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Senior captain Nick Donofrio is one of several veteran leaders on a Hand boys’ basketball team that’s aspiring to reach great heights during the 2021 winter season. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Center Michael Travisano (right) will lead the Hand boys’ basketball squad alongside fellow senior captains Nick Donofrio and Scott Testori (middle) this year. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Scott Testori and the Tigers are on the court to host Lyman Hall and Guilford for their first two games of the winter campaign. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Ryan Collins and his fellow seniors are looking to guide to a prosperous season on the court this year. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Head Coach Jimmy Economopoulos feels confident that great things are in store for the Hand boys’ basketball team during the 2021 season. With an experienced group leading the charge, the Tigers want to establish themselves as one of the top squads in the Southern Connecticut Conference this year.
Hand is coming off of a season that saw the team finish with an overall record of 6-14. The Tigers are bringing back four of their starters from last year, in addition to getting back senior point guard Jason Wallack, who started for Hand two years ago before missing last season due to an injury.
Hand enters the campaign with a senior-laden core featuring center Mike Travisano, along with fellow seniors Nick Donofrio, Chris Porte, Ryan Collins, and Jason Wallack, who are all guards. Donofrio, Travisano, and Testori are serving as Hand’s captains. Junior transfer Tyler Favre is also expected to see his fair share of minutes for the Tigers.
“I have high expectations for the upcoming season,” Coach Economopoulos said. “We return four starters from last year and gain a starter from two seasons ago in Jason Wallack who did not play last year. Chris Porte is another key player who came off the bench for us last year and made a significant impact. We have a 6-foot-5 junior transfer Tyler Favre, who comes in from Avon. He will be an immediate impact player for us with his mix of size and shooting ability.”
Other athletes who are slated to contribute for Hand this year include junior guards Morgan Veth, Danny Hilmer, and Trey Adams, sophomore guards Jacob Rachler and Hudson Geremia, sophomore forward David Howe, and freshman guard Kyle Hoffman.
Coach Economopoulos likes the depth that he has on his roster. Economopoulos feels that he has flexibility to mix and match his lineups depending on how the Tigers match up with their opponent on any given night.
“This is one of the deepest teams I have ever coached. A number of guys can play serious minutes and contribute,” said Economopoulos. “It is difficult to say which guys will even start for us this year, which is a good problem to have, especially during the difficult COVID situation we are currently dealing with. Guys have gotten tired more quickly having to wear the masks. So, having a long bench will be helpful.”
Economopoulos knows that the season will be a struggle as teams deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the biggest changes this year is that basketball teams will be required to wear masks during their contests. Coach Economopoulos said that the Tigers are prepared to follow all of the safety guidelines, both on and off the court, in order to complete the campaign.
“It is definitely a challenge, dealing with COVID,” Economopoulos said. “The message of responsibility is something we preach at every practice. Players are expected to make smart decisions when they leave school and leave the gym, so they do not potentially expose anyone. We have asked all players to make a sacrifice for the good of the team by staying away from gatherings or going out for the next two months during the season. That is the only way we will be able to continue through a full season.”
Something else that will be vastly different this winter is that there will be no fans in attendance at any basketball games in Connecticut. However, Coach Economopoulos doesn’t believe that the lack of fans in the stands will have any significant impact on his team.
“Not having fans will be disappointing, but won’t affect us much,” said Economopoulos. “The guys enjoy game days and showing off their hard work to family and friends, but more than anything, they just want to play. They have made it clear to me they don’t care about masks or fans as long as they get the chance to compete.”
The Tigers start their season with a home game against Lyman Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 10, after which they will host Guilford on Friday, Feb. 12, with both games beginning at 7 p.m. The Tigers will then play at East Haven in their road opener at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 16.
As a new campaign gets underway, Coach Economopoulos knows that there are plenty of challenges ahead for the Tigers. Still, Economopoulos and his players feel grateful that they have a chance to pursue a successful season on the court this winter.
“We have an opportunity to be very successful this year with the depth and talent we have, but it will all come down to how we handle the virus and how we come together as a group,” Economopoulos said. “We are just taking it day by day and trying to get better. We are very thankful to have the opportunity to compete.”
Hand’s roster for the 2021 campaign additionally includes junior guards Jack Balletto and Jack Kayal, along with sophomore guards Sam Sisk, Reece Scott, and Andrew Onubogu.