Published in the March 28, 2018 edition

THE CAPTAINS for the 2017-18 WMHS boys’ basketball team passed the ball to next year’s captain Ryan Marcus at the banquet last week. Marcus also won the award for best all-around player. Aidan Cusack, the other co-captain named for next season, wasn’t present as he was in London with other WMHS students and teachers. Pictured from left to right is Andrew Miller, Marcus, Devin O’Brien and Joe Carmilia-Smith. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)


SAUGUS — The Wakefield Memorial High School boys’ basketball team held their annual end of the season banquet on Thursday, where head coach Brad Simpson and the Wakefield coaching staff wrapped up the year by presenting special awards and thanking the players and families for their dedication to Warrior hoops.

It was by all accounts a difficult year for the boys, who fought through a wicked slew of injuries and illness to finish with an overall record of 7-13.

In fact, it was the most injuries that coach Simpson has witnessed in his 31st season as the Wakefield coach. Serious injuries to key players such as co-captain Devin O’Brien, Aidan Cusack and Billy O’Keefe was only the tip of the iceberg. Alternating injury and illness affected most of the roster at different points of the year, and although this clearly affected the wins and losses, coach Simpson chose to view it a different way.

“Adversity is one of the byproducts of competition,” said Simpson. “You can’t be a good competitor if you don’t expect to deal with adversity. It can be a character-building experience.”

DEVIN O’BRIEN receives the Patrick Gannon Award from head coach Brad Simpson. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

ANDREW MILLER receives the Reg Hobbs MVP from head coach Brad Simpson. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

While Simpson did admit it would have been nice to see what this team was capable of had they avoided some of that adversity, the theme of this year’s team was “character.”

In the programs distributed to those in attendance, character was explained as “the part of your personality that has been fired in the kiln of life. It is your heart, soul, feeling and goals combined into one entity. It is the factor that allows you to give your best effort even though you know that your best effort may not be good enough to win.”

While the immediate response of the players looking back on this season might be disappointment, it is vital for them to recognize the values learned. How they responded, and how they played in those games in which the outcome seemed decided, is a life lesson. And one that they should be proud of.

JACK SHANNON receives a Coaches Award from assistant coach Bryan Sweeney. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

JON JORDAN receives a coaches award from head coach Brad Simpson. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

Coach Simpson and the Warriors then presented two coaches awards, a best defensive player award, a best all-around player award, a sixth man award, the Patrick Gannon Award and the Reg Hobbs MVP.

Seniors Jonathan Jordan and Jack Shannon received coaches awards.

Jordan transferred to his hometown Wakefield High for his senior year. Although Jordan didn’t get many opportunities this season, he was a very positive influence on the team.

“Jon Jordan was one of the most reliable and likable members of this year’s squad, who had a positive impact on his teammates and coaches alike,” said Simpson.

Shannon was commended for being a team player who embraced his role from the start this year. Shannon didn’t rack up the most minutes on the team but he still finished fourth in defensive rebounds with 40 and tied for second in offensive rebounds with 19, which was a good example of his willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team. In that sense, he represented much of what Wakefield basketball is all about.

MAX HINCHEY receives the Patrick Gannon Award from assistant coach Bryan Sweeney. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

PATRICK HANNIGAN receives the sixth man award from assistant coach Bryan Sweeney. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

“He had a solid work ethic and an excellent demeanor,” said Simpson. “Whether in practice or a game we could count on Jack to give us his best effort; a trait that any coach would value immensely.”

Junior Patrick Hannigan was the overwhelming favorite of his teammates for the sixth man award as he earned 10 votes. While Hannigan did start seven games, he was extremely valuable as the first player of the bench for Wakefield. Hannigan’s stats did the talking as he was fourth in total points, fourth in hustle points, fourth in steals and third in offensive rebounds, a stat that Simpson found “remarkable, considering that Patrick was never the biggest or strongest on the floor.” Simpson went on to say that with hard work, Hannigan has the ability to become one of the best players in the division next season.

Joe Carmilia-Smith won the best defensive player award. The co-captain finished off his terrific Wakefield basketball career with another great season in which he was third in hustle points, third in total points scored and second in defensive rebounds. He was second in steals, and always took on the challenge of guarding the other team’s best player.

“In the three seasons that he has been a member of the varsity team, he has always made an impact on that side of the ball. You could count on that. There were 14 votes for best defense and Joe got every one of them.”

Sophomore Ryan Marcus, who was later announced as a voted captain next season along with Aidan Cusack, was awarded best All-Around player. Marcus was second in total points, first in hustle points, second in assists, first in offensive rebounds and second in defensive rebounds.

“Ryan Marcus had an impact in every category. His consistent, solid play was obvious to any fan of the game.”

The Patrick Gannon Award, named after Gannon, the manager and scorekeeper for Wakefield basketball for 24 years, is presented to a player that echoed his loyalty, support and commitment to the program. This year, the award was presented to graduating seniors Max Hinchey and Devin O’Brien.

O’Brien endured his second straight season of injury in which he missed the majority of the season. Simpson commended his decision to come back at the end of the year to play through pain and said he shared Gannon’s persistence and perseverance in the face of adverse conditions.

“I suspect an individual of lesser mental fortitude would have probably given up and left the team, but much to Devin’s credit, his strength of character and his will power got him through this ordeal.”

Hinchey battled sinus infections most of the season due to complications with a broken nose, but the senior always gave it his all and ended up being one of the best players on the team. Simpson commended his work in the offseason to get to this point, and Hinchey was one of the best examples of a team player this year.

“Much like Patrick Gannon, Max is not only a good teammate but an all around good guy.”

The Reg Hobbs MVP, named after Hobbs, who dedicates himself every season to Wakefield basketball, went to co-captain Andrew Miller, who lead the team in every major statistical category they keep, from total points (275), to assists, rebounds, steals, free throw percentage (80), field goal percentage (45) and 3 pt. Field goal percentage (35).

Miller was named a Middlesex League All-League player as well.

“The statistics show that choosing Andrew Miller as the MVP was a no-brainer,” said Simpson.

“The skills that Andrew excels in are honed by many hours of work. The fact that he was voted the second player to the All-League team says a lot about what the other coaches thought of him as a player.”

Overall, it was a great night for many valued members of the Wakefield boys’ basketball program, especially the seniors, who earned every accolade by fighting through adversity to always give their best. It’s a lesson on character that will pay dividends during the next stage of their lives.