Transfers Tobias Harris, Tyler Harris and Tavon Sledge not only brought myriad skills to Half Hollow Hills West. They also brought expectations that the Colts will win their first state basketball title in school history. Did they also bring a little pressure?
" Chuck Noll said 'pressure is created by people who are not prepared,' " Hills West coach Bill Mitaritonna said. "Our motto is control today and everything will fall into place."
Can anyone challenge the Colts' place at the top of Long Island basketball this season?
Hills West should dominate League IV with its trio of transfers. The Colts also have five other players who started last season, including impressive sophomore Emile Blackman.
One huge obstacle in Hills West's road to Glens Falls is League I power Longwood. The Lions have already scored more than 90 points in a game three times, and can run with the Colts. Longwood is very deep and very explosive, led by point guard Tajric Boggs, Darien Davis, Paris Parks and Patrick Piasecki.
Other League I challengers include Brentwood, which lost its top scorer for a second straight year when All-Long Island forward J.J. Moore transferred to a Connecticut prep school. But Jean Cherry and Michael Rollins have the Indians off to a flying start. Floyd, led by guard Jarel Johnson, will contend.
In League II, Lindenhurst is delighted that star guard Kamil Parzych has returned from an ACL injury suffered last summer. He is starting to round into his All-Long Island form. Former Bay Shore star forward Gary Williams, a 2,000-point career scorer, returns to coach his alma mater. One player who should benefit from Williams' tutelage is talented junior forward Jordan Allen. Guard Malik Jackson runs the show. Walt Whitman will miss its veteran backcourt, but still has low-post force Myles Jones.
League III is wide open. West Islip, led by All-Long Island lacrosse star Nicky Galasso and Kyle Turri is among those looking to dethrone North Babylon. The Bulldogs are off to a slow start, but with two starters from last year's county champions who also starred for the team's county championship football team, Preshod McCoy and Ian Perez, they'll be there at the end.
League IV is the domain of Hills West, but there are other playoff contenders. Bellport returns rugged Connor Fedge; Deer Park returns long-range shooter Marcus Charlton, and Copiague returns guard Nasha Smith. Riverhead has toughness up front with co-Hansen Award winner Malcolm Cater and Willie Turner.
Harborfields is not only the class of League V, but also very likely the best in Class A. Guard Matt McLeod is the team's high scorer and best all-around player. Forwards Nick Fessenden and Matt Curry provide inside strength. Kings Park will challenge with sharpshooter Sean McCarthy. Islip will be tough when Andrew Oberg returns from a broken hand.
Perennial League VI power Amityville relies on high-scoring guard Darien Croft, but will need help up front. Bayport-Blue Point looks like the best team in League VI, led by its powerful front line that includes Reid Drzal and Miles Prendergast. East Hampton, guided by Ed Petrie, the second-winningest coach in New York state history, lost plenty from last year's overall Suffolk champ. But versatile Tyler Brennemen is back. Taylor Sowah has Miller Place off to a fast start.
Center Moriches is the favorite in League VII, with point guard Jon Ward-Adams leading the way. Joe Gonzalez provides points inside. Explosive Wyandanch features Qualice Jones and Alexander Williams. Babylon is dangerous because of Jaquan Pate, brother of J.T. Pate, who graduated last year after passing the 2,000-point plateau.
Greenport has owned League VIII for years, but with Long Island's all-time leading scorer, Ryan Creighton, having graduated, along with most of the starters from last year's state runnerup, the Porters won't have it easy. Superb junior Dantre Langhorne, who can score, distribute and rebound, leads the way.