NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys basketball team has the task of trying to erase the memory of the last two seasons that garnered four total wins. The ‘Hounds went 3-17 last season under first-year head coach Mike Wilson.
For the most part they were young and inexperienced at the varsity level. But as the season progressed so did their skill level. Naugatuck lost four games in the second half of the season by a combined total of just eight points.
The last time the Greyhounds advanced to the state tournament was in 2009 when they went 10-10 in the regular season, but they haven’t posted a winning record since a 12-8 regular season in 2006.
So why are the ‘Hounds so optimistic about this season? Because the only way to go is up with their developing talent.
“All the kids worked real hard in the off season playing AAU ball,” Wilson said. “I could see the change in them from the first day of practice. They are hungry to take the next step. We scrimmaged Hillhouse the other day and they are a top-10 program in the state. We won the first and third periods so that goes to show you how hard they have worked over the summer to improve their game.”
It certainly doesn’t hurt that the groundwork was put in place last year. Junior center Brandon Kuczenski earned a spot to play in the first Naugatuck Valley League All-Star game last season as a sophomore after averaging a double-double with 15.5 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Senior guard Nolan Kinne scored a career-high 17 points in a win against Derby last season. Junior guard Mick Pernell averaged 10.5 points per game and scored a career-high 24 points in a win over Seymour.
Senior forward Adam Neveski has taken a leadership role and will be a force to be reckoned with under the boards.
“We have some kids who can play and they are ready to take it to the next level,” Wilson said. “But they are not the only ones working hard. I have surrounded myself with a staff of tireless workers and we are starting to see the results.”
Wilson has assistant coaches Jahmal Francis (JV), John Minicucci and John Mariano along with freshman coaches Jeff and Brian DeVito to help stabilize the team and get them back in the hunt.
Senior Zac Mercer and junior Charles McClain will add to the forward spot with juniors Husani Foote and Matt Bradley adding to the depth at guard.
The ‘Hounds also have Gabe Pulliam, a junior transfer from Crosby, who can handle the ball in traffic. Wilson likes the mix of players.
“Adam has really taken on the leadership role as a senior and that is good to see,” Wilson said. “We need someone like that on the court to keep everyone focused. Nolan and Mick are really warriors out there as guards and the addition of Gabe gives us so much speed at the position.”
Naugatuck will have the quality depth this year that it lacked last season. Sophomores Nate Franklin and Ryne Griesenauer played football together and they bring mental toughness. Sophomores John Dean, Shane Burwell, Kyle Plasky and Tyler Hayward will all vie for playing time off the bench.
“The key is no one player is before the team,” Wilson said. “You always put the team before the individual. Attitudes are checked at the door and not allowed into the gym. We are all in this together and we just need to take it one day at a time, one game at a time.”
Naugatuck starts its season at Wolcott on Dec. 14. The Greyhounds’ home opener is Dec. 16 against Holy Cross, followed by a game at Sacred Heart on Dec. 20.