By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – Is this the year the Bristol Central boys basketball team finally breaks into the upper echelons of the Central Connecticut Conference?
It could very well be as an experienced crew returns to the hardwood for what should be the squads best season in quite some time.
With the loss of only two starters from last year, with its whole bench intact, Central has several experienced hands returning to the fold.
Here’s the deal with the Rams:
BRISTOL CENTRAL BOYS BASKETBALL
Head Coach: Tim Barrette (7th season)
Overall Record: In six seasons, Barrette carries a ledger of 45-79 that includes three state tournament stops.
Last Season’s Record: 12-10 overall (No. 23 Central lost to No. 10 Bridgeport Central 71-43 in the first round of the Class LL tournament).
Subtractions: Justin Jakubiak (guard/forward); Nick Prentiss (forward); Silas Brooks (forward).
Key Players: Joey DeFillippi (sr., point guard/shooting guard); L.J. Johnson (jr., guard); Manny Severino (sr., guard/forward); Jacob Collins (sr., forward/center); Tyleam Hamel (sr., forward); Kyle Pileski (sr., forward); Landin Rutledge (jr., center/forward); Devin Francis (sr.); D.J. Dort (jr., guard/forward); Jamill Tolliver (jr., center); Jason Severino (jr., guard).
Strengths: Size, rebounding, depth, athleticism.
Weaknesses: Still learning team defense.
Why Central will be successful: With size and experience to boot, the Rams could once again stick four big players on the court to cause plenty of match-up in terms of height. In this case, bigger is certainly better.
Overview: Central has some tools on its roster to get the job done and surpassing last season’s 12-victory total is not just likely, but probable.
This team has some size. This team is athletic. With a solid roster to turn to, the Rams could be poised for big things.
“We come in with high expectations this year,” said head coach Tim Barrette. “We’ve been working hard.”
Central will be offensively proficient and will run up and down the court with the best of them.
That ability to sprint up and down the floor will cause squads plenty of problems.
The Rams are going to be a nightmare to match-up against no matter what squad of the CCC South comes through the doors at Bristol Central.
When you’re looking up at 6-foot-3, 207 pound senior Manny Severino, 6-foot-5 junior center Landin Rutledge, 6-foot-3 senior Tyleam Hamel along with back-up center, junior Jamill Tolliver, that height hits you very quickly.
Plus, it’s a versatile corps of big men.
“I have a really athletic team,” said Barrette. “We’re long. At any given time, we could have four guys that are 6-foot-3 or bigger on the floor. And we have experience too.”
In terms of leaders, seniors Joey DeFillippi and Jacob Collins have all the tangible, and intangible skills, to lead the Rams to success.
DeFillippi has all the tools at guard and certainly can hit shots from everywhere on the court. The 6-foot-4 Collins is a beast underneath and a double-double by the senior could be a given on just about each and every night.
But this won’t be just a two-man team as Barrette has a full complement of players to choose from.
“I told (the players) this year, we don’t want to have any studs,” said Barrette. “We have the ability to have all five positions on the floor score. And I think if we want to be successful, it’s not going to be one player that’s going to carry us. (But) I do think DeFillippi and Jake (Collins) will definitely be leaders on the floor.”
“Their performances will stand out on their own but all five guys on the floor can score this year and I have a fair amount of depth that I’ve never been able to have (and enjoy) as well.”
Rebounding won’t be an issue for Central and with someone like Manny Severino, who is another one of those studs on the floor with three-point shooting ability to boot, the individual play on this team – on both sides of the ball – should be off the charts.
Others that should make contributions for the Rams are senior Devin Francis, junior guard/forward DJ Dort, junior guard Jason Saverino, senior forward Klye Pileski and junior guard L.J. Johnson who, according to Barrette, has been “playing lights out” in the preseason.
If there’s a glaring weakness on this squad, it’s the overall defense as a team.
On a one-on-one basis, this squad has an advantage but not everyone is on the same page as a whole yet.
“I think we are weak team defensively, we’re still learning,” said Barrette. “We’re good individual players on defense but we, sometimes, are a little lazy…I don’t mind saying that. We need to play as hard as we do on the offensive end of the floor as we do on the defensive end of the floor to be really successful this year.”
In all, 51 kids tried out for the varsity and JV teams this year at Central and Barrette actually had options and major cuts in the preseason.
With a boatload of talent ready to go, Barrette is eager for the regular season to proceed.
“We have high expectations,” said Barrette. “We want to be better than average. 10-10 is good but we’re looking to improve on that record this year.”
CCC South Outlook: Barrette likes the term “parity” and once again, he’s mastered what the CCC South should look like this season.
On any given night, any team can knock off another.
It makes for several interesting and intriguing showdowns.
“I think this league has a lot of parity again this year,” said Barrette. “I see Middletown definitely being near the top. I think Maloney will be near the top along with Bristol Eastern and Berlin.”
Games to Watch this Season: The Rams are once again part of the Rybczyk Tournament from the Ivan Wood Gymnasium in Plainville and might have to tangle with Terryville if the Rams can get to the championship tilt. Central travels to Weston this Saturday in a non-conference attraction while getting a shot at Farmington on Friday, Jan. 3.
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver.com