The Warwick Vets boys’ basketball team missed the playoffs each of the last two years, but it was building toward something during that span.
That something might have arrived.
With a host of talented returning players and an influx of talent from a junior varsity squad that won the Division III state title last year, the ’Canes are in a better position talent-wise and depth-wise than they’ve been in a while.
“A lot of the guys were there last year, but they were splitting time between JV and varsity,” Vets head coach Chris LeBlanc said. “I knew we weren’t going to be at the top of the heap last year, so I was trying to get as many kids on the court as I could last year.”
It’s been paying off already in practice. With all the players who hope to make an impact, competition has been intense, as there are numerous players battling for playing time at just about every position.
“So far, so good,” LeBlanc said. “I think the boys are competing well because I think there’s going to end up being a lot of competition for some playing time.”
One player who will certainly be on the court is senior Will Remak.
A first-team All-Division III-Central selection a year ago, Remak flashed the ability to be one of the state’s best scorers both from the outside and with his slashing to the basket.
He’s poised to have another productive year, and LeBlanc thinks he can be an asset on the defensive side of the ball too.
“Consistency is definitely the key with him,” LeBlanc said. “I think when he plays good defense, good solid defense spurs on his offense. He’s worked a lot this summer on playing better defense.”
Also returning from last year after playing quality minutes are junior point guard Josh Muto and senior perimeter player Scott Camara.
Camara is recovering from some injuries he sustained during football season, but he should be good to go soon. Muto is looking to take another step forward after showing flashes of his playmaking ability as a sophomore.
“I expect (Camara) to fill it up with Will and Josh,” LeBlanc said.
Other veterans include junior Kyle Rice, who started some last year, and big man Israel Thomas, who also was on the court for plenty of varsity minutes. Senior Kyle Agin played heavy minutes last season, and he’s also back in the fold.
Agin can run the point, as can senior Justin Batista, who played some varsity last season and was also a big part of the JV team’s title run.
Batista’s brother, Jeremy Batista, was a key figure on the JV team and will step into a varsity role too.
Inside, Dan Greaves returns as a big presence in the middle, and he too played last season. He’ll be joined by Thomas and juniors Ryan Wirth and Kevin Martin plus senior Tim Hogan.
“I’m expecting a lot of good things out of those guys,” LeBlanc said.
Junior Shane Kittila also saw some minutes last year. Sophomores Nick Beaufort, Denius Simpson, David Simmons, Levi Martin and Tyler Buchanan are on the roster as well, as are juniors Zach Caruso and Anthony Ferri.
It’s a group that has the potential to shoot up the standings. One thing it will take, however, is better defense, as the ’Canes scored quite a bit last season but they gave up even more. They’ve put renewed emphasis on succeeding at the defensive end of the court this season.
“That’s sort of the mantra of our team this year is to play defense,” LeBlanc said. “We were 14th in the state in scoring and our defense was near the bottom of the state.”
Vets hasn’t had any scrimmages yet, and while it will have a few non-league games this weekend, they likely won’t be a true indication of the ’Canes going forward, as the team is expecting a few players to be out for various reasons.
On Thursday, Dec. 19, they’ll play their first league game of the season, at Toll Gate at 7 p.m.
Given their talent, the ’Canes have high expectations
“We have our team goal to win as many games as we possibly can,” LeBlanc said. “We want to obviously get in the playoffs. We want to go far in the playoffs. I think we have a chance to do to that. We just have to make the defensive effort. We’re showing that already.”