Season preview: boys basketball

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Naugatuck

2019-20 results: 19-1 NVL, (22-1 overall); won NVL championship.

Graduated: Derrick Jagello (All-Iron), Keywan Garris, John Mezzo.

Seniors: Jay Barth, Julaquis Minnifield.

Season opener: Feb 12 vs. Torrington.

The Greyhounds won their first NVL championship in 51 years last season and were poised for a deep run in the Division II state tournament before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the postseason.

Naugatuck lost a couple of key players to graduation and senior Robert Sanders moved to Florida to play, but the Greyhounds are deep in talent. They are anchored by a strong junior class, led by Avery Hinnant (All-NVL, All-State) and Ese Onakpoma (All-NVL, All-State).

“Between my assistants Brett Hayward, Jamal Francis and myself we have enough players to put two teams out there on the court,” Naugatuck head coach Mike Wilson said. “The main goal is to give everyone an opportunity to play and come out of the season healthy. We will compete that’s for sure. There’s no jump ball, four-minute mask breaks, there’s just a lot to try and wrap my head around. It will definitely be a different kind of season. But the main goal is to give them an opportunity to play.”

Woodland

2019-20 results: 8-12; qualified for the Division IV state tournament.

Graduated: Trey Mastropietro, Nick DeLucia, Sam Trumbley.

Seniors: Nathaniel Smith, Conrad Filippone, Joey Giuliani.

Season opener: Feb. 16 at Derby.

Woodland reached the state tournament last winter under first-year head coach John Mariano, but the Hawks never got a taste of postseason play due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Woodland returns four of its leading scorers from last year, led by Smith, a 6-foot-2 senior who scored 13 points per game a year ago en route to All-Copper Division honors.

Giuliani (6-1, 6 ppg), junior Nate Bodnar (6-foot, 10 ppg) and junior Rob Moriarty (6-2, 8 ppg) also return, while Filippone and junior Brady Anderson should be key contributors.

“After 10 months off, the group has had a wonderful start to practice this season,” Mariano said. “The overall effort of the team has been fantastic, and it is clear that many of the guys have found ways to improve their games despite the struggles of the pandemic.”

“The group as a whole is itching to get on the court in a game setting to showcase their growth and play for something that matters,” Mariano added. “Our ability to demonstrate an elite compete level while maintaining mental toughness on both ends of the floor will determine how close we get to our goals. As always, we plan to compete for a division championship again and to make the NVL tournament. As the season draws closer, the program as a whole is thrilled to be able to have an opportunity to get on the floor this year, and will work toward taking advantage of every moment.”