Monday, December 8, 2014

Scared Sophomore No More, Young Foley Is The Man At Mahopac

Last season, Dan Foley saw immediate playing time as a supplementary player in a defensive-minded system that really empowered a dynamic inside-outside punch. There were times when Foley's potential shined through, such as the Indians wild 43-40 loss to Mount Vernon in the Section 1/Class AA championship.

The 6-foot-2 southpaw had a few critical hustle points around the rim, taking the pressure off 6-foot-5 man-child Ryan Simone as he drew feisty double teams in the low post.

There were other times when Foley displayed a feathery mid-range touch, canning 15-foot jumpers with smooth and quick release.

Yet there were other times when Foley looked like a scared sophomore, with his coaches demanding he buckle down and turn up the focus. 

If Foley didn't know what he was capable of then, he sure does now. 

The junior scored a team-best 22 points as Mahopac registered a season-opening and foul-littered win over Peekskill, before a lively and amped up "MANIACS" student section. Foley found his offensive engine in the second half, pocketing 3-pointers and scoring via mad dashes to the rim.

"Last year I was out there more for my defensive presence than anything else," said Foley, now a brick bunkhouse-built athlete with the aptitude to have a hand in every play on both sides of the court.

"During the off-season, I really improved my ball handling and shot."

These adjustments have assimilated Foley to playing up top, where he can operate as a physical guard who can set big hard screens and get to the rim. He'll also play on the wing, where he'll have the freedom to create space and surge to the rim and score those tough, bulldozing buckets the aforementioned Simone was known for.

The Indians lost veteran leadership and nearly 70 percent of its scoring from last season, though Foley and the new blood ensured the program is very much intact.

Again, there is a core of rugged athletes who will force foes into tough shots and elicit jarringly ugly performances. 

Foley now understands nobody on this team can run scared and defer. His scoring and ability to bulldoze his way to the rim will parallel the team's success this season. Foley was the engine helping propel Pac in the season opener, taking over during crucial transitions.

 He had help from Christian Donahoe, who added 18 points in his debut. Chris Esernio, a long 6-foot-5 senior guard/forward, displayed the perimeter game that will help 'Pac stretch out foes this season.

A lockdown defensive specialist in Aiden Hynes and interior banger in Brandon Davis will help 'Pac continue its theme of workmanlike, physical basketball, with a knack for picking up 50-50 balls and influencing, altering, and manipulating shots with amplified pressure and face-guarding.

Beyond first-year Indians head coach Jim Harter, a no-nonsense tactician who comes in with lofty aspirations and a resume that dwarfs most coaches in Section 1, Foley has a motivational source in his older brother, former Indians forward and three-sport stud T.J. Foley.

"Dan's game has grown tremendously," said Foley, a rugged forward known for defensive harassment and hustle points on the 2010-11 Indians, which snapped an 11-year County Center drought.

"He's obviously put on some muscle which makes him even tougher. With a year of experience and a season as starting QB under his belt, he finally has the confidence to step up and be that go-to-guy to get a bucket in those clutch situations."

Size, athleticism, and the aforementioned soft lefty touch has made him a viable offensive threat.

Foley, who now plays lacrosse at Drexel, cemented his 'Pac legacy with clutch characteristics during the Indians' 7-5 Section 1 lacrosse championship victory over Lakeland/Panas in the 2011 Section 1 championship.

Foley dropped the go-ahead goal, a dramatic catch-and-pop that broke a 4-4 deadlock. He also blasted the insurance pop with 5:35 remaining, as Mahopac seized a 6-4 edge against All-American Conor Prunty and hell-on-wheels quick Robbie Caffrey.

Heroics gained, championship attained.

His senior season was a memorable one for the Indians, as Foley helped pioneer the Indians to Section 1 semifinal wins in football and basketball.

Back to the future.

T.J. is there with a text or a quick call before nearly every game and scrimmage, quick to make an appearance back at the old stomping grounds when he's on winter break.

"I give him some advice that I learned through my own experience at Mahopac," T.J. Foley said.

"I also let him do his thing, because he clearly has the "it" factor. He's got the 'I'm going to get the job done' mentality that only a few players have."