Among the five new starters for the Uniondale boys basketball team this season are three seniors and a junior. But it was freshman Jo-Jo Wright who put on a show Thursday against Massapequa.
The 5-7 guard scored 36 points, including eight 3-pointers to lead the Knights over the Chiefs, 81-59 in its Nassau AA-I opener.
“I’m really a pass-first guard so when I get the chance to drive I love to get my teammates involved before I get myself going,” Wright said. “If one of us eats we all eat.”
Wright did plenty of facilitating in the first half, finding teammates for open shots and using his quickness to get to the basket for a few tough layups.
But, with his team only up 36-34 at halftime, Wright really decided to get himself going in the third quarter. He opened the period by banking a 3-pointer and hit four more in the quarter, including one of two Uniondale three-point shots in the final minute that capped a 29-17 quarter for the Knights.
To Wright, being a freshman among a group of upperclassmen looking to repeat as Nassau AA champions isn’t something he even thinks about.
“That’s not really anything to me,” Wright said. “I’m just trying to go out and focus and play my game.”
It wasn’t perfect for Uniondale, as head coach Tom Diana was unhappy with his team's defense in the first half.
“We did a much better job defensively in the second half,” Diana said. “I don’t think we defended well at all in the first half. We didn’t communicate and gave a lot of open looks. They run their offensive stuff really well and are a well-coached team and you can’t give a team like that open looks.”
Massapequa’s Sean Sauter was one to take advantage, scoring 12 of his 14 points in the first half, including a pair of 3-pointers early in the quarter and one late that gave the Chiefs a 34-32 lead. Paul Buonaguro added 15 points for Massapequa.
“I thought our hands were much more active and we got through screens and our help defense was better,” Diana said. “Offensively, we did a really good job but we have to work harder defensively. We’re usually one of the better defensive teams in the region and I’m not seeing that yet.”
Jayden Freeman, one of the new senior starters, who scored 12 points, knows the Knights will continue to make improvements on that end and that will make Uniondale one of the top AA contenders to go up state this spring.
“Our number one goal is to keep getting better defensively,” Freeman said. “That’s what we preach, defensive communication.”