For Will Fujita, leading Pierson’s boys basketball team is referred to by his family as “coaching for the enemy.”
That’s because the first-year varsity coach played for rival Southold, and is good friends with head coaches at his alma mater, Greenport, and Shelter Island.
“My family still gives me a bunch of grief,” he said, laughing. “We’re a tight-knit group, and they’ve all been accepting and super helpful as I adjust. I played against them when they were all coaches, too.”
Fujita was the Whalers’ junior varsity coach the past three seasons. The 2012 Southold graduate and current orchestra teacher said he’s excited to have the opportunity to take over for Hank Katz, and feels he’s in a unique position stepping into his new role.
“I’m very fortunate and excited,” he said. “Being a part of the JV team helps — I have that rapport. I know all these guys minus one player and I think we have a clear expectation, know what we anticipate from each other, which is nice.”
Pierson lost just one senior, starting point guard Cooper Schiavoni (133 points last season), and returns a slew of talent in senior guard/forward Henry Brooks, senior guard/forward Nick Egbert (123), senior center Harry Cowen (62), senior point guard Peter Schaefer (64 points), and sophomore forward Wilson Bennett (96). Also back is junior Habtamu Coulter, and new to the team is sophomore Cecil Munshin.
Brooks is on the cusp of reaching his 1000th career point, having racked up 456 points last season.
“This year we hit the ground running,” Fujita said. “These guys are good at identifying their roles and playing to their strengths.”
To keep things more relaxed, the coach has anticipations not for wins and losses but for what he expects out of his guys every single day.
“The biggest things are to play gritty and be consistent,” Fujita said. “You’re not always going to be able to shoot the ball well, but you can always bring energy. You won’t always feel 100 percent, but you can always give 100 percent.”
The coach said the Whalers’ strength is their work ethic, which is why the guys have been able to get ahead of his plans in practice. He said all the extra time put in helps when it’s a tossup as to who will remain at the top of the league come the end of the season.
“They’ve been very focused, which helps us develop the game in more detail,” Fujita said. “They work hard and it’s infectious.”
Pierson opened League VIII play with a 67-31 win over Ross December 6. Brooks had 19 points, Summers and Munshin each added nine, and Richard Barrano and Bennett tacked on six apiece. The Whalers host Shelter Island Friday, December 13, at 6:15 PM, before several nonleague contests and a tournament wrap up the end of the year.
Westhampton Beach Boasts New Coach
Westhampton Beach will be led by Tim McDermott this season, taking over for seven-year coach John Baumiller, and with the new coach also comes the return of former Hurricane basketball players who were gridiron greats.
Twin seniors Jaden and Jesse AlfanoStJohn, Shavar Coffey, Aidan Cumisky, and Jeff McBurnie are hoping to bring their winner’s mentality to the basketball court.
Returning to the team are junior point guard Will Razzano (44 points last season) and Andy Wilcenski, and new to the team are Nick Waszkelewicz, Jack Halloran, Justice Goode, and Logan Hagopian.
McDermott is a teacher in the district and has been coaching for 14 years, serving as the middle school coach the past four, and also completed stints as the junior varsity head coach in East Islip, Wantagh, and MacArthur.
Westhampton looks to improve upon its 3-16 record from last season, already boasting a 2-2 overall record. The Hurricanes lost to Elwood-John Glenn, 76-53, December 6 in the team’s League VI opener. Jaden AlfanoStJohn finished with 15 points, Razzano added 14, and Jesse AlfanoStJohn tacked on 10. The Hurricanes hosted Bayport-Blue Point December 10, but results were not available by press time. Westhampton travels to Shoreham-Wading River December 14 for a 10 AM tipoff.
East Hampton Battles In Revamped League V
East Hampton will face some stiff competition this season while coping with the loss of three of its five starters.
Turner Foster (219 points last season), Malachi Miller (306 points), and Max Proctor all graduated, and returning to the team are senior Jeremy Vizcaino (249), one of the two starters back from last season, and classmates Logan Gurney (34), Liam Leach (46), and Nick Esquivel (140).
They’ll help the Bonackers battle teams like Half Hollow Hills West, Harborfields, Kings Park, and Islip, which all made the playoffs last season. East Hampton was close to doing the same, but one win short, a last-game-of-the-season heartbreaker.
New team members for head coach Dan White boast some height. There’s 6-5 Charlie Condon, 6-3 Travis Wallace, and lefty Topher Cullen.
East Hampton opened league play with a 78-50 loss to Half Hollow Hills West December 6. Luke Reese finished with 12 points, Leach added nine, and Vizcaino and Condon scores seven apiece. The Bonackers travel to Islip Thursday, December 12, at 6 PM before hosting Rocky Point Monday, December 16, at 6:15 PM.
Southampton Still Strong
Southampton lost three big seniors, but returns some top scorers from last year’s squad — senior All-Conference standout Dakoda Smith (190 points last season), and classmates Sincere Faggins (293), Artemi Gavalas (123), and James Malone (52). Faggins led the team in three-pointers last season (27) and Gavalas, coming off the bench, was right behind him (26).
While the Mariners lost some size with the graduation of twin brothers Marcus (238 points) and Marquise Trent (265), and Kristian Wheeler (131), the team gets a boost head coach Herm Lamison is excited for with the addition of Zy’aire Pittman, a senior who played for Riverhead last year and racked up 159 points, senior Lucas Bontempo (42), junior Steven Kraszewski (59), and sophomore Lebron Napier (110).
Southampton faces multiple nonleague opponents like Division I’s Ward Melville, Central Islip, and Longwood to round out the end of the year as practice to improve upon its early 2018-19 finish with an upset to Mattituck in the opening round of the playoffs. The Mariners will begin League VIII play on the road against Hampton Bays January 7 at 5:45 PM.
Bridgehampton Building Back Up
After claiming the school’s first Class D Long Island championship before suffering a regional final loss to Marathon, Bridgehampton bid farewell to half its team come graduation, including J.P. Harding, Jahqur Carr, Jonny DeGroot, and Nate DePasquale. The Killer Bees then lost their top two returners to transferring. Nae’Jon Ward went to Center Moriches, along with Greenport standout Ahkee Anderson to really beef up the Red Devils, and Elijah White to St. Paul’s School, a preparatory boarding school in Concord, NH, where basketball players have gone on to compete for Division I programs.
Senior Will Walker saw significant minutes last season, and will be relied upon heavily by head coach Ron White to lead the young, small team.
Also back are sophomores Anthony Cabrera, Nick Saunders, and David Simms. New to the team are freshmen Jack Boeshore, Dylan Fitzgerald, and brothers Kris and Scott Vinski.
The Killer Bees opened League VIII play against Southold December 10, but results were not available at press time. Bridgehampton will host Smithtown Christian Wednesday, December 18, at 6 PM.