Greyhounds return experienced squad

From left, Naugatuck junior Robert Sanders, senior Keywan Garris and sophomore Ese Onakpoma as well as senior Derrick Jagello and sophomore Avery Hinnant, both not pictured, are projected starters for the boys basketball team this season. –KEN MORSE

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys basketball team reached the Division III state tournament quarterfinals last season for just the third time in the last 20 years. The Greyhounds will need to replace some potent scorers as they look to go on the same kind of a journey this season.

The Greyhounds graduated five seniors, including 1,000-point scorer John Lukau, from last year’s team that went 16-6. Lukau, who averaged 17 points per game and earned All-NVL honors, and Andrew Robertson and Gawayne Fisher, who both averaged six points per game, accounted for close to half of the Greyhounds’ 65 points per game last season.

The ‘Hounds do have their share of gamers back in seniors Derrick Jagello (195 points), Keywan Garris (87 points) and John Mezzo, juniors Robert Sanders (63 points) and Justin Barth, as well as sophomores Avery Hinnant (All-Iron, 177 points) and Ese Onakpoma (152 points), who both played key roles last season as freshmen.

The last time Naugy made consecutive runs to the quarterfinals in the states (1998-1999) Wilson was wearing a Garnet and Grey uniform. The Greyhounds’ all-time leading scorer knows full well that is takes a total-team effort to make that kind of run.

“It’s not a one-man show and it never has been,” Wilson said. “I don’t think we are going to have a hard time putting that ball in the hoop. We have a solid group of seniors to lead the way, and a lot of guys who gained valuable experience.”

“The biggest plus for this team is we come back with a lot of experience,” Wilson added. “Yes, we graduated a lot of points but we got guys who can put it in the basket, no doubt about that. It comes down to doing the little things, boxing out on the boards, taking charges, doing the dirty work.”

Wilson doesn’t have a go-to player like Lukau this season, but rather a team full of players who can step up on any given night.

“It’s going to be a different guy every night,” he said. “We have Mezzo, who we can plug in anywhere. Justin Barth is probably the best defender I ever had.”

“We have some depth and looking to a few younger players to step up,” Wilson added. “We have sophomores Tim Bristol, Evan Swanson, Aiden Robertson and Ryan Noble who can work to get some time off the bench.”

Naugatuck finished the regular season last year with ten straight wins, including beating Crosby for just the second time in the last 18 meetings, before making the run to the quarterfinals. The Greyhounds will look to pick up where they left off when they open the season Dec. 19 at Oxford. Naugatuck will then play in the New Britain High Holiday Tournament Dec. 28, before hosting Derby Dec. 30.