Fairport young but hopeful 11/18/19


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Fairport young but hopeful


Fairport Harding returns three starters and five others with varsity experience leaving the Skippers hopeful to show vast improvement from last season.

With just two seniors on the squad and six sophomores expected to play key minutes, the Skippers remain young but have the potential to be competitive this winter.

“We are very young and a work in progress, especially after the tough season we had last year,” ninth-year head coach Matt Cardina said. “However, we have matured on and off the court so I feel we have a strong potential to grow a lot this year and begin to learn how to win.”

What the Skippers lack in size they make up for with their speed and Cardina plans to use that quickness to his advantage.

“We are still a small team but we have quick guards and our post-players are also good athletes who run well,” he said. “We plan to press and trap–full and half-court trap. Offensively, we want to push the ball, then use rapid ball-movement to involve the multiple playmakers/scorers we have.”

Returning starters include Justice Bartley, Jorden Cogswell and Hunter Barks.

Bartley, a 5-foot-11 senior point guard, averaged nine points, 2.5 assists and three rebounds per game last year.

“He’s the quickest player we’ve had in 10 years,” Cardina said. “He is an exciting open-court player who is looking to turn a successful football season into an even better basketball season. Justice was our top ball-handler last year, and now he understands what needs to be done to achieve success. So far in practice, he has been a leader, which was not a strength of his last year; watch out for this kid on the floor because he is starting to ‘get it.’”

Cogswell, a 5-foot-11 junior point guard, averaged six points, 1.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game as a sophomore.

“He had lots of ups and downs as an inexperienced sophomore last year, but he worked hard,” Cardina said. “Now a year older and a year of varsity experience under his belt will benefit him and us a lot. He is a long player who worked on his game a lot over the summer. I’m hoping his athleticism brings a tougher dimension to our defense this year.”

Barks, a 6-foot-1 guard/forward, scored six points per game with 5.8 rebounds and one assist per contest in being named honorable mention All-Chagrin Valley Conference last season.

“He started every game last year and was the top 3-point shooter on our team,” Cardina said. “Hunter played high school football for this first time as a senior and looking to use his added strength to his advantage on the hardwood. A smooth shooter, willing passer, and calm personality make him a consistent member of our team and an easy choice for captain. He is one of our best in the classroom as well.”

Sophomores Joe Tanker and Dillon Knesebeck round out the projected starting lineup.

Tanker, a 5-foot-10 forward, averaged three points and 1.5 rebounds per game as a freshman.

“We worked Joe into the lineup as a freshman last year and he played in over half of our games and even made a big impact in several of them,” Cardina said. “He is very ready to become a full-time starter. Joe brings playmaking and scoring from the forward position. Right now, he is just an average athlete, but his IQ on the floor is high. He will put himself in good positions to score and help our defense get stops. A 4.0 GPA and high-character should make him a permanent part of our starting rotation this year as well as the rest of his high school playing career.”

Knesebeck, a 6-foot-3 power forward/center, will play a key role under the basket for the Skippers.

“Tall and long, Dillon will be called upon to be our best rebounder and rim protector,” Cardina said. “He has a raw offensive game but if he can focus on defense as well as offensive and defensive rebounds, then we will be very happy with his role on the team. Being a starter on the varsity football team will help him immensely. Just a sophomore, look for Dillon to be a big part of our program this year and beyond.”

Two juniors and four sophomores will provide Fairport with depth.

The juniors include Nate Kopp, a 5-foot-9 shooting guard, and Dominic Trusty, a 6-foot-1 forward.

“A returning bench player, Nate is looking for even more time this year. He really improved his defense over the summer and this fall has become a more consistent shooter. Look for Nate to make a bigger impact this year. Added strength and confidence have been key for him,” Cardina said. “A newer player in our program, Dominic is a solid ball-handler, shooter and defender. He brings a tough attitude to our team and might be the most efficient player we have. He could work his way into the starting lineup as the year goes on but will need to continue jelling with our other returning players to figure out where he fits the best.”

Ryan Heller, Josiah Cooper, Sam Honkala, and Tai Malone are the sophomores.

Heller is a 6-foot-3 center while Cooper is a 5-foot-7 shooting guard.

“Ryan is a very good defender who focuses on help-side defense, rebounding, and trapping. He is a good pick-setter and fits in well with any line-up due to his unselfishness on both ends of the floor. We’re hoping he can begin working his way into our varsity lineup after the first or second week of December. He could be one of the best defensive players in the area before he graduates in 2022,” Cardina said. “After not dressing at all last regular season, we played (Cooper) approximately 15 minutes in our only playoff game because of his effort and defense. Even as a freshman, he played with energy and strength. Josiah will compete for varsity minutes but still needs to develop. He will be used in situational times, but his defensive potential is extremely high.”

Honkala is a 5-foot-11 guard and Malone is a 6-2 forward.

“Honkala is competing for varsity minutes this year but he has a very high basketball IQ,” Cardina said. “He still needs development at the JV level but might have the highest potential of any of our five sophomores. After his sophomore year, watch out. Length, skill, and desire will make him a very tough match-up,” Cardina said.

Really good athlete, easily dunks,” Cardina said of Malone, who won the CVC high jump title as a freshman last spring. “He’s learning the game and probably not a big piece for us this year, but just like many of our sophomores, watch out in the future. He’s a super nice kid, never gets mad, but he will be dunking on multiple people before he graduates in 2022. He loves defense and that is where his greatest potential lies for this current season.”

The Skippers are aiming to win more games and be more competitive this season and to do that they’ll have to rebound better, eliminate turnovers and develop their younger players in a hurry.