Solid core returns for Naugy


Naugatuck boys basketball captains junior Jason Bradley, left, and senior Ryne Griesenauer will lead the Greyhounds on the court this season. –LUKE MARSHALL
Naugatuck boys basketball captains junior Jason Bradley, left, and senior Ryne Griesenauer will lead the Greyhounds on the court this season. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys basketball team will need to show consistency if it wants to get over the hump and play some serious basketball. The last time Naugatuck reached that level was when current head coach Mike Wilson was dropping jump shots through the cylinder.

That was in 1998-99, when Naugatuck put together 16-4 and 18-2 regular-season records as Wilson, the boys all-time leading scorer, led the ‘Hounds to back-to-back quarterfinal games in the Class LL state tournament.

Wilson enters his fourth season at the helm of his alma mater with back-to-back 11-11 seasons but the Greyhounds have gone 0-4 in the postseason. Naugatuck lost a lot of quality production from last year’s graduation, and will have to replace 1,000-point scorer Brandon Kuczenski, Husani Foote and Mick Pernell.

Prior to the last two 11-11 campaigns, Naugatuck was just 29-71 over a five-year stretch. Since the 1998-99 glory days, the Greyhounds have managed only two winning seasons.

So what will it take for Naugatuck to start playing some serious basketball? A mix of talent, focus, tenacity, help on the boards so the big man doesn’t get double-teamed, a point guard who can dribble through traffic, an outside shooter who can send it through the cylinder, and just a little bit of swagger to get through the tough times.

Naugatuck lost a lot of production that helped turn things around the past two seasons but it also has a solid core of players who gained some valuable experience.

Senior captain Ryne Griesenauer, at 6-foot-5, will be the leader under the boards and junior captain Jason Bradley will bring the ball through traffic from the point.

Juniors Bryan Coney and Maleek Brooks both gained experience last season and will be needed for expanded roles this year.

What Naugatuck cannot afford is the lapses of tenacity, concentration, focus and team play that led to slumps that hampered the progress made over the past two seasons.

Two years ago Naugatuck struggled with a 2-4 record out of the box, but a two-point loss to Holy Cross and a one-point loss Crosby opened everyone’s eyes in the Naugatuck Valley League as to the potential of the Greyhounds. A five-game winning streak proved that as Naugatuck finished 11-9 before losing a heartbreaker in the state tournament.

That offered so much promise for last season and Naugatuck started out 3-0. Then came a disastrous five-game slide that took the ‘Hounds right out of the conversation as a contender. Naugy rallied with a miraculous comeback to win four of the last five games to get into the postseason.

The Naugatuck roster is filled with players ready to show some consistency. Juniors Tyler Saad, Josh Aviles, Kevin Robinson and Jour’dan Hopkins have found success in other sports and are ready to bring that success to the basketball court.

Juniors Dayvon Russell, Dashon Russell, CJ Wall and Vashon Carridice will also vie for playing time. Sophomores Jordan Booker, Andrew Rivera and Fejiro Onakpoma add to the Greyhound’s depth.

Naugatuck opens the season Dec. 18 at Derby followed by a game at Ansonia next Friday. The ‘Hounds will play their home-opener Dec. 23 against Kennedy.