There are no easy nights in the Nassau-Suffolk CHSAA. Every opponent is well coached and the players fundamentally sound. Gyms crackle with large crowds.
It an can be an intimidating place. Certainly not the best environment to break in a largely new cast. Yet that's what the St. Anthony's boys basketball team, which returns just one starter and has two players who saw regular playing time a year ago, will do.
Enter second-year coach Jim Fenton, a former Nassau County Police officer who was previously the freshman coach at Holy Trinity. He brings the patience and discipline this team will need to survive.
"There's not a lot of varsity experience on this team," Fenton admitted. "I expect it to be a rocky start. But this team works very hard. They're all good kids. We'll come around. It will just take time."
When longtime coach Mike Ryan stepped down after the 2009 season to focus on family, Fenton took over a team that went 3-9 against league rivals. Fenton raised the level of play in 2010 and expects the Friars to be competitive once again.
St. Anthony's fell to Holy Trinity, 63-45, in the league semifinals last winter. If this cast develops the way Fenton expects, then another trip to the semifinals is possible.
Last Season: 10-14 overall, 6-6 NSCHSAA.
Coach: Jim Fenton (second year).
- Marko Peraica, senior, forward
- James McKenna, senior, forward
- Steven Pandales, senior, guard
- Kris Teape, junior, guard
- Durelle Napier, junior, guard
Position Breakdown: Marko Peraica (10 points, 6 rebounds) is the lone returning starter. But James McKenna was a spot starter and saw plenty of minutes year ago. This is their third season together. And this is their team to lead.
Peraica and McKenna, who each stand 6-foot, 5-inches, are the Swiss Army Knives of players. They're big but not relegated to the low post. They can shoot the three or drive to the hoop. They will be asked to bring the ball up on occasion.
"Those two stand out," Fenton said. "They're talented kids. Both have good size. Both are nice players."
Senior Steven Pandales, a three-year player, will start at guard. He's a good defender and quick to the hoop.
Junior guard Durelle Napier, coming off a breakout football season, may be poised for a similar role on the court. He's athletic and aggressive. Just as in football, he'll be asked to play lockdown defense. Another football player, James Hurt, will provide an inside presence.
A pair of juniors who starred on the JV will be in the mix. Kris Teape will play guard and Daniel Pierrot is athletic.
"They're all pretty interchangeable," Fenton said. "We'll do whatever the defense gives us."
Expectations: Just two players saw regular playing time a year ago. That's a problem. There's no true point guard. Another problem. Yet Fenton has several athletic players with potential and won't be afraid to go deep into his bench.
"Our bench will be there to help us out if we get in trouble," Peraica said.
The Friars will go up tempo and use a heavy rotation. They'll outhustle and wear down opponents. In the early going, there might be a learning curve. But as the season progresses, this recipe will prove more daunting for foes to game plan around.
"Right now we're relentless," McKenna said. "We're always pressing. We're getting up on our man, playing defense. We're trying to turn those into open layups."
The ingredients for a nice season are there. An open style of play will help. St. Anthony's just needs seasoning. St. Mary's, Holy Trinity, Chaminade and St. John the Baptist each feature nice lineups. Those are the teams the Friars have to get through to challenge for the Nassau-Suffolk CHSAA title.
"I want to see them push themselves to be as good as they can possibly be and not accept anything less," Fenton said. "And they've been doing that so far."
- Jan. 14: Chaminade @ St. Anthony's, 7:30 p.m.
- Jan. 18: St. John the Baptist @ St. Anthony's, 7:30 p.m.
- Jan. 26: Long Island Lutheran @ St. Anthony's, 7:30 p.m.
- Feb. 8: Holy Trinity @ St. Anthony's, 7:30 p.m.
- Feb. 15: St. Mary's @ St. Anthony's, 7:30 p.m.