By Daniel Lim
As players get ready for the 2021 basketball season there are a lot of new normals to get used to. Fans are back, new coaches have been chosen, EC is out of its league and a new load of freshmen are trying out for the team.
In the 2019-2020 season, both the JV and varsity teams started off slow with a 0-4 record, but were able to collect themselves later in the season. Varsity ended with a record of 3-8, winning against teams like HCA and Saddle Brook. The JV team ended the season with a record of 4-5, unexpectedly winning 3 of its 4 last games. After this streak, the season came to a devastating halt when the season ended due to an all team COVID contact tracing.
Despite the previous season ending in flames, players are optimistic about this next season. There are now less COVID restrictions, allowing fans to watch the games. Multiple players felt that the addition of fans would make a great change in the games.When asked about the effects of fans at games, varsity player Lucas Genuario stated, “I'm excited but it adds pressure.” In the beginning of the previous season, zero fans were allowed to see the games and could only watch virtually, so having fans will seem new for many of the players.
Players are also excited for new coaches like Coach Jon Veenstra, an alumni of the varsity program, who seems to be liked by many of the players. Coach Jon was previously the JV coach but because of the departure of Coach Fuller, he has been moved up to varsity. Jon is a young guy who used to play for the EC basketball team in high school. He was renowned for his 30-point game against EC’s former rival Manchester. Coach Jon spent his college days as the manager for Seton Hall’s basketball team, where he got to see how the team works.
Last year, however, was Jon’s first time coaching a team and allowed him to gain knowledge on what it takes to coach. On this topic he stated, “I still had no feel for what coaching would actually be like. I have a lot of basketball knowledge and figuring out how to share it and execute it was going to take some time. They made me feel comfortable and confident as I experimented with different things to see what would work.”
When asked about how he felt moving up to varsity coach, Jon reported, “I’m excited! I asked a lot of questions of former varsity coaches and people around me to make sure that this was something I could do, and they were transparent about the difficulties and the toughness needed to do it.”
He also believes that he brings many positive skills to the team. “I make strong game plans and I do what I can to ensure players understand the game plan and execute it with confidence. It’s important to see the long-term goal and set short-term goals on the way there,” he added.
Replacing Jon as JV coach is Mr. Troast. He was previously the freshmen coach for EC in the 2018 season. He has lots of experience coaching the varsity soccer team this year and is looking to lead the JV basketball team to a winning season. One of his players on the soccer team talked about his strong work ethic for his players in a recent interview. He also has a close relationship with Jon Veenstra and has known him for many years.
This year, expect the synergy between coaches to work in the program’s favor. Coach Jon shared this about Mr. Troast’s strengths: “He’s a hard worker whose presence demands a discipline and focus I don’t always exert. He’s also really good at leading conditioning, a weakness of mine. I think he can help us focus, be more efficient in practice, and better execute with confidence and energy in games.”
Another change in this year's season is that EC is no longer in its league. Coach Jon has decided that we will be a private team and only play against selected teams.
“I think this decision can be beneficial in the short term. Boys’ basketball has, at times, felt overmatched compared to the competition of schools with graduating classes more than double the size of our whole school population,” Jon stated.
As an addition to the team, many freshmen are looking to try out for the team. However, because there is no freshmen team, more players will be cut from the team. Varsity player Lucas Genuario talked about how he looked forward to the incoming freshman and thought they could help with a good season.
All in all, the coaches and players are looking forward to a competitive season and wish to see improvements in players. When asked about what players did well from the previous season and what they need to improve on, Coach Jon stated, “I loved how the JV team ran our defense last year, and I’m excited to surprise varsity teams with it this year. I’m hoping for better offensive execution this season. I know it’s hard to remember a ton of offensive plays, I played a little point guard as a senior, but running plays correctly after timeouts or at the start of a quarter could make the occasional offensive possession a lot easier and help us win those close games that our JV team had a tough time with last year.”
Jon Veenstra looks to improve this season by being encouraging and straightforward with his players. “I try to give players jobs they can succeed in so that when mistakes are made, I can be straightforward and constructive, sharing “this was the mistake, this is how we can improve” and I have a ton of patience, so you won’t see me angry often.”