KP Boys Quintet Aims for Success on Three Fronts
KP’s basketball captains are, from left, Will Laplante, Danny Clancy, and Charlie Grant.
By Ken Hamwey
Staff Sports Writer
The boys basketball team at King Philip Regional has the talent that could make the 2021-22 season a memorable campaign.
Coach Dave DeStefano, who’s starting his third year at the helm, is optimistic his Warriors can achieve the three goals he’s outlined. “We want to qualify for the tourney and make a successful run,’’ he said. “We also want to contend for the Hockomock League’s Kelley-Rex Division title and improve daily, whether it’s at practice or at games.’’
The coach believes his goals are attainable because of the strengths his nucleus possesses. DeStefano likes their experience, the depth they provide, and their high basketball IQs. He also admires their leadership and athleticism.
Dave DeStefano, who’s in his third year as KP’s basketball coach, is optimistic the Warriors will qualify for a state tournament berth.
“The players worked hard in the offseason, competing at the AAU level and in summer leagues,’’ he said. “There were a lot of newcomers last season and although the schedule was shortened due to COVID-19, the players gained experience. For us to be successful, we need to make a big commitment on defense. 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 scoring opportunities.’’
The Warriors will rely on an up-tempo style on offense but when a fast-break opportunity doesn’t materialize, DeStefano will instruct his forces to “spread the floor and read the defense.’’ KP’s athleticism allows the Warriors to be effective employing a man-to-man defense.
DeStefano estimates that KP is returning about 66 percent of its scoring from last season. That offense will come from two of the team’s captains — junior guard Will Laplante (6-feet) and senior forward Danny Clancy (6-2). Laplante averaged 16.4 points and shot three-pointers at a 36 percent clip while Clancy averaged 12.2 points and 7.5 rebounds. Laplante was a Hockomock League all-star last year and Clancy was an honorable-mention choice.
“Will finished fourth in the league in scoring as a sophomore,’’ DeStefano said. “An all-around player, he’s our best pure shooter and he’s at his best when spotting up or running off screens. Will does a great job of using screens to lose his man and create an open shot. Danny’s physical presence enables him to get into the lane to score. 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. Danny has a wide assortment of moves and has great body control to finish at the rim.’’
Senior Charlie Grant, a 6-foot guard, is KP’s third captain. He relies on a combination of speed and explosiveness, making him a threat at both ends of the floor.
“Offensively, Charlie has the ability to score in the paint or on the perimeter,’’ DeStefano said. “He’s improved his shooting but 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. His hoop IQ is high and winning is his top priority.’’
Senior forward Braeden Sottile and senior guard Sean Sullivan are quality competitors who bank on a variety of skills. The 6-foot-3 Sottile has a high basketball IQ and the 5-foot-11 Sullivan is a top-notch decision-maker.
“Braeden has the ability to score at all three levels,’’ DeStefano said. “He can finish over, through, or around defenders at the rim consistently. Braeden can cause matchup problems because of his ability to shoot from the perimeter. He can also be a factor on the defensive end, with his ability to alter opponents’ shots in the paint. Sean is an excellent ball-handler in the open court. A scrappy on-ball defender, he’s a smart playmaker who does a great job finding the open man. He focuses on making the right play.’’
Junior Grant Kinney (5-11) will likely get minutes at point guard and senior Matt Sullivan (6-feet) will get playing time on the wing.
“Grant’s smooth shooting form makes him deadly from outside,’’ DeStefano said. “He really came into his own at the end of last season at the jayvee level. He uses his ball-handling to create space or runs off screens for catch-and-shoot opportunities. He has great touch and likes to use it to open up other scoring possibilities. Matt is very skilled and sees the floor well regardless of the situation he’s in. He moves well off-ball by finding open spaces on the perimeter or cutting lanes for an easy lay-up. He has a consistent shooting form that makes him a threat spotting up.’’
A trio of forwards — seniors Will Martorano (6-3) and Drew Danson (6-3) and junior Collin Peck (6-2) — should grab a majority of KP’s rebounds.
“Will sets solid screens and is a versatile scorer,’’ DeStefano said. “He’s got a nice touch around the basket and can be a factor on the glass. Collin can be a threat on the three-point line, but his biggest contributions will come in the paint. He’s long and athletic, which should help us on the boards.
“One of Drew’s most impactful parts of his game is rebounding. He’s a great athlete who could be a double-double for points and rebounds. On both ends of the floor, he’s 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.’’
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 teams that won four Super Bowls.
Banking on an athletic philosophy that focuses on winning, reaching one’s potential and having fun, DeStefano hopes his players learn valuable life lessons from basketball.
“Some life lessons that can be learned in sports are overcoming adversity, learning how to be good teammates and good learners, setting goals and being accountable,’’ he emphasized.
This year’s players, who competed last season when the pandemic was raging, know a thing or two about adversity — KP’s squad was winless in nine games last year.
But, in spite of an 82-71 loss in their opener against Taunton, the Warriors should be very competitive against all teams on their 2021-22 schedule.