Considering the ease with which the Hudson Valley boys dismantled their opponents, last year’s BCANY Summer Hoops Festival was not exactly stressful.
“Where are we going to eat?” Croton-Harmon coach Bill Thom said. “That was probably the biggest decision we had to face.”
The Hudson Valley head coach now has a new group of players poised to establish their own identity while living up to the standard set by teams of the past, namely the 2014 gold medalists. This year’s event, which begins July 31 in Johnson City, will prove whether or not that’s possible.
“Last year’s team was pretty much loaded,” said Kennedy senior Elijah Hughes, who recently committed to East Carolina. “They killed everybody. I wouldn’t say we have that kind of firepower yet, but I think we’ll do well as long as we work hard.”
Hughes, a 6-foot-5 swingman, headlines a roster with less star power than it had a year ago. Last year’s team featured multiple Division I players, including Iona Prep’s Matt Ryan (Notre Dame) and Tom Capuano (Manhattan), Spring Valley’s Rickey McGill (Iona) and former Monsignor Scanlan big man Jonathan Nwankwo (VCU), among others.
The area’s top returning player, Iona Prep’s Ty Jerome, a Virginia commit, pulled out of the event after a busy summer, and Suffern sharpshooter Kevin Jefferson was also forced out because of a leg injury. Hughes, Saunders’ Derrick Felder, Iona Prep’s Patrick Fleming and Tappan Zee’s Rob McWilliams will be among those charged with picking up the slack.
That group will be surrounded by: White Plains’ Luis Cartagena; Rye Country Day’s Emmanuel Chukwu; Eastchester’s Benny DiMirco; Mamaroneck’s Miles Haughton; Nanuet’s Kevin Mackin; Fox Lane’s Matt Redhead; Harrison’s Zach Evans; and Hen Hud’s Jesse Breeding.
“We were spoiled to death last year because that was the dream team of the games,” Thom said. “We were so loaded, but we have some pieces this year. I think our 1 through 12 will be better than anybody’s 1 through 12.”
“We’re deep,” said Felder, who recently received his first Division I offer from Bryant. “If we play together, we’ll be fine.”
Hudson Valley has medaled all four years since the event’s inception, earning the gold in 2012 and 2014. Last year’s team cruised by an average of 44 ppg despite limited minutes from Ryan, who was in recovery from double-hip surgery.
That’s a lofty standard to meet, but this year’s team will focus on achieving the same result it’s own way.
“I think it’s not about living up to it. It’s about us making a name for ourselves,” McWilliams said. “We want to represent Hudson Valley well and bring back the gold medal again.”