BEACON FALLS – ‘Tis the season for rehashing old traditions. For the Woodland boys basketball season, ‘tis the season for cementing new ones.
In his fourth year, Coach Tom Hunt has taken the Hawks from a Naugatuck Valley League cellar-dweller to a formidable opponent, making the state tournament for the second time in school history last season.
Now, Hunt is playing the role of mad scientist, trying to combine the growing success of the basketball program with the continuous excellence of the football team—and he’s got some help.
Hunt has filled his coaching staff with football coaches (Mike Kingsley, Jared Katchmar, and Mike Stankus) and is packing his roster with some gridders, too. Add a few players (Ryan Genua, Bryan Spickle, and Shaine and KJ Thompsons) from recent hardwood clans and it’s shaping up to be quite the amalgamation of personalities.
“Mike Kingsley’s been here since the school opened,” Hunt says. “This year we were able to hire Jared as a guy who graduated from this school. He’s a guy who’s committed to Woodland everything. Mike Stankus is back after helping a little last year and Genua, Spickle, and the Thompsons want to help out over Christmas break…I’m happy to have them back and it’s such a positive because they’re talking about Woodland tradition. That says a lot about where the program is and where it’s going.”
The Hawks have tried to be a slow-it-down, physical team in the past, but with the increased presence of gridiron-minded players and coaches, the Valley might see a team it’s not used to battling.
“The face that we’re trying to put on the program is that we’re going to be physical with you,” Hunt says. “You’re going to come down to Woodland and you’re going to know you were in a game when you walk out of the gym. We’re going to have more role players with football players coming in who are into defense, setting screens, and rebounding, which is going to be a positive.”
The most important of those physical players might be senior Ian Bures, who Hunt hopes will relish a starting role in the paint. Add speedy senior Sean Deegan for some aggressive defense and Hunt likes what he sees.
“Ian has been controlling the middle and rebounding really hard,” Hunt says. “Sean Deegan is quick and can run all day and will be important on defense. All of these guys know what their roles are. Everyone’s looking to contribute in different ways.”
Headlining the Hawks’ offense will be the Rountree brothers, seniors Yahmad and sophomore Rahmi.
“Part of our strength is going to be Yahmad being able to control the middle with his height and getting out to run the break,” Hunt says. “He’s going to cause some mismatches. Rahmi’s shown in some of the scrimmages that his defensive prowess is phenomenal. He’s quick to the ball and he’s able to switch from defense to offense real fast.”
The point guard position might be a bit of a revolving door with the Rountrees both sharing time handling the ball. But freshman Tanner Kingsley is emerging as a sixth man to run the point along with sophomore David Uhl.
“We’re young at the point,” Hunt says. “I think that if I move Rahmi to the two when I bring Tanner in, it’s going to be a bit of a learning curve. Tanner is well beyond his years in basketball knowledge even though he’s a freshman.”
In contrast to previous years, Hunt thinks his team has the ability to push tempo and score more than ever before.
“We’re going to look to get up and down the floor,” Hunt says. “When I put Tanner in there, it’s kinda like my speed team. When Yahmad touches the ball, we’ll have him push the break. We’re going to look to score more than we have in the past.”
Other key players may be Jeremy Clark, Hugh Chamenko, and Mike Castro in the post and Ryan Angeloszek and Billy Alfiere on the wings.
With a more physical inside game and a more explosive offensive attack, Hunt thinks his team can return to the state tournament and compete in the Brass Division.
“The goal again this year is going to be to make the state tournament,” Hunt says. “The division shapes up a little harder than it did last year with Watertown, Wolcott, and Ansonia being tough. But I think a realistic goal for us from now on is to make the tournament.”