By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – When the Boston Celtics were still struggling keep its dominance in the early 1990’s, an important part of the team’s identity came off its bench. Sure, former Duke University standout Alaa Abdelnaby started games for the Celtics in 1992-1993 but quickly into the fray, a warrior by the name of Xavier McDaniel came off the pine and played all the meaningful minutes for the Boston club. He was a fierce warrior and did a little of everything for the C’s. And, of course, former Boston Celtics head coach Red Auerbach made that sixth man role an institution as some of the very best professional basketball players felt honored to be in that role for the championship squad. For the Bristol Central boy basketball squad his year, their sixth man comes in the form of Manny Severino and, frankly, he’s a handful in the mold of McDaniel. Severino is as tough as they come and when he hits the hardwood, he displays an impressive all-around game.
Being a sixth man might not be as glamorous as a starting role, but the junior has embraced his on the court duties and might be the best reserve the CCC South has to offer.
“I told him it didn’t matter if you start or you don’t start,” said Central coach Tim Barrette about Severino. “He’s instance offense and sometimes he comes in as the sixth man against the second squad. That’s an advantage to him. When you have the skill set he has, it’s an advantage to be able to come in off the bench to see how the game’s going and know where to attack.”
Against Bristol Eastern in Central’s winning effort, his contribution in the second period of play was critical as the Lancers looked just about ready to wake up from its slumber. But Severino kept the lights off on Eastern and that spelled trouble for the Lancers. He hit two straight 3-pointers to open the second frame and then buried a quick hoop midway through the stanza as he scored eight of the 14 total points in the fray. “He got us out on the lead today,” said Barrette.
Severino has all the skills as he can attack the hoop, pop in shots from long range, pass the rock with precession, rebound and can and will play defense. When he passes, there’s a snap to the ball, when he shoots, there’s crispness to his shot and when he decides to put his head down and drive towards the hoop, get out of the way. To open the season, Severino sank home 12 points against Conard and his campaign was already on a roll.
And then there was that overtime extravaganza at Berlin where he threw in 22 points and hit an incredible five 3-pointers.
Severino collected 10 points and five rebounds in a victory against Rocky Hill while he netted 13 points in an overtime loss against Middletown.
He topped 15 points and snared nine rebounds in a victory against Platt while he threw in 13 points against the Redcoats late in the game.
And with those nine points against Bristol Eastern – which is right around his yearly average – Severino has just scratched the surface in terms of his ability on the court. “Let’s be honest, he’s a very good basketball player and he hasn’t reached his potential yet,” said Barrette. “But we’re hoping in the next coming year, he does.”
Senior night against the Lancers – Nick Prentiss, Justen Jakubiak and Silas Brooks With just over a minute to play in its 55-39 victory over Eastern, Barrette – who started all three of his seniors in the game – removed the trio to a standing ovation and the cheers of their teammates.
Prentiss, Jakubiak and Brooks have all given the Bristol Central basketball program four great years of service.
“I’ll tell you what, those seniors, you’re never going to fine a better bunch of guys,” said Barrette of his senior core. “(And) I’m not talking basketball players; I’m talking on and off the court. They are a great bunch of kids. I can’t ask for more in terms of leadership, in terms of the way they behave and act.” Barrette has a tremendous respect for his senior trio and the reward for his seniors – and the team – is a game in the CCC Tournament against New Britain and, of course, a slot in the upcoming state tournament. “They’re leaders in the classroom, they’re leaders on the practice floor, they’re leaders in the locker room and they deserve that curtain call they got tonight because of the they handled themselves on and off the court.”