Boys Basketball Built for Immediate Success


John Vasington, Contributor

After a 12-9 campaign that would be considered a success by most, Nashoba’s Coach Ortiz is heading into the 2014-15 season without a lot of the key players he enjoyed last season.  There is no question that the team coming out on the hardwood this year is much smaller than last year’s, which is why many people outside of the program project a slight drop off from last year’s success. Ortiz and his players do not see their lack of height as a bad thing, though, they see it as an advantage and an opportunity to try something new.

Over the past few years, the norm amongst Nashoba and their opponents has been a power against power style of play.  Both teams brought the ball up the floor with little resistance and threw it into the post. The big guys then either made a move or kicked it out to a guard for the occasional three.  The victor would be the team that could stay out of foul trouble and had the stronger players.

This year, however, with a back court of returning starters in senior captain (G) Eric Demmer, who will be the heart and soul of the team this year, and sophomore (G) Nate Mansour, who was last year’s recipient of the student’s annual “he’s a freshman” chant every time he made it to the foul line, Ortiz knew it was time to mix things up.

The 2014-15 Chieftains will be built around and strategize on speed and focus. Unlike most of last season, they can pressure the other team’s ball handling relentlessly and force their opponents to earn every basket.  Even in his short tenure at the helm for Nashoba, Coach Ortiz has established an admirable identity for the Chieftain program of grit and determination.  Even down 15 points with 2 minutes left his players still believe they can win a game and the result is a level of play with the same hunger for a win from tip off to final buzzer.

The ability to play with heart will be a key for this team to come back later in the game. Fortunately, this is a veteran team with a lot of experience; understanding what it takes to win. In addition to Demmer and Mansour, returning varsity players include senior (C) Travis Macko with a sweet elbow jumper and tough-to-guard post game, senior (F) Joey Guerin with a wingspan allowing him to block any shot within a 2-mile radius, senior (G/F) Greg Cavaioli, a skilled and aware player and a fan favorite in his time off the bench last year, and sophomore (G) Andrew Snoddy who did not see a lot of action as a freshman but is looking at a revamped role and an opportunity to show his potential this year.

Even the “newcomers” to varsity are all experienced and ready to play. Many of the players moving up off of their 18-1 JV season last year had the talent to play at the varsity level, but never received the opportunity to until now. The fresh faces to the varsity squad include senior (G) Ian Hart, who excels with his athleticism, senior (C) David Czapkowski, the most well conditioned player on the team despite his size, senior (G/F) Cam Jesson, who can shoot the lights out when he gets hot, and sophomore (F) Andrew Fish who brings a unique set of skills to the table.

Two “X-Factors” this year include senior (G/F) Alec Dempsey who straddled the line between JV and Varsity all of last year and junior (F) Tony Kennon who is entering his first season on varsity. It is rumored that Kennon will be thrown right into the fire and play starter minutes immediately. Rounding out the varsity lineup is lone freshman F Justin Pierce who is a face of the future for the Nashoba program.

Since Ortiz has been the head coach, the Chieftains have registered back to back playoff births, tying the total number of appearances they made in 19 years prior, dating back to 1994. Support for the team has been rejuvenated with the rowdy student section coming out in full force for every game, equipped with green everything and posters of players faces. There is no denying that there are a lot of question marks heading into this season, but under the proper guidance and leadership from the coaches and team leaders, Nashoba Boys Basketball will surely catch some teams by surprise and be a force to be reckoned with.