Five of the “starting six” and eight players total continue to transition from football to basketball at Maine-Endwell, a fact that figures to be noticeable initially but then fade into the rearview mirror come time for high school basketball postseason.
The Spartans are big, experienced, talented and highly likely to challenge for top honors in the Southern Tier Athletic Conference as well as Section 4 Class A. Beyond that? Time will tell.
Of the six players who’ll comprise M-E’s revolving first five, only big man Chris Heimes was not a member of the Spartans’ Class B state-championship football team. And while celebration of that second consecutive perfect football season is ongoing, so is the process of turning football muscle into the endurance required for start-and-stop, back-and-forth indoor competition.
“We talk about the positive impact it’ll have, with the experience those eight kids just went through and what it takes to compete at that level of state playoffs and all the things that go with it,” said coach Bill Ocker, whose M-E football junior varsity has won 39 of its last 40 games.
“It was such a tremendous experience. We might be a little winded out of the gate but … “
But, the Spartans also figure to be very, very good.
In fact, it could be argued that the top two players in STAC and perhaps the section are KJ and KG — Binghamton point guard KJ Rose and versatile Maine-Endwell junior Kyle Gallagher. Oh, and there is Jake Sinicki, “As skilled a kid as you will see and unselfish just about to a fault,” Ocker said.
Though a bump here and a ding there remain from football contact, the hope is that all Spartans will be ready for the season opener, which comes Friday at home against Binghamton.
Still in bloom
Section 4’s finest point guard, Binghamton’s Rose, returns for his fifth and final season as a varsity starter in the Southern Tier Athletic Conference.
He was sixth-team All-State last season, one year after gaining seventh-team recognition while wearing the uniform of Union-Endicott’s Tigers. His debut season with the Patriots was particularly striking in that it brought to light his grasp of all that is a high-grade point guard. His per-game scoring average dropped markedly from the 19.4 he’d put up as a sophomore, but his overall game blossomed markedly.
Also back in the Patriots’ fold is Jamie Curtis, a 5-11 senior who last season earned coaches’ recognition as an All-Metro Division selection.
Binghamton’s roster shows Rose and junior Mario Cherry standing 6-2, and junior Salen Turkovic tallest of the bunch at 6-3.
Conversely, fellow Metro Division members Maine-Endwell and Union-Endicott will counter with superior size.
SV seeks playoff encore
Susquehanna Valley was a STAC playoff participant last season for the first time since 2005, and would appear equipped to be a strong contender to make it two in a row.
Brendon Normile is a 6-foot-8, 210-pound senior forward and established force on the interior. He turned in a season-high 30-point effort last winter against Johnson City as part of a 14.9-per-game season in which he made good on 62 percent of his attempts from the field and averaged 11 rebounds per game.
Another key returner is All-Central Division guard Colin Manchester, a 6-1 senior who served as goaltender for an SV soccer team that last month reached the semifinal round of Class B playoffs.
Now in charge
Among newcomers moving in as varsity head coaches:
* Bill Spalik moves up from the modified level to head Johnson City’s varsity.
* Bryan Hathaway succeeds seven-season coach Chris Evans at Owego.
* Rob Carr takes over a Vestal program headed the last eight seasons by Ryan Hayes.
Over at Chenango Forks, Drew Rullo returns after a season away from the position.
Returning players from Section 4 named all-state last season:
Class AA — KJ Rose, Binghamton, sixth team; Class A — Kyle Gallagher, Maine-Endwell, 10th team; Class B — Brendon Normile, Susquehanna Valley, sixth team; Kyle Edwards, Norwich, ninth team; Class C — Ben Georgia, Thomas A. Edison, seventh team.
Section 4 teams listed among final 2011-12 state rankings:
Class AA — Binghamton No. 25; Class A — Seton Catholic Central No. 25; Class C — Elmira Notre Dame No. 8; Class D — South Kortright/Andes No. 8; Hunter-Tannersville No. 13.