A new era begins for the Valley Stream North boys’ basketball team.
Former Lynbrook star Michael McVeigh takes over as the Spartans’ new coach after spending three seasons as Plainview’s JV bench boss. McVeigh, who also played at Cortland, is hoping to install a team-first mentality in which everyone on the floor gets involved in the play.
“I’m just trying to go there and instill that we play as a team,” he said. “We’re going to play team defense, we’re going to play together on offense and we’re going to be unselfish and share the ball. I’ve got a lot of kids that are working so hard for the first couple of weeks.”
McVeigh takes over a team that went 2-5 during the abbreviated winter season and graduated leading scorer Luke Sibblies (12.5 ppg). But McVeigh hopes the returning seniors can fill the void with their skills and leadership and lead the way against strong conference foes such as Hewlett, Manhasset and South Side.
“We have a good group of seniors that do a nice job of leading the team and making sure that everybody’s playing hard,” McVeigh observed.
Two of those seniors, guard Godwin Eyiuche and power forward Malcom Harrington, averaged over 11 points a game last season and will be looked upon to lead the offense as well as senior guard Giovanni Grey, who returns after missing the winter season. Eyiuche is a huge 3-point threat and Grey showed his offensive potential with eight double-digit point games in 2019-20, including 26 against North Shore.
The other spots have yet to be decided but should be among a pool of senior forwards such as Harpreet Singh, Brian Farrell and Aadil Alli. Also seeing time at guard will be senior Vaughn Candelario, a tenacious defender, and two other scorers in sophomore Dom Obukwelu and junior Aaron Rodriguez.
North’s girls’ team is coming off a tough season. The Spartans lost all five of their games, including a heartbreaking overtime defeat to Glen Cove in the finale, and had to sit out two weeks of an already abbreviated schedule due to the pandemic.
The roster will be noticeably younger and inexperienced after nine players from last year’s squad graduated, but three girls that are returning occupied the top spots in scoring. Head coach George Karahalios said the team may still struggle this winter, but the long-term outlook is promising.
“We may be one or two years out of [a playoff spot],” he said. “I believe this year will be better than last year, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. I’m looking forward to getting the season started.”
The projected starting lineup will feature two juniors and three sophomores. Swingman Gabriela Mensah averaged 12 points a game last season and fellow junior Kayla Santo was just behind at 11.8 at center after her 20-point outburst against Glen Cove. Sophomore point guard Elena Magno (5.6) also had her best game against Glen Cove with 10 points.
Karahalios said Santo has the potential to be even better this season with more consistency and one more year of maturity should help Mensah improve her court vision and decision making. Mango will continue to be the main distributor to go with her tenacious defense.
Sophomore forwards Alyanna Nadal and Isabella Feldman, both JV callups, should round out the starting five. Karahalios lauded Nadal for her work ethic, athleticism, and basketball IQ, and Feldman’s shooting accuracy would have earned her a spot on the varsity team if the JV roster wasn’t depleted.
Senior Gabriella Rettagliata is back with the team after not playing last season and is expected to provide a defensive spark off the bench.