Warriors Ready for Battle in Opening Week
Senior captain Marcus SantaMaria and the Valley Regional boys’ basketball team are flying under the radar in the Shoreline Conference with some prognosticators. The Warriors are a talented group with good roster depth. (Photo courtesy of Agata Luff )
Senior captain Keenan Pindar is the type to lead with his effort on the court first and foremost. Pindar is the Warriors’ premier perimeter defender. (Photo courtesy of Agata Luff )
Junior James Marsden is a talented offensive threat who can just as easily put the ball in the bucket or dish to an open teammate. (Photo courtesy of Agata Luff )
Junior Simon Partyka has all the tools to be one of the top point guards in the Shoreline Conference. Particularly impressive is the junior guard’s basketball IQ. (Photo courtesy of Agata Luff )
With opening night this week, the Valley Regional boys’ basketball team is rounding into shape. The Warriors are coming off a stellar campaign with a 17-5 overall record last year. Many in the Shoreline Conference anticipate that Valley could be in a rebuilding position this season, but Head Coach Kevin Woods and the Warriors are determined to keep marching on without missing a beat in 2021.
Nearly all of Coach Woods’s contributors from last season have graduated, but the Warriors have a deep program, with plenty of capable players ready to hit the ground running this year. There will not be as large of a senior class this season, but Coach Woods knows that Warriors will be in a good position with a deep roster.
“This is a tricky year because of how many good sophomores and juniors we have on the team. We’re so deep. We have a very good sophomore class who will struggle to get time because we’re so deep with players coming back,” said Woods. “That’s really great. Even if they don’t play a lot of varsity minutes, they are there for three more years, and they will continue to develop. It’s a great place to be.”
The Warriors are motivated by the fact that many of their opponents are assuming that Valley won’t be able to hang with the elite of the Shoreline Conference after graduating nine seniors. Coach Woods is happy to see other teams underestimate the Warriors and he knows that they won’t under the radar for long.
“We’re going to be good. We’re going to be one of the top teams in the league; there’s no doubt,” said Woods. “We’re motivated that we’re not top-4 in the Shoreline Conference in GameTime CT’s ranking. Jeremy Arnum wasn’t even mentioned in the top players to watch in the conference, and he may be the best player in the conference. This kid is the goods.”
Coach Woods is extremely excited to have the sophomore Arnum on his roster. As a matter of fact, Arnum’s abilities on the floor are unrivaled by any previous sophomore that Coach Woods has coach save for Jonathan Luster, who earned the Shoreline Conference Player of the Year nearly a decade ago.
“Jeremy Arnum is the Lebron James of the Shoreline Conference. He is the best player in the Shoreline in my opinion. I have no doubt. He’s a sophomore, so that’s even scarier,” said Woods. “For me, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in coaching Jeremy. He puts so much work into his game. I’ve had some amazing sophomores that I’ve coached, and he’s up there with them, including Jonathan Luster. Jeremy is that caliber of player, and he’s maybe even better.”
While Valley has some young talent at the ready, the team also has some savvy veteran leaders in senior captains Marcus Santa- Maria and Keenan Pindar. They both bring a different type of leadership style to the table, and they complement each other well.
“Keenan Pindar has been a great player for us over the past couple of years. He’s one of our defensive stoppers and the best on-ball defender we have. He hustles and makes plays. He’s improved his ability to finish at the basket, and he’s a tough kid. You need those guys to be successful. He’s a spark plug. We’re fortunate to have him,” Woods said. “Marcus SantaMaria is our vocal leader. Keenan is lead by example. Marcus is the guy who talks, and you have to listen to him. It’s a great combination between the two of them. Keenan isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and once you watch Keenan play, there’s no doubting why he’s a captain.”
The Warriors also have a couple of surprises up their sleeve in terms of senior contributors in Kyle Metz, Tommy Burch, and Cam Ruel. None of them were on the team last year for various reasons, but so far in practice, it’s evident that the trio will give Shoreline foes more than they bargained for.
“Cam Ruel is going to be a great addition to the team this year. Kyle Metz is a longtime football player who has never played varsity basketball, but he’s picking things up quickly. Tommy Burch is a guy who changes the way people will have to play us,” said Woods. “Tommy is returning after a year hiatus. Kyle is an incredible athlete and such a smart kid. They are both big bodies. I’m really optimistic about what they bring to the table. There’s no way anyone is going to move Tommy Birch or Kyle Metz in the paint. It will be fun to watch those guys.”
Junior James Marsden also is in a prime position to make a significant impact for the Warriors this year. Marsden is a talented athlete on the gridiron and the baseball diamond, as well as the basketball court. Coach Woods hopes to see big things from the junior.
“James Marsden is a very good player. He’s big and tall. He defends well, and he passes well. He also shoots the ball really well,” Woods said. “He can play inside or outside. He will be a big asset this year and next year for us. He’s definitely a talent.”
Valley also has the luxury of a capable point guard in junior Simon Partyka. The floor general sees the court very well and knows how to get his teammates the ball in the bet positions for them to finish a possession successfully.
“Simon Partyka is a stud. He might be the best point guard in the league, even without a lot of varsity experience. He’s the real deal,” said Woods. “He’s so smooth, and he has all the point guard mannerisms. He has the balance a point guard should have, and he sees everything on the floor. He’s as good as anyone, and basketball is his game. He just loves basketball.”
Of course, this year will look a lot different due to the COVID-19 pandemic still wreaking havoc all over the country. That means no state tournament, and no fans in the stands to provide support for the Warriors. Coach Woods would love to see the energy that the fans bring to the gym, but it’s not a necessity. Valley has all the motivation it needs to go out and win.
“Unfortunately, fans can’t be out there to see them. I think you feel that more in tournament time. During the season, you sometimes play in gyms without a lot of fans, and you have to find that energy within the team. When you practice with energy, you will play with energy. If you have to depend on the fans then you are missing the boat in the first place,” Woods said. “We have a lot of good players that people are sleeping on. Some coaches try to go under the radar, but I won’t do that. I can hide it, or I can tell everybody. We’re still going to be good.”