Bray wants to give his Trumbull boys basketball seniors traditional year

Mileeq Green leads a strong group of talented guards.

Mileeq Green leads a strong group of talented guards.

David G. Whitham / For Hearst Connecticut Media

TRUMBULL - Buddy Bray, Trumbull’s boys’ basketball coach, assured his seniors that even if there may be some tweaks along the way that the status quo his program has set will be met in 2021.

“I have eight seniors and we are going to try to do for them what we have done for every one of our classes,” Bray said. “They have paid their dues, done all the right things, I want to do our part and get them prepared as best we can. It has kind of been like a day-to-day thing.”

Bray praised others for getting his team ready to go the first day of official practice.

“I’m really happy with everyone who worked to get my kids ready to play games,” he said. “Our trainers, Danny Searles and Jenna Rousso were great and offered virtual conditioning to all the student-athletes. The kids took part in that for an hour 3 days a week. Some kids are okay on their own and others like structure. Mike King (athletic director) set this up with trainers and it really helped. Having kids participate as a group, even if it was seeing each other on virtual workout was important.”

Maleeq Green, Jake Gruttadauria and Lance Walsh are team captains.

“Our philosophy going forward has been set by our captains, Bray said. “They told their teammates that we aren’t going to whine about this (subbing out). The players are going to go hard and then come out. I told kids that this isn’t a year to be a hero, if they don’t feel well, come off the court, get some air and see how they feel. That is what they have bought into and I’m proud of them.”

Trumbull opens its season at Ridgefield.

“The captains with Johnny McCain and Connor Johnston, will probably be our starting group,” Bray said.. “Mileeq is back to run the offense and looked fantastic on both sides of the ball in our scrimmage with Warde.

“Johnny McCain will start again as a junior. He put in the work. I don’t think he missed a beat during the pandemic and has taken his game up a notch. Johnny holds the school record for 3’s in a game with 8 against Ridgefield, which is a tough place to play.

“Sage Gatling has come on as well as Christian Sanders and Alex Berntsen. Sebastian Mettellus played jayvee/varsity last year. Isaac Berkowitz, another senior, played AAU and has made strides as have juniors Patrick Spychalla and Ray Vicente. They all did good things in the scrimmage.”

The scrimmage, even with masks on, lifted the pandemic’s veil.

“Playing Warde, well the adrenalin kicked in,” Bray said. “It was a basketball game. I told the players: ‘Listen guy, for the next hour or two hours forget about everything, go out and play, and enjoy yourself. The big thing is being able to provide sports to the kids, have fun. Some kids haven’t played since last season.

“Sage Gatling is 6-foot-4 and had a Big-East type dunk against Warde,” Bray added. “The ball came off the rim and he came out of nowhere and dunked it with two hands. It was impressive. We will need him to get in there and mix it up. Same with Alex Berntsen. He is 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4 and we are going to need them both to play their role.”

Trumbull’s varsity roster will feature the eight seniors and two juniors and two sophomores.

Bray said: “We will have 12 players. Whether all will play every game I don’t know but we are going to use our bench to the best advantage. It is important to get into the final quarter with 4 minutes to go and have our best players ready to go.

“We had a couple sophomores we like, but the trainers and school thought for the first couple weeks we are not going to use those swing kids. We want to stay in cohorts for tracing issues. Maybe we will revisit (roster size) as the season goes on. Our jayvee and freshman teams will get 10 games each which I think is great.”

Bray is holding off making any predictions.

“The league has made it clear to us that yes we will have playoffs and crown a champ. The 16-17-18 seeded teams must play a play-in game. I’m not picking anyone this year; any team can win.” Bray said. “This is all about the kids. They can say they had this year and that the school provided a safe opportunity for them to play 12 games and then playoffs.”

Bray has safety protocols in place.

“The kids have to stay safe, not only with the team but when they are home. We told them to concentrate on social distancing and being smart with decisions when they go out. We are making practice like a game situation. Every four minutes (on the clock) we will take mask break, get a drink and get right into the next drill. If they don’t feel well in a game, then we have signal to let us know they want to come out. The safety of the players to us as a coaching staff is the No. 1 priority.”

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354