Red Hook’s a Northern Dutchess County basketball town and the hometown Raiders have played well to start the season.
The high school boys basketball team experienced a lot of change last year. There was a new coach, as well as plenty of new players, many who had no experience at the varsity level.
That team went 10-9. Raiders point guard Paddy Parr is optimistic that Red Hook can make a run at the Mid-Hudson Athletic League and Section 9 Class A titles.
“The competition is tough with teams like Saugerties, Marlboro and New Paltz,” Parr said. “But we believe we are as strong as them, if not stronger.”
Red Hook (4-3) picked up wins over Rondout Valley, Highland and Rhinebeck before falling to Beacon to open the Dutchess County Basketball Coaches Association Holiday Tournament. The Raiders defeated John Jay to get to the final, but lost to Our Lady of Lourdes in the title game on a Kyle Santoro 3 at the buzzer. Red Hook fell to perennial Class AA powerhouse Newburgh Free Academy in the Officials vs. Cancer Tournament at SUNY New Paltz on Saturday.
“I think our future is bright, I really do,” second-year coach Matt Hayes said before the Newburgh game. “I’m happy to see they’re starting to be rewarded for all the time they’ve put in. It’s a good group to work with.”
In Red Hook, you can expect strong guard play, defense and leadership, and the Raiders get that in abundance from Parr, a 6-foot-1 point guard with a nose for the net and finding his teammates. Parr leads on and off the court as a captain.
“Leadership and maturity are two things Paddy has taken the biggest leap in,” Hayes said. “Paddy and I have a couple of things in common. We’re Irish, and sometimes we have a temper. We work with one another to keep those in line. Last year, he was a captain and I’d have to ask him for input. Now, he offers it on his own, either to me or the kids in the locker room. He’s very positive to the other kids and very supportive.”
Parr was a reserve during the final coaching year of Rod Chando, Section 9’s winningest coach who retired in 2012 after 38 seasons at the Raiders’ helm. Parr said he and his teammates have blended well with Hayes.
“I feel like Coach Hayes is really confident in his abilities and really confident in ours,” said Parr, who was one assist shy of a triple-double against Lourdes with 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. “The team’s molding together more than it did last year.”
Parr credited that cohesion with a commitment to offseason training, AAU basketball and summer leagues where the Raiders played together. Parr said his relationship with Hayes has grown over time.
“I think we both really respect each other a lot. I was one of the first people he talked to when he got the job,” Parr said. “He’s really dedicated. (The team was) in the gym every Saturday and Sunday throughout the summer. Me and him really bond well together.”
Red Hook’s a team that’s had multiple contributors this season. Along with Parr, key elements to Red Hook’s success have been the quick thinking and hard work of Nick Michitsch, the length and ability of Will Avis, the outside shooting and aggressiveness of Colin Bemis, the defense and tenacity of John Alessi, the rebounding and basketball sense of Luke White, as well as the contributions off the bench from Tim Terry and Tucker Griffin.
Red Hook’s team play will be fortified this week. Guard Nolan Dalton, who missed about seven months with a pelvic injury, returned against Newburgh, and Dennis Hare, one of the team’s leading scorers and top defenders, should play Friday at Roosevelt.
“One thing that separates us from a lot of teams in our class is that we’re really deep,” Parr said. “We can go 10 deep once Nolan and Dennis are both back. If you look at our games this season, we have different players who can lead the way on any night. We have a really diverse attack. On defense, we want to win every possession and hold teams to a low number. Our defense leads into our offense.”
Hayes said the injuries to Dalton, who would have competed for a starting job if healthy, and Hare opened the door for others like Alessi, Bemis and Terry to gain valuable experience.
“If our big goal is still to compete for a sectional championship, now we’ve got a number of guys who’ve gotten experience they haven’t had before,” Hayes said. “I think that can only help us.”
After going through the transition of taking over a winning program with a young team, Hayes is poised to try to put his own, unique stamp on Red Hook basketball.
“I feel great,” Hayes said. “If I’m going to be objective, looking back on it, there was a bit of an adjustment period and I knew there would be. Any time you have someone coach a program for close to 40 years with all of the success Red Hook had, it’s not going to be a smooth transition overnight. I liked what we did. We did have a young team, but a lot of our young guys got a lot of experience. We tried to win every game last year, but we also knew that last year’s experience was going to help us this year.”
Hayes said the community, including the parents and families of players, is supportive. He said the Raiders take care of business off the court and in the classroom, which allows him to focus more on coaching the team.
“I’m really happy and blessed to be up there, and hopefully I’m there for a long time,” Hayes said. “I’m very pleased with where we’re at.”