Both the Veritas Christian boys and the girls basketball teams placed fourth at state last year, but each has a drastically different outlook from a year ago.
Combined, the teams lost 10 key players and have to build with the remaining pieces, a lot of which don’t have much experience.
The Veritas basketball teams open the season tonight at the Shea Invitational in Manhattan.
Even after a fourth-place finish at state last year, Veritas boys basketball coach Gary Hammer isn’t holding that standard for his young team.
The Eagles lost six seniors from last year, which was basically the whole bench and three out of the five starters.
“I’m not setting the bar that high,” Hammer said. “Our goal is to improve with each game, and hopefully by the time the state tournament rolls around we’ll be playing our best ball.”
The returning starters are senior forward Elijah Penny, who led the team with 12.8 points per game, and junior center Thomas Bachert, who led the team with 7.4 rebounds per game. Everyone else on the team has little to no varsity experience.
Junior Eric Chin will run the offense at the point, with junior forward Andrew Currier and sophomore guard Brody Robinson rounding out the starting five. Leading the bench, which consists of almost all freshmen, is Caleb Holland.
In his third year as head coach, Hammer is facing his greatest rebuilding. He said he expects rough patches from this team, but all he is looking for now is experience and minutes for his budding young players.
“We’re going to have to grow up fast,” he said.
Veritas girls coach Kevin Shelton has to implement a new strategy for this year’s team.
With a thin roster, the Eagles will have hold back their usual aggressive style and control the ball.
“We’ve been a team in the past who liked to pressure and had a lot of players,” Shelton said. “We’re not that deep this year, but I think we have some pretty good skill players, so we have to concentrate on doing what we do better.”
Varitas lost four of its top seven girls from a year ago either to transfer or graduation. The remaining three — Ellen Phillips, Kristen Finger, Madi Bennett — will be playing a lot this season.
“They really got significant minutes last year, and they really started doing a lot toward the end of the year,” Shelton said. “So far in practice this year, they really started leading like I hope they would lead.”
The Eagles, who went 13-11 last year, will have a main rotation of six players, Shelton said. The three expected to step into more significant roles are Brittany Rask, Alison Dover and Joy Brooks.