Canes Have High Hopes for Season
Coach: Todd Stigliano (2nd year, 5-15)
Last Year: 5-15; 3-11 CCC West (7th place)
Key Losses: Matt Martinez, Kian Downes, Marquis Rivera, Mike Starr
2011-12 Roster: Muhammud Chislum (6’5 sr. C), Daniel Micael (6’0 sr. G), Devonne Nolan (6’0 sr. PG), Quadree Rollins (6’3 sr. capt. F), Daequone Clark (6’2 jr. F), Joseph Brown (6’2 jr. F), Kevin Tirado (5’10 jr. G), Sheveran Hardy (5’10 jr. G), Craven Johnson (6’3 so. C), Michael Robinson (6’0 so. G), Curtis Hyman (6’4 so. C), Ronday McCray (5’8 so. G), Annuel St. Juste (6’0 so. G)
Of Note: Downes is playing football and baseball at Western New England University; Martinez is playing baseball at UConn-Avery Point. … Stigliano was an assistant under Stan Glowiak for 6 years prior to replacing him. He starred in basketball and soccer at Newington High. … Nolan started at NBHS as a sophomore but attended Windsor High last season.
The New Britain High boys basketball team did not qualify for the Class LL tournament last season, the first for Todd Stigliano.
The last time that happened was the year prior to former coach Stan Glowiak’s 21-year tenure (3-17 in 1988-89). Don’t expect it to happen again anytime soon.
Stigliano has the Hurricanes in position for a dramatic reversal of fortunes this season for a variety of reasons. New Britain, severely lacking at guard last year, has an influx of candidates including some with extensive varsity experience.
He also has Craven Johnson, the program’s centerpiece last year as a freshman and primed to explode into statewide prominence.
“Craven is very physical,” said Stigliano, the son-in-law of UConn women’s coach Geno Auriemma. “He’s a wide-body. He’s 6’3 but probably 240 pounds. He’s very strong, like a man among boys. He’s a good kid with a good attitude and he’s a good listener. He’s the type of kid you want on your team.”
Johnson averaged nearly 15 points per game and more than eight rebounds, drawing comparisons to Darius Watson, a four-year player with multiple skills who now is a sophomore at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven.
“He’s similar to Darius when Darius came in,” Stigliano said. “He’s slimmed down. He hasn’t gotten as lean as Darius is but he’s definitely on his way. He’s willing to work hard.”
The guard situation was debilitating last year. “We were a walking turnover,” Stigliano said, but the ball will be in good hands this year with the return of Devonne Nolan.
Nolan turned in solid time at New Britain as a sophomore but transferred to Windsor last year where he was a cog in coach Ken Smith’s ball-hawking, fast-breaking juggernaut.
“Devonne can score at any time but he’s a pass-first point guard, which I love,” Stigliano said.
Joining Nolan in the backcourt is another transfer, former Goodwin Tech point machine Sheveran Hardy.
“He’s the best shooter on the team,” Stigliano said. “He can go by you on the dribble and he’s not afraid to take it to the hoop. He and Devonne are our best at creating their own shots. We don’t have to set screens for him. He’s a smart basketball player.”
Daequone Clark has the versatility to swing between guard and forward but with the addition of quality guards, he’ll be able to do what he does best.
“The addition of Devonne helps Daequone’s game,” Stigliano said. “He can use his athleticism. Last year he had to handle the ball, which is out of his element. He rebounds really well and has that long wing span. He can be a dangerous player for us.”
The other forward slot is likely to go to captain Quadree Rollins, whose story is one Stigliano loves to tell.
“Rollins is the erason why you coach,” he said. “Last year he struggled. He was immature. He started to play well with the jayvees but his head wasn’t right. He ended up leaving the team, but he came back in and we talked it out.”
Rollins returned to the New Britain bench for the end of the season with a much different outlook.
“Something clicked,” Stigliano said. “Now he’s our best leader. He’s getting unbelievable grades. He did a complete 180. That’s why we made him captain. He was absolutely the obvious choice.”
Stigliano has plenty of raw material on the bench that should give the ’Canes the kind of depth that can make the difference. He has a 6’5 senior center in Muhammad Chislum and a 6’4 sophomore in Curtis Hyman.
He also has upperclassmen ready to move in at guard – Daniel Micael, Joseph Brown and Kevin Tirado – and some sophomore guards also vying for playing time in Michael Robinson, Ronday McCray and Annuel St. Juste. Stigliano isn’t likely to get caught short in the backcourt again.
Just how dramatic New Britain’s rags-to-riches theme will play out can only be answered in March, but the grandstands at Chick Shea Gym should be full of folks looking to have some fun along the way.
’Canes drop home opener: New Britain fell to Northwest Catholic, 83-73, in the home opener Monday before a packed house.
NWC’s Zack Lewis scored 43 points but New Britain got balanced scoring from Rollins (17 points), Johnson (15) and Brown (14).
“We have some athletes and I like the options,” Stigliano said after the game. “Now we just have to get everybody to understand the right roles. We’re still a little bit selfish as a team but we’re working on it and we’re getting better at it every day.
“They’re starting to realize how good we could be if we stick together.”
NW Catholic 83, New Britain 73
NW Catholic (1-0): Zack Lewis 14 11-14 43, Nick Gaynor 3 0-1 6, Tyler Huffman 6 0-1 14, Kuran Iverson 5 0-1 10, Aaron Wilson 1 2-2 4, P.J. Edwards 0 0-0 0, David Blackwell 2 0-0 4, Kywane Thomas 1 0-0 2, Brendan Fox 0 0-0 0. Totals 32 13-19 83.
New Britain (1-1): Devonne Nolan 3 1-2 7, Quadree Rollins 8 0-3 17, Daequone Clark 2 5-7 9, Sheveran Hardy 2 0-0 5, Craven Johnson 7 1-4 15, Joe Brown 4 2-2 14, Curtis Hyman 1 1-5 3, Mike Robinson 1 0-0 3, Ronday McCray 0 0-0 0, Muhammud Chislum 0 0-0 0. Totals 28 10-23 73.
NWC 28 19 23 13 – 83
NB 15 15 21 22 – 73
Three-point goals: Lewis 4, Huffman 2, Rollins, Hardy, Brown 4, Robinson.