Kennedy boys’ basketball was fortunate enough to play all 8 of its games in the Covid-shortened season last winter and made the most of it.
“It was a surprise season because we learned about it at the last minute,” head coach Rory Block said. “We ended up getting a lot out of it. It was a positive experience.”
The Cougars, who boast a bunch of three-sport athletes, saw four juniors and four sophomores get a bunch of playing time. Most of the offense was provided by since-graduated seniors, so Block noted the defense will need to be a theme early while the production comes along.
“We didn’t have anyone score in double digits last season and we lost most of our scoring,” Block said. “That’s probably the biggest concern.”
The offense will be in the hands of senior point guard Blake Peyser, a third-year varsity player with a quality handle. “Blake has the experience you want at the point and he can get us into the offense,” Block said. “He definitely has the ability to step up his game and chip in some points.”
Junior wing Ben Mehani is being counted on to boost his output as well after averaging 5 points per game. “Ben can play anywhere but center and he’s capable of hitting threes and increase his scoring,” said Block, who added senior Jayson Eisner and junior Matt Wallace serve as a perimeter threats.
Not the biggest power forward at 6-foot-1, junior Alex Silva plays bigger than his size, Block said, and brings grit and energy. Senior center Jason Guardiola has a physical edge to his game and can rebound. Senior Dan Seymour is 6-foot-7 and can turn offensive rebounds into putbacks and also blocks shots. Junior forward Liam Schillinger will also be counted on to clean up the glass and spark the defense.
The announcement there would be basketball played in Nassau County last season was exciting for all teams, but the decision not to conduct playoffs was heartbreaking for those with championship aspirations like Kennedy.
The Cougars, who brought back plenty of starpower from their Class A semifinal appearance in 2019-2020, went 8-0 last winter. “It was nice to be able to play, but at the same time it was upsetting we didn’t get to see it through and see how far we could go,” head coach Mallory Freeley said. “Now we’re trying to build it back up. We stand a chance to do well again if we can get all of our eggs in order.”
A mix of veterans and varsity newcomers will comprise the starting five for Kennedy, which has South Side, Hewlett and Manhasset among its conference foes. Senior guards Jamie Maroof and Sarah Klein are both coming off Honorable Mention All-County campaigns and lead the way, Freeley said.
Maroof, a four-year varsity player, thrives in pressure situations, Freeley noted, and will take on a much larger offensive role. “Jamie’s a spot-up shooter with terrific form and can get to the basket as well,” she said. Klein, a three-sport athlete, will be tasked with picking up some of the scoring slack. “She’s a playmaker with great court vision,” Freeley said.
Sophomore Ella Galjanich takes over point guard duties and will be counted on to protect the ball and distribute. “She got some varsity minutes last season and has a good handle and knows how to direct traffic,” Freeley said.
The frontcourt features junior Gianna Costaro, an outside shooting threat who works hard on the boards, freshman Ashley St. Surin, a true post player with size and all the tools, and senior Faith Gunn, a 6-foot-plus center.
“Any of our five starters can score in double figures on any given night,” Freeley said.