Sports Person of the Week
Pandolfi Big Part of North Haven’s Core Going Forward
Adam Pandolfi had a productive freshman year for North Haven boys’ hoops, helping the team claim a 43-39 win against Cheshire in its final game of the regular season. (Photo courtesy of Adam Pandolfi )
Adam Pandolfi made a big impact in a short span of time with the North Haven boys’ basketball team this winter. A freshman wing, Adam helped North Haven steadily improve through the course of the campaign and played a huge part in the team’s win over Cheshire in its regular-season finale.
Adam feels proud of the work that North Haven put in during difficult circumstances this year. North Haven claimed its lone win of the season by defeating Cheshire, and Adam hopes that victory marks the start of a successful string for his team. Adam scored 18 points for North Haven in the 43-39 victory.
“I think we improved over the season at a steady pace. We kept getting better and closer and closer to our goal. At the end of the season, we were able to get a win,” says Adam. “My offensive game picked up during the year, which helped us get the win. My biggest improvement was with driving and finishing. Also, free throws. I was already pretty good at defense.”
Adam wasn’t quite sure what to expect in his first season with North Haven boys’ hoops. However, Adam knew that he and his teammates would give it their all at each practice and every game.
“My expectation was that we were going to work hard. We gave 100-percent effort all the time,” Adam says. “Other than that, I didn’t know what to expect coming to a different coaching staff as a freshman. I really like our group of coaches, and they do a really good job coaching us.”
Adam works diligently, but when it all feels like too much, he remembers his friend Anthony Longley, who passed away in December 2019, following a long battle with brain cancer. Whenever the going gets tough, Adam has a motto that helps him stay the course.
“I was really close with Anthony Longley. We were best friends since the 1st grade, and we did everything together. He’s my motivation,” Adam says. “I like to think, ‘What would Ant do?’ I think of him whenever I go through something tough, and that he went through something tougher. I wear a bracelet on my wrist to remember him. It says, ‘Angels over Anthony.’”
Adam honed his one-on-one defense during his first season at North Haven. On offensive side of the floor, Adam’s strategy was to get into the paint for good looks at the rim.
“In the man defense, I would typically guard the other team’s best offensive player. I wanted to shut that guy down and play help-side defense, as well. I wanted to be vocal on the court saying things like, ‘I got ball,’ or ‘I got help,’” says Adam. “On offense, I try to get to the basket whenever I can and, when I’m open, I can get a three. I’m trying to set up my teammates, as well.”
Adam stands 6-feet tall, and that height allows him to switch and guard multiple types of players. Adam spent most of his time on the wing this year, but he can defend anyone from opposing guards to the bigs.
“I think our team was pretty undersized all year. It made it hard for us. We really had to work for rebounds, and it made it harder to play defense,” Adam says. “Defending against a big guy, it’s all about grit and wanting to stop him. Don’t let him back you up and stand your ground. For a guard, it’s just stay in front and don’t let him by you.”
Head Coach Danny Oglesby feels fortunate to have a young and talented player like Adam on his roster. The 2021 season was shorter than normal, but thankfully, Adam still has plenty of basketball ahead of him at North Haven.
“Adam’s been great all year. He’s got a great work ethic. He’s improved and got more confident,” says Oglesby. “He has a great attitude, and he’s got everything we’re looking to see in the guys in our program. I’m looking forward to a future with him.”
In addition to playing basketball for North Haven, Adam suits up with the Connecticut Basketball Academy (CBA) AAU squad out of West Haven, where he first started playing when he was in the 5th grade. Adam found that playing varsity basketball in North Haven was a different experience than what he was used to in CBA.
“I would say CBA is a lot more playing with kids at your age level. The competition is a bit less intense. High school is a little bit more intense than AAU,” Adam says. “I think for CBA we’re focused on developing our skills as players, but we’re also being taught how to be a part of the team, and that it’s not all about you. What matters is getting the win.”
The COVID-19 pandemic pushed back Adam’s debut as a high school athlete by a few months. Adam was hoping to play running back and strong safety in the North Haven football program last fall, but the season was canceled. With no fall sport, Adam had to practice his way back into game shape for basketball. The mental toll of the pandemic could have been just as intense as the physical toll, but Adam had strategies to deal with that, too.
“After getting back into it, I think the first couple of practices were a little rough and tiring. After that, you get used to it, and it becomes a part of everyday life,” says Adam. “As for the mental part, I think staying connected with my friends always helps with that stuff. Even when we couldn’t get together in person, talking online would help.”
It’s been an unusual first year for Adam at North Haven, but he’s looking forward to seeing what North Haven can achieve on the court next season. Adam just feels grateful that he had a chance to compete as a freshman.
“Once we got used to the masks and everything, it was fine,” says Adam, who thanks his North Haven coaches. “Some people on other teams would complain, but I was just happy that we got the season, even if we were wearing masks. Just playing is what mattered.”