Coaches have high hopes for winter sports teams
After a fall sports season riddled with coaching changes, illness and injuries, the winter sports coaches at North Kingstown High School are looking forward to turning the tide and bringing some good things to the table this season.
The coaches were positive about what they are seeing in practices and Injury Fund matches so far this winter.
Head coach Aaron Thomas knew things were looking strong for his team right from the start this year.
“I have been a coach at the high school for 13 years and this was the best tryout depth-wise that I have ever had,” Thomas said. “We had so many strong players that we even kept some of the juniors and seniors on JV, and we don’t usually like to do that.”
After losing front men Jamal Horn and Jamestowner Dom Anderson to graduation last year, Thomas was not sure how his offense would shape up this year. But having three starters – and at least one bench player – who can shoot better than 35 percent from outside the arc has Thomas liking his odds. Senior James Factor held the state record, 48 percent, for three-point shooting last year.
“Our back court is pretty much set. If we had any question mark, it would be about how our front court will do, but I feel pretty good about that, too,” Thomas said.
Last year’s team finished with an 11-7 record in Division I south and lost in the play-off quarterfi- nals.
The Skippers played West Warwick in a scrimmage match on Saturday, and Thomas said he came away from the game with an idea of what he wants the team to focus on before its first division game.
“We are definitely going to be working on rebounding, both offensive and defensive,” he said.
Thomas has a core group of islanders on the team, including returning players Romil Patel and Steve Santos, both juniors, and newcomers Alex Cole and Tom Stacom.
Cole and Stacom are both senior transfers from other schools. Cole is a military dependent who moved to Jamestown from Arizona.
“At 6 foot, 4 inches, and 185 pounds, Alex was definitely a pleasant surprise,” Thomas said. “He and Tom both need to learn how we run our offense, but once they do, they are both going to be contributors.”
Stacom was a transfer to NK after spending three years playing basketball at rival Bishop Hendricken.
“Tom had to apply for a transfer waiver so he could play right away on our team, which was granted,” Thomas said. Stacom will try to help the Skippers knock his former team off its six-time defending state champion throne. The two teams do not face each other until February, so North has plenty of time to gear up for the competition.
The team’s toughest competition in the southern division is expected to be South Kingstown.
“They are returning three of their starters. And no matter what record either of us has when we play, it is always a great game because they are a rival school,” Thomas said.
No matter who the competition is, Thomas said he expects his team to be in the conversation as one of the top four teams in the state.
“I think when it comes down to it, whatever team meshes the best will have the best chance to win it all,” he said.
The team will travel to Portsmouth tonight for its Injury Fund game. The Skippers first league game is on Friday, Dec. 18, at Chariho and their first home game is Tuesday, Dec. 22, against rival South Kingstown.
The Skippers wrestling team is sporting a little younger look this year, but head coach Howie Hague said he feels pretty confident in the talent the team brings to the table.
“We are a little less experienced this year, but overall, I think we have more solid talent,” he said.
Hague said his team started stronger last year, but he expects the depth of this team to go further and to be stronger at the end of the season than his previous team.
The team isn’t all newcomers, however. The grapplers are returning Jordan Leveille, a junior who finished second in the state last year in the 135 weight class.
Also expected to be a strong contender in the 103 or 112 class is Christian Hiebner. “Christian is a senior, and when you put a senior in those lighter weight classes, they tend to overpower a lot of the other kids,” Hague said.
Freshman Justin Zeramby has a chance to make a name for himself if he can work his way into the starting line-up, Hague said.
“Justin’s older brother, Jason, is also on the team. We like what we see so far from Justin. He seems to be following right after his brother, but it is tough for a freshman to break into the line-up. If he does, we expect good things from him,” Hague said.
The numbers are in the team’s favor, as Hague said he expects to have at least 10 wrestlers place at the state tournament.
The off-season work that a lot of the wrestlers did is paying early dividends, Hague said.
“They are in decent cardio shape already, which is a strength for us, because they seem to be ahead of where some of the other teams are,” he said.
He would like to see them work on their timing and moves, however.
“They don’t have any timing right now. They are a little off their game, their moves aren’t real crisp and they are not in sync,” Hague said. “But, that will come. They work well together.”
With a division realignment that saw Woonsocket move out of the Skippers’ division and Westerly move in, Hague is not entirely certain of how the division will shake out. One thing he is sure of, though, is that the team will be gunning for South Kingstown.
“South is a very well-coached team and they beat us last year by one game for the championship,” he said.
The team will travel to Exeter- West Greenwich tonight, Dec. 10, for its first match.
Be sure to see next week’s Press for a preview of the remaining four winter sports teams.