Coming off a desultory season in which a moat separated the haves — nine teams very early on moved away from the pack to chase eight playoff spots — and the have-nots — seven schools had double-digit losses in league play — the outlook for FCIAC boys basketball this winter is considerably brighter.
There will be fewer easy wins, many more competitive games and a larger pack with postseason aspirations.
The top of the league should also be more balanced. There really does not appear to be a dominant team, though Trumbull and Danbury, last year’s finalists, remain the favorites. The Eagles get the early nod because of a greater number of returning players than the Hatters, the defending champions.
Stamford is a wildcard with a great backcourt, and we have New Canaan sneaking into the tournament this year. Also keep an eye on Greenwich, which will be getting football sack-master Mozi Bici to bang around under the boards.
There are few superstars but many of the top players are pretty close skill-wise.
All of which means we head into the season on a much more optimistic note.
Trumbull. It was easy to forget the Eagles needed to win their final two games, the last against Danbury, just to qualify for the FCIAC Tournament a year ago after a stretch of three losses in four games. Then they made a run to the championship game and a loss to the Hatters.
Trumbull has everyone back and is a hungry team, led by 21-point scorer Timmond Williams and Chris Brown, who handled all the defensive muscle chores inside. Mileeq Green will provide an infusion of speed in the backcourt.
The Eagles also enjoy one of the best homecourt advantages in the league — they were 8-1.
Put it all together and the Eagles get the top pedestal to open the season.
Danbury. The Hatters are another team that can easily be the favorite. They have the preseason player of the year, Denali Burton, whose versatility was a key factor to their FCIAC championship. Javon Hernandez is a strong leader in the backcourt, while Keyon Moore will take on an even larger role.
The graduation loss of Jordon Brown and having Diante Vines transfer hurts. The Hatters’ chances of repeating likely hinges on the maturation of the supporting cast, at this point an unknown.
Stamford. It will quickly become apparent the leading candidate for most improved team is going to need a catchy nickname. Run-BKS? The Black Knights are loaded with backcourt talent. They were the seventh seed a year ago and a few coaches think they should be the favorite.
Jaden Bell leads a great cast that includes Josh Thervil and Jay Jaudon, a possible breakout star. The Black Knights are going to be explosive. A question mark is how they will match up against teams with height.
It is a reasonable worry, but guard play has become a decisive factor and that is where Stamford excels.
Ridgefield. Given the talent lost, especially Brenden McNamara, it would appear the Tigers are headed for a rebuilding season. But this has become a resilient program that now is close to a fixture in the upper to middle part of the league tournament seeds.
James St. Pierre was the most improved player last season and provided an outside complement to McNamara. He will now be in the lead role, which means others need to step up and open the court. A healthy Luke McGarrity is one likely candidate. Chris Knachel is another.
Jackson Mitchell has opted not to play and focus on football, creating a void inside. The Tigers will compensate with quality depth and strong defensive play.
Predicted Order Of Finish
6. Trinity Catholic
7. Fairfield Warde
8. New Canaan
Matt Becker, Fairfield Warde
Denali Burton, Danbury
James St. Pierre, Ridgefield
Jaden Bell, Stamford
Timmond Williams, Trumbull
Josh Thervil, Stamford
Chris Brown, Trumbull
Luke McGarrity, Ridgefield
Zyaire Sellers, Norwalk
Saikwon Williams, Brien McMahon
Ras Fisher, Trinity Catholic
Alex Gibbens, New Canaan
Javon Hernandez, Danbury
Kyle Hyzy, Wilton
Jay Jaudon, Stamford
Oliver Milledge, Greenwich
Danbury: Keyon Moore, Javon Hernandez, Denali Burton, Taylor Heady, Jah Joyner, Jaden Cook.
Darien: Will Rolapp, Ryan Darby, Peter Bredahl, Henry Williams, Alex Quirk.
Fairfield Ludlowe: PG James Bourque, PF Christian Peterson, SG Jadyn Tabois, C Rowan Keesser, SG Jeff Meyers, SG Patrick Kilbride, PF Ian Bentley, PF Jake Northrop, SG Sam Sweeney, SG Patrick Leverty.
Fairfield Warde: G Matt Becker, G Matt Houghton, G Jeff Seganos, G/F Nick Crescione, G/F/C Eli Feay, G Christian Homa, G Brendan McMahon, C Owen Edminster.
Greenwich: F Oliver Milledge, F Gavin Muir, G Billy Nail, G Greg Altamore, F Chris Mark, G Chris Genaro, G Brendan Friel, G Dan Arnold.
Brien McMahon: F/C Saikwon Williams, G/F Justin Lebron, G/F Latrel Stewart, G Micheal Fuller, G Jason Tagariello, G/F Peter Neglia, G/F Justin Longo, G/F Jack Fitzpatrick, G Eric Miller, G Jajuan Wiggins, G/F Alan Gray.
New Canaan: PG Luke Rwambuya, PG Ryan McAleer, SG Ben Sarda, SG Christian Sweeney, SG Aaron Fishman, SF Alex Gibbens, SF Stephen Wronski, SF Matt Brand, PF Jack Richarson.
Norwalk: G Zyaire Sellers, G Jayden Grant, G Rudy Robert, G Dylan Polka, G D’Andre Bullock, G Jahmai Green, G Jamal Boyd, F Aaron Epps, F Tre Lewis, G LoMorris House, G Justin Gibson, F Jake Hufnagel, G Cam Edwards, G Jeremiah Simeon.
Ridgefield: G James St. Pierre, G Luke McGarrity, F Christopher Knachel, F Derek Szpakowski, PG Matthew Misurelli, F Cameron Andry, James Rush, Johnny Briody, Ryan Garson, Nick Hall.
St. Joseph: Dan Tobin, Brendan Kade, Steve Paolini, Paul Fabbri, Jared Grinrod, Ace Luzietti, Jason James, Tyler Dubose.
Stamford: G Josh Thervil, G Jaden Bell, G Tyhiem Burgess, G Rasheed Constant, G Jay Jaudon, G Jalen Lindsey, G Manny Azolin, G Kaleb Souffrant.
Staples: G Jake Thaw, G Dylan Honig, G Benny Feuer, G Evan Vishno, G Dylan Ward, C AJ Konstanty, F Lefty Penderakis, G Teddy Diesnt, G Lucas Basich.
Trinity Catholic: Ras Fisher, Akim Joseph, Rassoul Abakar Hachym, Xavier Riullano, Anthony Anderson, Brian Ceballos, Matt Hennessey, Mike Mohen, Tahjee Morgan, Andrew St. Louis, Brandon Louis.
Trumbull: G Timmond Williams, G Chris Brown, C Evan Gutowski, G Quentar Taylor, G Mileeq Green, G Jack Therriault, G Isaiah Johnson, C Jon Paul Fromegeot, F Dylan Palinkas, G Lance Walsh, C Andrew Cutter, G James O’Brien.
Westhill: Eli Stockman, Anthony Scott, Jack Schlachtenhaufen, Wilmer Guevara.
Wilton: G Nick Kronenberg, F Kyle Hyzy, C Ryan Biberon, G Tucker Walden, G Zayvion Eusebe, G Zach Pozzi, F Reilly Bingaman, F Ryan Schriber, G Andrew Smith, C John Walsh, G Trevor Martines, F Matt Murphy, G Josh White.
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