Coming off a 21-4 season that included reaching the state semifinals for only the second time in program history, the Ridgefield High boys basketball team faced a question mark entering last season.
How would the Tigers fare without All-State point guard Bryan Galvin?
The answer was pretty well.
Seth von Kuhn made a smooth transition from the wing to the point as Ridgefield went 18-7, reaching the FCIAC semifinals and the Class LL state quarterfinals.
This winter, the Tigers face a similar challenge. Von Kuhn has graduated, leaving head coach Carl Charles in search of a reliable replacement.
But as long as Ridgefield can get competent play from that position, it should be fine. Simply put, the Tigers are stocked with talent elsewhere.
“This could be a very good season,” said Charles, whose team opens at home against defending Class LL state champ St. Joseph on Wednesday night. “We have most of the pieces in place.”
The key cogs are senior swingmen Kurt Steidl and Jeff Racy, who are both three-year starters.
“Kurt and Jeff have been great for us the past few seasons,” said Charles. “They both want to end their high school careers by helping the team have a memorable year.”
The 6’6” Steidl, who will play Division I college basketball at Vermont, led Ridgefield in scoring with 19 points per game in 2011-12 and made both the All-FCIAC and All-State squads. Steidl’s most memorable effort was a 42-point performance against Bridgeport Central that left him just two points shy of Tom Cesca’s single-game school record.
Steidl can hit from outside, drive to the basket, post up, and handle the ball. He’s also an excellent free-throw shooter and an above-average rebounder.
The Amherst-bound Racy, who is 6’5”, averaged 10 points per game last season and is perhaps Ridgefield’s most deadly outside shooter. With Racy and Steidl on the wings, the Tigers can stretch the floor and bust zones.
The third returning starter is 6’6” sophomore Patrick Racy, Jeff’s younger brother, who averaged six points a game as a freshman. He will be Ridgefield’s primary scoring option in the paint, although he also has good range on his jumper.
Seniors Andrew Barton (6’2”) and Jonathan Hicks (6’1”) are the front-runners to start at the other forward spot. “We feel good about Andrew and Jon,” said Charles. “They both have varsity experience and should contribute with scoring and rebounding and defense.”
The point guard situation is still in flux. Senior Chipper McClelland will miss the start of the season with an Achilles injury, leaving juniors Charlie Irwin and Matt Brennan to fill the role.
“With Chip out we are going to lean on Charlie and Matt,” said Charles. “I think they can handle the responsibility.”
Ridgefield’s bench, which includes 6’4’’ senior center Chris Brewi, 6’0’’ senior guard Dan Greenberg, 6’4’’ junior center Thomas Haughney, 6’3’’ junior forward Griffin Jones, 6’2” junior transfer forward Zachary Ward, and 6’4” freshman forward Matt Bartolucci — looks to be a strength, according to Charles.
“I could see up to 10 guys contributing,” he said. “I don’t think there is the drop-off that we’ve had some other years. We are going to try and play as many guys as possible to keep everyone fresh.”
A deep rotation would allow the Tigers to make a slight stylistic change.
“We are going to try to play up-tempo more,” said Charles. “I want us to get out and run more, play pressure defense and force the action.”
Notes: Jeff Racy, Steidl, Barton and Hicks are the team’s captains.
The Tigers lost to Trinity Catholic in the FCIAC semifinals and St. Joseph in the Class LL quarterfinals last year.
Ridgefield is ranked third in MaxPreps 2012-13 Connecticut Pre-Season Fab 5 behind Windsor and Hillhouse. St. Joseph is ranked fourth.