Sunday, December 21, 2014

Uno en Uno With: Mike Nardone, Yorktown Basketball









The emergence of Mason Dyslin as one of the area's top low-post scoring threats, coupled with the 3-point shooting of dual threat point guard Nick DeGennaro has pumped new life into a program that starved for offense too often last season. Yorktown's streak of ineptitude is over. Since the second half of last season, the Huskers have bounced out of a multi-season basketball fetal position.

No longer marred by inconsistency issues on the offensive end, the Huskers have broke open the 2014-15 campaign with a dependable inside-outside game.

Dyslin's 35-point eruption during a wild 87-83 OT loss against Peekskill has evoked a new monster in the 6-foot-7 behemoth, who's beginning to show his size with refined, back-to-the-bucket moves.

 The same kid who dropped 33 points on Dobbs Ferry as a spindly sophomore, averaging 19.6 PPG that week, has resurfaced. At the same time, DeGennaro has spearheaded the Huskers from beyond the arc.

He busted out for 25 points in a bounce back win against John Jay-East Fishkill, depositing six 3-pointers, and has led the Huskers in scoring in three out of the five games thus far.

While these exploits have been promising, the Huskers will still make its money defensively. After surrendering a whopping 87 points in the aforementioned Peeksill loss, the Huskers have made a constant effort to lock up at all times. At the helm of this clamp down effort have been a pair of veteran seniors in Nick Delbene and Mike Nardone.

Since the summer, when Yorktown made heightened chest-to-chest defensive pressure and rebounding its top priorities, Delbene and Nardone have been the catalysts. They've shouldered the responsibility of marking up the opponent's top scorers.

The amplified pressure helped score a 43-34 win over cross-town blood rival Lakeland on Tuesday. Delbene handled the chore of guarding Lakeland's hot-handed senior guard, Mike Morelli.

That trend will continue as Yorktown embarks on the tougher part of its schedule.

First-year head coach Kevin Downes' system preaches accountability and pressure across the court, with role players such as Glen O'Loughlin, Jesse Bambach, Ryan Hill, and Trevor Bocian supplying quality minutes. The goal is to fracture ball movement, force teams out of their comfort zone, and play a physical brand of basketball that hasn't been witnessed in Yorktown since Keith Thomas was swallowing rebounds and knifing through double teams en route to the County Center.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Pure Hitting's Berrios To Install Program At Elev8







Hitting has never been an exact science.

There are intricacies of the art, mechanics and mental steps required.

For Pure Hitting founder Pete Berrios, one of the world's most reputable hitting coaches, a deep and detailed system predicated on consistency, flow, power, and mental toughness has helped mold hundreds of players at the NCAA level and professional ranks.

The goal is to put Elev8's baseball program on the same plane as its top-shelf basketball program.  Elev8 hoops has thrived under head honcho Gannon Baker.

 Baker, an NBA skill development coach, has worked out league poster boys such as Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams.

He'll work alongside Luis Alicea, the program's executive director of baseball, to revitalize the program.

A local basketball and baseball star out of Detroit, Berrios has been a hitting instructor for 25+ years. The swing doctor has lofty aspirations to build Elev8 into the area's "unrivaled factory for skill development," with heavy emphasis on a fundamentals first brand of baseball.

He'll establish a program with elite-level baseball and softball travel teams, spring training camps for high school and college teams, scout days and college showcases, national tournaments, countless camps and clinics, in-house leagues, Pro Touch Defensive Skills training, performance pitching, and several other components.

Berrios' high-intensity one-on-one work, has rectified the swings of numerous MLB players.

What makes him a viable choice to bring Elev8 back into the national spotlight?

"Pete's system breaks hitting down, the program and the education that he could provide is top-notch," said Ryan Christenson, who starred at Pepperdine and played professionally from 1998-2003, winning a World Series with the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks.









