Sunday, February 9, 2014

Eastchester's Daly Chooses Middlebury


As soon as Jack Daly touched foot on Middlebury soil, Eastchester’s high-scoring senior guard felt right at home.

The constant confidence Middlebury head coach Jeff Brown expressed in Daly’s game, a streak of six straight NCAA tournament berths, and a souped-up attack mirroring the style at Eastchester helped spur Daly's decision.

“(Coach Brown) thinks I can come in right away and have an impact on the team immediately, which is something a recruit wants to hear,” said Daly, a 5-foot-11 lefty and 1,000-point scorer for the Eagles.

 “The academics and the atmosphere definitely sold me. The basketball powerhouse they have become over the years definitely made it a top choice.”
As did the local Section I flavor.
Former Valhalla forward James Jensen has evolved into a key presence at guard/forward for Middlebury, now 14-7 and 4-3 in NECSAC action.
Also helping sell Daly was assistant coach Kyle Dudley, the former Scarsdale guard who authored a four-year career with the Panthers.
Brown, who owns a 257-158 career record, hails from Rockland County.  
“It felt like a second home to me,” said Daly, who bludgeoned New Rochelle to the tune of 24 points and 11 rebounds in a 76-62 victory last month.
“Once you get that feeling, it’s the perfect fit. I knew this would be a great place to spend my life and basketball career at for the next four years.”
The emergence of All-Section sophomore guard Benny DiMurco and scoring threats such as Mike Milo has vaulted Eastchester into the realm of basketball relevance.

Daly scored 32 points and Milo dropped 29 during the Eagles wild, come-from-behind 82-79 win over vaunted and underrated Woodlands on Sunday.

The Eagles punched a ticket to the Section I Final Four at the County Center last season, ending an excruciating 39-year drought.

The Eagles were bounced by Poughkeepsie, 61-48, a loss that has lingered only to fuel motivation for an anticipated return trip.
 Working For It
When Hudson Valley pieced together its 12-man roster for the 2013 summer BCANY games, the skeptics were quick to surface.
 Hudson Valley seemed undermanned and undersized. The absence of dynamic 6-foot-5 forward Kai Mitchell didn’t do much to sway the critics.
One Johnson City area newspaper projected BCANY would get hammered by 20 points in the quarterfinals. What Hudson Valley lacked in size they masqueraded with sturdy, confrontational defense.
Daly was crucial in Hudson Valley’s tournament-long commitment to 94 feet of in-your-chest pressure.  Alongside backcourt companions Rickey McGill of Spring Valley and Mike DeMello of White Plains, Daly created hazardous passing lanes and a swarming press.

The hounding of this trio, along with Hudson Valley's commitment to surrendering individual totals to play as one, exceeded the minimal expectations. Hudson Valley earned a berth in the tournament title game.
Daly’s thought process has changed over the last six months.

Once simply content with the program's revival, he now sees this Eagles team leaving the stamp of the Mount Vernons, the Peekskills, and the Iona Prep teams he grew up watching as a youngster.
“Those teams always played on the big stage and to think that I am on the big stage now is a funny feeling,” Daly said.
“Watching those teams back in the day, I never heard much about Eastchester basketball. But to think that has changed, it shows how much hard work and dedication my team and I have put in over the last four years to turn the program around.”
Daly's four-year veteran status helped ready him for the leadership role under reigning Section I Coach of the Year Fred DiCarlo.

Becoming physically stronger, more aggressive defensively, and putting up a fusillade of shots until his arms grew stiff helped ready Daly for his senior season.
Don’t Argue With History
Several players have shined at Eastchester, once the unsung stepchild bordering perennially potent Mount Vernon and plenty-tough Tuckahoe.

Few have authored as much success in a four-year period as Daly.  
Once a program stuffed in Section I’s lower percentile, Eastchester came roaring out of mediocrity during the 2003-04 season.
 The Eagles halted a long and excruciating playoff drought, altering the program’s culture in the process.  That squad was piloted by Eagles current assistant coach, Joe Cirasella, who combined with teammate Allie Abatiello to form a deadly high-volume scoring tandem.
The offensive flow was orchestrated by a heady 5-foot-8 point guard in Eddie Ryan, who triggered a high-low attack and pocketed jumpers when Cirasella and Abatiello were slapped with triangle-and-twos.
 The Eagles frontline was fortified by a bruising forward in then-senior Brendan Brucale, who provided interior buckets and opened up seams with big, enforcing picks.

Safeguarding the house and bodying up for supremacy on the glass was Mike Breznicky, a behemoth of a Center who played football at Fordham.
The program’s pulse was recharged. When Daly arrived at the doorstep as a spindly freshman seven years later, he earned a roster spot on varsity.

Partly at his veteran status (he's the longest-tenured varsity player) and partly at the program's resurgence, Daly wants nothing more than a storybook ending.
“I knew this was going to be our year, so we just put in that much more work,” Daly said.