By Ryan Massad, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – After losing all five starters from last year's team, the Shrewsbury High School (SHS) varsity basketball team looks to rebuild.
Together, seniors Matt Kneece, Ryan Stowe, Josh Desai, Ross Fournier, Brandon Kraemer, Sean Russell, Nick McMahon, Collin Trabucco and Wil Michalski, earned Shrewsbury High a number-one seed in last year's district tournament. The team recognized it was a “now or never” situation, and responded by having an outstanding regular season. However, all the hope and promise came to an early end, as Fitchburg visited Shrewsbury and upset the Colonials in the first round.
Now, the five starters and four other seniors are all gone. Kneece is currently an Endicott Gull, Stowe is at Babson, and Michalski plays for WPI. As the dust settles, SHS basketball fans ask, “Who's left?”
Five players from last year's squad remain, only two of whom are seniors. Forward Brett Mikolajczyk and guard Chris Akerson will have a lot of weight on their shoulders, as they look to be the leaders on this young Shrewsbury team. Neither player got too much burn last year, but they showed talent when they were on the floor. Akerson has particularly good ball-handling skills, and will be the general of the offense.
The other returning players are all guards with potential. Juniors Mike Coggeshall, Tim McCarthy and Coupar Lipp will have much larger roles on this year's team. McCarthy and Lipp were recognized as the future of the program last season, and will both have a chance to prove that. Coggeshall is a multi-sport athlete who will contribute defensively; he's also the quarterback of the football team, as well as a college prospect in baseball.
As far as the new guys getting jerseys, they'sl be asked to learn quickly and contribute immediately.
“The freshman and sophomore classes look real promising,” assistant coach Lee Diamantopoulos said. “We got a lot of good kids that work hard.”
Two players in particular whom Diamantopoulos likes are sophomores Jeff Svendson, and 6-foot, 6-inch Nick Pasquale. With a lack of height on this year's team, Pasquale could find himself not only starting, but leading several stat categories in his first varsity season.
Shrewsbury super-fans should be reminded that Rome wasn's built in a day. With great competition within the division, this could be an off year for the Colonials. The good news is that the team has nothing to lose. Take the Miami Heat. Talent-wise, Miami should'se realistically won 70 to 80 games last season. They won only 58 because they couldn's sneak up on anyone. LeBron and company got every team's A game. If the Colonials can steal a few wins, and get hot toward the end of the season, who knows? Shrewsbury might not have to wait as long as anticipated to get atop the district again.