After disappointing debut, coach looks for better results in 05-06
The Blair boys' varsity basketball team opened their new season the same way they ended last year's: with a loss and without their head coach.
The Blazers look to improve upon last year's losing season in which they had a record of 3-19 and lost their coach, physical eduation teacher Orlando Larracuente, to an ejection in their finale, resulting in his suspension for the start of the season. They lost their first game of the 2005-2006 campaign to Kennedy, 70-51, on Dec. 6.
Larracuente believes that improvement is possible. "I look at the strengths and weaknesses of our team," he says, "and we can be as good as we desire to be. If we want to be a great team we can be."
Larracuente says "everything is about the team," but he will look to seniors Petros Fentahun and John Orr for leadership this season. Fentahun and Orr will anchor the backcourt with Tori Patten, Muhammad Roberson and Onyemaechi Agu rounding out the frontcourt. Larracuente will have his hands full teaching his big men as Roberson, Agu and reserve center Sam Francois did not start playing organized basketball until high school.
What they lack in experience, the team makes up for with skill and athleticism. Larracuente envisions the team playing a fast style, explaining, "I like to press and run up-tempo basketball. To achieve this the kids have to understand the system."
Coach Larracuente's son, shooting guard Che, agrees with his father that the Blazers will look to play a style that will make it hard for other teams to keep up. "We're looking to play hard-nosed, in-your-face defense all game long," he notes. "Our offense will push the ball and try to run the other team out of the gym." With the speedy Fentahun at the point, Blair can expect a tired opposing team.
"I'm just going to do what I know how to do," Fentahun says, "and that's run the ball and orchestrate the offense."
In addition to winning games, coach Larracuente will attempt to instill values and a love for the game of basketball in his players. In picking the team, Larracuente said he was looking for passion as much as skill. He is trying to infuse a work ethic in his team that he hopes no other school can match.
In his own words, he is looking for some "ballers." "What our team has been missing is a couple of ballers," he says. "A baller is not just a kid who plays basketball; far from it. A baller is a player who puts basketball just after god, family and academics. That is what we have been missing here."
As a new season begins, and as Larracuente tries to sculpt a team to his liking, the team is focused simply on improving upon last year's record. Junior reserve Matt McClain sees the potential, explaining, "It seems like everyone is really committed to the success of this team. Coach Larracuente has done a great job preparing us and now it is time for us to go out and perform to our capabilities."
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