After a season affected by pandemic restrictions, Hopkinton High School boys basketball coach Tom Keane is happy to be back playing under relatively normal circumstances. Other than wearing masks, the rules the Hillers will play under will be the same as what they are used to seeing.
There will be fans in the stands and a regular schedule; the latter part is especially welcome after Hopkinton played five of its nine games last year against the Tri-Valley League’s top team, Westwood, due to the quirky scheduling.
Keane is also pleased to be playing a more normal season with a roster he really likes.
“I am very optimistic about this team,” he said. “I love their team chemistry, I love the way they have practiced in the preseason. It seems like everybody is pulling in the same direction, so I am super excited about that.”
None of the players on Keane’s roster have been through a regular high school varsity basketball season, but the Hillers do have four seniors who have some varsity experience.
Starting point guard Nate Kasper, who will play next season at Western New England University, was a Tri-Valley League All-Star a year ago and will be an on-court leader for the Hillers this winter. Fellow senior Caleb Rahaim is another likely starter and someone who could play a scoring role. Keane praised senior Matthew Coffman as a player who made great strides during the offseason, and Nick Paharik is another returner with some playing time under his belt.
Hopkinton’s fifth senior, Alex Smith, is a forward who will be making his varsity basketball debut after dealing with some injuries. The rest of the roster is composed of seven juniors — including returning rotation players Kourosh Fattahy and Evan Mirazimi — and a sophomore who will be learning from seniors Keane called “good kids and good leaders.”
The Hillers’ lone sophomore, Sam Pantera, has a chance to play a big role this winter, Keane said. Many of the other players coming off the bench this year are versatile and will mix and match out on the floor.
“They are all athletic,” Keane said. “We are pretty athletic this year, so I think quite a few of them are going to be able to get into the rotation.”
Hopkinton does not have a ton of size, but Keane does have players who are long and wiry, he said.
“Quite a few kids hit their growth spurts over the summer,” he said. “We have a lot of good, athletic basketball players.”
Judging from the opening scrimmage, Keane said the defense is a bit ahead of the offense at this point in the season. Learning the system and making sure everyone is on the same page was a focus ahead of Hopkinton’s opener (Dec. 14 vs. Westborough).
After last year’s odd scheduling, Keane said it’s tough to get a handle on who the top teams in the TVL might be this winter. While he is not sure where his team might fall in the league standings, he said this group is so far showing itself to be a pleasure to coach.
“It’s been nice just to go to practice,” Keane said. “Sometimes you can get a sense that it’s going to be a good season, attitude-wise, and it seems that would be the case this year.”