With a host of top area teams populating the schedule this winter, the Rye basketball team comes into the season knowing full well that it will have to earn each and every victory. And according to head coach John Aguilar, the undersized, scrappy Garnets are eager to prove their doubters wrong.
After cruising to an 18-4 record and an appearance in the Class A quarterfinals last season, Rye enters the 2018-19 season looking to replace the contributions of three starters in Max Samberg, AJ Thompson and Will Tepedino. But instead of looking for one player to pick up the slack this year, Aguilar believes that it will be Rye’s depth—especially in the backcourt—that will be the team’s calling card.
“We don’t have a lot of size this year, but our guard play is very strong,” said Aguilar, who is entering his seventh season running the Rye program. “We have a lot of depth and we are only going to be successful if we can keep other teams off balance with our traps, but luckily we are very quick.”
Over the past several years, Rye has employed an aggressive three-quarter-court trapping scheme to push the tempo, and Aguilar expects more of the same this season. Giving up a significant height advantage on the defensive end, however, the Garnets have also implemented a half-court trap that Aguilar hopes will offset the size disparity.
“Our guards are very strong defensively,” he said. “So we are going to need to be able to switch guys on screens and pick plays in the half-court to slow other teams down.”
On the other end of the floor, the Garnets will be led by Quinn Kelly, an athletic guard who may be Rye’s best all-around offensive player. But Rye will also depend on a number of other players, including sixth-man Thomas Flaherty, whom Aguilar believes can provide a boost off the bench.
“[Flaherty] is probably our best spot-up shooter, so he will be coming off the bench by design,” the coach said. “But I think we are going to rely on a number of different guys on a game-by-game scenario. We are going to have to rely on who is hot on each particular night.”
In addition to a grueling league schedule that will see the Garnets take on teams like Byram Hills, Rye will have to contend with non-conference foes including Tappan Zee, Horace Greeley and Spring Valley, all of whom are among the top five teams in Class A coming into the season. After opening the season with the annual Rye Holiday Basketball Tournament on Dec. 7, the Garnets will take on both the Red Raiders and the Quakers in the second week of the campaign.
“They are two of the best teams in the section, so after those two games, there’s going to be no guess work about how we stack up and what we need to do,” Aguilar said. “This is the toughest schedule we’ve ever played; there really are no weak spots.”