The East Hampton boys basketball team lost only two seniors to graduation, but it still will have a new look this year.
With the departure of All-County guard/forward Thomas King, who led the team in scoring and rebounding and was the focal point of the offense, the Bonackers will now look to feature a more balanced offense, with multiple players contributing on offense each night.
Head coach Bill McKee believes that’s a good thing—and with a strong group of seniors intent on improving upon last year’s first-round exit in the Class A playoffs, he’s confident his team can once again be a formidable squad in League VI.
The loss of King—now playing at Hartwick College in Oneonta—and fellow starter Rolando Garces means the Bonackers will certainly have a lot of scoring to account for. But returning seniors Danny McKee, Thomas Nelson, Brendan Hughes and David Moss have the experience and determination to pick up the slack, McKee said.
East Hampton tied for second place in the league last year with a 7-5 record, and nearly every league game went down to the wire, decided by seven points or less. McKee said his seniors are focused on separating themselves even further from the competition this year.
“I think the seniors want to do better than that,” he said.
McKee’s eldest son, Danny, will be the primary ball-handler this season, a responsibility he had last year, along with help from King. McKee proved himself to be a dangerous long-range shooter as well, finishing second in Suffolk County in three-point shooting. “He will have a big responsibility when it comes to bringing the ball up against pressure,” his father said.
East Hampton will not be a particularly large team in terms of physical size and height, so Coach McKee said he’s expecting a team effort in the rebounding department. Nelson, Hughes, returning senior Charles Barranco, returning junior Brandon Neff, and newcomer James Hewitt, up from the JV, all stand at or slightly above 6 feet tall, and will need to flex their muscles in the paint.
Also joining the varsity this year is senior Zachary Tilstra, who had played JV in the past but didn’t play basketball last year, as well as junior Ryan Bono, sophomores Brandon Kennedy-Gay and Kyle McKee, and freshman Kevin Fee.
Coach McKee said he doesn’t expect League VI to look much different than it did last year. He expects Amityville, the defending league champ, to be strong once again, and said the rest of the teams should be evenly balanced. “I think it’s a relatively tough league,” he said. “Most games last year were decided by seven points or less, and I don’t see that changing. It’s certainly fun to watch, though.”
McKee added that he’s looking forward to getting the season under way. “I’m excited about this team,” he said. “It’s an unselfish type of team. That’s why I really think we’re not going to depend on one player. We have a lot of interchangeable parts. The kids’ attitudes have been that they don’t care who shoots and who scores, which is really nice to see.”
The team was slated to kick-start the season with a team trip to Connecticut to attend the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic men’s college basketball tournament at the Mohegan Sun Arena. The tournament will feature some of the top Division I programs in the country, including the University of North Carolina and Louisville. The Bonackers will watch a total of five games, and they’ll also get to practice at nearby Mitchell College.
After returning from the trip, the Bonackers will open the season on December 7 at 5 p.m. with a non-league home game with Pierson. They will open the League VI season three days later at home against Shoreham/Wading River at 6 p.m.