Multi-sport athletes got Wachusett boys’ basketball team off to a great start

The Wachusett-area boys’ basketball team is off to another strong start this season, thanks to a group of versatile, hard-nosed upperclassmen who make the longtime coach Tom Gibbons’ Mountaineers a tough game for the best teams in the region.

Wachusett has a main rotation of four seniors and three juniors, all between 6ft and 6ft 3in, which gives them more switching opportunity at both ends of the floor than most teams, while still having enough size to handle bigger forecourt.

“We have the ability to change perimeters and they’re all tough kids,” Gibbons said, adding he believes his team has the advantage of becoming an elite defense.

Wachusett's Tucker McDonald grabs a rebound in Thursday's game against Doherty.

In the lead, the senior captains Theo Stangas and Adam Bates, who are joined in the starting XI by juniors Tucker McDonald, Jake Chiasson and Aiden Mc Geary.

“We make mistakes and then they fight right back and do something positive,” said Gibbons, who thinks one of the best traits of this team is the players’ ability to move on quickly after mistakes. “There is no ego and they know the coaches believe in them.”

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The 6-foot-2 McDonald plays point guard. He is also the quarterback and shortstop for the highly successful Wachusett football and baseball teams.

Top contributors like Bates and McGeary were also key members of a Mountaineers football team that made it to the Division 1 quarter-finals, bringing with them a pedigree of success and the competitiveness to fly all over the pitch.

Wachusett's Nick Ciccone watches his shot go in during Thursday's game.

“We love multi-sport athletes and we have several of them,” Gibbons said. “A lot of kids specialize today, but we really appreciate these multi-sport kids.”

Gibbons said he was slowly integrating another football player, a 6-foot-7 sophomore Grayson Baker, in the line-up, which will give the team a true front-row player.

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After that, Wachusett’s next tallest player is the 6-foot-3 Stangas.

“He’s got high clearance and can shoot really fast,” Gibbons said of Stangas, who leads the team with 15.3 points per game. “But he worked to get the ball into the basket and he worked really hard on his defense and his rebounds.”

Wachusett's Nick Ciccone goes up for a successful layup in Thursday's game.

Senior Captain Nick Ciccone and junior Antoine Zingarella, both 6-2, offer depth off the bench, while Gibbons said both Zingarella and Chiasson have made big improvements to earn bigger roles in the team this season.

“He shakes things up,” Gibbons said of Chiasson. “He’s not afraid to make plays.”

The Mountaineers (2-1) once again have one of the toughest schedules around, facing Eastern Mass opponents such as Catholic Memorial, Brookline and Central Catholic.

So far, Wachusett has picked up a pair of quality wins over Doherty and Leominster, and forced a reinvigorated North High to work overtime before suffering their only loss.

“There’s never a night off,” Gibbons said. “It’s a chore, but we like our schedule. (Sporting Director) Jen Lynch has put together a very good program and that’s what the kids want.

Contact Carl Setterlund at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @tgsports.

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