The Lyndhurst High School boys’ basketball team struggled through a tough season a year ago, posting a 7-19 record.
But the Golden Bears’ third-year head coach Tom McGuire believes that his team will be dramatically improved this time around.
“We had a young team that was just getting its first varsity experience,” said McGuire, the former standout athlete of the now-defunct Queen of Peace who also served for a few years as the head coach at his alma mater. “We started two sophomores the whole year. So it was a learning curve for most.”
McGuire knew that his team would have to endure some growing pains a year ago.
“The speed of the game was different for them,” McGuire said. “We took some bumps, but the good thing was that we learned and progressed throughout the year.”
Now, a year later, and McGuire can notice the change in his team.
“The mindset is so much different,” McGuire said. “The culture of the locker room has changed. It’s something that I didn’t see last year. I believe that they can do some special things. We’re not going to be intimidated. There’s a different confidence about the team.”
With that, McGuire believes that the Golden Bears will be much better this season.
“I expect us to be improved,” McGuire said. “We’re going to be able to do a lot of things.”
Leading the returnees is 6-foot-2 senior forward Kyle Logan.
“He’s a great rebounder,” McGuire said of Logan. “He’s extremely energetic. We’re a better team when he’s on the floor. He gives us a good inside presence. He’s our anchor in the middle.”
Soccer standout Vincent DiTonto, fresh off being named All-Bergen County in soccer, has returned to the basketball team. The 6-foot-1 senior is another forward that McGuire will count on.
“He does a little bit of everything,” McGuire said of DiTonto. “He’s an energetic leader who leads by example. He doesn’t say much. He just goes hard and plays defense. He’s going to play defense for us and he’s going to rebound. He’s also going to cover one of the other team’s top players.”
Junior Ben Franchino is a 5-foot-10 shooting guard.
“He’s our best defensive player,” McGuire said. “He’s one of the quickest players we’ve ever had. He earned Second Team All-NJIC last year and one of the reasons why the coaches picked him was because of his defense. That’s how important he is to us. The other coaches stressed just how good he was defensively.”
Senior Mike D’Alia is a 6-foot-4 forward.
“He’s a pure shooter who has learned to shoot with great confidence,” McGuire said. “He’s also improved as a rebounder. He’s put on 15 pounds of strength and that has helped him tremendously.”
Junior Brian Podolski is a 6-foot-1 point guard.
“He can also play forward if he’s needed to,” McGuire said. “He plays every single position for me. He goes to the basket well and finishes well. He has a nice strong frame. Whenever we need a big play, he gets it for us. He’s like a quarterback on the court. He knows where everyone is on the court and that’s extremely helpful.”
Adryan Lopez is a 6-foot-1 senior point guard who will share time with Podolski.
“He has the best ball handling skills on the team,” McGuire said. “He’s an extremely talented player. He just has to be more decisive with the ball. He’s quick, long and agile.”
John Rodriguez is a 6-foot-2 sophomore forward.
“He’s a very good shooter,” McGuire said. “He played a lot as a freshman. He has a lot of talent. I see great things from him if he can keep his mind straight.”
Sid Das is a 6-foot transfer from North Arlington.
“He can play,” McGuire said. “He can shoot it. He’s a marksman. He’s still learning our system, but he’s going to get better. He’s a legitimate offensive threat.”
Nick Wohlrab is a 5-foot-11 senior guard.
“He’s a great shooter,” McGuire said. “He’s focused on making good shots. He’s a decent zone buster. He hasn’t played basketball in two years. Once he gets the pace of the game down, he’s going to provide valuable minutes.”
Paul Scimicata is a 6-foot-2 junior forward.
“He’s battling a shoulder injury right now,” McGuire said. “I’m not sure when he’s coming back.”
Steve Dittamo is a 6-foot senior forward.
“He does everything right,” McGuire said. “He’s a guy who works hard and provides depth off the bench.”
The Golden Bears opened the 2017-2018 season with a 53-49 victory over Leonia Friday night. Rodriguez led the way with 13 points and Franchino added 11. The Golden Bears were scheduled to face Bergen Charter Tuesday night.
Lyndhurst will once again host the Bruce Bartlett Holiday Tournament, an eight-team affair with Rutherford, Becton Regional, Hasbrouck Heights, Lakeland, Waldwick, Elmwood Park and Fair Lawn in the field with the Golden Bears.
Lyndhurst will face Fair Lawn in the opening round of the Bartlett tourney Tuesday night.
McGuire likes the makeup of his team.
“I like the way they’ve competed from the first scrimmage,” McGuire said. “They’re doing a much better job on defense. They’re showing the ability to put the ball in the basket. I think we’re going to be a much better team than last year.”
The Golden Bears are already well on their way to showing that improvement.
The Lyndhurst High School boys’ basketball team looks to be vastly improved over the 7-19 team the Golden Bears were a year ago. Front row, from left, are Matthew Wengerter, Nick Cutola and Adryan Lopez. Back row, from left, are Kyle Logan, head coach Tom McGuire, Michael D’Alia and Vincent DiTonto. Photo by Jim Hague