By MIKE SMITH
Despite featuring eight returning players from last year’s playoff squad, Harrison’s basketball team isn’t taking anything for granted this winter. With a tough league schedule and a lack of size on the roster, the Huskies will have to outwork the competition if they want to find their way back to the postseason in 2016.
Last year, the Huskies posted a 14-6 record and advanced to the Class A quarterfinals where they fell to a surging Tappan Zee squad 67-59. Gone from last year’s team, however, are a few key players including Justin Stagg and Joe Nannariello, which will force Harrison to rely on other contributors this season.
“With Justin and Joe, we lost our top scorer and our top rebounder,” head coach Gary Chiarella said. “We’re just hoping that we can have guys step in to those roles.”
The Huskies have no shortage of talent in their returning players, however, with Zach Evans and Jack Hochman coming back. Yet, aside from 6-foot-4 Omar Nesheiwat, Harrison doesn’t have much in terms of length, which will necessitate some changes in the way it approaches games.
Chiarella believes that Harrison’s best chance for success will come from pushing the tempo and forcing teams out of their comfort zones.
“Last year, we got a ton of easy points on second-chance baskets from Joe,” Chiarella said. “Now, our big advantage is going to be our athleticism and the way we press and run the fast break.”
The Huskies won’t have the luxury of easing into their new style of play, however, with tough games on the schedule right out of the gate. The Huskies open the season on Dec. 9 against Roosevelt, and will tangle with White Plains two days later. The Huskies’ annual holiday tournament will kick off on Dec. 17.
“Hopefully we can find it quickly,” Chiarella said. “But the goal is for us to be peaking towards the end of the year.”
Although the Huskies have difficult non-league games on the schedule, including a showdown with Fordham Prep in the Slam Dunk Challenge on Dec. 28, the biggest test they face this year will likely be their in-conference tilts. Harrison’s league is especially tough this season, as Byram Hills, Rye and Eastchester are all deep, veteran-laden squads.
“I’d say personally, this is the most competitive our league has been,” the head coach said. “But hopefully playing in so many close games will make us better and get us ready for the playoffs.”