November 27, 2013
Debuting Purple Tigers seeking encore on court
An encore will be a tough order for second-year head coach Jeremy Milligan and the 2013-14 Cortland High boys’ basketball team.
Last season’s Purple Tiger squad won the OHSL Freedom American Division championship with a 9-2 league record and finished 17-3 overall. losing a narrow 54-51 decision to eventual champion Bishop Ludden in the Section 3 Class A sectional semifinals.
Tough act to follow, right?
Especially when three of the five starters in that semifinal contest graduated in June, and a fourth will be unavailable due to injury this season, which opens Friday against Vernon-Verona-Sherrill in the first round of the Oneida Tip-Off Tournament in a 5 p.m. start.
Zach Whelan, a 6-foot senior guard, is the lone available holdover from the group, having led CHS in scoring last year with 12.4 points per game. That included a team-high 55 3-pointers, trying Joel White’s single season school record, en route to earning second-team all-league honors.
Unavailable to start the season, due to injury, is senior Teddy Phillips, a 6-1 guard who was second in rebounds (5.8) and third in steals (36) among the Purple Tigers.
Guard Isaiah Prior, an All-CNY and all-league first-team honoree, heads up the graduates from last season, when he averaged 12.2 points per game (second on the team), had a team-high 71 assists and was second on the team in steals (38) and 3-pointers (26). Honorable mention all-league status went to forwards Josh Gutchess (10.5 ppg, team-high 7.3 rebounds per game and 37 assists) and Brian Hughes (8.7 ppg, team-high 41 steals and 42 assists).
Other returnees from last season are seniors Qadir Artis (5-9 guard), Eamonn Mahar (6-0 guard), Daquan Pittman (6-3 forward) and Phil Carrigan (6-2 forward) and 6-1 juniors Sage Brown (guard) and Quinn Kennedy (forward). All of the underclassmen, including Phillips, combined to contribute just over 25 points of the 57.4 that CHS averaged per game last winter.
Varsity newcomers up from last year’s junior varsity team, which went 8-3 league and 12-6 overall, are junior forwards Jack Hearn (6-5), Trae Libbey (6-1) and Nate Turkow (6-2), .junior guards Justin Prentice (6-2) and Aidan Stehm (6-0) and sophomore guard Nick Craig (6-4).
“It’s funny that, in talking about the outlook for my first year, last year we had one returning starter in Brian Hughes,” Milligan said. “We had to have players step up and take on new roles, and at the beginning I was skeptical. But it turned out that as we improved, we became a difficult team to play against.
“It’s similar this season, with one returning starter available now, so we need the returning players to step up and embrace new roles,” he added. “I’m 100 percent confident that they’ll do that and win some games for us. We need to start jelling as a team, play selfless basketball and communicate with each other on the court, and we have to build the confidence of the players. We’re working to get them to believe in themselves, and know that they’re the hardest-working players in the league.”
Milligan had the following assessments of his players.
Whalen: “Zach was one of the top 3-point shooters in Section 3 last year; he’s a known threat this year and will be covered by top defenders. We’re looking for lots of leadership from him coming off an all-star football season, and are looking for him to excel at both ends of the court.”
Phillips: “We’re optimistic to have Teddy back sooner rather than later. A returning captain, he’s also a top returning defender/rebounder, with high intensity, energy, and extra effort. We’ll continue to look for leadership from him, both off and on the court.”
Artis: “Quick, strong and athletic, Qadir works hard at both ends of the court. He’s a capable shooter and also able to slash to the basket, and has worked hard in the off-season to improve his game.”
Mahar: “Eamonn is a talented point guard who works hard and has improved his game dramatically in the off-season. He has the ability to effectively shoot and drive to the basket, and will surprise opposing teams with his talent.”
Pittman: “Daquan is athletic and fast. He’s a versatile player at the forward position who has ability to surprise opposing teams and is hungry to take on a new role this year.”
Carrigan: “Phil emerged from last season as a very capable 3-point shooter. He’s athletic and hard-working.”
Brown: “Sage saw sizable minutes last year as a sophomore, and is ready to take on a new role this year. He’s a versatile player who can play the guard and forward positions, is a solid defender and is much taller and faster this season. He has improved his ability to get to the basket and his rebounding, and will surprise teams with his talent and athleticism.”
Kennedy: “Quinn is ready to take on new role after seeing limited minutes last season. He’s taller and faster now, is athletic and has impressed coaches this preseason with his rebounding and defense. He’s a very capable shooter, though streaky.”
Hearn: “Despite his size, Jack’s strength is shooting from beyond arc. He’s a capable 3-point shooter and is working hard to improve his defense and his inside play.”
Libbey: “Athletic and hard-working, Trae is versatile, playing both guard and forward positions.”
Turkow: “Nate is a post presence. He worked hard in the off-season and has a passion for hoops.”
Prentice: “Coming off an all-star soccer season in which he was among the leaders in Section 3 in goals and points, Justin is athletic and hard-working. He’s a capable 3-point threat.”
Stehm: “Aidan is a hard worker, a solid defender and a capable scorer.”
Craig: “Nick is coming off a football injury and wasn’t cleared until Day two of tryouts. He’s still getting his strength and wind back, which is a slow process.
His strengths are his offensive play, driving to the hoop and the fact that he’s a capable shooter. He’s working to improve his defense.”
Cortland will be in the Freedom National this season, along with Homer, Jamesville-DeWitt, Mexico and Chittenango. The Purple Tigers will play each of those teams twice home-and-home to go with one game each against the Freedom American teams — Bishop Ludden, Syracuse CBA, East Syracuse-Minoa, Fowler and Fulton — for a total of 13 league games.
“I think Bishop Ludden will be the team to beat overall in Class A,” Milligan said. “J-D has improved massively; they aren’t as big as they have been, but their guards are very quick and they have a lot of capable shooters from beyond the arc. As defending division champs, and a team that gave Ludden two difficult contests, we’ll be playing with a target on our backs.
“This team has gone 54-8 over the last three seasons, and with that consistent success we aren’t taking any games for granted. It would be a feather in the cap of any team to beat us.”
Tom Neugebauer and Francis Loiacono return as Milligan’s assistants this season, while Yale Hughes returns as the JV head coach, again are assisted by Tim Guido as well as newcomer Kate Pitcher.
Jeff Lacey is once again the coach of the Freshman team. Brandon Galutz will again coach the eighth-grade team, and Ben Albright is back as the seventh-grade head coach.
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