Wilson is spreading the floor out, sometimes with four guards, this year and is confident in his new-look offense.

“That is what we were kind of aiming for this year, more of a spread offense and more shooting the basketball,” Wilson said. “Getting more space on the court is what we are hoping for, especially when we have someone really quick like Elijah (Robinson) who can get to the hoop quick and lay it up or kick it out to one of our shooters.”

Robinson has proven to be very valuable for the Greyhounds and he rarely comes off the court.

“Our starting backcourt is extremely valuable to our success because they are interchangeable,” Francis said. “Elijah is our floor general and primary ball handler.”

With weapons like Robinson and Lukau to go along with shooters like Scott and Jesse Papp, this Naugy team has the pieces to beat anybody.

Francis said if they play like they did the first two games, the Greyhounds should be in a position to win.

“Through these first two games, we have learned as a team that if we keep our composure and execute down the stretch, we will have an opportunity to be on the winning side of a lot of games,” Francis said.