"The real value of the program is that it breaks hitting down and brings fundamentals. These are seen by all the great hitters. Players can see that. They can touch it. It's tangible. They can feel it in the drills that they do. Hitting is Pete's forte...As long as he continues to show the passion and knowledge he has for the game, he'll be a great fit at Elevate. That's one of the strengths he has. He's a very passionate individual and very communicative."

Hitting through the rigors of a long spring, summer, and fall season can be an arduous and mentally taxing task. In his system, Berrios provides a calming influence that helps guide players through the process. He's confident his long-lasting relationships with MLB-level managers as well as high-major college baseball and softball coaches will create an advisory board and re-charge the baseball pulse in South Florida.

"What Pete has done entails a lot of research," explained Matt Kata, who played with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers and trained with Berrios.







"His work involves a lot of talented players and involves picking their brains, being able to see what works and what doesn't work for feedback. Pete has developed an effective system and approach towards hitting. You combine the fact that he's created a system made up of very clear goals and what you're trying to accomplish, it creates a great formula for the player to understand himself as a hitter."

Berrios leans on one specific motivational maxim, which he's made his mantra: "Greatness awaits for those who commit."

If he can help players commit to Elev8, which has the right facilities and amenities to escape obscurity and become relevant again, these words could prove prophetic.

"Pete's journey has been a long one and that experience has put him in position to build something up," said Kata.

"He has the knowledge and the experience. He'll help players climb up the ranks. I don't think it will take long, once people start to get around Pete to see his passion and see his knowledge for the game and see how hard he works everyday. Ultimately, you'll see the results. He makes a huge impact in a short amount of time."

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Uno En Uno With: Connor Thomann, Croton Basketball

An influx of sophomore talent and waves of depth have allowed Croton to reduce the impact of losing 6-foot-5 Patrick Gallagher this off-season. Gallagher, the team's top scoring threat last season, transferred to a prep school this summer.

The Tigers appear to be filling the loss by committee. A new group, bolstered by discipline and attacking in waves and waves, is off to a promising 3-0 start following a 66-35 slaying of MLK earlier this week.

While longtime head coach Bill Thom has reloaded and rebuilt around new blood, the Tigers have discovered a quiet senior leader in 5-foot-8 guard Connor Thomann. Though soccer may be his true calling card, Thomann has found his niche as a calming influence with the ball in his hands. The senior was poised down the stretch of the Tigers' 54-47 come-from-behind win over Alexander Hamilton in the Elmsford Classic.

After dealing out five assists in a win over John Jay the previous night, Thomann connected on all four timely shots as the Tigers overcame a third quarter deficit. He drilled a deep 3-pointer, a long jumper to beat the third quarter buzzer, and a nifty Euro step layup amid swarming hands.

Patience, perseverance, and pose have been three traits synonymous with the gritty guard. He's had to ditch his demure side in high-pressure moments, as the onus is on Thomann and fellow veteran T.J. Searight to take game management issues into their own hands.

"He returned from a mild-mannered Connor Thomann into Superman and just took over the game," Thom said.

"He's the kind of kid you'd love to have as a son. He's polite, hard-working, does well in school and is just an all-around great kid."

A three-year varsity player and honor student, Thomann's workmanlike and unassuming style sets a precedent for this young core.

 Thom said he's capable of playing 11-12 guys comfortably, an advantage he hasn't had in recent memory. Thomann's work ethic and introverted style has earned him the nickname "Clark Kent" from his coaching staff. He may not have the flashy side to his game, but the battle-tested senior finds a way to get it done.

Thomann On Team Identity

One of the unique things about our team is we have a lot of depth, we carry a lot of guys. There's always an overall team effort and so far we've had overall team wins. On this team, anyone can step up on any given moment. We just played freely and stepped up on defense en route to the wins.

On Young Blood

We've got a lot of good underclassmen that could play. They want to step up right away. Coach Thom's trying to build a program and a foundation for the future. So, we're going in the right direction. We're 3-0 right now. We're a very disciplined team and we look to play tough defense and get out quickly on offense. We've got a hard schedule and I think it looks good for us.

