Youthful Greenwich Academy Hoops Has Veteran Expectations
Since the hiring of head basketball coach Wes Matthews at Greenwich Academy, the program has been on a steady rise.
From a one-win season the year prior to his arrival, to back-to-back FAA semifinals appearances during his tenure, the Gators are now poised to make the next climb to success.
For two senior co-captains, Alice Hudson and Brooke Powers, the transformation of the program has unfolded before their eyes, as the difference is quite noticeable for the most veteran pair of the bunch.
“It’s been incredible,” said Hudson. “Our first year, we were a totally different team. The mood and energy was down and we were only winning one game out of 16. Then, Wes came in and we got to .500 right away. We’ve just been building on that and we have some great new players this year.”
Powers, a polished outside shooter and guard, says the young, but talented team has a good mix of athleticism and aggressiveness. She, too, has witnessed the turnaround of the program and feels lucky to have a former NBA player serving as a head coach and mentor.
“It’s crazy,” said Powers. “Wes came in our sophomore year and he really changed the program and made us a real threat in the FAA. He’s probably the most successful basketball player GA is going to see and get to work with. He’s good at identifying all our strengths and weaknesses.”
The Gators recently took part in Miss Hall’s Tip-Off Holiday tournament, where Matthews was able to find out more about his team’s capabilities on both offense and defense.
“We had a couple tune-ups,” said Matthews. “We won two and lost two. We’re right where we want to be as far as fine-tuning things. Our focus is totally on defense. If our defense is our offense, we’ll be okay. Before we sat in zones, now we want to play man-to-man. We did a great job of creating turnovers in our first tournament.”
Sophomore Kaitlyn Davis will serve as the team’s multi-dimensional threat and will be seen throughout the season at multiple positions.
“I love being around Kaitlyn,” said Matthews. “Her development is like every minute. We’re allowing her to handle the ball a little bit more. We allow her to shoot the jumper more, too.”
Davis had an 18-point game against the tournament host, Miss Hall, including some key made jump shots.
“Once she develops that 12-15 footer, she’s going to be untouchable,” said Matthews. “She’s multi-dimensional. You could ask her to coach and she’ll do that too. If you double her, it’s like picking your poison with Brooke and Francesa.”
Davis says she hopes to improve her scoring and finishing underneath the basket this season, as well as taking on more of a leadership role. She adds that the team’s strengths this year will include hustle.
“I’m starting to play more of a five position,” said Davis. “We’re trying to focus on both the outside and our inside game. Last year, it was more of an outside game. It will be higher intensity basketball. I’m used to being the youngest one, so it’s definitely new to me. Our goal is to be more cohesive as a team.”
Running the point guard position this year will be freshman Francesca Sileo, who has already proven to be a crafty scoring threat with a 22-point outing of her own already this season.
“’I’m giving her [Francesca] the keys to the car and letting her drive,” said Matthews. “She’s basketball savvy and her IQ is really high. She’s a perfect complement to Brooke, Kaitlyn and Olivia. She’s a gym rat and she loves this game. You can’t leave her, because she can score.”
Kaitlyn’s twin sister, Olivia, will also be part of the starting five and she too remembers the time Greenwich Academy took a backseat in the FAA conference.
“It’s crazy to see the difference,” Davis said. “I didn’t play here when it happened, but I saw the games and the girls really worked hard to get to where they are now. I don’t think they are going to let us down this year. Our defense is our most important part. We have girls that can run who are also soccer players. They are full of energy.”
Emily Hock and Cora Creighton will play key roles coming off the bench for the Gators, as the loss of last year’s co-captains, Phoebe Morris and Jordan Fischetti, will be felt in more than just team spirit.
For Matthews, a return to the FAA semifinals for his team would be a successful deja vu scenario, but the hunger for a sweeter taste lingers across the board.
“It’s the senior leadership in Brook and Alice that we want to send out right,” said Matthews. “Our mission and our goal is to do something special. Let’s do something special and win it for our seniors. Our goal is to get to the FAA finals. We’ve been one game away, and one half away from getting there. We want to qualify for the NEPSAC. We want to show these girls there is bigger basketball out there, that’s why we go to these holiday tournaments.”
Sitting at 3-2, the Gators’ next away game will be at Holy Child before returning home to take on rival Sacred Heart Greenwich on December 14.