Shelton High’s boys basketball team’s turnover from a year ago epitomizes the definition of a rebuilding team.
But with only one returning varsity player back in the fold, senior captain and guard Jeff Stockmal, the Gaels are not shying away from improving on last year’s 10-10 mark.
“Our goal is to win enough games to get home games in SCCs and states,” said Shelton coach Brian Gardiner, adding that he anticipates that requiring 13-14 victories this winter. “It’s not going to be easy, that’s for sure. Every night we play someone good. We’re going to have to win some close games.”
Gardiner’s squad dropped its Southern Connecticut Conference playoff opener and forfeited its Class LL state tournament opener following the loss of senior center Ed Conklin, who was killed in an automobile accident last winter.
This year’s senior captains who will help try to lead the Gaels to those home playoff tilts, in addition to Stockmal, are Dave Berritto and Ryan Murphy.
Other players whom Gardiner anticipates stepping up are sophomore Brian Berritto, juniors Matt Hunyadi and Admando Martinez, and senior David Wells.
Despite Stockmal being the lone returnee, he’s a significant one.
“We’re playing off him and the younger guys are getting better every day,” said Gardiner, adding that Stockmal led the team in every statistical category last year.
“I’m very excited for this season. I’ve got to take a leadership role this year,” said Stockmal, adding that he anticipates a bit of a bumpy start to be followed by success once the inexperienced team members mesh.
Team rebounding and quickness will be keys to success this campaign, Gardiner believes.
“We’re looking to run on offense — get up the floor as fast as we can. We’re going to be scrappy on defense. We’re not very big,” the coach said.
If the Gaels rebound well, they hope to use their speed to score in transition.
“Defense will be our main priority this year,” Stockmal said.
The Gaels begin the campaign with three straight road tilts, beginning with a visit to Lyman Hall on Tuesday, Dec. 20, at 7 p.m.
The first home game is set for Wednesday, Dec. 28, when New Canaan visits for a 6:45 p.m. tipoff.