Red Devils bring quickness

With two state titles to its credit in the past five years, you might expect the Stratford High boys basketball team and its coach, Paul Dudzinski, to be riding a high wave.
But the Red Devils have much more realistic goals as they head into the 2012-13 season with an opener tonight against the Hyde Leadership School of Hamden.
“I’m always cautiously optimistic,” said Dudzinski, whose team won the 2008 Class M title with a victory over Hartford Public (63-55) and a Class L crown in 2010 when the Red Devils defeated New London, (51-47).
“I do like these kids. We have some very good chemistry. But we’ll find out more after a couple of games.”
The Red Devils recently finished a scrimmage schedule that included contests with Trumbull, Westhill of Stamford and Ridgefield.
“I’d have to say that we are a work in progress,” Dudzinski said. “We have some kids coming in from other sports. We were a little rusty. We’ll see what happens when the lights go on and the real games begin.”
The team will be led by senior guard and captain Bernard Brantley, who has been getting looks from both Division I and II schools.
There were times last year when Brantley, a 5-11 guard, lifted the team on his shoulders. He finished the season averaging 19 points, 5.6 rebounds and four assists to earn a spot on the Coaches’ All-State team. He also made All-South-West Conference.
Brantley will team in the backcourt with Marcus Vereen, a 5-9 senior guard, and his sidekick for two seasons. Vereen averaged 11.9 points, three rebounds and two steals per contest.
Junior Eric Rankin, at 6-0, will also fill a guard position. On the front line, Dudzinski has juniors Nick DiIulio and Jordan Jackson. DiIulio is 6-3; Jackson is 6-1.
“What we lack is height,” Dudzinski said. “What we do have is quickness. But we’re a hybrid. We’re quick at some positions and not as quick at others.”
Stratford will rely on a bench of seniors Arron Smith and William Hudson, juniors Anthony Moncovich and Brian Lesperance and sophomore Sam Breiner.
After closing out the regular season with a 10-10 record, the Red Devils dropped their SWC playoff opener to Immaculate of Danbury, who went on to win the title. Then Stratford had a nice run in the Class L state tournament. As the No. 25 seed, Dudzinski’s club first knocked off Middletown, the eight seed, 66-57, before downing No. 9 seed Avon, 57-52.
The Red Devils’ season ended in the quarterfinal round with a 74-61 loss to Northwest Catholic.

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