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Boys Basketball Preview: Given time, Wildcats will jell, said coach


Shoreham-Wading River boys basketball coach Kevin Culhane recently saw an Instagram post in which a coach listed all the Suffolk County League V and VI teams, with the notation, “Everybody is zero and zero.”

With seven of League VI Shoreham’s 14 players having played for the school’s Long Island champion football team, which just completed its season Sunday night, it’s going to take the Wildcats (5-11 last season) some time to meld.

“We’re going to better as the season goes,” Culhane said. “We’ll play very hard. We’ll be very competitive. The kids are gamers.”

Liam Mahoney, 6-foot-3 sophomore center, gives the Wildcats an inside presence.

Three senior guards  — Chris Sheehan, Kenny DeGolyer and Jalen Wright — bring skill and varsity experience. The front court will be bolstered by seniors Danny Cassidy and Dean Stalzer. Fellow upperclassmen Kyle Boden, 6-3 Andrew Blanco, Ryan Anderson, Matt Moran, Vinny Montenegro, Kyle Higgins, Matt Julian and Brian Drost are also in the mix.

“It’s going to be a work in progress,” Culhane said. “It’s going to take us a while to jell. We have a lot of new kids.”

League VI has been fortified by the additions of Wyandanch and Southampton from League VII. “It’s going to be pretty tough,” said Culhane.

As for his team, Culhane said: “They’re quality kids. We have to play to the best capability that we can. We have to work our offenses to perfection, work our defenses. … My goal is to get better every day slightly. Our kids push each other in practice. Our starters can’t slack off because the other guys will push them in practice.”

There is roster turnover and then there is roster turnover. What Riverhead (8-11) is dealing with this year is something else.

“This is like starting from scratch,” said coach John Rossetti.

Will Sanders, a senior point guard who started most games last season, is Riverhead’s only returning player with significant varsity experience.

Two other seniors, forward Jake Ratzke and guard Keshawn Lamb, both saw limited action. “This is really their first time to be put in the spotlight,” Rossetti said. “We really don’t know yet who we’re going to rely on to play those other positions and it’s a battle in practice every day”

Sophomore guard Christian Pace is battling as are sophomore forwards Robert Tyree and Quashiem Miller, junior shooting guard Cir’rus Davender, junior guard/forward Shaun Worthington, senior forward Richard Lucas, junior forward A.J. Gallo, sophomore guard Dashaun Massenburg (a transfer from Virginia), senior guard Dan Harmon and junior guard Michael Daniel. Davender hyperextended his right knee before tryouts and will probably receive medical clearance to practice in another week, said Rossetti.

“I graduated 95 percent of my scoring and 98 percent of my rebounding,” Rossetti said. “We’re a very green team this year. It’s like a piece of clay and we’re trying to mold it into shape.”

Riverhead has been moved up from League III to League II. “Top to bottom, my personal opinion, it’s probably the best [league] in the county,” said Rossetti.

What will make this a successful season?

“As long as the kids continue to work hard, take care of themselves, the wins and losses take care of themselves,” Rossetti said. “I want to see them develop as better people and better basketball players, but obviously I would like to see a lot of wins. A lot of wins make everything easier.”

Bishop McGann-Mercy’s 6-12 record from last season is better than it sounds, considering the Monarchs played in League VIII, which was as strong, top to bottom, as it had been in recent memory. “It was murder and we were competitive,” said coach Kevin O’Halloran.

What League VIII has to offer this season remains to be seen, but Mercy is going to have to contend with its own youth and inexperience.

O’Halloran said: “We’re going to have to rebound and play very smart and take advantage of all the opportunities that we have and we’ll be fine. Easier said than done.”

Much responsibility rests on the shoulders of the team’s two returning starters, senior forward Sean Tuthill and junior guard/forward Allan Zilnicki. “We’ll go as far as they take us,” said O’Halloran.

Matt Gambino, a senior guard, is the team’s only other returner.

The other players are guards John Venesina, Matt Chilicki and Chris Atkinson, forwards Matt Kneidl, Aidan Martin, Chris Olthie and Michael Wang, and center Joe Algerie.

The starting point guard position is being competed for by Venesina, Gambino and Chilicki. “The good part about it is that Allan and Sean can handle the ball, too,” said O’Halloran.

This is a fun time of the year for basketball coaches like O’Halloran, who has been in the business for almost 30 years, including 16 at Pierson and four at The Ross School.

“I love it,” he said. “The kids are fun and it’s why you do it — and everybody’s undefeated now, too.”

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Photo caption: Senior guard Kenny DeGolyer is part of a Shoreham-Wading River team that is expected to mesh as the season progresses. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)