by Tom Pedulla –
Call it the Dobbs Ferry difference.
While other teams wore T-shirts showing they are part of the East Coast Panthers Summer League at Masters School, Dobbs Ferry sported uniform tops similar to what they will use next winter when they defend the Section 1 Class B championship.
“We look at it as a way to build our culture and our identity,” said Coach Scott Patrillo, adding, “Every time you put on our jersey, you take on all of the responsibilities that come with it.”
Given all that the Eagles accomplished in finishing 21-5 last season and winning the school’s first Section 1 Class B title in 52 years, those responsibilities may feel weightier than usual. Seven seniors graduated from that extraordinary team, placing pressure on six returning players and newcomers striving to make the roster.
“I think everybody is really doubting on us because we lost a lot of our good seniors like Dimaunie (Meredith) and Zach Holzman,” said Luke Distefano, a guard who will be a key returnee as a senior. “But I think we can go back to where we were last year and do the same stuff.”
Lester McCarthy, another senior who is expected to be a major contributor, senses skepticism regarding the team’s prospects as well. “I feel everybody is sleeping on us,” he said.
With those heavy losses to graduation, summer competition is especially important for the new group to build chemistry. “I feel like once we get that,” McCarthy said, “we’ll be a pretty good team.”
More than anything, players need as much time on the court together as possible. In addition to the schedule at Masters School, the team will compete on Sundays in the fall.
“They’ve got to build confidence in one another and that takes time,” Patrillo said. “It doesn’t happen overnight.”
The coach described the experience gained during the summer as “incredibly important.”
He went on, “It helps them get into the mode of how we do things. It’s teaching them what we do, how we do it and why we do it. It really helps to build that consistency from guys who are returning to the new guys who are coming through.”
Patrillo is giving ample time to many players and testing different combinations. Players are using their minutes to try to work on their deficiencies in a pressure-free environment.
“It’s not all about winning the games,” Distefano said. “It’s about getting better as players so, come the season, we’re ready to go.”
Patrillo wants his team to see the big picture instead of working on set plays on offense.
“It’s all about getting them to understand the right way to play basketball, how to make sure the floor is balanced, how to make sure there is constant movement, always looking to make the extra pass and not overdribble,” he said. “We really want them to totally understand our style and the way we play.”
Although the roster is a long way from being determined, it is important for players to begin to make good impressions in how they conduct themselves on and off the court.
“You have to be able to check all the boxes in what we look for in a basketball player,” Patrillo said. “We really like to have complete basketball players who have a great basketball IQ, who are selfless and put the team above everything else and are willing to play any role. Being on the team is an honor, and everyone has to understand that.”