Rick Harris has very high expectations for his CCRI men’s basketball team this season. A talented group of freshmen has joined a solid core of returning players to give the Knights as much potential as they’ve ever had under Harris, who’s in his fifth year at the helm.
Now he’s trying to get his players to realize how good they can be – and how hard they have to work to get there.
“We’ve got a ton of potential with this team, but the kids have to understand that they need to get a lot better,” Harris said. “When they understand how good they can be and if they put the work in, we could be a really strong team.”
Last season, the Knights went 15-15 and lost in the first round of the Region XXI tournament. This year’s team would like to get past that point and start shooting for CCRI’s first berth in nationals since 2007.
It’s been smooth sailing so far – the Knights are 4-0 this season and have out-scored opponents 331-199 – but Harris doesn’t want his team to get ahead of itself.
“We’re coming along. We’ve got a lot of young players, so it’s a process,” Harris said. “But the kids have to realize that the teams we’ve beaten are not like the teams we’re going have to beat down the line. I’m a little concerned about that. They have a lot of talent but they have a long way to go in terms of reaching their potential.”
The Knights have six sophomores back from last year’s team, a group that’s led by captains Nick Maglio, Josh Perry and Chris Canino. Maglio, a Bishop Hendricken grad who plays guard, is among the team’s hardest workers.
“He’s a coach’s delight,” Harris said.
Perry, a 5-foot-10 guard, from South Kingstown, and Canino, a 6-foot-6 forward from Hartford, Conn., are also providing strong leadership.
The other returning sophomores are 6-foot-6 forward Trevor Mabry, 6-foot-8 center Jeff Schmeltz and 6-foot-5 swingman Addison Williams.
CCRI also has two sophomores who are new to the program. Rogerio Livramento, a 6-foot-6 forward who starred at Central Falls, has joined the Knights and is already getting attention from several Division II schools. Keith Lackerson, a 6-foot-3 guard from Brooklyn, transferred in from Monroe Community College.
“In junior college basketball, you go as far as your sophomores take you, and we’ve got a nice group,” Harris said. “They’re solid. They’ve got experience and talent.”
With that solid group already in the fold, expectations were really ratcheted up when the freshman class arrived on campus. It includes Cranston West All-Stater Bryan Yarce and Connecticut star Desmond Williams, who ranks as the most high-profile recruit CCRI has signed in Harris’s tenure.
“We’ve got some very, very talented freshmen,” Harris said. “We’re excited about them.”
Yarce was a two-time All-State point guard for the Falcons, and he led them to the Division I championship last season. He’s already grabbed the starting point guard spot for the Knights, and the fit has been perfect.
“We love him,” Harris said. “He’s not scoring as much as he did in high school, but he’s made a nice transition and he’s doing what we need. With the weapons we have, he’s like a kid in a candy store.”
Williams may be the biggest weapon. A native of Torrington, Conn., the 6-foot-5 Williams starred at Putnam Science Academy. He’s the brother of former Maryland star Jordan Williams, who was drafted by the Nets in the 2011 NBA Draft.
“He’s athletic and he can score,” Harris said. “He’s a very talented player and he’s a good kid. He wants to get better.”
Williams had scholarship offers from URI and the College of Charleston, pending academic qualification. When that didn’t work out, Williams headed to CCRI, and the Knights are happy to have him.
“He’s probably the highest-profile guy we’ve gotten,” Harris said. “I want to see him get better and have some Big East and ACC teams looking at him. That’s the kind of improvement we’re expecting out of him. He’s one of the more talented players we’ve had.”
Williams’s high school teammate, Anthony Henry, has joined him at CCRI and is pushing for a starting spot in the backcourt. The rest of the freshman class includes former Johnston High standout Isaac Medeiros, East Providence’s Branden Barboza and Cranston West’s Mark Marocco. Brandon Strawn, who was injured last year, is also in the fold.
“It’s a real good group,” Harris said. “Now we just have to jell and keep working. We can’t take any days off.”
Desmond Williams has been the team’s leading scorer so far at 15.3 points per game. Henry is at 11.3 and Livramento ranks third at 7.5. Yarce leads the team in total assists with 14.
CCRI has cruised to victories in all its games thus far, and Harris sees the team’s speed and depth as a big reason why. But he also sees the competition that awaits, and he knows what needs to improve.
“Our basketball IQ has to get better and we have to keep working,” he said. “We had a day off Friday and when they came back, it was tough to reel them in. They’re good kids, but that’s what happens with a young team. If they keep working hard, they’ve got a lot of potential.