Basketballs bounced between the gym floor and the outstretched hands of players at a recent evening practice for the Shelter Island School boys junior varsity and varsity teams under the watchful eyes and careful instructions of Coach Jay Card Jr. and Assistant Coach Peter Miedema.
This year the varsity has nine players: three sophomores, Daniel Martin, Walter Richards, and Lucas Quigley-Dunning; three juniors, Domenico “Nico” Seddio, Erik Thilberg and Nicholas Young; and three seniors, Luke Gilpin, Daniel Boecklen and Ray Wesley Congdon.
The JV team is slightly larger with 12 athletes. The majority are freshmen, including Bradley Batten, Wyatt Congdon, James Lupo, Nicholas Mamisashvili, Zebulun Mundy, Theo Olinkiewicz, Matthew Strauss and Brandon Velasquez. Rounding out the JV squad are sophomores Luke Lowell-Liszanckie, Keith Taplin and juniors Kyle Burns and Mason Marcello.
Last year the varsity graduated Thomas Lenzer and Evan Thilberg, and while they will be missed, the biggest shoes to fill will be those of Tristan Wissemann and Billy Boeklen. Wissemann and Boeklen earned All-League honors, with Wissemann also named to the All-Conference and All-County teams, and voted Player of League for League VIII.
The 2016-2017 team didn’t achieve its ultimate goal of winning a Class D County championship, losing to the Bridgehampton Killer Bees, the defending New York State champions in the championship game on February 13.
The Islanders finished in third place in League VIII with a solid 8-4 record, behind Bridgehampton and Stony Brook, with those teams going 10-2. Overall, the Indians posted 11 victories for the 2015-16 season.
This year’s crop of athletes have come a long way, according to Coach Card. “They’ve grown taller, faster and stronger,” the coach said at the evening practice, adding there was marked improvement in jumping. Last year, many of them were only “grazing the net,” but now the coach is seeing the same boys reaching above the rim.
The players’ development of skill and strength hasn’t been a case of good luck. They’ve put a considerable amount of time and effort into the sport, the coach said, competing not only during the winter season but additionally playing in spring, summer and autumn leagues.
The boys are continuing to push themselves at practices, the coach said.
Coach Card is primarily concerned about the threats posed by injuries and sickness.“Those two things are very important for us,” he says, “We can’t be injured and we can’t be sick.”
The coach said he’s “excited and enthused for the season,” knowing the competition will be tough, but the team has a real chance to make things happen this year. Coaches Card and Miedema hope to see the team reach, at a minimum, a .500 season, taking 10 of the 20 games on the schedule.
The season opener is at Hampton Bays on November 28 at 4:15 for the JV and 6 p.m. for the varsity. Hopefully, it will be an opportunity for the team to showcase its skills and emphasize the tone of this season: taller, faster, stronger.