Summer leagues give young Huskies time to gel and work together

first_imgBY MATTHEW ROCCO Correspondent The Matawan Regional High School boys basketball team wrapped up its summer schedule, using offseason games as a way to get its young players acclimated to the high school game.Injuries and disciplinary measures left the Huskies with little depth last season, as the team finished with an 11-14 record. This year’s rising starters got plenty of experience in that down season, however.Matawan Regional participated in a team camp at East Brunswick High School and went 4-4, then played at Rider University and finished 6-2 in a weekend camp. The team played in more than 30 games during the summer schedule.“It gave us a chance to gel and work together,” head coach Tom Stead said. “We kind of defined some roles over the summer. We use the summer as a chance to have new kids step up and emerge as leaders.”The Huskies were moved to the Class B North Division of the Shore Conference from Class A Central, a shift that puts Matawan head-to-head with Neptune High School, Long Branch High School, Red Bank Catholic High School and Freehold High School. Stead explained that the game moves at a faster pace in Class B North, but his team is prepared for the challenge.“Those teams [in Class B North] are more athletic and fast-paced. It’s more of an up-and-down game,” he said. “We’re going to run, press and trap on defense.”Stead also indicated that Matawan’s backcourt will be improved this season, noting that the loss of Larry Smith, who scored 21 points per game last season, is a “big void to fill.” Junior guard Kashaun Barnes, who is also the varsity quarterback on the football team, showed a “total turnaround attitude-wise” during summer games, according to Stead. “It’s like he’s been around a while.”Sophomore guards Joe Piscopo and Jason Dunne settled into their roles as starters this summer, one season after getting more playing time than expected. Piscopo, who suffered a concussion in a game against Holmdel High School last season, emerged as a defensive standout in his freshman year. Junior guard Chris Tawiah is slated to be the sixth man for the Huskies.The lone senior starter, Ian Phillip, will be up front with junior power forward Nick Tomkins.“They are big, solid, tough kids,” Stead said of Phillip and Tomkins. “We’re not going to get pushed around up front.”Matawan will continue to host the Huskies Christmas Tournament, now with St. John Vianney High School and Old Bridge High School added to the list of participating teams.The move to Class B North will change the dynamic of Matawan’s regular season. Although the Huskies will be playing a different type of game, Stead knows his team will be prepared for the matchups the new season will provide.“I’m looking forward to playing teams like Neptune, Long Branch and Freehold Borough. Red Bank Catholic and Long Branch are better, and Neptune is Neptune,” the head coach said. “I think we are a little more prepared for the speed of the game. We should be slightly over .500 and ready to compete in the postseason.”last_img read more