During the summer, Riverhead boys basketball coach John Rossetti heard some rumors swirling that Jalen Shelby, the top returning player for Greenport, might be transferring to Riverhead for his senior year.
“Until you see it, you don’t believe it,” he said.
When Rossetti arrived at school for the beginning of the year, there was Shelby, who has become a welcome addition to the Blue Waves this season. Shelby was an All-League guard for the Porters last season, playing alongside Dantré Langhorne.
Now he’ll look to fit in with a Riverhead team that went 9-9 last year in the regular season before losing to Longwood in the first round of the Class AA playoffs.
“He’s a good kid, too, more importantly,” Rossetti said. “He takes care of the stuff in school.”
Shelby said he went to Riverhead during elementary school. He lived with his father while attending Greenport and now is staying with his mom.
Shelby said he knew some of the players in Riverhead, but had never played with them before. So far it’s been a smooth transition on the court for Shelby.
“I’m getting the hang of it,” he said before practice Monday. “There’s some new stuff. Out in Greenport we didn’t do as much running as they do.”
The Blue Waves will look to play a more up-tempo style this year, which Shelby said he’s excited to be part of.
“We should be good out here,” he said.
Shelby’s role on the Blue Waves is still to be determined, as it is for every player. Riverhead just completed its final roster after tryouts at the end of last week. So practices with just the team have really just begun.
Rossetti said the team gets its first chance against some live competition this weekend in a scrimmage with Floyd, Bellport, Hills West and Southampton at William Floyd High School.
Rossetti said he expects Shelby to fit in well.
“Basketball is basketball, whether you’re a small school or big school,” he said. “It’s still five-on-five and you have to get it done.”
Rossetti said he didn’t know Shelby personally before he came into Riverhead.
“Being an East End coach you always follow the East End schools,” he said. “Obviously Dantré was top-billing on his team last year, but he didn’t get enough credit. He’s a pretty good ballplayer.”
Shelby won’t have to wait long to see his old teammates again. The Blue Waves travel to Greenport Dec. 3 for a scrimmage.
There are plenty of other new faces for Riverhead this season. Rossetti said nine of the 15 players are in their first year on varsity.
The Blue Waves feature a heavy contingent of football players who are transitioning back into basketball shape. During the fall, Ryan Bitzer, Quinn Funn, Reggie Moore and Tim Clement all played on the football team that went 6-3 and lost in the first round of the playoffs to Newfield, the eventual county champion.
Transitioning from football to basketball is always an adjustment period.
“Their bodies get beat up during football season,” Rossetti said. “It takes a couple weeks just for their muscles to relax a little bit.”
Rossetti said coming into the season they hoped to keep the roster around 12 players. With large numbers turning out for the team, they kept the roster a little bigger with 15.
“It was a matter of saying, you know what, we have some nice kids, we have some extra uniforms, let’s give them a shot,” he said. “We explained to them that their roles will be limited. If they were willing to be on the team and wear a uniform and be a part of it, they accepted their role.”
The Blue Waves have a busy schedule of scrimmages after Saturday. They’ll scrimmage four teams before their first non-league game against Eastport-South Manor on the road Dec. 6.