Riverhead is going to need to bring its “A” game this high school boys basketball season, night in and night out.
“Usually that’s just coach talk, but it’s the truth this year,” coach John Rossetti said. “You can’t come out flat. You got to come out ready to play every game.”
That’s particularly important for the Blue Waves (9-11 last season) to keep in mind now that Suffolk County League II has been revamped into a tough nine-team league. Among the teams they will be facing are two-time defending county Class AA champion Half Hollow Hills East, Smithtown West, Northport and Copiague.
Every game should mean something. A loss here or there could mean saying goodbye to the playoffs, which Riverhead has missed the last two years.
“You don’t look at the schedule and say, ‘That’s a gimme game tonight,’ that’s for sure,” said Rossetti.
Riverhead has two All-League seniors in point guard Cristian Pace and forward Quashiem Miller. They both averaged about 13 points per game. Two other starters return, junior shooting guard Zy’aire Pittman and senior forward Robert Tyre. Tyre is coming back from a sprained knee and is expected to receive medical clearance in a week.
Rossetti described Pace as a “team kid. He doesn’t care if he has 15 points or 15 assists — as long as the team wins, that’s all he cares about.”
Miller is 6-3 but plays like he’s 6-6. “He’s a workhorse,” Rossetti said. “He’s a silent giant. He just goes out there and rebounds and scores. He has a nose for the ball.”
More varsity experience is offered by junior guard/forward Albert Daniels and senior guards Dashaun Massenburg and Anthony Miles.
New to the team are sophomore shooting guard Jacob Wilkinson, senior forward KeShaun Ward, freshman forward Deongae Sykes, junior guards Christian Maysonet and Jahquel Blount, sophomore guard Adrian Johnson and sophomore forward Shammond Henry.
How does this season’s team compare to the 2017-18 version?
“It’s a little more experienced,” Rossetti said. “What does that equate to? I really don’t know yet. It’s all about peaking at the right time.”
Rossetti said Riverhead will continue its traditional running style. “We’ve never really had a really tall team, so we have to utilize our quickness to create offense,” he said.
At the same time, it will be important for the Blue Waves to take care of the ball.
“That’s the most important thing by far, limit our turnovers,” Rossetti said. “Our assist-to-turnover ratio has to be on the positive side.”
At the conclusion of Shoreham-Wading River’s 1-19 season in 2017-18, coach Kevin Culhane sat down with his returning varsity and junior varsity players for a frank talk about what they needed to do.
“I said, ‘Look, you guys have to get better skill-wise,’ ” he said. “It was difficult. The kids put forth a good effort. We just didn’t have enough basketball skills. We just couldn’t put the ball in the basket. We had difficulty competing with teams.”
Culhane said he has seen evidence of players putting time into improving their game in the off-season, refining their skills by playing in a summer league and participating in clinics.
That should help a virtually completely new team that has only two players with previous varsity experience. Sophomore point guard Tommy Bell and senior wing Matt Cook were both reserves last season. They’re tagged as starters along with junior guard Cameron LoSchiavo, sophomore wing Tristan Costello and 6-7 sophomore post player Adam Gawreluk.
Gawreluk is an interesting case. Culhane said Gawreluk honed his skills and went from being a JV player who hardly played to a varsity starter.
Post player Will Jantzen is a senior who made the team for the first time. The team’s junior class includes post player Chris Baumeister, guard Christian Marcado, wing Antonio Marccaro, guard Jacob Vogel, wing Peter Flanagan and wing Aidan Drost. Sophomore David Tedesco is a wing as well.
“They love basketball and they play well as a team,” Culhane said. “They share the ball on offense and on defense we’re getting better on defense all the time. I’d like to be competitive in every game. I’d like us to grow as a team, get better as the year goes on and at the end of the game, I’d like the other team to say, win, lose or draw, Shoreham gave us a heck of a game and we competed.
“Our league is going to be very difficult, but hopefully we’re going to go in there and fight the good fight. I said to them, the effort’s got to be there every game.”
Photo caption: Riverhead’s All-League senior point guard, Cristian Pace, maneuvers under the basket during a scrimmage against Bridgehampton Tuesday. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)