Denied in states due to COVID, determined Shelton boys return to court

Robert Correia will share duties in the backcourt.

Robert Correia will share duties in the backcourt.

David G. Whitham / For Hearst Connecticut Media

Shelton boys’ basketball coach Brian Gardiner got his team back in the gymnasium last week.

“The kids struggled the first day, but they made a big jump from day one to day two,” said Gardiner, who guided Shelton to a 16-4 record a year ago. Seeded sixth in Division III, Shelton won its first state tournament game and was set to host Ledyard when the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown the season. “We had less coming out then we typically would which I guess is expected with present circumstances, but all our main returning guys were all there.”

Gardiner, assisted by Chris Lynn, held a team meeting on the first day possible (Jan. 19), held two days of tryouts to set the roster, and held regular practice Friday and Saturday.

“I blew the whistle (underneath mask) and they were so excited to be here,” Gardiner said. “I always try to get to practice before everyone, but they were all here before me. It was great to get some normalcy back in their lives.”

Missing from practice were All-State player Peri Basimakopoulos, who is now at King’s College, and starting guard Brian Belade and forward Melvin Kolenovic, who opted out and played at Prep schools.

Co-captains Jay Cimmino and Gavin Rohlman lead the returnees.

Gardiner said: “Captains are vocal leaders, something they aren’t always used to being. I tell them it can’t just be the coaches. We need them to help guys out, get on guys and pick them up. It can mean more coming from a teammate. Jay and Gavin are ready for that role.”

Cimmino, at 5-foot-9, will be an off guard. Rohlman, at 6-foot-4, will play a hybrid role.

“We are going to running the offense through Gavin,” Gardiner said. “It is a different look to run (the offense) through a bigger guy. With a big guy on him, he can do more with the ball. We move the ball constantly with our motion offense. But when we want to call a specific play, we can run it from the elbow or have Gavin step out to the wing where he has a lot of options.”

Defense once again will lay the groundwork.

“We harp on it and when you have success, they see how important defense is to us. We’ve won games with big stops. We lost a lot of scoring and to play in lower scoring games defense is even more important,” Gardiner said. “It all starts with our defense because we like to run. These players have seen over the last handful of years how successful we can be with a defensive focus. It is second nature to them, and they want to do it. First thing we did Friday was a whole defensive day They got right after it.”

CONFIDENCE

“I think we do a good job as a coaching staff of knowing when to get on kids and when to bring them up. If a guy makes a good move but misses a layup we try to let him know what a good move he made and not harp on the miss,” Gardiner said. “Same with our shooters. If they miss an open 3, I just walk by them and say shoot it again. A player can’t be nervous if they shoot and miss. They have to know that we believe in them, that it was the right shot. When you get it again; shoot it again. I think they appreciate that aspect. That way they can take the criticism too.

SCHEDULE

Shelton boys will play in one West Division along with Amity, Foran, Law and Fairfield Prep. The locals will play those teams once. They will play one game each with the other West Division teams from Notre Dame, Hillhouse, Career, Wilbur Cross and West Haven. Shelton will play Cheshire from the East Division team twice and a rival game with Amity.

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354