New Britain City Journal

New Britain's Weekly Online Newspaper

The Sports Journal

Huge Strides Forecast Growth for NBHS Boys Hoop Program

When Todd Stigliano attained the New Britain High boys basketball head coaching position after the 2009-10 season, the program was firmly embedded in a rebuilding stage.

The Hurricanes finished 20-6 in Stan Glowiak’s final season. The leading scorers Darius Watson and Steven Glowiak were college-bound. So were Tebucky Jones Jr. and Tarik Hightower, completing the decimation of the front court.

Point guard Matt Correa had expended his high school eligibility. Devonne Nolan played well as a sophomore but transferred to Windsor. New Britain (5-15) failed to qualify for the Class LL tournament for the first time in 22 years as Stigliano introduced an extremely young team to the rigors of the CCC.

Stigliano took his lumps, but a review of the recently concluded finds then dissolved in a sweet blend of success that could carry New Britain to the top. The ’Canes (14-10, 8-6 CCC West) nearly tripled their overall win total, gained five games in the league standings and stands to return virtually all their key players.

“When you look back on the season there are some things that stand out,” said Stigliano, a two-sport star at Newington (Class of 1999) before playing Division I soccer at Providence College. “Making it into both tournaments (the CCC and LL) was a goal from start that we were able to do. Unfortunately we put ourselves in a tough position in terms of the conference tournament.”

The ’Canes won five of their last seven regular-season tests, including a 69-51 thumping of Southington to gain league tournament admittance. Seeded 15th out of 16 qualifiers, New Britain drew No. 2 Windsor, considered by the state’s sports writers to be among the top five teams in the state. The ’Canes fell by nine.

“We played them tough – not quite tough enough, but it was an accomplishment just to get into that tournament,” Stigliano said.

The late-season surge also assured New Britain a 14th seed and a Class LL tournament home game against Danbury. The 88-73 win set up a second-round against a Hartford Public five that was unbeaten through the regular season. The ’Canes won in overtime, 66-61, before bowing at Fairfield Prep by 11 points in the quarterfinals.

“The opportunity to go to Fairfield was a great experience,” Stigliano said. “When you get down to the final eight, you have to play your best game to win. It was an important experience, especially for the younger kids because we have a lot of returning players. They needed to know what it felt like.”

NOLAN ONE OF A KIND: Stigliano loses reserve center Muhammad Chislum and starting forward Quadree Rollins to graduation, along with Nolan, who returned from Windsor for his senior year to give the Hurricanes a major boost.

“We’re not going to be able to replace Nolan because you won’t find another player like him in Connecticut,” Stigliano said. “He’s so dynamic with the basketball. We’ll need somebody to step up as our point guard but he will play much differently. I never saw one like him. We’ll miss him.”

Stigliano said Nolan is a candidate to attend prep school to ready him for what could be a productive college experience.

“It would give college coaches an opportunity to see what he brings to the table,” Stigliano said.

The ’Canes are likely to return brawny 6-foot-3 center Craven Johnson as the centerpiece of next year’s squad. Curtis Hyman, a 6-4 frontcourt player, showed great potential. Athletic 6-3 forward Daequone Clark and 6-3 starter Joseph Brown would give New Britain as imposing a front court rotation as any team in the CCC could muster.

DEPTH IN THE BACKCOURT: There is no shortage of backcourt candidates either. Creative starter Sheveran Hardy played his freshman season at New Britain, transferred to Goodwin Tech as a sophomore and returned last year.

“Hardy is a flat-out scorer,” Stigliano said. “He finds a way to compensate for not being big (5-7) or lightning fast. Offensively he works on his game all the time. He’s a real good shooter who can pull up in the lane and shoot the three. He’s very dangerous and he’s a little bit tougher after playing against the competition we play. He was right there with Devonne leading the team in scoring.”

Sophomores Michael Robinson and Annuel St. Juste are candidates for the point.

“[Robinson] is athletic and has good strength at 5-11,” Stigliano said. “He’s a worker and his attitude is second to none. He steps up in practice and takes leadership.”

Stigliano said Robinson is a high-honors student who was 19th in a class of about 500. St. Juste, he said, slipped in under the radar and has the potential to be a great player.

“St. Juste, Hyman and Robinson could have huge years,” the coach said. “They have the ability and they continue to develop. We’ll have more talent than this year but there are so many factors.”

One factor is the growing concern that some of New Britain’s budding stars could opt to attend school elsewhere.

The city’s talent has always been a source for them, and the magnet school phenomenon more than doubles the number of possible suitors. Speculation about playing time and the effect a summer of AAU ball could change the landscape considerably.

“It’s on me to figure out a way to get more people involved,” Stigliano said.” We have three juniors who will be seniors. We have 12 sophomores who will be juniors and five of them had significant varsity experience. We have a great core. I have to make sure we stay together. In a city school it’s a fluid thing. I hope they all stay with us.”