Monday, December 29, 2014

Uno En Uno With: Nick DeGennaro, Yorktown Hoops

Yorktown's crafty junior point guard Nick DeGennaro takes special solace in one crucial fact about last season: It's over.

DeGennaro's frustration compounded during a 10-game losing streak that saw Yorktown fall deeper and deeper into an abysmal funk. Spotty substitution patterns, a lack of continuity, and a team that failed to sustain a four quarters focus couldn't seem to catch a break.

 DeGennaro quelled the rising exasperation when he banged a deep, game-winning straight-away 3-pointer against Hastings.

This summer, the cerebral 5-foot-10 point guard channeled last year's misery into a competitive edge that's still growing, growing, growing.

A 24-point performance against Albany Academy this past summer helped propel him to a new offensive stratosphere.

He scored in clusters during that grit-gauging battle at the House of Sports, draining four straight 3-pointers and engineering an individual 8-2 surge during one crucial transition.

He's been a different player since.

 DeGennaro announced his presence from the jump this season, dropping 18 points on border town blood rival Walter Panas en route to a merciless 51-37 drubbing. DeGennaro dropped 25 points on the strength of six 3-pointers, dealt out five assists, and pulled down four boards in a 61-47 defeat of athlete-laden John Jay-East Fishkill.

At the Harry Jefferson Showcase in White Plains, DeGennaro kick-started the Huskers offensively in the first quarter, scoring eight of their first 13 points. The Huskers held on for a 55-45 win.

In the second half, DeGennaro took it upon himself to create for burgeoning 6-foot-7 Center Mason Dyslin and kick in passes. DeGennaro's ability to quarterback an offense and create high-percentage buckets with needle-threading dishes has been the true draw of his game since he was a freshman, called up to varsity from J.V. during the final six games of the season.

Yorktown improved to 4-1 with a 43-34 win over Lakeland, a jarringly ugly and foul-plagued win.

The kid they call "Dege" is stoked with a new confidence. He's motivated by a desire to prove he's good enough to belong in the pre-season rankings that area prognosticators left him out of. The fuel stemming from those perceived slights, along with the level of confidence first-year head coach Kevin Downes has ingrained in him, has spawned DeGennaro's rapid evolution.

The progression of Dyslin has helped. He went off for a career-best 35 points in an 87-83 OT loss to Peekskill, a performance that's built a new psyche in the Vassar-bound big. Dyslin's 21 points in the Mamaroneck win showed promise, and the big fella has been working for his shot more off manipulative post moves.

Balanced by a feathery 18-foot sling shot and an ability to take bigs away from the paint with a short-range game, Dyslin has cultivated a go-to-guy presence. Downes has said since the summer that the offense will run through the long, versatile senior.

DeGennaro is a firm believer in the self-fulfilling prophecy. If he can keep training his mind to believe that he's one of the best guards the area has to offer, sooner or later the thoughts and words will leak into the right results. He's imparted this no-fear philosophy onto Dyslin, his teammate dating back to the youth years. This is a new swagger visible in these Huskers, once a virtual punching bag in Class AA.

The mentality change was noticeable over the summer. Training with high-caliber guards such as Matt Ryan, Mike DeMello, and Walter King reminded him of where he wants to be as a player. Working with highly-reputable trainer Aldo Redendo, the founder of NY Pride AAU has helped DeGennaro refine his shot and create the right space to dial in from downtown.

Redendo, as effective and high-wired as any motivational coach across the Section 1 landscape, is known to make coffee look nervous.

With his unbridled energy channeled into hours of controlled labor, Redendo's workouts maximize the conditioning aspects. He works exclusively on fundamental aspects such as handling, shot selection, spacing, timing, and pick-and-roll acumen.

DeGennaro, who keeps tabs on Section 1's past and current, doesn't need to thumb through Jordan highlights or Pat Riley speeches to find motivation.

 The main source?

A taped film of the 1999 Hastings basketball team's Section 1/ Class C victory over Ardsley in the County Center. DeGennaro has watched the video time and time again.

He was two when it happened, but watching the video at a furious pace since he started playing high school ball has brought the game to life. That memorable Hastings team was coached by his father, Joe DeGennaro.

Those Yellow Jackets were led by an undersize 6-foot-4 forward in Farid Johnson, who outdueled All-Section sophomore Dave Brown in one of the best small-school battles of recent memory. That Hastings team was buoyed by deft outside shooting from guard Chris Testa and an inside toughness from a mountain man in 6-foot-3 forward Kern Mojica. Mojica went on to play Division-I football at New Hampshire.

 Watching Hastings' depth (the Jackets played 11 guys comfortably) and the eruptions across the bench on every big play has always extracted chills from DeGennaro. It also serves as a daily and all-purpose reminder of his end goal.

DeGennaro remembers visiting the County Center in late February and early March of last year. Two of the teams playing on the Section's grand stage, Putnam Valley and Rye Neck, were once downtrodden, dungeon-dwelling doormats stuffed in the County's lower percentile. This gave him some perspective.

CLICK HERE to continue reading