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Fairfield Prep boys basketball season preview

Published 4:28 pm, Thursday, December 5, 2013
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There's a popular television advertising campaign showing personal property damage and portrayals of bodily injury. The theme is mayhem.

What does that have to do with the Fairfield Prep boys basketball team as it is about to embark on the 2013-14 season, considering the Jesuits are known to be an orderly group that wins games and goes deep into postseason tournaments?

Though coach Leo Redgate always has his team organized and pulling together, mayhem ties into any discussion of the Jesuits's on court style because that is the goal of their high-pressured, turnover-causing defense -- to bring mayhem. Redgate wants Prep's opponents to encounter chaos when they have the ball and the Jesuits are defending.

If Prep's pressing defense is disruptive enough this winter, then the Jesuits could take the next step that left them a victory shy of the 2012-13 CIAC Class LL state championship. Prep lost to Hillhouse 52-42 in last year's final, in addition to fallling to Hillhouse for the SCC championship in February.

In 2010-11, Redgate's first as head coach after being a Prep assistant coach for six years, the Jesuits lost the LL championship game to St. Joseph.

Lofty goals are not foreign to the Jesuits. This year should be a continuation because only one starter graduated, three players are returning starters and Prep's main playing rotation could go 10 deep.

So if the opposition isn't plagued into a frenzy of turnovers against the Jesuits, then it will have to survive two or three waves of able reserves being sent in to wear them down.

This combination can be unsettling to the Jesuits' opponents.

"We like to attack the rim and run," Redgate said.

"We need to be in the best condition of our lives. The one thing you know you can bring every single day is intensity on defense and not let up. We want to be a threat year in and year out. Our goal is to have a consistently strong program.

"I'll put our defense up against anyone's," Redgate said.

Prep's offensive philosophy under Redgate is to share the ball and to take shots quickly. No minutes-long passing around the perimeter within a half-court set to seek the perfect shot.

If there's a good look at the basket, the player with the ball should shoot. That's the message.

On defense, it's constant pressure. The goal is to limit opponents to scoring between 40 and 49 points in a game, and restricting Prep's foes to between 10 to 12 points a quarter.

"That's the best way to play defense -- constant pressure on the ball. I don't want the other team to be comfortable at all," Redgate said.

At Redgate's disposal is one of the state's most imposing players -- and perhaps the tallest. Senior Paschal Chukwu, who will play at Providence College in 2014-15, is a 7-foot-2 native of Nigeria living in Westport for the past four years.

In earning All-State honors last year, Chukwu averaged 13.7 points per game, 12.1 rebounds and 6.8 blocked shots.

"My offense is a work in progress," Chukwu said last month.

Six-foot guards Tommy Nolan, a junior, and Ryan Murphy, a sophomore, each averaged in double figures a year ago. They are returning starters.

Two senior guards, Dave Zielinski and Keith Pettway, are battling for starting spots. If they are not among the first five, they figured to be tapped soon off the bench. Junior guard Ryan Foley has the same status as well.

Four other players will be in the rotation -- senior Richard Van De Berghe, who is 6-6, junior guard Ray Featherston, junior forward Joe DiGennaro and freshman forward Patrick Harding.

After scrimmages with Norwalk and St. Joseph on Monday and Thursday, Prep opens at home with St. Anthony's of Jersey City, N.J., ordinarily one of the top teams in the country, on Dec. 14 in Fairfield at 3:30 p.m. On Dec. 28, the Jesuits host a tournament that features Notre Dame-Fairfield, Fairfield Ludlowe and Fairfield Warde.

rwalmark@bcnnew.com; 203-255-4561 ext. 113; twitter.com/ReidWalmark

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