Naugy boys primed to take next step

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The Greyhounds will have a formidable backcourt next season with the return of Gabe Pulliam, right, and Mick Pernell, not pictured. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — The Naugy boys basketball program improved this season.  Now, its head coach wants to take the next step.

After a 3-17 showing last year, the Greyhounds finished this season with a respectable 11-11 mark and an appearance in the state tournament.

Head coach Mike Wilson is pleased with the progress, however he knows there’s still plenty of hard work required to elevate the program further. And he sees where those improvements can be made.

“That’s an eight-game improvement, so in that sense we’re happy,” Wilson said. “But we lost some close games. We could have easily have been 15-5 (in NVL play).”

Several games stuck out to Wilson — most notably their opening round state tournament game at Berlin, where the Greyhounds led most of the way but faltered late in a 62-57 loss.

Wilson also noted losses to NVL heavyweights Holy Cross and twice to Crosby where the Greyhounds had the lead late and couldn’t put their opponents away.

“We’re happy were in these games, but we can’t let those slip away,” Wilson said.

Despite the tough losses, there are plenty of positives to draw from the season.

The Greyhounds did manage to knock off Watertown, who finished 17-3 in the NVL and advanced to the state championship finals against Waterford. Naugy also swept Kennedy, Sacred Heart, and Torrington during the regular season.

Naugy will return its backcourt and two big men next season. All four will play AAU ball to hone their skills.

Guards Gabe Pulliam and Mick Pernell made strides during the regular season. Pulliam averaged about 12 points and nine assists a contest and displayed the potential of being a standout point guard.

Pernell, a two-year starter, gained more experience and has the hallmarks of being a great shooter and leader.

Naugatuck’s Brandon Kuczenski averaged 18 points over the last eight games of the season and will look to continue improving next year. –RA ARCHIVE

Wilson noted the return of Brandon Kuczenski, who over the last eight games was averaging about 18 points a night and is receiving looks from Division I colleges. Husani Foote, who showed the athleticism to be a game-changer season, will have another year to develop.

“Husani is our x-factor if he comes into his own next year,” Wilson said.

Wilson will also be able to draw from a junior varsity squad that went 16-4 this year.  Naugy’s freshman team went 18-2 this season.

Next year’s returners will also have the benefit of playing with this year’s seniors.  Seniors Adam Neveski, Nolan Kinne, and Zac Mercer all made an impact on the team and its coaches.

Neveski was honored with the team MVP award at the team banquet, while Kinne was awarded the varsity team leadership award. Wilson coached the group when they played on the freshman and JV teams.

“I’m going to really miss this group of seniors,” Wilson said.