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Coach: Tedaro France
Outlook: It’s 111 miles from New Haven High School to the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
As far as Rockets’ senior guard Marquis Perkins is concerned, the two buildings could be as far apart as the Earth and the moon, but he and his teammates expect to be on Michigan State’s home court, playing for a state title come March.
“If we don’t make to the Breslin Center, it’s a losing season,” Perkins said. “If we don’t get a championship, then we lost. It’s the last year for some of us, so we have to win.”
But as coach Tedaro France is quick to point out in practice, there are a lot of days on the calendar between now and then.
The Rockets are just six months removed from the conclusion of last season, which saw the program take somewhat of a step backward.
After winning 59 games, two district titles and a regional championship from 2011 to 2013, New Haven ended this previous year at 12-8 and 4-8 in the MAC Gold.
“I think the guys learned a lot from last season,” France said. “Now we know we just have take things day-by-day. I tell the kids now that we have to win the day. Win each drill. Win each rep. Let’s grow and learn.”
France considers this year’s squad to be the deepest and tallest teams he has had compared to his previous six years at New Haven. While there are nine seniors on the roster, France noted that many haven’t had much experience at the varsity level.
Seven players – including 4 starters – have graduated from last year’s team. Senior forward John Galloway is among four experienced players that are back this winter. Galloway made Honorable Mention for the All-MAC Gold Team for the 2013-14 season.
“Coach always says you get better or you get worse,” Galloway said. “We all just took (notes) from last season and just got better from it.”
Senior guards Josh Mills and Perkins will lead the way for the Rockets in the backcourt as they begin their second year on the squad. France likes their speed and ability to knock down 3-pointers.
Senior forward Josh Harris (6-foot-6) is expected to be a force in the paint. The state’s reigning champ in the 110 hurdles had a couple of monster games on the court last season and should garner a lot of points, rebounds and blocks this year.
Junior center Innocent Nwoko (6-11) has already made a verbal commitment to play basketball for Central Michigan University, despite this year being his first-full season of playing organized basketball. France said he shown tremendous improvements in rebounding, blocking shots and finishing strong underneath the basket.
Junior Jerry Ben (6-9) is another post player that is new to basketball, but France likes what he brings to the perimeter game, saying that he has “a nice soft touch around the rim and can finish with either hand.”
New Haven’s newcomers also includes a pair of transfers, senior guard Austin Sherrell (6-6) and wing Dmonta Harris (6-4).
Moving up from last year’s JV squad are guards Dolan Bonkowski, Damion Farrior, and wing Marcus Jamison.