By CHUCK KLONKE
COACH: Tedaro France II
OUTLOOK: Graduation hit New Haven's basketball team hard last June, however the Rockets' cupboard is far from bare at the start of a new season.
Gone are the six seniors who helped New Haven win 58 games over three seasons, two district championships and a regional title but coach Tedaro France II has five players returning with varsity experience.
The one returning starter is senior Sychar Sterling. He averaged 10.2 points and 11 rebounds per-game for the Rockets last season as they posted a 10-2 record in the MAC Gold and a 19-4 overall record. Sterling has also been the defensive stopper for New Haven.
France said that Sterling's role will expand this season.
"He's a natural leader," the coach said. "He's teaching the young kids how to win. He has improved his jump shot. We had him playing the post but now he can move out to the wing. He's going to play more of a scoring role for us than he has in the past."
Mike Kincaid and Ryun Crayton are a pair of senior guards who played key roles in the Rockets' success last season.
"Mike had some big games off the bench last year," France said. "He's a quick, smart guard who'll take over the point guard role. Ryun had some big games shooting the ball last year and he'll play at shooting guard."
John Galloway is a 6-foot-3 junior post player who got some playing time on the varsity last year. Another junior, Marcus Perkins, played eight games on the varsity and impressed with his hustle.
Three newcomers are in the mix for playing time. Josh Harris is 6-6 but athletic enough to play a wing. Josh Mills is a 6-1 guard who has good basketball skills. Senior Jyaire Mack didn't play last year but he is in the battle for quality minutes.
Brandon Gonzales was the leading scorer on the junior varsity last year and his offense will be a key this year.
"His shooting will help us extend teams on defense," France said.
Also up from the JV is 6-3 post player Marcus Jamison.
"We have more depth this year than we've had in the past," France said. "We have the luxury of being able to rest kids and we can play a pressure game. We'll play hard, work hard and play great team defense. That's what we've stressed at New Haven.
"There's a lot of competition for playing time. Other than Sychar, I don't know who's going to be in the starting five. We've got some tough decisions to make."
France expects the MAC Gold to be as rugged this season as it has been in recent years.
"There isn't one game in the division that you can count as a win," he said. "There isn't a better division in the MAC. We've won districts and a regional but we haven't won the division in the last three years. The division helps you prepare for the state tournament."