On Future Plans

I'm more of a soccer guy. I love playing basketball but I think towards the future I'm looking to maybe walk on to a team. I like Boston College. That's my top school as of right now. I'm waiting to hear back. We'll see how that turns out.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Uno En Uno With, Ty Jerome Iona Prep





Heavy is the head for 6-foot-3, Virginia-bound guard Ty Jerome.

Playing a cerebral brand of basketball, spearheading his team with and without the basketball in his hands, Jerome's flair for the end game helped propel New Heights AAU to a 45-3 record.

Jerome's acumen quarterbacking Iona Prep's movement-centric offense has been evident.

 Whipping around deft and deep passes and putting some zip on the ball, Jerome has helped accelerate the Gaels' breakneck run-and-gun game.

Jerome proved his stock's worth this summer, playing with an innate nose for the open man.

 His knack for delivering the right pass and steering the pressure cooker with clutch shots allowed his basketball IQ to garner more and more attention across the country.

Several game-winners and timely 3-pointers amid rising pressure put Jerome on a different stratosphere.

The 17-year-old's basketball know-how enabled him to become a calming influence. Iona Prep bounced back from an erratic and irregular performance in a loss to St. Ray's, scoring an 80-64 win over upstart Saunders at the Harry Jefferson Showcase tournament this weekend. Jerome submitted a game-best 27 points and snared 10 rebounds.

Columbia, George Washington, Harvard, Rutgers, Hofstra, Creighton, Temple, and Notre Same all upped their interest in June. Holding a 96 GPA at one of the area's top-stratum academic schools certainly didn't hurt.

A text message from Greg McDermott made Jerome's day, also instilling a mountain of motivation.

Ultimately, it was the tight bonds at the University of Virginia that pushed Jerome to finalize his decision.

Virginia head coach Tony Bennet was in persistent pursuit of the heady point guard all summer.

A lead guard himself during his heyday, Bennett played with the Charlotte Hornets teams of the early 1990s, operating an offense featuring a young Larry Johnson, UConn legend Scottie Burrell, and dimunuitive guard Muggsy Bogues.

Jerome On The Team Identity And Aspirations

From this start, we learned how good we can be if we do things the right way. I think most importantly, we just need to play hard, tough, confident and have fun. We need to enjoy all of this. We are very motivated to win a championship...who isn't? But, we just want to focus on winning the next game right now. The regular season's wins or losses don't matter in March. They don't even matter the day after the game. 

Every game starts on defense for us. If we rebound and play defense, which we are capable of, we can be very good. Our offense feeds off our defense. When we rebound and push the ball, we are hard to guard and it's easy to share the ball in transition. 

On Choosing Virginia

The facilities, coaching staff, and team sold me on the school right away. The facilities are off the charts. The coaches are unbelievable and they are very confident in my ability. And, the team chemistry is off the charts as well. They are a family on and off the court and I can't wait to be a part of that. 

On Areas of Improvement

I worked at getting stronger and faster. I made a big jump physically from last year and it's visible on the court. I still have a lot more improving to do in those categories. 

On Team Focus
All of the role players are just as important as myself, Tom (Capuano) and Matt (Ryan). We are a team and we win and lose as a team. People on our team may have different roles but everyone is equally as important.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Uno En Uno With: Matt Ryan, Iona Prep











It's only fitting that Iona Prep senior Matt Ryan became more enamored with the game during sharpshooter J.J. Redick's illustrious era at Duke.

Eternally tied to Redick, images of the famed Blue Devil rifling in deep 3-pointers, rolling off screens and firing, and throwing a patented shot fake still circulate in Ryan's mind.

Like Redick, Ryan's game is identified with NBA area range. Like Redick, Ryan can reel off a individual spurt after canning 2-3 straight shots, a quick groove urging on an emotional swagger.

Like Redick, Ryan has no problem sprinkling a little trash talk or terse words on the court, should the beef start to cook. And like Redick, Ryan's on a mad dash to dispel the notion he's a "soft shooter."

