Published in the March 15, 2017 edition
By DAVID McCOUBREY
LYNNFIELD — Billy Arseneault is a unique player in the Cape Ann League as the point guard on the Lynnfield boys’ basketball team.
Arseneault does everything a good point should do. He runs the Pioneers’ offense in the half court expertly. He can push the tempo in transition with the ability to hit runners in the lane, pull up for a jumper or find his teammates for an easy basket. But Arseneault approaches basketball games like a wrestler. He isn’t necessarily lithe. He’s a cannonball, all hunched shoulders and overpowering.
“My brother, Tom Arseneault, started off doing basketball but then he did wrestling and that’s how I started off doing wrestling,” said Arseneault. “And that made me tougher because my brother would always beat on me.”
Upon finding out Arseneault had a wrestling background, this reporter told him anecdotally that former NBA player Jalen Rose once described current NBA star Chris Paul as a fire hydrant, meaning he’s hard to move and he’s physical.
Arseneault responded, “It definitely comes from my brother. If he did anything to me, my dad would just say ‘get tougher.’ My brother would always post up on me when we played one-on-one and same with my dad.”
The Pioneers lost in the Div. 3 North semifinals last Wednesday to Watertown, and will graduate nine seniors. Many of the guys on Lynnfield’s team have been playing together for a long time, going back before high school, which has bred a real familiarity that was visible night in and night out. Arseneault has played with senior Lou Ellis, one the very best scorers in Cape Ann, and Mike Carangelo, a double-double machine, for years. The three of them played AAU ball together.
“I started playing with Lou and knowing about Lou around sixth grade,” Arseneault said. “I remember after that I starting playing AAU ball all year round, and Lou was on my team called the Playmakers, starting in ninth grade.”
“Me and Lou have a good connection on the court,” Arseneault continued. “We’ve been playing for a while. He’s a really good shooter. He can get to the rim. He can rebound. It’s fun playing with him; it makes it easy.”
What makes Arseneault one of the best players in Cape Ann League, and in fact the league MVP, is his uncanny ability to pass the basketball. ‘Eyes in the back of the head’ doesn’t even begin to describe his vision. He has the ball on a string all the time. He almost never forces passes. He rarely turns the ball over, which is especially impressive when you consider the high level of difficulty of his passes.
“I just see things quickly, I guess,” he said. “I always tell my teammates to have their hands ready. I have connections with some of our players out there. I’ve been playing with (junior guard) Zach Shone my entire life. And I’ve been playing with Louis and Mike for a very long time.”
While Lynnfield fell just short of their goal of winning a state championship, and they should be proud of the run they made, the hard reality is Lynnfield is graduating nine seniors. The locals’ current juniors and sophomores will need to step up next season in order to continue the Pioneers’ high level of success, having won the Cape Ann League title three of the past four years, including this season.
“I think our team is going to be good,” said Arseneault. “We going to be much more mobile next year. We won’t be as big (as this year). I think some guys like (junior forward) Danny Jameson will play really big minutes. Zach Shone is already doing a really good job.”
Arseneault, ever the good teammate, wanted to single out other players as well such as Owen Colbert, Jason Ndansi and Matt Mortellite.
“Jason has been doing really well in practice and playing point guard well,” he said. “Matt Mortellite really helps us out of the defensive end.”
And while Lynnfield did fall in the tournament this year, Arseneault knows he will be a key player on next year’s Pioneers squad as a senior and probably a captain. He described his role as a leader on next year’s team.
“I talk to all the guys a lot,” said Arseneault. “As a point guard on the floor, you need to be able to talk to everybody. You need to know how to do everything. (Basketball) is what I’ve been doing my whole life.”
Arseneault loses Ellis and Carangelo next season, but he still plays under head coach Scott MacKenzie, who won the Cape Ann League Coach of the Year award this winter.
“(MacKenzie) is a great guy on the court,” said Arseneault. “He’s a really good floor general; he helps me out, calling out plays. He gets us into good defenses and he makes good calls almost all game. He allows us also to do what we need to do.”
It’s unclear at this stage what the 2017–18 Lynnfield Pioneers will look like on the court. But with Arseneault and MacKenzie leading the way, that’s a great start.