Without a postseason appearance since the 2008-09 season and with a combined record of just 14-46 over the past three years, it would be easy for the New Canaan boys basketball team to accept its position near the bottom of the FCIAC standings.
Instead, the Rams are doing anything but getting complacent under first-year coach Mike Evans.
"There's definitely a more optimistic outlook than past years. Last year we definitely struggled," captain Christopher Dewaele said. "We're definitely strong at the guard position. Andrew Read will be a great shooting guard for us, and there are a lot of good young guys."
Evans was quick to praise the leadership of captains Dewaele, Read, Henry Lavieri and Matt Swift, and he indicated that his team's high basketball IQ could bode well for the upcoming season as the Rams look to make some noise in the perennially challenging FCIAC.
"We have high basketball IQs and great leadership in our senior captains. Great leadership. I'm very impressed with all four senior captains," Evans said. "I would say the IQ is the biggest strength because guys are already reading defenses before we've even put that stuff in."
New Canaan got a small taste of game action in the form of a scrimmage at Abbott Tech on Monday and won five out of the six quarters that were played. Perhaps more importantly, Swift indicated that doing so gave the Rams an opportunity to get comfortable in Evans' system.
"We ran our sets. We only had a few days to practice, but we felt comfortable out there," Swift said. "I think we're going to have some success this year. With a new coach, it's all different."
Evans is also New Canaan's third coach in as many years, and while accommodating to a new leader on a seemingly constant basis presents challenges of its own, the Rams sound as if they're taking it all in stride and are eager to get the season started under the new regime.
"It's difficult but we're a close team so we move on fine. Mike's brought an intensity and we're rallying around him," Swift said. "This year we'd like to come out and be successful and make a state and FCIAC run."
Evans didn't divulge a specific number of wins that he's expecting from his team, but he added that the Rams would love to compete in postseason play. Getting into the state tournament for the first time since 2008-09 would require a mark of 8-12 or better.
"We'd love to set our sights on states. That would be a great goal," Evans said. "You've got to make basketball cool again. You've got to get them to believe that they can win. You've got to give them a system that matches their strengths."
Even with the early optimism, Evans knows that he and his new team have their work cut out for them as they attempt to establish a winning basketball culture at New Canaan High School.
"Practice has been great. We've made a lot of progress in a short amount of time," Evans said. "We have a group of guys who are very eager to learn and eager to have a structured environment around them. The learning curve isn't as big as we thought it was going to be."
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