How's this for growing up fast: By the time Ryan was eight, he stopped playing age-appropriate. By age 12, he copped a starting job on Hen Hud's J.V. team as a 5-foot-10 point guard. By 15, he earned his first full scholarship offer.

Ryan's regimented ways make him a bit more independent than most high school kids. Since he was little, Ryan was warned to steer clear of followers. Playing for the Westchester Hawks on the AAU circuit, Iona Prep had a significant recruiting tool for Ryan.

 The County Championships were played at the Gaels' home court, where Ryan's shooting became a portent of things to come.

Back to the future.

Ryan adjusted quickly on the fly to high-profile teammates Ty Jerome and Tom Capuano, both of whom played together since the third grade.

Ryan's frustration snowballed last year, as a debilitating torn labrum in both hips. After two surgeries with Dr. Bryan Kelly, a Manhattan-based arthroscopic hip surgeon, the pain is gone. The residual effects are there, albeit they haven't affected his play.

The Notre Dame-signee felt helpless on some nights last season, sweating profusely through a white tailored shirt while relegated to the role of spectator.

In a way, however, it's given Ryan perspective. He now knows how fragile and uncertain a career can really be. He talks about how moments can zip by in blink-quick style and how nothing is ever promised on the court.

The deceptively quick release and pure stroke have rendered the 6-foot-7 Ryan a chore to guard. Studying film and making daily strides to diversify his overall scoring package, Ryan has less of a robotic game.

His focus is on playing more instinctively, putting the ball on the deck more and making his teammates beneficiaries of his presence.

Ryan On Getting Back In Shape

It all goes back to the summer. I did hundreds of miles on stationary bikes from when I had surgery in March until the end of the summer. I swam a lot and did a lot exercises in the pool, which definitely helped. With my jumper, I was outside the week after surgery. I was shooting on my own or with my brother getting my rebounds. Losing my jumper was never a worry of mine.

On Expanding His Game

Getting 10 assists (in a win against Saunders) was a lot of fun. I pride myself on having a high IQ and its only best for my team if I use my skill-set in ways other than scoring. I think I've been displaying different parts of my game like going to the basket against St. Ray's and also hitting stepback jumpers, post-up shots, and dealing out a lot of assists. Me working out and getting stronger has definitely helped my post-up game.

On The Week In review

A few things really hurt us against St. Ray's. I would really like to point out how much potential this kid Sydney Wilson has. I played his jump shot modestly and he bagged three of them, that's a testament to the work he's put in.

For us, we shot 3-for-22 from 3-point range. That just isn't us. It can't happen again. It won't happen again. Anyone who said we lost because we didn't hit our threes just doesn't have an idea of how that game went, because we were winning for most of the game.

Second, our rebounding was not where it needed to be and I know I have to step up personally in that area. Thirdly, our transition game was nowhere to be found and we made up for that against Saunders on Saturday.

On Teammates Ty Jerome and Tom Capuano

Ty and Tom have been great carrying the load when teams do not let me catch the ball. Us three are really tight friends who yell at each other and criticize each other to the extreme, but remain best friends the next day.

A lot of kids in high school can't do that and will take criticism very personally. We know that anything we say to each other is to either motivate or help each other in some way.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Saunders Looking To Change Culture In Baller-Barren Yonkers


Yonkers is where throwback jerseys are in and prep school attire is out.

 It's an 18 square mile city that has seen countless prodigious schoolboy basketball talents come and go.

Only a select few have panned out, as the city longs for a superstar to call their own.

Names such as Jim Bostic, Bernard Toone, Devon "Kobe" Baker and most recently Iowa State guard Dustin Hogue are all examples of local talents who've made it to the grand stage, though wistful reminders of what could have been are everywhere.

The vast number of schools in the city, the merry-go-round style in which kids transfer and the lack of feeder programs and funding have created a severe talent deficiency the last 20 years, with Yonkers paling in comparison to the baller-laden city bordering it.

There have been calls to combine programs together and empower the city's elite with one top-shelf team.

 While those hopes may never come into fruition, the ever-evolving program at Saunders has injected much-needed life into this side of Section 1.

