STRATFORD—Hopes are high for the Bunnell Bulldogs boys basketball team this winter.
Well, senior center Joshua Giannoni can’t see them, and he stands 6-foot-5.
“We will fare well in our division, be one of the top teams and have a chance to contend for an SWC championship,” first-year coach Dannie Powell said. “Our experience will be key as everyone returns from last season.”
The Bulldogs went 11-9 last season and lost in the quarterfinals of the SWC tournament to Kolbe Cathedral. The team also advanced to the second round of the state tournament, falling to East Lyme.
With all his key players back, though, Powell is high on his returning talent.
It will just take a little bit to adjust to the new coach’s style and playbook.
“It might take some time to get comfortable with new offensive and defensive principles with a new coaching coming in,” Powell said.
The Bulldogs do have a bona fide star in 6-foot-3 junior guard Maximus Edwards, who is 70 points shy of 1,000 for his career.
Edwards was a first-team All-SWC choice a year ago and a second-team All-State selection.
With a lot of defenses focused on Edwards, other Bulldogs are expected to step up.
“I am really looking for junior guards, Derrick Gyimah and Jaden McDowell, to have a big impact this season,” Powell said. “I expect the guards to control pace, get in the lane and find teammates, and be lock down defenders. I am also expecting a breakout season from senior forward, Javon Wilson.”
Other key players returning are Khalid Moreland, a 5-9 senior guard who was All-Colonial in the SWC, and Tyler Staggs-Burgess, who earned honorable mention honors a year ago.
Giannoni will handle things in the middle.
Also on the roster are: seniors Eli Alexandre, Jerrod Leak and Jeremiah Ngbo, and juniors Tiyorne Coleman.
While the Bulldogs seemed loaded on offense, Powell knows his team will only go as far as its defense takes it.
“Defensively, we have to shut teams down,” Powell said. “It all starts on the defensive end for us. Our athleticism and length should create turnovers.”
As the team adjusts to Powell, who replaced longtime coach Pat Yerina, the Bulldogs should get better and better.
“A key will be how long will it take for everyone to get the new offensive and defensive schemes down,” Powell said. “You will see Bunnell play their best basketball when it matters most, as the team gets more comfortable with the new system and their new roles.”
Bunnell opened the season on Thursday, facing Harding at the Notre Dame-Fairfield season tip-off tournament.