Former Naugy hoop star takes over as coach

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Mike Wilson as a Naugatuck basketball player

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys basketball team is looking to turn the page on last year’s winless season.

“Things are looking good so far,” said new head coach Mike Wilson. “The guys are working hard and they have a tremendous attitude.”

This season represents a homecoming for Wilson, who starred on the court for the Greyhounds in the late 1990s. But, it’s almost as if Wilson never left.

Wilson has been serving as the boys freshman coach for the past four years, so there will be really no transition phase to go through.

“As far as being the new head coach, I have known these kids for the past four years so we are just going right at it,” Wilson said.
Wilson takes over the reins from his former head coach Kevin Wesche, who stepped down in April.

Wilson is the all-time boys scoring leader at Naugatuck and led the Greyhounds to the state quarterfinals in 1998 and 1999. Wilson averaged 25 points per game as a senior to lead the NVL in scoring.

Wilson went on to play at Rider University and St. Francis College in New York City averaging 13 points per game. He spent two years as an assistant college coach for St. Francis before coming back home to coach the Naugatuck freshman team.

New head coach Mike Wilson is glad to be home with the Greyhounds as he shouts out instructions during a recent practice session.

“Being back here is like a dream come true. I have been very fortunate to taste a little bit of success in basketball and to be able to bring that back here and teach these kids is a dream come true for me,” Wilson said.

Wilson is showing a real hands-on approach in practice with his assistant coaches Josh Rucci, Jahmal Francis and Jeff DeVito bringing the team through the paces.

You can see the influence of being a college assistant for two years has had on Wilson, as he breaks down the drills to the very last detail until everyone knows it forwards and backwards.

“We are taking it one step at a time,” said Wilson. “Even if it’s little steps we are moving forward. We want to work hard, set a good example and good things will happen.”

All the pieces are falling into place as the Greyhounds will possess an intimidating presence in the paint, led by senior Matt Zahornasky, sophomore Brendan Kuczenski and senior Dan Bronko.

Naugatuck will also have a little bit of a height advantage with senior forward Tyler Conklin and junior Adam Neveski working in the lane.

Despite going winless last year, there’s excitement in the air for this season.

“These guys are psyched about the season,” Wilson said. “They are definitely not coming in here to lay down no matter who is on the schedule. We want to come out and compete every time we step out on the court. That’s the attitude we are trying to instill in them as a staff right now.”

The Greyhounds may very well live up to their name as they possess not only size but speed to go with it. Senior guards Shawn Freeney and Dashawn Wingate will team up with junior Nolan Kinne and sophomore Mick Pernell as the Hounds push the ball up the court.

“The strength of this team is our work ethic,” Wilson said. “They have a positive attitude and I just tell them to go out and have fun. I know the guys get stressed at times but it’s just a game you are suppose to have fun. You only come this way once. You should enjoy yourself.”

The Hounds travel to Waterbury tonight to take on the Crosby Bulldogs. It won’t get any easier next week when Naugatuck will be at Holy Cross on Tuesday and play their home opener against Wilby on Thursday.

Following the Christmas break the Greyhounds will travel to Beacon Falls on the Dec. 28 to take on Woodland and finish December hosting Kennedy on the 30th.