Friday, June 27, 2014

Depth, New Bigs To Propel Hudson Valley

An influx of size and a lineup rife with battle-tested seniors has created noise around the 2014 Hudson Valley boys basketball team, which head coach Bill Thom now calls the deepest team he's had since the BCANY tournament's inception.

 Hudson Valley hopes this racket will reverberate to the locker rooms of Adirondack, where the reigning tournament champions are eager to defend its title.

Hudson Valley erased a 15-point first half deficit in that wild championship. The comeback bid was shattered by a clutch, overtime-forcing D'yiare Holt 3-pointer. Hudson Valley's last-gasp 3-point attempt, from just inside the half court mark with 0.3 ticks remaining, fell off the mark in OT.

A dearth of height, length, and size was Hudson Valley's obvious area of exploitation.

They've rectified the issue with 6-foot-9, 225-pound forward Jonathon Nwaknwo. A high-major prospect, Nwankwo is entertaining surging interest from Tennessee, Minnesota, Stanford, and myriad others. Minnesota has been in the most persistent pursuit. Nwankwo has added on to his offensive package, finishing with authority and becoming more explosive.

 The incoming senior's stock heightened following his performance at the NBA Top 100 Camp in Virginia. What started as light interest from Ivy League programs and mid-majors has rapidly become mega high-major interest on both coasts.

Nwankwo, who starred as a menacing shot-blocker and immovable interior cog at Monsignor Scanlan, has utilized a newfound offensive package.

 He'll have a supplementary piece in Andrew Groll, a 6-foot-7 Center from Byram Hills.

 All signs point to Nwankwo becoming a venerable beast-amongst-boys in this year's tournament. Tournament organizers have helped dispel the notion that BCANY is a watered down showcase for Division-III players. The rules have expanded, integrating both prep and catholic school players this summer.

Nwankwo will have a brawl on his hands with 6-foot-6 Elijah Burns out of Adirondack, who torched Hudson Valley in the paint last season.

"We're going to be uptempo because of our depth, the big guys can run the floor so they're not going to get lost in that," said Thom, who had to make some "really, really tough cuts" to chop the roster down to 12.

How will Hudson Valley fill the leadership void left by departed seniors Mike DeMello (White Plains) and Jack Daly (Eastchester), who shrunk the passing lanes and hit high-pressure shots the past two seasons?

Both losses must be filled by committee.

Both Thom and Thom Jr. are sold on combination guard Conor McGuinness (Clarkstown South), a quarterback-styled creator who doubles as a knock-down shooter.

The issue McGuinness creates for  defenses is that he can play both guard sports, giving senior gamer Ricky McGill  (Spring Valley) the freedom to play off the ball and maximize his scoring opportunities.

McGill, a 6-foot-2 and 170-pound Division-I prospect, left his fingerprints on every connotation of the stat sheet in last summer's tournament.

Against Suffolk, which saw Hudson Valley close the door after nearly squandering a 17-point first half bulge, against Buffalo and in the Adirondack thriller, McGill engineered pivotal plays and provided crucial defensive stops.

Expect much of the same.

McGuinness' ability to patrol the point will provide shots for newly-acquired guards Tom Capuano (Iona Prep) and Salim Green (Rye Country Day School). Both are immediate beneficiaries of the decision to incorporate catholic and private school players.

Capuano is a well-built guard who will wear multiple jerseys for Thom, projected as a Patriot League caliber recruit.

"He (Capuano) shot the hell out of the ball the other night," said Thom, referencing Week 2's tryout at Dominican College in Rockland County.

Green, a high-efficiency scoring guard, is another tactical scorer who will play off the ball.

 Green's scoring engine, accentuated by a knack for levitating defenders with a high release point, adds to Hudson Valley's best team on paper.

Thom envisions Mike Jurzynski, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound forward out of the Master's School, as a sleeper.

 A dependable deep jumper and surprising athleticism allows Jurzynski to steer forwards away from the rim.

His role will be similar to that of Kevin Degnan on last year's squad--stretch out the floor, gobble up rebounds, and take scoring matters into his own hands when the moment calls for it.

Hudson Valley could have another beyond-the-arc threat in 6-foot-7 Matt Ryan (Iona Prep), who has been hounded by Duke, Notre Dame, Michigan, and North Carolina, among others.

Ryan, who went under the knife this past spring and is recovering from impingement with torn labrums on both sides, should be near full strength by early August. There is no concrete timetable of Ryan's return, though he's been back on the court recently.

Assistant coach Billy Thom Jr. said the length of Woodlands senior Jamil Gambari is critical, noting the 6-foot-3 guard/forward could provide at least "8-10 points per game" off putbacks and transition run-outs alone.

A first team All-State selection in Class B, Gambari's athleticism will parallel Hudson Valley's speedball attack. The running game was put into use against Buffalo, Suffolk, and in a thorough tournament-opening bludgeoning of Rochester last season.

Luke McCloughlin, another deep shooter who supplemented the lone true big, Ryan Simone, down lone, is catapulted into a prominent role.

"Between McCloulin, Jurzynski and Gambari we can slow it down and pound it inside or we can get out on the run in transition," explained Thom Sr.

The general consensus, judging by a streamline of comments on Josh Thomson's Varsity Insider Blog, is Thom didn't make many quick friends after the roster was released.

The longtime Croton High coach, Thom maintained he did his due diligence, thumbing through countless scouting reports from NYC-based legend Tom Konchalski.

Thom is expecting a commendable performance from McGill, now hell-bent on exacting vengeance on Holt, the 6-foot sophomore guard out of Troy, N.Y.

 Holt, who averaged 22 points and six assists as a sophomore this season, was the engine that propelled Adirondack in last year's final.