By Chuck Klonke
@MIPrepZoneMD on Twitter
New year. New team. New dreams. New goals.
That’s the motto that New Haven’s basketball team is living by as it began preparation Monday for the new season.
The Rockets created a lot of pleasant memories last season. They went 20-0 during the regular season, then won five state tournament games before losing to Detroit Henry Ford 61-55 in the Class B quarterfinals.
“It’s a new team so we can’t dwell on the past,” said coach Tedaro France II. “We lost six seniors. We have three seniors back so we have a new young group. Now we have to start the process from scratch.
“The three seniors we have (Innocent Nwoko, Jerry Ben and Allante Stevens) all split time last year so we have pretty much a whole new team.”
That means a lot of teaching before the season starts on Dec. 12 against Ypsilanti Lincoln in the Winter Breakout Classic.
“We have to teach the basic principles of offense and defense and how to play the right way,” France said. “They’re excited. They know how hard we work and they know the success we’ve had. They’re ready to work hard.”
France is anxious to see just how this year’s team is going to shape up.
“Guys are going to be competing this week for a spot on the team,” he said. “It’s going to be exciting to see the young guys. Some played on JV. Some came in this summer. Some came in when school started. We’re still finding out who can play. That’s why this week is key to find out what we have.
“We lost such a good group last year and we’re looking to the seniors we have to take over the leadership of the team.”
Stevens, who played soccer and football in the fall, is ready to accept that role.
“The coaches look to me as a captain and leader of the team so I try to do my best to motivate and to push the younger players to work hard and get better every day,” Stevens said. “We know what the coaches expect of us and we use that as a stepping stone.
“The whole idea is to work hard every day and if we lose we’ve given 110 percent, nothing less. I’m excited about the season. We have a lot of young, raw talent. When they put it all together they’ll be great.”
Anyone who want to play basketball for New Haven has to be ready to work.
“When I took the job here we wanted to be the team that would out-work everyone in the state,” France said. “Before kids come into our program they hear about how hard we work. We focus on conditioning and weight training in the offseason. We might not be the most talented team, but we’ll be the best-conditioned team.”
France said that his two 6-foot-11 players, Ben and Nwoko, looked good in the summer along with Stevens. Both have signed to play basketball in college — Nwoko with Central Michigan and Ben with Cornell.
Romeo Weems is a 6-6 freshman with a lot of potential.
“He’s probably the most athletic kid I’ve coached at that age,” France said. “We have talent, a good mix of young and old, but we still have to gel. We have to find how they fit into our team and our system.
“The next few weeks will be interesting to see which kids rise to the top.”