Terry Tarpey may well be the greatest player in Fairfield Prep basketball history.
Prep head coach Leo Redgate knows this. He knows that replacing the Division I swingman and all-state talent is nearly impossible.
Still, the Jesuits will be forced to play a hellacious SCC schedule when the season tips off Dec. 12, but Redgate believes they'll adjust to accommodate their young, but experienced lineup.
"I'm not looking to replace Terry, I love Terry," Redgate said. "But I think the program is in better hands than when Terry was here and it's thanks, in large part, to how he conducted himself."
Despite losing Tarpey-- and his 24 points and 10 rebound per game average -- Prep's top newcomer will be junior Pascal Chukwu. The 7-footer transferred from Trinity Catholic after serving as the Crusaders' top-defensive player in 2011-12.
"He wants to learn, he wants to be coached," Redgate said of Chukwu. "I love him ... he just needs to continue to work hard."
Although extremely raw, Chukwu's long arms and rebounding prowess will allow returning senior-- and team captain-- Tim Butala to play forward instead of center.
"He allows us to use Tim effectively from the perimeter," Redgate said of Chukwu. "It will allow us to do more things and take advantage of mismatches."
If Prep wants to play big, it can go to senior Chris Kelly as well.
Despite losing point guard Mike Matera, the Jesuits will be experienced at guard, returning sophomore Tommy Nolan. Nolan averaged double figures scoring per game as a freshman point guard, but Redgate hopes he'll flourish as a shooting guard.
Whichever position Nolan plays, Redgate has seen tremendous growth, especially in a leadership role this preseason.
"He's more vocal," Redgate said. "But as a sophomore he knows the best way to be a leader is by working harder than everyone in practice."
For the first time under Redgate, Prep will have to play SCC-nemeses Hillhouse and Career Magnet. The Jesuits were ousted by Hillhouse in Class LL in 2012 and have been bounced from the SCC tournament by Career each of the past two seasons.
In preparation, Prep loaded its preseason schedule, playing FCIAC powers Ridgefield and St. Joseph, before gearing up for Saturday's game-scrimmage against national-power St. Anthony's of New Jersey, currently ranked No. 9 in USA Today's Super 25 poll.
"To play the best, you have to beat the best," Redgate said. "I don't
care if we lose by 40, I want my boys to know what a premier program in the country looks like."
Redgate hopes all that will help his team improve as the year progresses with the ultimate goal of capturing the Jesuits' first state championship in basketball since 1997.
"I don't care about inter-league games other than preparing ourselves to win a state championship," he said. "We could be 10-10 and if I feel as though we're hitting on all cylinders, that's my goal."