More consistency a key for Greenwich boys basketball team

Don’t be surprised if you see Greenwich High School boys basketball team members playing this season with a chip on their shoulders.

With seven seniors on the team and nearly everybody back from last year’s squad, the Greenwich High School boys basketball team will be looking to exact revenge on some teams it lost to last year, and also make a return trip to the FCIAC tournament.

“I hope I see a team that’s really hungry,” Greenwich head coach Bill Brehm said. “We went 11-9 last year, but we could have very easily gone 14-6, and I hope that left a bad taste in their mouths. I hope they have a chip on their shoulders and are ready to get some of those victories that slipped through their grasp last year. I know I want to do that, and I’m hoping they want the same thing.”

One of those games that Greenwich wanted to seek revenge on happened during Big Red’s opening game of the season tonight against Fairfield Warde High School. Check the later this evening for the recap.

Needing a victory to get into the FCIAC tournament in one of its final two games of the regular season last year, the Cards traveled up to Warde but played their worst game of the season, falling behind early and losing 52-41.

A game later, Big Red played its best game of the season, according to Brehm, but couldn’t get by Danbury High School, falling 62-53 in overtime.

“It was our worst effort and worst performance of the year against Warde, but two days later we played one of our best games of the season against Danbury and lost in overtime,” Brehm said. “It was such a drastic difference in such a short amount of time. I know the Warde game left a bad taste in our mouths, and we are hopeful we’ll come out with energy and with a chip on our shoulders.

“They know that they were an overtime loss away from making the FCIAC playoffs last year,” Brehm said. “I know these guys were freshmen the last time we made FCIACs, so they’ve seen it from former varsity players but haven’t seen it for themselves. That’s one big motivating factor for them.”

This year’s team will be led by a familiar face, as senior Alex McMurray, fresh off a highly successful football season with the Cardinals, will be back to lead the Greenwich hoopsters. McMurray is comfortable as leader of Big Red, as he was one of the three captains for the basketball team last year as a junior.

“We only lost two kids, so we are a lot more experienced,” McMurray said. “A lot of kids have come back for this year and we’re going to use that to our advantage. We know how to play basketball and know what each other brings to the team. We know how to work with each other. So far we are playing together. We pass the ball a lot more and rely on each other.”

This year McMurray will be used for his versatility, as Brehm sees him playing point guard, shooting guard or small forward.

“He knows how to be a captain,” Brehm said. “He knows he needs to lead by example. He brings a lot of energy to the floor. That’s the type of player we want here. When he makes a mistake, he tries to get it back. I think he will mature this year and know to take care of the basketball a little better. The team goes the way Alex goes. I have full faith in Alex and his ability to lead this team.”

Greenwich this year has a plethora of athletes that Brehm is hoping will step up and take the place of recent grad Alejandro Rodriguez, who was able to fire a shot from outside consistently last season.

In addition to McMurray, Big Red will be looking for seniors Danny Guise and Thomas Baietto, as well as juniors Jimmy Djema and Tommy Povinelli to get hot from the perimeter.

“I see all these guys potentially filling that spot, but it remains to be seen,” Brehm said. “I would love for them to all fill the spot because I would love a 12-man rotation. I don’t think we’ll be that deep, but I think we will be eight to nine men deep.”

Up front, Greenwich got a big boost from a newcomer to the team. Last year, Alex Wolf was playing hoops at Blair Academy in New Jersey. Figuring out that the school wasn’t the perfect fit, Wolf came back to Greenwich and transferred to Greenwich High. He has participated in activities with his new team during the offseason and has been working hard to contribute to the team.

I think it’s great here,” Wolf said. “It’s a pretty different experience than I had last year. This is a big school and I can find a friend anywhere, so it’s nice. I think we are going to have a good team this year. We have some good guards with Alex and Danny. I am hoping to use my size and be a big contributor for the team. I need to dominate the rebounds and not let anybody score in the paint. Everybody works hard and plays hard, so I think this will be a fun year.”

His obvious strength for Big Red will be his height, as Greenwich now has a center to patrol the paint.

“He’s a five-man that loves to run the floor and is strong,” Brehm said. “He loves to bang inside and has a big heart. We are expecting big things from him. To have someone transfer from a prep school and have that same energy that we have here is great. He goes all-out and gives 100% during every practice.”

“I’ve been working a lot on my offense,” Wolf said. “I’ve worked a lot on my post-ups and footwork this year and I’ve been working hard.”

Complementing Wolf will be junior Kyle Foote , who played on the freshman team but didn’t play last year. This year Foote committed to the basketball team and has been working hard and has been improving every practice. Brehm believes Foote will be a big rebounder and will contribute by using his athleticism.

Junior C.J. Byrd will be Greenwich’s mainstay at the small forward position.

“If he steps up his defense and improves his court awareness of where he’s supposed to be, the sky will be the limit for him,” Brehm said. “He could be an unstoppable basketball player.”

One of the strengths of the team this year will be its chemistry, as a bunch of the seniors on the squad have played together for all four years at Greenwich High.

“There’s not one position on the floor that’s sealed as a starting spot,” Brehm said. “It’s always up for grabs and it’s always competitive. I think that’s the way you keep a team’s energy and focus. We have five starters for Wednesday night and might have five new starters for Friday night. It depends on the energy level.”

While the team will have a lot of experience on the court, Brehm still wants to see his team play more consistently.

Last year against Warde, Big Red scored only two points in the opening quarter and was losing 21-7 at the half. Against Manchster in the class LL opening round, Big Red took the long bus ride and was down by double digits before the players were able to build up a sweat.

“We were on the bus going to Manchester for 90 minutes and got off the bus and were down 20-2 before we could blink,” Brehm said. “We played them pretty evenly the rest of the way, so they know they could play with anybody. We can’t take a quarter to get warmed up. We also had a tendency of looking at the scoreboard and not finishing if we were up big. We need to play a full four quarters if we are going to be successful.”

With the hard work and focus the Cards are putting into the preseason, Brehm believes the team could reach great heights this season.

“Our rotation is going to be deep,” Brehm said. “We have kids that want to play hard and want to play physical. We’re going to try to do a few new things offensively and defensively. I see us being competitive and a contender in the FCIAC tournament and also being a contender in the states.”

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