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Basketball Preview: Ferris has Red Raiders focused on competing in MMAA

The 2012-13 St. Francis High School varsity boys basketball team includes, from left, first row: Sam Utley, Meng Tingyn, Christopher Shriver, Cory Cullen, Brennan Macey, Conrad Gawronski and Kyle Evans. Second row: David Kennedy, Maurice Burse, Ragan Schichtel, Treyvon Holness, Austin Taylor, Alex Davis, Peter Gozsewski and Yiwen Xie. Missing from photo: Devantie Campbell.

Brian Ferris has already pointed up to the banner inside the St. Francis High School gymnasium to show his players that the Red Raiders have the ability to compete for a Monsignor Martin championship.

The first-year head coach talks about how the 2000 team that he played for as a senior once controlled most opponents they were up against. That Manhattan Cup finalist team he uses as an example of what he hopes this group can start to become in helping rejuvenate a program up against some of Western New York’s best teams in its league.

“When I played here and we were good, what we did is control the tempo,” Ferris said. “We set the pace. We didn’t take what the other team was giving us; if we wanted to play fast, we played fast and if we wanted to slow it down, we slowed it down. We’ll be up tempo and try to get to the hole as much as possible. We’ll make it hard for teams to score on us in transition.”

Ferris is somewhat limited in who he has back from last season, but that doesn’t mean the first-year head coach doesn’t have a plethora of athletic players at a variety of positions. Among those returning are seniors Cory Cullen and Brennan Macey and sophomore David Kennedy, who all saw significant time last season.
St. Francis senior Corey Cullen returns for his third varsity season as the leader of a tall and athletic squad looking to compete in a tough MMAA. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)

In his third year on the varsity, Cullen returns to his spot at point guard and will help as a solid shooter and ball defender, while Macey, a shooting guard, started for most of last season and enjoyed some big games. Also, Kennedy stepped in during the last half of the season at power forward and led the team in rebounds during that time.

“We’ve got inexperience but a lot of athleticism so we’re going to play on that,” Ferris noted.

Junior Maurice Burse, a transfer from Lackawanna, is one of those better athletes who will step into a starting role at forward. Ferris will also have some size with junior Treyvon Holness, a 6-foot-8 transfer from Montreal, and 6-foot-7 Austin Taylor up from the junior varsity. The two will compete for time at the center position.

Coming off an 11-14 season, Ferris said he stressed that the only way St. Francis would once again have a serious program is if it gained the commitment of his players.

“The big thing for the basketball program was to get these guys committed,” Ferris said. “A lot of our guys are multi-sport athletes, but I told them, ‘if you want to play basketball for me, you’ve got to make time.’ These guys worked there butt off over the summer, in the weight room and playing in summer league. These guys committed themselves and I think it’s going to show in our record.”

Ferris brought over Daryl Jones from Hamburg as an assistant and also has alumni Andy Lanigan and Jim Negrych on the staff. Lanigan works at the school and heads the volleyball and tennis programs, while Negrych just got signed last week by the Toronto Blue Jays organization to play Triple-A with the Buffalo Bisons.

“We got a bunch of coaches who played here; I love it;” Ferris noted.

Last year, five teams from the Monsignor Martin, all of whom finished ahead of St. Francis, were in WNY’s Top 10 so to get into that mix will be difficult. But Ferris loves the challenge.

“I walked in and told these guys, ‘if you’re not coming here to win a Manhattan Cup, if you don’t think we can do it, I don’t want you here,’ Ferris said. “That’s our total focus and goal. We’ve got work to do.”

St. Francis 2012-13 schedule
Tues., Nov. 27 vs. Eden                      8 pm
Fri., Nov. 30 at W.S. East               6:30 pm
Tues., Dec. 4 Lions Club Tourney
vs. Lackawanna at Frontier                   6 pm
Fri, Dec. 7 Lion Club Tourney TBA
Tue., Dec. 11 ECIC/MMAA Challenge
vs. Depew at St. Mary’s               4:30 pm
Fri., Dec. 14 vs Lancaster               7:30 pm
Mon., Dec. 17 vs Aquinas               6:30 pm
Sat., Dec. 22 vs Lake Shore         5:30 pm
Thurs., Dec. 27 Jolly Tourney at Will. South
Fri., Dec. 28 Jolly Tourney at Will. South
Fri., Jan. 4 at Niagara Catholic    7:30 pm
Tues., Jan. 8 vs Cathedral Prep      6:30 pm
Thur., Jan. 10 at St. Joe’s               7 pm
Tue., Jan. 15 vs Canisius                7 pm
Fri., Jan. 18 vs St. Mary’s               7 pm
Sat., Jan. 19 at Riverside               1:30 pm
Tue., Jan. 22vs Cardinal O’Hara  6:30 pm
Fri, Jan. 25 at Timon-St. Jude       7 pm
Tues., Jan. 29 at Canisius             7 pm
Fri, Feb. 1 at Archbishop Walsh    6:30 pm
Tues., Feb. 5 vs St. Joe’s             7 pm
Fri., Feb. 8 at Nichols                 6:30 pm
Wed., Feb. 13 vs Global Concepts     6 pm
Mon., Feb. 18 vs Timon-St. Jude     7 pm
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