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Norfolk/Wrentham - Local Town Pages

KP Boys Quintet Delighted to have a Revamped Season

Dec 30, 2020 03:33PM ● By ken Hamway

KP Coach Dave DeStefano says his boys basketball team is ready to adjust to all the modifications for winter sports.

The King Philip boys basketball team qualified for the Sectional Tournament last year for the first time in the last five years.

The Warriors, unfortunately, won’t get the opportunity to make it two tourney appearances in a row because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the Mass. Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) to cancel Sectional and State playoff games for winter sports squads.

But, what KP’s players will get is the chance to compete and hopefully complete a schedule that will be limited and confined primarily to teams in the Kelly-Rex Division of the Hockomock League. The Warriors had some momentum after a 12-11 season last year, even though they bowed in their playoff opener to Bishop Feehan. But, coach Dave DeStefano’s forces are acutely aware that any games are better than no games. And, they also know there are modifications to their sport that must be adhered to. 

“The boys have really worked hard,’’ DeStefano said. “We graduated seven players last year. However, they left a legacy for this year's team. For us to be successful, we’ll need to make a big commitment on the defensive end. We want to make our opponents uncomfortable and focus on working together to get stops. On offense, we’re looking to have a balanced attack and create great scoring opportunities as a team.’’

The 34-year-old DeStefano fully understands that the 2020-21 season will be like no other. He knows that masks must be worn on the court and social-distancing will be required on the bench. Other changes include: no locker-room presence, limits on crowd size, no handshakes after games, hand sanitizing, no jump ball, only four players allowed in the lane for free throws and all in-bound plays must be on the sideline.

“We’ll adjust to all the rules,’’ DeStefano emphasized. “We’re pleased to be playing but we all know the health and safety of everyone is the No. 1 priority. This season isn’t about wins and losses. The last few months have taught us the importance of perspective and patience. The pandemic has made it abundantly clear that we can only control so much in life. Among the things that student-athletes can control is their attitude and their effort. I’m inspired at the way our boys have adapted to these difficult situations.’’ 

DeStefano has only four players back with varsity experience but he sees lots of strengths overall. “We do lack experience but this year’s team is close-knit, athletic and it has a high basketball IQ,’’ he noted. “The kids have good technical skills and they’re very coachable.’’

Three key players in KP’s rotation are its senior captains — guard/forward Cole Breen and guards Joe Cullen and Evan Stephens.

“Cole makes winning plays,’’ DeStefano said. “He showed improvement in his shooting ability last season. Although he can run an offense, Cole doesn't need to have the ball to make an impact. He’s a skilled cutter and does a great job of finding open spaces on the floor.

“Joe is very skilled, sees the floor well, and moves well off-the-ball by finding open spaces on the perimeter or cutting lanes for an easy layup. His shooting form makes him a threat spotting up. Evan’s smooth shooting form makes him deadly from outside. He uses his ball-handling to create space or runs off screens for catch-and-shoot opportunities. He’s got a great touch, and likes to use it to open up other scoring possibilities.’’ 

Braeden Sottile, a 6-5 forward, and guard Charlie Grant are juniors with lots of upside.

“Braeden can score at all three levels,’’ DeStefano said. “He can finish over, through, or around defenders at the rim consistently. He can be a factor on the defensive end, with his ability to alter opponents’ shots in the paint. The combination of speed and explosiveness makes Charlie a threat at both ends of the floor. Offensively, he has the ability to score in the paint or on the perimeter. His biggest improvement last year was his shooting.’’

Sophomore guard Will Laplante is regarded by DeStefano as the best pure shooter on the squad. “Will is at his best when spotting up or running off screens,’’ DeStefano said. “Will does a great job of using screens to lose his man and create an open shot. He gained a lot of experience last year on the jayvees and he’s ready to take the next step.’’ 

Three seniors with a variety of talents are Will Kinney (6-5 forward), Jake Silveria (forward), and Mitch Breen (guard).

“Will is a solid screener and a versatile scorer,’’ DeStefano said. “He can knock down open shots or finish over defenders. He has a soft touch around the hoop and can be a matchup problem because of his shooting ability. One of the most impactful parts of Jake's game is his rebounding. On both ends of the floor, Jake is incredibly active once the shot goes up. This creates a lot of easy put-back opportunities for him on offense. He also has the skills to initiate transition offense once he secures the defensive rebound. Mitch is a scrappy on-ball defender. He’s a smart playmaker who does a great job of finding the open man. He doesn’t force the issue and focuses on making the right play.’’

Because there are no post-season tourneys, DeStefano’s goals this season are more general than specific. They focus on effort and reaching potential. “We want our players to be competitive in all games and give a maximum effort,’’ he said. “If that happens, then winning will follow. We want to make their experience memorable in a positive way.’’

DeStefano isn’t sure where his squad will finish in the Kelly-Rex Division but he knows that Taunton, Franklin and Mansfield will be top-notch teams. “Taunton has a lot back and they’re athletic and big,’’ he said. “Franklin and Mansfield not only have great tradition, but they’re also talented.’’

Before taking the KP job, DeStefano previously was Foxboro’s jayvee coach for three years. He also was a varsity assistant for seven years at Bishop Feehan. He played football and basketball at Feehan and during his four years there, he was on the Shamrocks grid  team that won four Super Bowls. 

Knowing what winning is like, DeStefano’s squad last year ended a losing drought and qualified for the playoffs. This time around, the players will be striving to build tradition and to understand that adjusting to the pandemic is a life lesson that teaches how to overcome adversity.

Dave DeStefano knows the priorities in these difficult days and he’s the right coach at the right time for the Warriors.