The defending gold medalists from Hudson Valley will begin their defense tonight at 7 against Rochester in the BCANY’s Summer Hoops Festival at Johnson City High School. The event runs through the weekend and will be a litmus test of sorts. Hudson Valley is probably more talented this year, but is the team as prepared?
That will be a question to ponder as the team heads to the Binghamton area today. Below is my story from Thursday’s practice at the House of Sports (which, by the way, is incredible).
In the meantime, here are some links with information on the Summer Hoops Festival:
ARDSLEY — For an all-star team at an all-star type event, Hudson Valley had an unusual amount of familiarity at last year’s BCANY Summer Hoops Festival.
The players had slogged through tryouts, a grueling four-day mini-camp and multiple practices. When they overcame an obvious talent gap to win the gold medal, there was nowhere else to point.
When this year’s team broke practice Thursday night at the gleaming new House of Sports, its time together had been limited. Again, the reason why had been clear: The roster was so awash in talent that aligning schedules around national AAU tournaments proved difficult.
Sure, the defending gold medalists had less time to jell, but they had something else, too.
“We have the same pieces and I just think last year we probably worked together better, but this year we have more, talent-wise,” White Plains senior Mike DeMello said.
When the BCANY’s annual Festival tips tonight in Johnson City, Hudson Valley won’t be nearly the underdog it was a year ago.
Not with the likes of DeMello, Eastchester’s Jack Daly and Pearl River’s Kevin Degnan – three returning players who are all likely to earn college scholarships – and with the presence of coveted Division I recruits like Degnan and the Spring Valley duo of Kai Mitchell and Rickey McGill.
Degnan, a skilled 6-foot-8 forward, has already earned 14 Division I offers. Mitchell, a bruising 6-5 forward, and McGill, an athletic combo guard, are just juniors, but they have garnered scholarship offers as well, including from the likes of Iona and Manhattan.
“I feel as good as when we went up last year,” Degnan said. “We have a lot of guys who can make things happen. It’s the same amount of talent we had on last year’s team and this team plays well together.”
It may need to. Hudson Valley has heeded the warning of head coach Bill Thom, the Croton-Harmon coach, who has insisted the players will face pressure trying to defend their gold.
“I think people are going to try to take the champs down,” Daly said. “That’s going to make us work even harder. Each win is going to be more difficult.”
Last year wasn’t easy, either.
Thom estimated that Hudson Valley was the fourth-best team in the draw but that cohesiveness it developed leading up to the event made a difference.
The contents of the roster should breed some familiarity. Spring Valley big man Jordan Duncan joins teammates Mitchell and McGill. That trio, Degnan and Tappan Zee’s Luke McLaughlin should be well acquainted with one another from Rockland County. Mahopac’s Ryan Simone and R.J. Martinez (a recent Carmel transfer) and Harrison’s Coby Lefkowitz and Rye Neck’s Matt Franks have clashed during the regular season.
The only player without strong ties to the rest of the roster is Palisades Prep’s Isaiah Ward, a talented 6-4 swingman who led the Phoenix to the Class C title last March.
“Last year we just meshed and played very well together,” Degnan said. “All the guys liked each other and knew what was going on in each other’s mind. We could read what one another was doing. This year we can do the same thing.”