North Haven Looking to Play Up-Tempo with Oglesby
Junior Chris Hager and his teammates on the North Haven boys’ basketball squad are eager to begin their first season with Head Coach Danny Oglesby this winter. North Haven starts its season by facing East Haven this week. (Photo by Susan Lambert/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Ryan Balzano brings the ball up court while defended by teammate Ty Rooney during a recent North Haven boys’ basketball practice. Balzano and Rooney are both members of the team’s junior class. (Photo by Susan Lambert/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Sophomore Declan Finkle and freshman Max Cargan are part of a young North Haven boys’ hoops squad that’s looking to play at a fast pace with new Head Coach Danny Oglesby. (Photo by Susan Lambert/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Adam Pandolfi will be looking to make his mark on the varsity team as a freshman for North Haven during the 2021 winter campaign. (Photo by Susan Lambert/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
The athletes on the North Haven boys’ basketball team are counting down the minutes to the start of the 2021 winter season. And so is first-year Head Coach Danny Oglesby.
Oglesby begins his debut campaign at North Haven after serving as an assistant coach at Hamden Hall for the past several years. Oglesby was also a superstar player at Hamden Hall before going on to play college ball at South Florida and Fairfield.
Now, Oglesby takes over a young North Haven club that graduated seven seniors from its team that went 9-13 while qualifying for the Southern Connecticut Conference Tournament and the Division III State Tournament last winter. Coach Oglesby’s squad will tip off the 2021 campaign with a road game against East Haven at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 10, after which North Haven will play home games versus Cheshire and Sheehan on Friday, Feb. 12 and Tuesday, Feb. 16, respectively, with both contests slated to start at 7 p.m.
“I’m really excited. We didn’t know if we would have a season, and it wasn’t looking good for a while, but then we got the good news that everything was a go,” said Oglesby. “I was very happy when they announced that the season was going to go on. Our guys put in the work and really wanted to play. We’re ready to get going, and I feel really excited about our team.”
Coach Oglesby has gotten to know his players through the tryouts, conditioning sessions, and practices that have been taking place the past few weeks. Oglesby said he’s pleased with the energy that he’s seen from his team on the court through the early goings.
“They’re doing a great job, and I’m happy with where we are at this point. Guys are coming in with energy and learning what the expectations are. They know what to expect from us already, and they have been receptive to feedback,” Oglesby said. “They’re coachable, have a positive attitude overall, and I’m very happy with the group we have. We’re young, but the guys we have work hard and are going to continue to get better. We’re doing a lot of conditioning, skills and drills, and implementing what we’re going to run on offense and defense.”
Coach Oglesby said that he’s looking for North Haven to play an up-tempo style. Oglesby wants North Haven to use pressure defense to create good looks on the other end of the floor, whether it’s from beyond the arc or right underneath the hoop.
“We want to try to get up a lot of shots, a lot of threes. We want to play fast and hope that our defense can turn teams over and help us get some layups or transition threes on offense,” said Oglesby. “We want to play fast. We don’t want to walk the ball up. We want to press when we can, play man-to-man and trap, and turn guys over to get easy baskets. I like to play that way. It’s a lot more fun and exciting way to play. I think we’ll be able to do that well with the team we have.”
North Haven has 12 regular-season games on its schedule this year. The team will play two games apiece against Cheshire and Amity to go with single games versus East Haven, Sheehan, Xavier, Branford, Guilford, Hamden, Lyman Hall, and Daniel Hand. There won’t be a state tournament, but the SCC has plans to hold a league tournament following the end of the regular season.
Another one of the big differences between this season and past years is that basketball players will have to wear masks during games in 2021. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s winter sports plan said that athletes will be allowed mask breaks and an opportunity to change their masks multiple times throughout each contest.
North Haven has been practicing with its masks on as the team prepares for its season. There is a scheduled mask break every 20 to 30 minutes at practice, and players can also request a mask break at any time. Coach Oglesby said that his athletes have adjusted nicely to this new and unusual situation.
“It’s been fine. The players haven’t complained at all. I was more concerned about it than they were,” Oglesby said. “We literally talk every day about everyone doing what they need to do to stay safe. There is a heavy emphasis on doing the right thing to stay safe and all the mitigating stuff that is recommended.”
After saying good-bye to seven seniors from last season’s team, North Haven only has one senior on this year’s roster in guard JJ Mazzaro. Oglesby said that Mazzaro is displaying the types of traits that he wants to see in a senior leader.
“JJ has been showing the guys how to work, and he’s been constantly communicating with the coaching staff. He did our toy drive last year and stayed the entire time, and he also came to every conditioning session,” said Oglesby. “JJ is lead-by-example, and that translates to our practices, where we’re seeing other guys step up into leadership roles. We’ve been happy with the JJ is leading the way and with the other guys we have stepping up, too.”
North Haven features a big junior class with several players who are expected to be a part of the varsity rotation. North Haven’s junior class includes guards Chris Hager, Ty Rooney, and Matthew Cocco, point guard Aedan Bosticco, and small forward Ryan Balzano. Hager became a key player for North Haven by the end of last season.
“I think they’ll all be significant contributors to the team this year,” Oglesby said. “They’ve worked hard in practice, they’re getting better, and I’m looking forward to see how they do with a new style of play and a new coach.”
North Haven also has a couple of sophomores who are slated to be in the mix. Declan Finkle is a guard, while fellow sophomore Dante Velez will play point guard for North Haven.
“I am hoping and expecting both of these guys to play a big role this year,” Coach Oglesby said. “If you want to play up and down and play fast, you need to have a lot of guys, and they are two of our better ball-handlers who will be asked to do a lot of that. They are a part of our future and will be part of building our program.”
The same can be said of freshman guard Adam Pandolfi and fellow freshman Max Cargan, a forward. Oglesby believes that Pandolfi and Cargan and both going to make their mark with the varsity team during the season.
“Those two guys are two of the better freshmen that I’ve coached in a while, and they are definitely going to contribute on varsity this year,” said Oglesby. “They haven’t been afraid. They’ve come right in and jumped in without any fear, and I’m really excited about coaching them.”
In addition to Coach Oglesby, North Haven is also welcoming three new assistant coaches to the program this year. North Haven’s assistant coaches are AJ Houston, who is also the JV head coach; Vic Joshua, who is also head coach of the freshman team; and Michael DeMartino, a volunteer assistant.
In terms of season goals, Oglesby is mostly focused on seeing North Haven make daily progress that will benefit the program in both the short and long term. Oglesby doesn’t want to worry too much about getting a specific number of wins, especially since the framework of the season is going to be much different than what everyone is accustomed to.
“My goals are day-to-day and seeing the guys get better and better,” Oglesby said. “It’s hard to say that I want us to win 10 games or win 12 games. For me, if we get better every day, continue to work on the things we need to work on, and hopefully stay healthy and don’t have any stoppages to our season, I’ll be happy and the results will work themselves out.”