Warwick Vets lost five key contributors to graduation from last year’s team and will have only two seniors on the roster this year. The starting lineup for last night’s non-league opener was set to include three sophomores.
But the ’Canes are more experienced than they seem – with young players who have played a lot of basketball – and this year could be the beginning of something big.
“I like what I’ve seen,” said head coach Chris LeBlanc. “Things are going as expected. The guys did a lot of work in the summer and in the fall, so I think we’re a little bit ahead of schedule.”
The ’Canes went 5-13 in Division III last year, never quite getting over the hump. But the season was a valuable learning experience for the team’s young players, several of whom began to emerge as standouts late in the year. With more young players in the fold – and summer league and fall league experience under everybody’s belt – there’s reason to think the ’Canes can get over the hump this year.
“We’re looking to be competitive in every game,” LeBlanc said. “We were competitive last year, but we want to pick up a few more wins. That’s always the goal.”
The ’Canes have two seniors on the roster – guard Carter Thomas and power forward Colby Menard. Both contributed a lot last year and should be ready for even bigger roles this season.
Thomas is serving as a captain, along with juniors Scott Camara and Will Remak. Camara, a guard, and Remak, a forward, had breakout sophomore seasons last year and will be looking to take things to another level. Both are good shooters with loads of potential.
“They did very well last year,” LeBlanc said. “And they have that experience. At practice, I was getting on some guys about not cutting the right way. You don’t have to worry about that with these guys.”
Three sophomores will be trying to emerge in similar fashion this year. Guards Josh Muto and Israel Thomas and big man Shane Kittila are all penciled into the starting lineup.
“They’re ready,” LeBlanc said. “They had a very successful summer. In the fall, we played all Division I teams and we competed. They have a lot of experience. They’ve played a lot of basketball.”
The ’Canes have several other players in the mix, including junior Justin Batista and sophomore Jeremy Batista, who were both on the varsity roster last year. Junior Tim Hogan will provided depth inside, and sophomore Kyle Rice is looking to make an impression.
“We have a lot of depth and a lot of interchangeable parts,” LeBlanc said.
That should allow the ’Canes to continue playing the up-tempo style that helped them win 11 games in the 2010-11 season.
“We’re deep so we can keep pushing the ball,” LeBlanc said. “I think the kids like playing that style and I enjoy coaching that style. That’s what we’re going to do.”
And though they’re young, the ’Canes know what they need to do to make that style work. If all goes as planned, they could be taking a first step into contention.
“This group has to take care of the ball and rebound,” LeBlanc said. “Those are the two biggest things. If we do that, I think we’ll be right there.”
Vets will open league play on Tuesday when it hosts Toll Gate at 7 p.m.