After getting knocked off in the Manhattan Cup semifinal last year, St. Joe’s believes more depth will help in this year’s playoffs. (File photo)
The 2011-12 season was expected to be somewhat of a retooling year for the St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute varsity basketball team.
With only three seniors on the roster, the squad was a young, junior-heavy team that didn’t have the benefit of experience on its side.
Still, led by senior Reggie Agbeko, the Marauders were able to have a successful campaign, posting a 20-5 record and making a solid run toward the Manhattan Cup. By the end of a long season, the team wasn’t able to keep up the pace it began the year with and fell 62-45 to St. Mary’s High School in a playoff semifinal.
“I think our inexperience last year caught up with us down the stretch,” Mark Simon, Marauders’ head coach said. “We won a lot of games, but we got tired. Down the stretch we ran out of gas with our young players.”
In 2012, a senior-laden St. Joe’s is back, and in even better shape to make a run toward a league championship.
“We used it for our young guys to motivate themselves to get stronger,” said Simon about how last season ended. ”They used that as motivation to get in the weight room a little bit and try to improve on some quickness and some other things.”
Senior Louis Oliveri said that seeing what happened at the end of the season only made players work harder in practice this year.
“It all starts in practice. It’s how we bring the intensity every day,” he said. “Coach has us running (sprints), we can’t dog those. We ran out of endurance, obviously. I feel that now we’re a stronger team; we’re going to be well conditioned.”
Last season, Simon admitted that the team got too comfortable just feeding the ball to Agbeko and letting him work. This year, he plans on having a much different philosophy on offense.
“We need to have balanced play,” said Simon. “Last year, we got to all Reggie toward the end, everything was about Reggie. This club will be far more balanced. We’ve got nine seniors so it’s senior time.”
One of those seniors, Jordan Glover, feels that there will be more of a team concept in how St. Joe’s plays this season.
“This year, we’re looking to move the ball around more — just to be more of a team and get an offensive flow going,” he said. “(We will) run a break a lot more than usual just to try to gel together and find the chemistry between each other to try and get things done.”
The benefit of having nine seniors on the roster means that the coaching staff will be able to go deeper into their bench than usual. It’s a benefit that Simon and his players feel can only help the team down that long stretch run of the season.
“We think we have a good amount of depth, as good as anybody in the league,” said Simon. “We should be able to go eight or nine deep on most nights, and play well. And that helps in a long season.”
Glover feels that the depth of the team will help them stay fresh throughout the year.
“It’s a huge factor because we have a long season — playing to get to the Manhattan Cup and further to the states,” Glover said. “We don’t really have a lot of days off so a lot of players will be playing a lot of minutes each night. It will be helpful to have returning players, and players who can give you quality minutes.”
A key to the Marauders’ success this season will need to be their defense. The team averaged over 10 steals per game last season and is expecting to see that number rise in 2012-13.
“You can’t win if you can’t defend and that’s one of the things that we preach every day,” said Simon. “It is about defense. We’re trying to teach our guys to be aggressive and we’re trying to create points off of defense so we don’t have to set up and run offense all the time.”