GROTON -- When Keith Woods announced his retirement at the conclusion of last season, it was uncertain what direction the Groton-Dunstable Crusaders would head in. Athletic director Mike McCaffrey opted to go with someone who not only has varsity head coaching experience at Littleton High School, but he also knows what it means to be a Crusader.
Class of 1993 graduate, Greg Gillette, takes over a Groton-Dunstable program that is coming off an 7-13 overall record a season-ago. Gillette has four years of head coaching experience at Littleton.
The Crusaders took a preseason trip down to Cape Cod which proved to be a good measuring stick to see how they stack up against some much bigger Eastern Mass. teams. Groton-Dunstable graduated both Coleman and Charles Hill who were two strong players on the glass.
Other notable losses include Matt Connolly and Phil Dubais.
Probable starters include sophomore captain Corey Romich who will see time at the shooting guard position on the wing. Romich has the ability to drive to the basket and shoot the lights out of the gym, if given the open shot.
"Romich has good versatility," Gillette said. "He is really our own court leader. Last year, he would go 80 feet and try to score off the dribble. Now, on the wing, he is able to get rebounds and get into the paint easier. He's a very complete player with phenomenal skill-set."
In the middle will be senior big-man captain Scotty Csapler. Csapler is expected to use his size down low and work with his back to the hoop.
"Csapler gives us some toughness inside," the coach said. "He has good touch and can score. He's a pick-and-pop player with three-point range who can shoot it trailing."
At small forward is senior captain Bobby Flanagan. "Bobby started to show some flashes last year," Gillette said. "He works on his game a lot. He's a basketball player, that's all he does. His hard work is finally paying off -- I think. He is model for staying at it. He's an athletic player who is going to run the floor and finish at the rim. He can shoot the three, but I think he is at his best when he is running in transition."
Rounding out the starting lineup, splitting time at the point guard position are junior Matt Tornaritis and senior Matt Werner. "Werner is an improved ball handler with a great attitude," he said. "He is a good shooter with mid-range who is unselfish with the ball. He plays within his skill-set. He won't do things he is not capable of. If he tries to do too much, that's when he gets in trouble. Tornaritis is very athletic and sees the floor very well. He is a penetrator and he can really finish. Where he is going to really help us is as an on-ball defender."
Junior Parker Blodgette is a throwback player with broad shoulders who can finish in the lane while drawing contact. Blodgette has the ability to rebound and is gritty presence on the inside for the Crusaders. Blodgette will be challenged by the do-it-all forward, Jack Allen.
"He's got a nose for the ball," he said. "He is not the guy who always gets the reap for the reward, but he keeps the ball alive. He's got a very good basketball IQ and a tremendous work ethic. He's an outside shooter, who when he has confidence can stroke it."
Coming off the bench will be Drew Moore, who is still nursing a knee injury that he suffered in the first-round of the football sectionals at Hudson.
"We are going to need him to get out of the football mode sooner," Gillette said. "He's very athletic and can jump out of the gym. He is a good scorer who came on last year. He is a good defender. He is another guy who can shutdown perimeter shooters."
Eric Parsons is a combo guard who will pick up minutes in the first half, and it will be dictated by match-ups. Parsons is a steady, strong physical player.
Sophomore Shane Dawson is a tough rebounder and a tough defender with a decent skill-set and a mid-range jump shot.
"Our team's strength will be its versatility," he said. "This team has work ethic and great attitudes. They are very coachable. Our goal is to try and get back to postseason. We'd like to get to both the District Tournament and Clark Tournament."
Groton-Dunstable opens up tonight at Tyngsborough at 7 p.m.