Boys basketball preview: Improvement will be goal

Junior Will Bracken, left, junior Jack Gallagher and senior Liam Rooney are captains of the 2012-13 Joel Barlow High boys varsity basketball team. The Falcons will have some work to do to bring the team up to varsity speed but have a fair amount of height as well as a new coach to guide them through the season.—Kathy Hickling photo

The Joel Barlow High boys varsity basketball team will have no shortage of work to do as it prepares for the 2012-13 season.

Not only do the Falcons have to fill several holes left by players who have graduated, many of their returning ones must get ready for the varsity level. They also have a new head coach to guide them.

The kids have a good attitiude,” said first-year head coach Matt Whelan, whose team started practice last week. “They work hard in practice.”

A former player at Ridgefield High and later at Gettysburg College, Whelan was also the assistant boys coach at Weston High last year. At Barlow he replaces Seth Babikian, who led the team for five seasons.

More than 40 prospective players tried out for the program, which includes varsity, JV and freshman teams. The Falcons have already made cuts and will keep about 15 on the varsity level. A few will also play JV when necessary.

With their first official game a week away the Falcons will make good use of that remaining time with a couple of srimmages against Fairield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference (FCIAC) teams such as Wilton and Stamford. They open up in the Danbury Tip-Off Classic on Dec. 13.

Barlow has to fill a number of starting spots in its lineup that are now vacant since last season. A year ago the team went 4-7 in the South-West Conference. With a 7-13 overall record, its fell one game short of qualifying for the state Class M tournament for the second straight year.

Since the Falcons graduated five players, including former captains Nolan Stauffer, Steve Michos, Jake Lightman and Wyatt Tompkins. A guard, Stauffer was named to the All-Patriot Division team.

Michos was a forward, as was Lightman, who was an All-SWC honorable mention. Stauffer missed last season while recovering from back surgery.

Guard Anthony Pantalena, center Joey Greenspan and forward Todd Waterman have also graduated.

While not as experienced, Barlow will once again be a mature team with six seniors, including captain Liam Rooney, who played guard last season.

Classmate Phil Moriber, who also played guard, brings extensive varsity experience to this year’s team. Also back are Cooper Brown, Finn Cohane, Kieran Geyer and Grayson Kramer. All should see varsity time.

Junior captain Will Bracken, who played guard last season, is also back, as is classmate and captain Jack Gallagher, another guard. All could have different roles this season.

“We’re still working on that,” said Whelan. “We have a lot fo things to iron out.

Other juniors include Bryce Fey, Adam Koubeck and Jack Shaban, who is recovering from a shoulder injury sustained during football season. Classmate Zach Pompea could be out for the season with a knee injury.

Sophomores who could see varsity time include Jack Pantalena, John Tucker, Chatham Studer and J. R. Richetelli.

“We’re young at the varsity level,” “We want guys doing things the right way and playing hard.”

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