Boys Basketball

Preview: Trinity Catholic Favorite In Wide Open League Race

Ridgefield’s Luke McGarrity tries to stop New Canaan’s Ryan McAleer on a floater during a game last season. (Mark Conrad)

The level of play may not be what it once was, but few can dispute FCIAC basketball has never been more competitive. Just two games separated the top four teams last year.

That should continue this season. Most agree on the likely top five but the predicted order of finish varies. The favorite, Trinity Catholic, didn’t even qualify for the league tournament a year ago.

There could be as many as a dozen schools in the hunt for playoff berths.

Similarly there are few dominant players but a number of good ones with very comparable skill sets.

The Favorite

Trinity Catholic. The Crusaders had high expectations a year ago, but poor point guard play caused them to fail to qualify for the FCIAC Tournament and barely earn a state tournament berth.

Now Trinity is a heavy favorite to win its first league title since 2008. It certainly will have the most size, led by 6-5 wings Akim Joseph and Rahsen Fisher. Joseph should be a dominant presence.

Malcolm Newman, a 6-2 transfer, should bolster the backcourt. Rassoul Abakar is 6-8 and a work in progress.

The Crusaders are not deep but they also have one other valuable addition: former coach Mike Walsh is back as an assistant after his sabbatical leading the school’s girls team to a state title.

Staples’ Jake Thaw is one of the league’s top returning scorers. (Photo: Gregory Vasil)

The Contenders

Wilton. The Warriors have demonstrated sustainability since Joel Geriak took over as coach, ascending up the standings and staying there. They finished second in the league a year ago before getting knocked off in the conference semifinals and state quarterfinals.

Wilton will have a strong 1-2 punch in sharpshooter Andrew Smith (10.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists) and Kyle Hyzy (8 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.9apg), who like on the football field does a little bit of everything well.

Tucker Walden was a valuable player off the bench a year ago and there are many on the 14-player roster with experience. That depth and height on the inside will help in a realistic title run.

Wilton’s Andrew Smith tries to block a shot by Stamford’s Jaden Bell last season. (Mark Conrad)

Ridgefield. The Tigers, led by James St. Pierre, made an unexpected run to the FCIAC title a year ago. St. Pierre as well as most of the starting lineup is gone, but there should still be strength in numbers.

Luke McGarrity will have a featured role, along with Johnny Briody, Chris Knachel and Matt DeLuca. All contributed a year ago. Ridgefield also gets back James Rush, who missed last year with a torn ACL.

The Tigers are always fundamentally sound and strong defensively. They will not relinquish control of the title easily.

Fairfield Warde. The Mustangs may be the team that is most a microcosm of the conference. They could win the title, they could finish fifth. Certainly the potential for the former is there.

Warde will be led by Brendan McMahon, who averaged 13 points last season. Joey Gulbin, who averaged eight rebounds in 10 starts, is part of a good forward rotation that includes Eli Feay and Dennis Parker.

Keep an eye on 6-4 sophomore twins Justyn and Jordyn Davis. Their development could impact how high the Mustangs finish.

New Canaan. Last year’s feel-good story and Division IV champions, the Rams are certainly not one-year wonders. Alex Gibbens, who came on strong in the postseason (11 for 12 from the floor in the final two state playoff games), averaged 11 points and is joined by point guard Ryan McAleer (6 assists).

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Brandon Sechan and John Hall will be in the starting lineup, but injuries have hurt the Rams so far. Shooting guard Will Bozzella suffered a season-ending knee injury and forward Hank Pohle could miss up to the first month.

New Canaan had as much team chemistry as any team in the state a year ago. That should continue to be an asset.

Predicted Order Of Finish

1. Trinity Catholic
2. Wilton
3. Ridgefield
4. Fairfield Warde
5. New Canaan
6. Stamford
7. Fairfield Ludlowe
8. Trumbull

Preseason All-FCIAC

First Team

  • Jay Jaudon, Stamford
  • Akim Joseph, Trinity Catholic
  • Luke McGarrity, Ridgefield
  • Andrew Smith, Wilton
  • Jake Thaw, Staples

Second Team

  • Alex Gibbens, New Canaan
  • Kyle Hyzy, Wilton
  • Jah Joyner, Danbury
  • Ryan McAleer, New Canaan
  • Brendan McMahon, Fairfield Warde
  • Malcolm Newman, Trinity Catholic

The Lineups

Danbury: Jaden Cook, Jah Joyner, Steven Gonzales, Isaiah Easter, Yeshaia Floyd, Carlos Alvarez, Kevin Vidmar, Darin Rodriguez, Christian Nalbatian, Artez Taft, Nick Smith.

Darien: Derric Andrews-Dixon, Miles Drake, Karsen Drake, Jackson Leone, Amir Preston, Connor Brennan, Brian Kisken, Finn Pokorny, Kyle Bloomer, John Fiorita. 

Fairfield Ludlowe: James Bourque, Patrick Kilbride, Ian Bentley, Rowan Keesser, Sam Sweeney, Patrick Leverty, Chris Carlucci, Michael Lynch.

Fairfield Warde: Brendan McMahon, Joey Gulbin, Eli Feay, Dennis Parker, Ben Steele, Tom McTague, Noah Seawright, Jack McKenna, Justyn Davis, Jordyn Davis, Kyle Harrell.

Greenwich: Chris Genaro, Max Steinman, Chason Barber, Mason Muir, Jayden Solomon, AJ Barber, Brendan Freil, Matt Pilc.

Brien McMahon: Eric Miller, Jajuan Wiggins, Alan Grey, Jermayne Daniels, Shamar Miller, Jack Fitzpatrick, Elijah Jennings, Brandon Miller, Sergio Thermidor, Treymarr Tweedie, Jonathan Velasquez.

New Canaan: Ryan McAleer, Hank Pohle, Alex Gibbens, Brandon Sechan, John Hall, Aaron Fishman, Colin Russo, Leo Magnus, Christian Sweeney, Denis Mulcahy. 

Ridgefield: Luke McGarrity, Johnny Briody, James Rush, Christopher Knachel, Matthew DeLuca, Amos Grey, Emmett O’Malley.

Stamford: Jalen Lindsey, Jaden Bell, Jay Jaudon, Danny Simms, Justin Lockery, Daquan Hall, Jose Olivia, Clarence Wiley, Isiah Jackson, Jesont Holley, Demani Taylor, Jason Albert.

Staples: Jake Thaw, Lucas Baisch, AJ Konstanty, Teddy Dienst, Benny Feuer, Derek Sale, Sean Clarke. 

Trinity Catholic:  Akim Joseph, Rahsen Fisher, Malcolm Newman, Rassoul Abakar, Andrew Saint-Louis, Branden Louis, Damarian Colas, Matthew Dougherty.

Trumbull: Quentar Taylor, Mileeq Green, Andrew Cutter, Tyler Woolery, Cape Holden, Jake Gruttudauria, Lance Walsh, Sebastian Mettellus, Christian Sanders, Sage Gattling, Johnny McCain, Connor Johnston.

Wilton: Kyle Hyzy, Andrew Smith, Tucker Walden, John Walsh, Josh White, Matt Murphy, Jimmy McKiernan, Mike Coffey, Owen Lillis, Trevor Martines, Mack Kepner, Ben Wiener, Parker Woodring.

(Teams not listed did not reply to repeated requests for preview information)