Plenty of starters return to 2016-17 team
Published in the December 9, 2016 edition
By JENNIFER GENTILE
MELROSE — Straight off another playoff season last winter, the Melrose Red Raider hoop team returns with a lot of familiar faces when they hit the court during their season opener on Dec. 16.
Melrose only lost two seniors last year, when they finished 12-9 on the season, and return with the kind of senior experience and leadership that brings a certain maturity and A-game that teams thrive on. In other words: expect a good year and for Melrose, who may be in the mix for league contention.
Of course, a lot of factors must come into play and one of those challenges will be filling a hole left by senior captain Julian Nyland. According to head coach Mike Kasprzak, he was a tough ball handler to lose. “He casts a shadow; he is a tremendous athlete. Julian averaged maybe 15-16 points a game and always had 30 point games. We have a lot of offensive options this season. It may not just a matter of one guy.”
Leading the charge are tri-captains Avery Davis, T’Mari Mercer and Sean Prendergast. All three are considered playmakers on the team.
Mercer is an established, big game player who can naturally pick up where Nyland left off. In one of the final games of the year last season he racked up 17 points against Stoneham. “I anticipate that he’ll have a big role on this team,” confirms his coach.
That can also be applied to Davis, who had a strong playoff for Melrose last season and a great 20 point double double against Lynnfield last winter. “Avery gets to the basket well, has energy and works hard on the floor,” says the coach.
Prendergast, at 6’4″, is expected to have a key role on the team. “Sean a strong rebounder, a good passer. Really a key player for us. I’d like to see us play better perimeter defense to keep him out of foul trouble. Once he gets out there and relaxes, he’s just really good player.”
Another strong returning player is Sean Donovan. “Sean is looking great,” says his coach. “He’s playing strong right now, looking solid on defense.”
Also returning are Devondre Williams, Dylan Venoit, Anthony Collozzo, Malik Monteiro, Charles Stanton, Frantz Pierrot, Hassan Phaige, Alex Santos, Pete Weisen and Joe Stanton.
Meanwhile, around the Middlesex League, expect Arlington and Lexington to be giants in the large division, while Burlington, Wakefield and Stoneham are expected to be strong in the Freedom. “The league will be competitive as always,” says Kasprzak.
Melrose opens their season next Friday, Dec. 16 at home against Belmont at the Melrose Middle School gym at 7 p.m.
2016 Varsity Basketball Schedule
Fri 12/16 7 p.m. vs. Belmont
Tue 12/20 6 p.m. vs. Arlington
Thu 12/22 6 p.m. @ Lexington
Wed 12/28 5 p.m. @ Chelsea
Fri 12/30 6:30 p.m. vs. Lynnfield
Tue 01/03 6 p.m. @ Wilmington
Fri 01/06 7 p.m. @ Burlington
Tue 01/10 6 p.m. vs. Wakefield
Fri 01/13 7 p.m. vs. Watertown
Fri 01/20 7 p.m. @ Stoneham
Tue 01/24 6 p.m. @ Reading
Fri 01/27 7 p.m. vs Woburn
Tue 01/31 6 p.m. @ Winchester
Fri 02/03 7 p.m. vs. Wilmington
Tue 02/07 6 p.m. vs. Burlington
Fri 02/10 7 p.m. @ Wakefield
Tue 02/14 6 p.m. @ Watertown
Thu 02/16 6 p.m. vs. Stoneham
Mon 02/20 5 p.m. @ Lynnfield
Wed 02/22 6:30 p.m. vs. Chelsea
Fri 03/03 7 p.m. vs. Wilmington