 The Blue Devils were once a veritable punching bag for programs such as Mount Vernon.

They were once a product of their environment, another congested school with a program that lacked the commitment, lacked thr discipline, lacked the personnel, and lacked 12-month focus. Like others alongside it, Saunders played in a bandbox little gym before pin drop quiet crowds.

 The essential team tenets, all necessary to become a reputable force, were virtually non-existent.


Times have changed, the pages of program history are suddenly bound to be rewritten.

"If you can get the city's best players on one team, you're going to win," said Blue Devils head coach Anthony Nicodemo.

"We're at the point where the best players in the city now are on our team. However that worked out, it worked out. It certainly wasn't something that was going to be a one-year thing."

The Blue Devils nearly sent shockwaves throughout the Section this week, going eyeball to eyeball with Spring Valley in a 74-72 loss.

Spring Valley, led by one of the Section's most established inside-outside tandems in Rickey McGill and Kai Mitchell, recovered after almost spitting out a double-digit halftime lead under Saunders rising pressure.

And though the game exemplified the sheer man-child that is jack-of-all-trades forward Kai Mitchell, who turned in a quadruple double (15 points, 19 rebounds, 10 assists, 11 blocks), it opened additional eyes to electrifying Blue Devils guard Derrick Felder.

Felder scored 22 points, grabbed 10 boards, and pick-pocketed eight steals.

 Since he arrived at the doorstep as an introverted freshman two seasons ago, Felder has led Saunders in points, rebounding, steals and assists.

With slashing ability, athleticism, and a diversified scoring aptitude which Nicodemo likens to former New Rochelle guard P.J. Torres, Nicodemo envisioned Felder inheriting some ownership of the Blue Devils this season.

The junior has become more reliable finishing around the basket, showcasing a series of one-handed dunks in practice.

 His coaches and teammates are waiting for Felder to bust out on the break and crush one in a game.

He's developed a touch from behind the arc and Nicodemo has no problem having Felder run the point from time to time, given how rapidly his vision and game sense have blossomed.

Felder put himself on the same stratosphere as the area's elite following a 27-point, 19-rebound outburst against Cardinal Spellman at the Slam Dunk Challenge as a sophomore.

While Nicodemo is cognizant Felder won't ditch his demure side--though he's been trying get him more vocal in practice--he has implored his alpha dog to lead by action. He got a kick out of watching Felder chuck a ball at the wall in practice to make a statement earlier this season--finally a sign of some emotion from the junior.

Felder's game has grown and so has his supporting cast.

Nicodemo can now play 11-12 guys comfortably. The power in numbers has made for some intense in-practice balls.

"Being a deep team has definitely helped us," said Felder, who has an offer from Concordia and a wide variety of D-2 interest in the mix.

"When we're in practice, the teams can get split up evenly and it will be a good war. It gets you ready for big games."

The Blue Devils have plenty of those this season.

 Tomorrow, they entertain a yardstick matchup against vaunted Iona Prep at the Harry Jefferson showcase in White Plains.

The Gaels feature a Division-1 three-headed monster with Matt Ryan, Ty Jerome, and Tom Capuano.

Lacking a J.V. team at Saunders has created a challenge.

Some some will catch the deer-in-the-headlights look during their first dose of meaningful minutes.

The Blue Devils have sidestepped the issue with year-round open gyms.

Nicodemo said putting some freshmen and sophomores on this year's varsity over a few seniors was a tough process, albeit the program is now held to a higher standard.

Workouts start as early as 6 a.m. on some Saturdays and there's major emphasis on a constant basketball schedule from March to October.

Yet for all the program has done reviving itself following years of dungeon-dwelling obscurity, there's still pressure to make up for lost time.

"We have to win a playoff game, we have to get a crack at the County Center," Nicodemo said.

"We run a quality program but the bottom line is I've been here five years and we haven't won a Sectional game. That's always in the back of my mind."

The ardous out-of-conference schedule takes into consideration the talent at Nicodemo and his staff's disposal.

