Of the 55 students who showed up for boys basketball tryouts at Bainbridge High School this year, 26 were freshmen.
“I didn’t expect that,” said returning BHS Head Coach Steve Haizlip. “It was good, that’s great.
“I have a really open mind,” he added. “Every year I come in, I don’t set my rosters and I really take pride in that. I think kids feel, I hope that they feel, that they have an opportunity.”
This year especially.
Because although just one of the hopeful freshmen (Luke Lavigne) made the varsity squad, having suffered some noticeable losses, both expected and not, this year’s starting roster was always going to feature a few fresh faces.
“We lost some great players, but we also return a lot,” Haizlip said. “I would say we have an experienced group, but we also have a very inexperienced group.”
The Spartan lineup features just three seniors this year: co-captain Gus Corsetti, Liam Kratzer, and Matthew McCann.
Two other seniors who were expected to start this season are absent from the roster. One chose to focus on academics instead, Haizlip said, and the other suffered an injury.
“We did lose Nate LaPlaca,” he explained. “He blew out his knee in the summer. It’s a really sad deal for him.”
As the varsity squad consists primarily of juniors (five, to be precise), the coach said he had not decided who the other co-captain would be.
“Captains, I haven’t really nominated just yet,” he said. “I do a lot of that game-to-game, but I’m sure it’s going to be a handful of my returning varsity players.”
Chief among those returners, the Spartans looked to for the heavy lifting, especially early in the season, are juniors Alan Ulin, Andrew Ward, and Jacob Kirsch, according to the coach.
Also returning this year are juniors Alex Treskin and Everett Moore.
The squad is as bereft of sophomores as it is seniors, boasting just three 10th-graders: Cliff Hennessey, Alexander Taylor, and James Carey.
However, the team’s dearth of upperclassmen should not be read as a lack of skill, Haizlip said.
“They’ve been on varsity, some of them since freshman year,” he said. “It’s not a lack of experience there, but we do have a lot of new faces who either have played C-team ball or JV and they’re getting thrown in the mix.”
Newest of those new faces is Lavigne, the team’s sole freshman.
“He’ll play,” Haizlip said, “but he deserves to be here. Everybody that’s here I say deserves to be here. A lot of them, it might be a gradual progress of when and how much they play, but again there’s a reason they’re up here.
“[Lavigne has] got length [and] he’s very smart,” the coach added. “The guy just is a very smart basketball player. The teammates really embrace that and him. He’s a very quiet kid, but we get a smile out of him here and there.”
Right away, it is obvious the team is not breaking any height records. But, again, Haizlip said opponents shouldn’t hasten to judgment based on superficialities.
“We shoot the ball well,” he said. “We lack size, so we’re going to have to get up and down the court.
“[They’re] very fit and a very knowledgeable group,” he added.
“Our immediate strength, I think, is our starting group. They’ve played a lot of varsity basketball [and] now it’s just a matter of getting that younger group up to speed. There’s going to be the ups and downs, it’s just a matter of how you handle those ups and downs and I always say build off of those. This is a good group, they’re going to build off of it.”
His assertion is reflected in this year’s team motto: Play fast. Play smart. Play disciplined.
“I really want our guys to really focus on that,” the coach said. “So when I say play fast, it’s not just go fast as you possibly can, it has to be smart and disciplined. .
“A lot of it’s going to be on me, too, to let them play a little bit and let them make mistakes.”
The Spartans began the year with a non-league game on the road against Kingston Wednesday, Dec. 4, and will play at home for the first time this season at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, against Bishop Blanchet.
It is the first of three consecutive home games.
Of the Spartans’ competitors, Haizlip said he expects Metro to be Metro and doesn’t look for any game to be an easy win. Also, he isn’t spending too much time worrying about the other guys.
“There are a lot of great teams,” he said. “It’s going to be a really up year for Metro again.
“My focus is on us and it always has been. And if we can focus on us and be who we want to be. we’ll be OK.”
So far, at least, that does seem to be the case.
It is, the coach said, the first in his five years at the helm that every single member of the team notched enough practices to qualify to play in the first game.