Hudson Valley boys facing gold standard

Hudson Valley boys facing gold standard

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Hudson Valley boys facing gold standard

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Coach Bill Thom conducts practice with the Hudson Valley team at Croton High School July 29, 2015. The team is preparing for the BCANY Summer Hoops Festival.

Coach Bill Thom conducts practice with the Hudson Valley team at Croton High School July 29, 2015. The team is preparing for the BCANY Summer Hoops Festival.

Tappan Zee's Rob McWilliams is guarded by Kennedy Catholic's Elijah Hughes during practice with the Hudson Valley team at Croton High School July 29, 2015. The team is preparing for the BCANY Summer Hoops Festival. 30896949

Tappan Zee’s Rob McWilliams is guarded by Kennedy Catholic’s Elijah Hughes during practice with the Hudson Valley team at Croton High School July 29, 2015. The team is preparing for the BCANY Summer Hoops Festival. 30896949

Iona Prep's Patrick Fleming drives to the basket during practice with the Hudson Valley team at Croton High School July 29, 2015. The team is preparing for the BCANY Summer Hoops Festival.

Iona Prep’s Patrick Fleming drives to the basket during practice with the Hudson Valley team at Croton High School July 29, 2015. The team is preparing for the BCANY Summer Hoops Festival.

Kennedy Catholic's Elijah Hughes passes to a teammate during practice with the Hudson Valley team at Croton High School July 29, 2015. The team is preparing for the BCANY Summer Hoops Festival.

Kennedy Catholic’s Elijah Hughes passes to a teammate during practice with the Hudson Valley team at Croton High School July 29, 2015. The team is preparing for the BCANY Summer Hoops Festival.

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.”

Twitter: @lohudinsider

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