SEASON PREVIEW: HUBBARD
The Hubbard High boys basketball team has a new head coach this season.
Actually, he's not exactly new, since he served as an assistant coach under Bernie Tarr the last few years. However, it's Brian Hamilton's familiarity with the players and the program that the Eagles hope will help them return to their winning ways.
Last season, Hubbard fell on hard times after competing for the Trumbull Athletic Conference (TAC-8) crown the previous two years. The Eagles finished 5-17 overall and 4-10 in league play, although they did knock off Ravenna Southeast in the first round of the Division II playoffs.
According to Hamilton, even though the team took its share of lumps in 1999, there may yet be a silver lining to that losing campaign.
"I have some kids who played last year who now have some experience, and to be honest, going through the type of season that we had hopefully taught them a lot of lessons in life, as well as basketball," said Hamilton. "I think that's going to be a positive for us.
"We had four kids who played a lot of minutes last year and knew how it felt to not be successful, and they don't want that to happen again. So they've worked really, really hard in the offseason and their attitude is going to make a big difference. That's no disrespect to the last group (that was here), but their attitude is just a little bit better, a little bit more positive and a little bit more together."
The four players who logged a substantial number of minutes last season are returning letterwinners Marty Kanetsky, a senior guard; Anthony Smith, a junior guard; Matt Smith, a junior guard; and Kevin Libeg, a junior forward.
In addition to Kanetsky, there are two other seniors on the team: forward Jerry Yoder and guard Matt Allen. Yoder did not play last year, but he did as a sophomore. Allen, meanwhile, moved to Ohio from Kentucky.
Others who will be shuffling in and out of the lineup are: sophomore forward/center Matt Marshall, sophomore guard Jason Lenzi, sophomore guard/forward Dave Phillips, sophomore guard Gabe McKee, junior forward Joe Sivulich, junior guard/forward Brandon Wood and junior guard Dean Marshall.
"We're very deep," said Hamilton. "There's really no way for me to say that these guys are going to be my starters and these guys aren't. There may be games when I play 11, 12, 13 kids, believe it or not. I might not be able to do that, but I think we have that type of talent. Maybe it's not an immense amount of talent, but it's so spread out that a lot of people will play.
"Another strength that we have is versatility. I can play a big lineup, I can play a shooting-type lineup if a team plays zone against us, or I can play a defensive or pressing-type lineup."
As deep and versatile as the team is, it's also young and a little behind schedule due to the success of the football squad, which advanced to the regional finals in Division III before bowing out. Those athletes who play both sports just recently reported for practice.
"One concern for the team is that we're still very young," said Hamilton. "I have a lot of sophomores that I expect to play at the varsity level and who I expect to contribute. Sometimes sophomores make first-year mistakes, so we're going to have some growing pains. And fitting that many people together concerns me a little, too. I hope that we can learn to mesh and sacrifice a little bit so that one of our strengths doesn't become a weakness."
Much like his players now, Hamilton found himself a little behind schedule when he was named the head coach less than a month ago. Although the transition was a bit smoother because Hamilton has been an assistant, there was still much to do in a small amount of time, such as choosing and finalizing a coaching staff.
"Getting the job so late basically put us in a difficult position as far as my coaching staff," said Hamilton. "It was a main concern for me and I'm extremely pleased with my entire staff, from top to bottom. It seems like they're spending the extra time that's needed to make all the levels successful, to fully develop the program."
Hamilton's assistants this season are Steve Arnold (varsity assistant and junior varsity coach), and Jeremy Porter (ninth grade). -- By Herald writer Matt Deutsch
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