Trumbull's Bray reflects on pandemic challenged season

Trumbull boys’ basketball team opened its season with five losses, defeated FCIAC finalist Westhill to start a three-game win skein, then dropped three more games.

It was the type of season that coach Buddy Bray had trouble pigeon-holing.

“The kids should be complimented for working through the everyday stuff (COVID-19 restrictions) and staying positive,” Bray said of the 4-9 season. “It was difficult. We tried. Some nights we were pretty good and played some of the top teams well. Other nights we didn’t have it. Each game we got a little something from different kids. We were balanced, it was a group effort.

“I’m proud of the way they carried themselves. You can only control so much in these type of situations as a teacher and as a coach,” Bray said. “You try to teach them that no one is going to forget (playing with a mask). Hey, it was a challenge, and they deserve credit for showing up and giving me all that they had.”

Tri-captains Mileeq Green, Lance Walsh and Jake Gruttadauria led a group of eight seniors.

“Mileeq was named second team All-FCIAC and had a great four-year career with us,” Bray said of his 5-foot-11 guard. “He helped us to an FCIAC championship game and the league semis. Milleq was a pleasure to coach. With his size and skill set, he got everything out of it. He will a tough guy to replace for sure.

“Lance played basketball year-round. Off the court he had a program to build courts for kids and continues to give back to the game. Lance had some big scoring games for us. He is a high honor student and a great role model for his teammates.

“Jake is a great kid to coach. He put it all out there every night. He took the charges. He is just a competitor.”

Trumbull, which lost key players to graduation, had question marks coming into the season.

“Mileeq and Jake started, Lance had some experience,” Bray said. “No one knew what to really expect. Administrators told us to make sure the kids had fun. You want to win basketball games, but the bigger picture this year was to stay healthy, have fun and compete as best you can.”

Coming into a usual season, Bray said his players would compete in two summer leagues and do weight training, while playing individually for their AAU team. In the fall, they would play in two more leagues. Before the season they would have four scrimmages and 15 days of practice.

“I think all of that was important for this group that we had coming back. No excuses, each team had the same timetable,” Bray said. “We needed those extra games, the extra work between last March and when practice began. It all adds up to being competitive every night.

“I wish our seniors the best. I can’t thank our team parents enough. We were able to have a Senior Night and they did some a nice job giving these kids a special night to remember,” Bray said of Sage Gatling, Isaac Berkowitz, Christian Sanders, Sebastian Mettellus, Alex Bernsten, Green, Walsh and Gruttadauria.

“My coaching staff, Johnny Cappello, Vinny Discala and Matt Landin (top assistant), Bobby Packer and my son Cliff all stepped up,” Bray said. “Freshman and jayvees played on Wednesday and we tried to keep it as normal for the kids as possible. They played Saturdays, usually a day for a team to recoup.”

Trumbull brings back a strong nucleus of players, led by juniors Johnny McCain, Connor Johnson, Ray Vincente and Patrick Spychalla.

“We have a nice group of players coming up,” Bray said. “Our jayvees were successful and so was the freshmen team. We’ll have the summer league and go forward.”

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354