By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The St. Paul Catholic boys basketball squad now has a “Big 3” at the helm with the addition of Tyler Arbuckle to the fold.
And adding Arbuckle to the likes of forward/center Austin Jones and sharp-shooter Mike Palmieri is just in time for the Falcons to make a run to close out the regular season.
However, that threesome of hoopsters is complemented by a young group of contributors who are critical to the success of the program.
Getting that all-important chemistry is the key and, standing at 10-4 on Feb. 2, St. Paul Catholic looked to be in good shape.
“I said in December, I thought as the season progressed and our younger guys got more experienced that we had the ability to get better,” said St. Paul Catholic coach Steve Phelps. “And I think Donovan Symes has gotten better. I think Bo Arndt has gotten better. Darek Wiecki has gotten better. Brian Considine has gotten better and those supporting cast guys are doing a good job for us.”
And each of those supporting players have been playing their roles to compliment the Jones/Palmieri/Arbuckle grouping quite well.
Wiecki is the reincarnation of former NBA forward Kurt Rambis, besides the goofy glasses and questionable mustache.
And that’s a compliment because Rambis, who wore no. 31 for the Lakers, did all the little things in helping the Los Angles to four NBA titles, became a go-to player in his season-in-a-half for the Charlotte Hornets and was the bruiser he needed to be for the Phoenix Suns late in his career.
Wiecki can score down-low, he can snare several rebounds away from the opponent and he’s a physical presence in the lane – all a formula for success by the forward/center.
The junior dumped a season high 20 points on University back on Jan. 21 and recently against Seymour, he dropped in 10 points and collected eight rebounds in another St. Paul Catholic victory.
Ditto for Considine who also does his job by clogging the lane, hitting the occasional three-pointer and grabbing his share of rebounds in the paint.
The duo has an underrated passing game and combined for five assists in that victory over the Wildcats on Feb. 1.
Sophomore Donavan Symes is a defensive guru who can dish the rock while Bo Arndt – like Symes – is also a thief on the court and will hit the open jumper.
We watched that duo grow up on the court last season, especially during the Falcons’ spirited state tournament run.
“You take our two ‘bigs’ and combined they have five assists, its pretty good for a post-player,” said Phelps of the Wiecki/Considine combination in the Seymour victory. “Donovan had six assists. He was pretty special moving [the ball]. In that type of a setting guys – especially high school kids – have to understand and have to execute their roles. And you have to identify that.”
“And if you do that, I think you can play to your strengths.”
Matt Gerry has shown a growing all-around game and Eli Kennedy is an old-hand but a valuable back-up in the line-up at the guard position.
That’s the go-to group that St. Paul Catholic employs around Arbuckle, Jones and Palmieri and it’s a solid cast of athletes.
And so far, that “Big 3” has worked well together, understanding the bigger picture and have been playing unselfishly since the transfer from Bristol Eastern got into his first game for the Catholic school.
And the results are a 4-0 record since Arbuckle’s arrival.
“If you have kids that are a little bit self-centered, if you have kids that are a little bit self-absorbed, that formula doesn’t work as well I guess,” said Phelps. “And I like to think our kids enjoy playing with each other and the recognition I don’t really think, I could be wrong, but I don’t think the recognition is of paramount interest to them, any kid individually.”