PREP BOYS BASKETBALL PREVIEW:
CMH already banged up
Two returners out for season
WAUKESHA — Dean Bellanti jokes that Catholic Memorial High School’s MVP for boys basketball this season could be the team trainer.
The Crusaders, already decked by heavy graduation losses, have also lost junior returning starter Alex Bray and junior Nick Schulze for the season and senior Mike Schmidt rolled an ankle the first night of practice.
Bray, at 6.5 points a game, was the Crusaders top returning scorer but the quarterback was injured late in Memorial’s WIAA football playoff loss to Wisconsin Lutheran while back issues have shelved Schulze.
So it’s understandable that Bellanti needs to keep his troops injury-free the entire season.
Memorial’s program is strong — its 140 Classic 8 Conference victories since the league began second only to Arrowhead’s 152 among Waukesha County teams — and Bellanti hopes to once again be highly competitive.
The Crusaders lost eight games by eight points or fewer in a 7-17 overall campaign last season and senior Robbie Gogin, a starter last season, is the top returning player — a group that also including four returning senior letter winners: Danny Brozynski, Mike Schmidt, Jack Crain and Aaron Siehr.
Gogin will be starting his third varsity season.
Sophomore Austin Young also played at the end of last season and has grown to 6-foot-5 1/2.
“He’s the tallest player I’ve coached at Memorial but he’s still a sophomore in a physical, strong conference. He’ll be challenged down low,” Bellanti said. Junior Parker Carlsen also saw varsity time and junior Matt Prahl is among the players coming up from the junior varsity team.
“Gogin played well for us last season, Young will be a nice player in the conference, Crain and Brozynski are athletic kids who are team guys and leaders and Carlsen is a kid whose confidence took a huge step forward,” Bellanti said.”We have a lot of depth at guard, which gives us a lot of ways to play the game, and we’ll have an improved post game that will help us.”
Concerns are perimeter shooting and free-throw shooting.
“If we had a higher percentage of made free throws, we would have had more victories last season,” Bellanti said. “There were a number of games where a made free throw would have sealed a victory but we didn’t get it. Confidence is contagious and so is a lack of it.
“I think the team will share the ball well and we need to be aware of where the scoring needs to come from and we’ll have to defend well and be very good on the boards. Our philosophy is defense creates a lot of our offense and I’m hoping we can be a surprise team this year. We’re picked to finish in the bottom half but we want to finish in the upper half.
Bellanti tabs Arrowhead as the favorite to win the league title with Waukesha West the Warhawks main challenge.
“Kettle Moraine has some kids back who can play and Muskego has a really nice group coming back but I like our team. How we start will be a key. Last year we had some tight games early and lost. We have to respond to that, be resilient. Unfortunately, sometimes those things linger but I know we’ll work hard and get better every day.
“Losing a player like Bray hurts and he was our point guard so now we’re looking at maybe a little different concept. We have some questions but some intriguing questions and I’m excited to start.”
Photo credit: Catholic Memorial senior Robbie Gogin is one of the leading returning players for the Crusaders this season. Charles Auer/Freeman Staff