Boys Basketball preview: Central has a height advantage

By MICHAEL LETENDRE

STAFF WRITER

Opponents are going to have several big problems when hitting the court against Central this year because this program has some extreme size.

“We are large, definitely, from the three through the five” positions said Barrette. “Depending on who we start, we could run out there with Sean Wininger, who’s about 6-foot-4; Lorenzetti is about 6-foot-5 now, and at some points, with Sean, Mike and Donovan on floor, we have three guys over 6-foot-4.”

Clingan is legit at 7-foot tall and 255 pounds and that means most schools are going to have trouble handling him on a one-on-one basis.Last season, the sophomore might have put together one of the best freshmen campaign ever in Bristol scholastic hoops—somehow missing out on All-State honors.

Clingan (22.2 points, 18 rebounds, and five blocked shots-per-game) has several Kevin McHale like qualities and if he’s even half the player the Hall of Famer was for the Boston Celtics, the sky’s the limit.

You know about the low-post game, the tough rebounding, and the blocked shots. But his midrange jumper is developing and if Clingan ever starts hitting 3-pointers on a consistent basis—something McHale did in his later years for the Celtics—the sophomore is going to be that 21st century, well-rounded center any scholastic (and later, any collegiate) team craves.

He does an excellent job keeping the ball up and away from swatting hands off offensive rebounds and can have 10-for-10 nights at the free throw line.

Clingan scored 466 points last season and expect even more improvement from the developing pivot man.

“He’s really been shooting the ball great,” said Barrette of Clingan. “As scary as it sounds, yesterday in our first possession of our first scrimmage, he buried a 3. Obviously, most teams are going to say go ahead and shoot it because they’d rather have him take the three-pointer but he’s really worked hard at stretching his game. He’s been putting the ball on the floor a lot better. He can really face up to the hoop and he’s not only a tough guard within five feet of the hoop, he’s really a tough guard from anywhere on the floor now.”

Wininger has plenty of the same qualities that Cleveland Cavalier forward Kevin Love displays.

One of Barrette’s ‘X-factors,’ Wininger can rebound the ball, hit the 3 (he made 11 in 2018-19) while kicking in 4.0 points-per-game last season.

The forward can be streaky but he has the ability to hit for 10 points-a-game with all the attention that Central’s 7-footer will draw.And Lorenzetti is even bigger this time around and the junior—who grabbed several critical rebounds in numerous games last season—should see a jump in minutes. He’s also a willing defender on the hardwood.

Senior Austin Brown can do a little of everything on the court and the emerging point guard (6.9 ppg) was second on the squad in points last year.He’ll once again set up his mates, play good defense off of Clingan while connecting on a three-pointer or two a game.

Sophomore Victor Rosa (18 games, 2.1 ppg) is a blur in motion and will cause some havoc on the floor, especially in transition, while fellow sophomore Damion Glasper (1.5 ppg) does a little of everything from the guard position and isn’t afraid to take the big shot as the game-tying hoop in the first round of the Class L tournament against New Milford last season proved.

Senior guard Shane Ouellette played in 19 of 21 games last season and kicked in 22 three-pointers to lead the Rams. His 4.2 points-per-game average will only improve and the senior should pump in a little leadership to help guide the squad along.

“We just look a year older and a year stronger,” said Barrette of his team. “It’s the same kids, pretty much, back that played for us. When we were in that state tournament game last year, you start two or three freshman in a state tournament game, people can’t believe that. And at the end of the game last year, I have three freshman in the game in overtime. I would say the football guys are taking a little bit of time to get back in the swing—especially Victor Rosa—but Damien Glasper has put in months of work here, getting ready for this season and this opportunity.”

“We’re looking for him and Victor to play that point guard position. It’s their position, it’s those two and I expect a great thirty-minutes of basketball at that position.”

And don’t blink on Carson Rivoira, a sophomore that is improving his game and the 6-foot-3 forward will run over opponents to snare away the ball.

Other guards that Barrette will rely on include senior Calvin Neal, junior Maliki Matthews, and the program welcomes back D’Ante Ross (5.3 ppg)—another ‘X-factor’ on the squad.

We all saw what the junior could do on the gridiron as he is a willing defender, extremely athletic, and is another hustler Barrette will employ.

“If he plays his game, because he’s long and athletic, he brings something to my team that I don’t have,” said Barrette of Ross.

Calvin Neal is another guard Barrette can turn to, noting the senior “is a good athlete” and is also high on fellow reserve guard, junior Maliki Matthews.

Barrette has 11 players that he can hustle into the game and produce immediately on the floor.

“We have depth,” said Barrette. “We didn’t lose anything [from last season].”

Barrette just needs the outside shooting to come along to match what Central will be employing in the paint.

“We still have to make outside shots,” said Barrette. “Shane Ouellette really shoots the ball well but we need other guys to make outside shots when they come because the double-team is coming and we know that. Donovan is a really a good passer. We just need to make the shot when the shot comes.”

“I also think, as weird as it sounds, we’re still young. We’re probably going to start three sophomores [and] in terms of maturity, it’s still going to be 15 year old’s playing against 18 year old’s so I expect us to improve—just like last year—throughout the year.”

This team has some size, this squad has some ability, and once the chemistry is nearly there, you can expect big things from the program this year.

This is the first year of a two-year window with a group of players who could be one of the state’s best over the next 24 months or so.

Fifty-one kids tried out for the team this year—sophomores through seniors—and after cuts were made, a very strong unit emerged at Bristol Central.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Barrette. “Should we win our side of the bracket? Yeah, we should. After battling East Catholic and Windsor, I’ll be honest, if I’m anything better than 12-8, I’ll be really happy. I see this team anywhere between 10-10 and 12-8.”

“I think we’re going to be tested for sure. I think if we become the 19th seed, do you really want to play us in the first round [of the state tournament]?”

Scheduling Quirks: Central will be tangling against more than a few excellent programs this year.

The contest against Glastonbury to open the season won’t be easy while a three-pack of games at East Catholic (January 30), Windsor (February 3), and Middletown (February 6) is more than just your typical road trip.

The Rams battle at Innovation on January 15—and that game will be an all-out war—and then the rest of the dates on the road are against the squads of the CCC South.

“Innovation was 24-0 last year,” said Barrette. “We’re going against them on the road there.”

Central will once again hold its annual holiday tournament just after Christmas, meaning the Rams play 11 out of its 20 games this season from the Charles C. Marsh Gymnasium which is a huge plus.

“With the schedule this year, I think we’re going to have some bumps in the road especially in our out-of-conference games,” said Barrette. “But with that being said, I think by the time we’re done, I wouldn’t want to play us in the state tournament, I’ll tell you that much.”

CCC South Outlook: The CCC South Patriot Division is now four teams strong—coached by three men that attended Bristol Eastern high school over the years.

Lewis Mills, with new mentor Ryan Raponey leading the charge, is a relative unknown that’s in its first season of Central Connecticut Conference play while Bunty Ray and Bristol Eastern are more than familiar to Barrette.The Lancers hung a loss on the Rams last season while the crafty Raponey can get the job done as well.

Plainville might be rebuilding this season and don’t be entirely surprised if Central runs the table in CCC South, Patriot Division showdowns.But on the flip side of the conference, a squad like Maloney is certainly an unknown this year.

“I know nothing about Maloney, especially with a new coach,” admitted Barrette. “I don’t know what Maloney and their new system is going to be like. Platt obviously has very good athletes coming back. Middletown has [a center] who’s excellent and Berlin is going to down this year but has a good, young nucleus.”