BEACON FALLS — Woodland has never run much of an up-tempo offense on the basketball court. But this winter, for the first time ever, the Hawks might look like part Showtime Lakers and part Runnin’ Rebels.
Led by Tanner Kingsley, last season’s third-leading scorer in the Naugatuck Valley League, along with point guard Dave Uhl and swingman Rahmi Rountree, Woodland isn’t going to shy away from running the floor.
“We’re going to look to spread it out and get up and down more than we ever have,” sixth-year coach Tom Hunt said. “It’s nice coming back with the third-leading scorer in the NVL returning as a junior. David Uhl, as a senior captain, is showing a lot of leadership.”
Senior guard Steve Baeder and senior forward Kirk Chamenko will round out the starting lineup. Chamenko will be charged with taking over the inside load from the departed Ryan Angeloszek.
“Angeloszek played a lot of basketball for me for three years so we’re going to need some other guys to step up and fill some roles,” Hunt said. “Kirk should be holding down the middle for us.”
Though the starting lineup is already set, Hunt thinks there could be lots of competition in practice as a deep roster — the largest in Hunt’s tenure — looks to gain playing time.
“We’re carrying more guys on the roster and we have eight seniors, so there will be some very competitive practices with guys looking to gain some minutes,” Hunt said. “I don’t think anybody is safe and everyone needs to bring it every day.”
Players in a potential rotation could include seniors Eric Collodel, Nick Brown, and Anthony Ross, as well as juniors Shane Classey and Kenny Koch.
Hunt said he’s been pleased with Uhl in the preseason. He was the starting point guard most of last season and played his best at the end of the year, according to Hunt.
“I haven’t been more pleased with a point guard entering the year than I am with David,” Hunt said. “He’s really learned the role of a point guard. Seeing him come into his senior year with the confidence he has, I’m really excited. I had a Saturday practice with a senior captain diving for a loose ball. That really sets the tone for how we’re going to play.”
Rountree, who played his sophomore year at Woodland, may be the most versatile player on the floor for the Hawks. Though he’s 6-foot-4, he has a guard’s skill set.
“Hopefully he will be able to fill the gap from some of the graduated players,” Hunt said. “Dave will be the point guard and that gives us the luxury of moving Rahmi to a wing to spread it out. He can handle it just as well as Tanner and any of the other guys.”
Kingsley, Uhl, and Baeder are the team’s three captains. Hunt thinks their level of work is contagious.
“Nobody plays harder than them,” Hunt said. “They’re never going to get outworked and that shows. They’re going to set the lead and the rest of the guys will follow.”
Hunt thinks that attitude could help this team uphold the new standard set with the Woodland basketball program. The Hawks have increased their win total in each season under Hunt, earning 12 victories last season.
“I’m pretty sure we can get eight wins to make the state tournament and reach our first goal,” Hunt said. “Anything after that is gravy. But the thing we’re going to hang our hats on is that we won’t get outworked on any night the whole year. That’s how hard this team works in practice.”
Woodland opens the season Wednesday against St. Paul. They will visit defending league champion Watertown on Friday before returning home to face Seymour on Dec. 18.