By Andrew Wroblewski
Emerging from the preseason with a tournament win under their belt, the Whitman Wildcats and Head Coach Thomas Fitzpatrick were rightfully excited as they looked forward to the official start of the 2014-2015 season.
The Walt Whitman boys hoops team defeated hosting Islip High School, 66-63, on Dec. 6.
“Saturday was exciting; we beat the host team of the tournament… and we got some real good contributions from the guys,” Fitzpatrick said. “We had a ball game going…But it turned into a team win. Out of the 11 guys that played, nine of them scored; there were contributions from everybody.”
Now, as the boys prepare for their first matchup of League II play on Friday against Smithtown East, Fitzpatrick is hoping that same team-mentality will carry into the season.
“We don’t have a guy right now that can average scoring in the high-teens – but that’s OK,” he said. “We’re going to have to do it as a team and grind out games.”
Heading up the squad for Fitzpatrick is Jordan Aiken, a senior and starting guard for the Wildcats, who he said was able to run the offense well against Islip last weekend while adding 8 points. Along with Aiken, Dylan McNally, a junior center, scored a career-high 6 points in the victory and contributed even further with what the coach said was “terrific inside passing.” Junior Willie Petro added 6 points for the Wildcats from the guard position.
“We’re trying to get the guys to work hard every day and play hard as a team,” Fitzpatrick said.
Gary Harris had a great day against Islip as the senior forward put up 18 points and nailed some clutch free throws to seal the deal for Whitman late in the fourth quarter. Julian Kleberg, a senior forward, was also a key contributor for the Wildcats in the triumph as he put up 17 points – including two 3-pointers.
With the preseason in the book, though, Fitzpatrick and Ray Eatmon, the assistant coach, have turned their focus to Smithtown East – who the Wildcats will welcome at 6 p.m. tomorrow – and, more specifically, the Bulls’ star, Ryan Ingarozza. Ingarozza, one year removed from All-County honors, has so far 24.7 points/game this season and will be the main focus of Whitman’s defense on Friday.
“We have to limit him and limit our turnovers,” Fitzpatrick said.
Limiting Ingarozza is one thing, but limiting turnovers may be a focus for Whitman as the team is based on youth this season – the roster consists of six seniors and six players that are either juniors or sophomores. None of the Wildcats’ starters from last season has returned, and only three of the boys on this year’s team played at the varsity level last season.
“We’re hoping that the learning curve is shorter than it is long,” Fitzpatrick said.