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Sophomore guard Ryan Stratton and the Old Saybrook boys’ basketball team are looking to take positive steps toward building a more competitive program in this pandemic shortened season. Stratton will be the primary ball handler for the Rams. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Junior guard Riley Lawson will be one of the Rams most potent offensive threats this season. Head Coach Chris Perras expects to see Lawson pile up some points for Old Saybrook. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Sophomore Aaron Tolve has a tall frame and a decent shot that should be a big help for the Rams this year. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
The Old Saybrook boys’ basketball team is poised to make some marked improvements in a year full of uncertainty. The Rams were only able to record two wins last season, and Head Coach Chris Perras hopes that his squad can lay the groundwork for a successful program in his first full year at the helm.
Coach Perras feels encouraged that he and this year’s seniors should be on the same page. Perras has worked with several of these players when they were still learning how to become varsity contributors as sophomores.
“This is my third year over all with the program. I was the interim head coach for about 15 games last season,” Perras said. “These seniors were the sophomore group when I came in, and they are familiar with my style and how I want them to perform in practice and at games. Also, they know the expectations we set as a team.”
While there are expectations for the Rams in terms of how they conduct themselves on the court and how hard they work at practice, Coach Perras is trying to keep the players free of expectations when it comes to this season as a whole. With so many variables, wins and losses aren’t the foremost concern.
“I don’t have any expectations this year just because everything is so unknown. What I have for the team is that we will compete every single day. Every game is an opportunity for us to improve and get better. We want to compete at practice and have that carry over into games,” said Perras. “I don’t have an expectation, because it can end in a blink of an eye. I just want the players go out and compete, compete, compete. If they can match my intensity at practice then they are going to be in those games.”
Old Saybrook has a fair amount of experience on its roster with seven seniors, and Coach Perras is looking forward to seeing how they lead the team on and off the court.
“We have seven seniors in the program now and five of them have varsity experience,” said Perras. “We still will have a lot of gaps to fill. I want us to give everything we have every game and more importantly just have fun.”
One of these senior leaders is defensive specialist Peter Waida. The senior forward knows how to be an irritant on defense and brings the intensity that can energize the Rams.
“Peter Waida is a scrappy type of player. His energy comes on the defensive end. What he can do defensively can really spark us. He’s a leader and a smart kid,” said Perras. “He has the varsity experience. We expect him to jump into this role. The things he does feeds the team, trying to get transitions buckets. He busts his tail.”
Of course, leadership isn’t just relegated to the senior class. Sophomore Ryan Stratton is a capable combo-guard for the Rams, especially with the ball in his hands. A lot of the Rams’ offensive sets will start with Stratton initiating plays and making important decisions.
“Ryan Stratton will be our primary ball handler. We threw him into the fire with that role last year as a freshman,” Perras said. “He learned a lot from that. He’s a smart kid with a high basketball IQ. We definitely trust him with the ball.”
While the offense may initiate through Stratton, Perras expects junior combo guard Riley Lawson to put the ball in the basket frequently.
“Riley Lawson is going to be our lead scorer, hopefully. His leadership comes on the floor and in the locker room. He has the most varsity experience in this program. He was called up during the play off time as a freshman, and we were 15-5,” said Perras. “He saw the work it took to have a successful team. He knows he has to be that type of mentor and leader. He can even play the four or the five in a small ball line-up, that’s how good he is.”
As far as other big bodies out on the floor, Old Saybrook has senior forward Ben Yost who came to the team last year as a transfer student from Pennsylvania. According to Perras, Yost has gotten himself into even better shape this year and could have an even bigger impact this season.
“Ben Yost came to us from Pennsylvania last year, and he played the whole year with us. He’s a joy to have on the team,” said Perras. “He’s cut down a ton of weight and he’s a lot faster. He’ll definitely have the roles and responsibilities of a big. He knows where to be in help defense situations. He’s going to be the loudest one in the gym to help the defense react accordingly.”
Another younger player who has a good chance to play some meaningful minutes on the floor is Aaron Tolve. The sophomore forward has a nice shot and a long frame to get it over defenders. His older brother Owen Tolve is a senior big who isn’t afraid to mix it up in the post.
“Aaron Tolve is around 6-foot-3. He’s a tall, lanky kid who can put it in the basket,” Perras said. “His brother, a senior, Owen Tolve, and he’s more of a forward. He’s the kind of player who can body guys up, and he has a decent shot.”
The Rams will be sending a variety of starting lineups onto the floor this season depending on their opponent. Coach Perras wants to put his squad in a position to succeed, game in and game out, so he will be eyeing each match up to determine Old Saybrook’s optimal course of action.
“Basketball is a game of matchups, it won’t be the same every night. The defensive plan is going to change depending on matchups,” Perras said. “Players are going to have to battle. You have to fight. It comes down to who gives us the best five on the floor at a given time. We’re building something here We’re getting this going into the right direction. We have guys buying into the philosophy. These kids are awesome.”