By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – Is this the year that the St. Paul boys basketball program – after so many consecutive solid campaigns of outstanding play- finally fall back to earth?
Don’t bet on it as the Falcons have shown a willingness to win over the years and this current edition wants to show it’s even better than the 2012-13 squad.
It will take some serious work but with a number of athletes returning to the fray, the Falcons are set to make it another season worth remembering.
Here’s what to look for this year from the Falcons:
ST. PAUL BOYS BASKETBALL
Head Coach: Steve Phelps (23rd season)
Last Season: 12-11 overall (Ranked No. 15 in the Class S playoff bracket, the Falcons fell in the second round to No. 2 Classical Magnet, 71-64).
Subtractions: Kyle Dube, Jordan Rowley.
Key Players: Reid Morin (sr., forward); Jake Kawiecki (sr., guard/forward); Tyler Jones (sr., guard); Nick Villani (sr., guard); Esaias Haynes (sr., guard); Brendan Carroll (jr., forward); Daija Fitzpatrick (jr., guard); Troy Micale (jr., guard); D.J. Rodriguez (jr., forward/center); John Sullivan (jr., forward); Austin Morin (so., guard).
Strengths: Returning varsity starters, solid chemistry, deep bench, athletic.
Weaknesses: Overall team size.
Why St. Paul will be successful: Those returning players are quite familiar with each other so the learning curve wasn’t so steep and they already know what to expect on a Phelps run squad.
Overview: At 12-11 last season, some might have claimed that ledger was a bit of an overachievement. But this returning crew, though a bit short on year-round basketball players, certainly have athletes and certainly could surpass that win total.
From the football, baseball, and soccer teams, there’s a roster here than can and will run up and down the court.
This unit also out to prove that 2012-13 was no fluke and you can expect big things from this hustling group.
The senior class is over double in size this season from last and has many diverse options.
And there’s plenty of outside shooting to boot as three-pointers should rain down at the Maltby Street Gym this winter.
Pitching sensation, forward Jake Kawiecki, is certainly a long range sharpshooter for the Falcons and will hit three-pointers will zest.
Guard Tyler Jones can do a little of everything on the floor and the athlete can also hit from the outside.
Then at forward, Reid Morin will bang down low, throw in some hoops and will be one of the leaders on this squad while Esaias Haynes will supply support at guard.
Finally, soccer stud Nick Villani will hustle on every play, nab his share of steals, and truly is a jack-of-all-trades out on the court.
Villani might be the x-factor on this particular squad.
That senior class is diverse and will provide all the leadership for this Falcons’ squad it needs.
From the junior class, a little size will come in the form of 6-4 D.J. Rodriguez.
Rodriguez played a ton of JV minutes last season but when called upon – especially in that loss to Classical Magnet in state tournament play – he showed toughness inside, scoring ability, and rebounding prowess on the varsity level.
Brendan Carroll can play at both guard and forward and will also drain shots from downtown and might be the leading scorer on this team.
Troy Micale will provide some depth at guard while Daija Fitzpatrick is another 6-footer who can also play at both guard and forward positions.
Austin Morin should also compete for minutes and if the sophomore forward brings the same kind of grit and determination that he showed on the football field to the court, St. Paul is in store for good things.
Finally, St. Paul has a world class coaching staff and since joining the Naugatuck Valley League, the Falcons have been a competitive bunch thanks in part to that leadership on the bench.
That will not change in 2013-14 and, again, don’t underestimate the Falcons this season.
Games to Watch this season: Pick a NVL game…any NVL game. If St. Paul is short on tournament qualifying games this season, the Falcons play three out of its four final games from the Maltby Street Gym.
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By MICHAEL LETENDRE