Albert Daniels is a guard in a big man’s body.
That’s how Riverhead coach John Rossetti describes the top player on his high school boys basketball team. Daniels, Riverhead’s only returning starter, may play guard on offense and in the five spot on defense, to take advantage of his attributes on both ends of the court.
“We’re going to take advantage of his athleticism,” Rossetti said. “To his credit, he’s willing to play wherever he’s asked and what’s best for the team. I give him a lot of credit for that.”
Daniels, a senior who averaged nine points per game last season, is in his fourth varsity season.
“Albert has shown a significant amount of growth,” said Rossetti, whose team went 11-9 last season, losing to Commack in the playoffs. “Each year he has shown a growth in maturity, which has shown him more and more producing on the basketball court … Obviously, he’s just physically gifted.”
The other returner for the Blue Waves who saw significant playing time is senior guard Jahquel Blount. Also back are junior point guard Adrian Johnson, junior guard Jacob Wilkinson and junior forward Shammond Henry.
Among the new additions are a slew of guards (“That guard thing is going to be a common thing around here,” said Rossetti): sophomores TayShaun Hawkins and Curtis Spruill, juniors Rayvon Moore, A.J. Horton, Adgrikist Floyd and John Davide and senior Te-Andre Pope. A pair of forwards, senior Justin Dicks and junior Christian Campbell, are also new to the squad.
As has historically been the case, Riverhead doesn’t have much in the way of height. The 6-4 Dicks and 6-2 Wilkinson are two of the team’s taller players.
“What we lack in height, we’re going to put forth in effort,” Rossetti said. “Height has been something that we never really had, so it’s something we’re used to. We’re going to have to trap and press, and most importantly, we’re going to have to take care of the basketball … We’re really focusing on team defense right now. That’s really our focal point because we have to help out with our lack of size.”
Rossetti likes the unselfishness he has seen so far. “In practice, they’re passing the ball a lot and giving guys the open shots,” he said. “Now it’s just a matter of knocking them down.”
Riverhead will play in League II, where Rossetti said Commack and Bay Shore look like the top two teams.
How realistic would reaching the playoffs be?
“Obviously, you start every season with that as a goal, but right now I think it’s too early to make a determination,” Rossetti said. He added: “Hopefully, we mesh, we grow and we develop. I expect positive things from this group.”
Shoreham-Wading River’s 4-16 record from last season is a little misleading. The Wildcats were competitive in most of their games in a tough league and lost some close ones. Coach Kevin Culhane has seen some good things in the way of offseason workouts and SWR winning the Town of Brookhaven Summer League varsity championship.
“I think we improved steadily as last year went on,” he said. “We lost some tough league games last year, but we gained invaluable playing experience … I think the players started putting things together and realized that we could be a very competitive team.”
When it comes to competitiveness, look at Tom Bell. “He’s a tremendous competitor, always trying to get himself to be a better player, and he has put a lot of work in to be a better player,” said Culhane.
Bell, an All-League junior point guard, averaged 13.5 points and three assists per game, hitting 36 three-pointers in 20 games.
Senior guard Cameron Loschiavo (5.4 points, 20 three-pointers), junior guard Tristan Costello (five rebounds) and junior center Adam Gawreluk are returning starters as well.
More experience comes from senior forwards Chris Baumeister, Aidan Drost, Antonio Maccaro, Peter Flanagan and senior guard Jacob Vogel. Junior forward David Tedesco, who missed the entire 2018-19 season with a foot injury, is back.
The newcomers are guards Brendan Sicari, Thomas McInnes and Joe Dwyer, guard/forward Cayden Mulroy, forward/center Max Calovi and forward Sean Telly.
“I think they gained a lot of experience and I really think that will be the impetus for getting us going,” Culhane said. “The team is very tight together. They’re friendly with each other and they support each other.”
SWR competes in League VI, which includes defending champion Miller Place, Amityville and Suffolk Class A champion Wyandanch.
“I think our league top to bottom might be the toughest league in Suffolk County,” Culhane said. “There’s a lot of good teams. There’s a lot of solid teams and a lot of solid coaches. Our league is going to be extremely competitive. There are going to be no easy games.”
Photo caption: RIverhead guard Albert Daniels is faced by two defenders in last year’s playoff game. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)