 They want to compete with the who's who's of the Section, but are fully cognizant preparation for late February is the be-all.

Tomorrow, against Iona Prep, Nicodemo will find answers to two vital questions: "How good are we and how much better do we need to get?"


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hot Shooting, High-Low Game Propels Yorktown

Making amends for several of Yorktown's lost opportunities during a soul-sucking 87-83 overtime loss to Peekskill, Nick DeGennaro scanned the rim and buried a deep straight away 3-pointer.

Two possessions later, DeGennaro spotted up from the right corner, firing up a deep corner trey without a hint of hesitation.

Bang.

Yorktown withstood an 11-2 second quarter spurt.

They countered with a contagious third quarter shooting spree, en route to a 61-47 win over aggressive, athlete-laden John-Jay East Fishkill on Thursday night.

The biggest thorn in JJ-EF's side came from DeGennaro's shooting hand.

The junior point guard's fearless perimeter game and Yorktown's renewed commitment to defensive energy busted the game open following a spotty first half.

DeGennaro submitted a game-best 25 points, on the strength of six 3-pointers.

Mason Dyslin, fresh off a 35-point explosion in the Peekskill loss, poured in 16 points.

Dyslin, adapting to a more aggressive scoring role and sporting a new nose for 50-50 balls, is shaping into the interior banger Yorktown so needs him to be.


Showing his 6-foot-7 size and Pterodactyls-like wingspan, Dyslin has kicked the habit of settling for a 15-18 footer and become more proficient around the basket.

After an uncharacteristic series of defensive lapses in the Peekskill dud, the Huskers buckled down defensively.

The Huskers held John Jay scoreless during the first five minutes of the third quarter, a putrid power outage which created a 14-point bulge.

A pair of 3-pointers from DeGennaro and reserve guard Trevor Bocian, as well as a man-sized putback from Dyslin pumped the lead to 44-30.


"I said it from the start, I think our offense has to go through (Dyslin)," fiery Huskers head coach Kevin Downes explained.


"Good things seem to happen when the ball goes inside. Whether it's him scoring, him getting fouled, or teams getting the double and Nicky and other kids getting looks from outside, that's really what has to happen. It's a process to get kids to do that. It's not something I think they've been accustomed to doing."

Crashing the boards, refusing to let the focus falter defensively, and protecting the basketball, Yorktown bounced back.

During his stay at Mahopac, Downes groomed a product rife with bar-room brawling bigs such as Ryan Simone, Brendan Hynes, Mike Simone, 6-foot-8 John Vitkus, Zach Ankier, Robbie Catalino, and countless others.

While Downes may not have the same wealth of rugged, multi-sport athletes, the theme continued on Thursday.

Jesse Bambach provided adrenaline off the bench, canning a pair of feathery mid-range jumpers as Yorktown's motion offense created open looks.

Nick Delbene and gritty off guard Mike Nardone paced the Huskers defensively.

Glen O'Loughlin helped Dyslin in the paint and Ryan Hill played quality minutes off the bench.

John Jay played tall ball in the first half, executing an offense that fed inside cutters.

Forwards Hugh Higgins and Robbie Schumaker, the Patriots' pass-happy quarterback, paced JJ throughout.

 Both players were saddled with foul trouble by the fourth quarter, when DeGennaro's sniping and a collective commitment to feeding the post opened an insurmountable lead.

"We have to be a better defensive team," said Downes, whose team improved to 2-1 heading into Saturday's day-long Harry Jefferson Showcase against Mamaroneck.

The combination of deadeye shooting on their home rims and an effort to kick the ball inside helped Yorktown run away with it, but this team makes its money on intensified pressure.

"We have to be a better defensive team," Downes said.

"I was overall pleased with the effort against Peekskill but you can't give up 87 point and expect to win."

The Huskers will expect to win if they keep forcing teams into irregular performances.

They limited Panas to a one-man band in the opener and instigated a rash of ugly possessions for the Patriots in Thursday's face-saving victory.