MANCHESTER - When the Burr and Burton Academy boys basketball season gets underway this Saturday spectators will notice a difference in this year's team.

BBA graduated seven members of their team last year, four of which - Taylor Fuller, Weston Muench, Dave Shehadi, and center Jake Stalcup - were starting members of the squad.

In addition to the starting members, reserves Tanner Carleton, Gechuan Ellis and Chris Redding also graduated. There are only four returning members this year - Joey Shehadi, Conor Harrington, Tieshawn Gadson and Drew Herbert. Joey Shehadi started at guard for the team last season, while Harrington and Gadson both saw significant minutes. As a result of that, coach Dave Shehadi will be looking for the returning members of last year's team to take the lead.

Burr and Burton Academy’s Joey Shehadi heads to the rim during a game last season. BBA will open the season this Saturday, Dec. 14, against Otter
Burr and Burton Academy's Joey Shehadi heads to the rim during a game last season. BBA will open the season this Saturday, Dec. 14, against Otter Valley in the Mount St. Joseph Tournament. (Gary Baker photo)

"Those three guys are back and I expect them to have a pretty big impact on the team," said Shehadi. "[They're] all juniors so to compliment them we have some other juniors coming up from JV that are looking strong."

Guards Simeon Iglinski, Taylor Muench, Ryan Smith and Will Tate and forward Jack Bunker have come up from junior varsity as well as Cody Gilbert - who will see minutes at the forward and guard positions - and Roy Trugler.

Herbert, the lone junior on last year's squad, has returned this year and Shehadi believes he has the potential to make a significant contribution to the team.

"He may be able to help us. He's a big kid. He's been a little bit injured, but he may be able to help us. We're hoping he can help us," said Shehadi.

In addition to Herbert, there are two other seniors on this year's team. Jeremiah Parker, who is a walk on, gives the team some size and will see some minutes at both the forward and center positions as does Toby Zhu, a foreign exchange student, who will play forward for the team.

Though the team only began practicing on Dec. 2, Shehadi said the team is showing some positive attributes so far.

"They're hard workers. For the most part they came into the season in good condition," said Shehadi. "This group is unselfish and they seem to like each other and know each other pretty well. So, the chemistry is good and they're young. They have a couple years to prove themselves. So, I don't think there's a lot of pressure on us."

Still, Shehadi said there are some question marks going into the season.

"We have four returning varsity players. Three of them saw significant action, but the biggest differential is [the] strength between a 17-year-old boy and an 18-year-old boy and the leadership, the maturity. So, that's a question. It's a question that's got to be answered," he said.

In addition to having significant turnover on the roster, the Bulldogs are also moving up to Division I this year.

As far as the regular season schedule, Shehadi said it has changed in that they are playing an additional game each against Rutland and Brattleboro and they will also face Vergennes - the team that defeated the Bulldogs in the D II State Championship game last season. While the move does not have that big of an impact during the regular season, Shehadi said they would feel it more when the playoffs come around.

"If we're fortunate enough to win a couple games and get up to Burlington you're playing against teams that have been recruiting in St. Johnsbury (Academy) and Rice (Memorial High School) and that would be a big challenge for us, but it is what is," said Shehadi.

With a young team this year, Shehadi said he will be looking to the four returning members to not only help the new players, but provide leadership as well.

"They've been there. They've played varsity games and varsity is significantly different than JV so we're looking for productivity out of them and leadership out of them," Shehadi said.

While there are some members of the team that have the height for the center and forward positions, Shehadi indicated that the team's lack of bulk could pose some problems.

"One thing about this team is that we're not very big. We're not chunky big. You know Conor is thin. Jack is thin. So, we're going to have to play fast," said Shehadi. "We're going to miss Jake in the middle. He averaged a double double. He got us 10 rebounds a game for two years and that's going to be missed. So we need our guards to rebound and we need to take care of the ball."

Due to the lack of size, Shehadi said that the team will play more of a west coast style on offense - an up tempo, run and gun style of basketball.

"Obviously we don't have a presence like Jake in the post. So, I think we'll spread the floor a little more and look to run on every opportunity we can," said Shehadi. "[It's a] fun way to play too."

BBA opens up their season on road against Otter Valley on Saturday in the first round of the Mount St. Joseph Tournament.

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