Fairfield boys basketball teams have ties to the past
Published 3:01 pm, Friday, December 10, 2010
The legacy of boys basketball in Fairfield is strong.
This legacy was enhanced by the tutelage of former Fairfield High School coach and current Fairfield Ludlowe athletic director Dave Schulz. Schulz led his team to FCIAC runner-up in 1992-93, and also had many other successful teams.
Schulz's reign over Fairfield high school basketball has taken us even to today, as two members of his coaching family tree prepare to embark upon their first seasons as head coach at Warde and Ludlowe.
Brian Silvestro was a member of the coaching staff at Fairfield High School, and then under Josh Marko for each of the last four years. Silvestro took over after Marko resigned over the summer, and is pleased to be in the role that he is now.
"It hasn't been that difficult of a transition," Silvestro said. "In terms of my approach, it doesn't change."
"I'm really looking forward to getting in the passing lane and guarding the other team's best defender," Bentivegna said.
Krumins and Bentivegna are more than pleased to start their senior year, and wash the lousy taste of 2009-10 out of their mouths. The Falcons lost their final 12 games, most of which came in gutwrenching fashion, as Ludlowe finished 4-16 and missed the state playoffs.
"I think we have learned how to finish games," Krumins said. "That experience will carry over as seniors."
At Warde, Ryan Swaller is a little further down on the Schulz tree, however, he is part of his lineage through Warde head coach Walter Fitzgerald, who died earlier this year. The 2009-10 season served as a transition year for Swaller to groom him into the head coaching position. But in 2010-11, it is Swaller's time to step to the forefront.
The buffer season served nicely for Warde, as the Mustangs finished 9-12, and reached the Class L state playoffs for the first time as Fairfield Warde High School.
The first-year coach has the pedigree and credentials as he was a walk-on for UConn's men's basketball team, gaining a national championship ring in 2004.
"It helped me see things," Swaller said of his time at UConn. "The teams that seem to be the most successful, practice the best."
However, in Swaller's first year, he has to overcome significant
losses. The Mustangs graduated eight seniors and return just three players who saw varsity action a season ago.
"We lost a lot of our seniors," Warde captain Terrell Walden said. "We learned from them, though, that we need to not let up and stay focused."
"The guys we have lack the experience, but they have the talent to be there," Swaller said.
Those three are the Mustangs' captains, Walden, Kadeem Mundle and Pat Kerrigan. Walden is a tenacious guard, who can score and rebound. Mundle is versatile, and Kerrigan gives the squad size up front.
"We've got a lot of quick guards," Mundle said.
The team will rotate time between six juniors. Sal Siciliano is a three-sport athlete who can provide size and athleticism. Sam Martins is a guard who will see action. Greg Hyman, Mike Wright, Matt McTague and Joe Bartomeleo will all crack the rotation for Warde.
"[Graduation] has caused a lot of the kids to step up their games over the summer to fight for those spots," Kerrigan said. "We run very deep, so it's going to help."
Both Ludlowe and Warde have put an emphasis on the Prep Holiday Tournament, which will start on Dec. 28. Ludlowe is the defending champion, and will try to maintain that moniker for the second straight year.
"I won't hide the fact that there is an emphasis on it," Silvestro said.
"The feeling we had after winning it makes us want to do it again," Krumins said.
The Mustangs were disappointed to finish in only third place a year ago, but have a renewed focus, with that as one of their goals.
"We thought that last year should've been our year to win it," Walden said. "I think that'd be a real good start to our season."
However, besides the holiday tournament, there are other important goals for both of the teams for this year.
"Our goal is to establish a culture and a reputation," Silvestro said. "We have to be good defenders who understand that playing basketball is a privilege and come every day knowing that we have to outwork our opponents."
"I think as long as we're better from day one to the end, that's important," Swaller said. "Getting that first win is important too."