Community School's Parker Weiss (5) goes in for a layup during Tuesday night's season-opening win at Naples High. GREGG HARDY/CSI
They weren’t the “Angry Birds,” but the Community School of Naples Seahawks definitely had a bit of an edge to them as they opened their 2018-19 season this week.
Displaying a tenacity at the rim and on the glass, coupled with crisp passing that led to a 3-point barrage, Community School scored a 68-52 season-opening road win Tuesday night over a Naples High team playing its first game under new coach and NHS alum Garrett Hull.
The Seahawks lost their home opener two nights later (a 77-74 overtime setback against Evangelical Christian before capping the week with a 70-50 road rout of Clewiston), but still, they should be a team to watch this season — not only in Collier County but in all of Southwest Florida.
After the Naples win, Parker Weiss — part of a CSN senior leadership trio along with fellow guard Jacob Siegel and forward Richard Reisinger — said the Seahawks’ 71-60 loss to Oasis in last season’s Class 5A-District 10 title game showed them where they needed to improve.
“Definitely,” Weiss said, “losing in the district finals last year pushed us to hit the weight room more and be more aggressive on defense, and really attack the boards and attack the rim and be more aggressive overall.”
Greg Donahue, now in his 11th season as CSN head coach, credited Weiss and Siegel for the hard-nosed attitude that his team is trying to cultivate. During the win over Naples, Weiss poured in 27 points (including five 3-pointers) and dished out six assists, while Siegel did everything for CSN, recording 14 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and six steals.
“They’ve been in the program; they don’t like to lose,” Donahue said. “They like to win every drill in practice, and that’s where it starts … and it carries over. They’re such competitors, and you can see it. They’re just not going to lose a loose ball. They’re getting it back if they miss. They really set the tone for the entire program.”
The Seahawks showed off an inside-outside game against Naples that should serve them well this season. At the center of it was 6-foot-4 sophomore Ryker Vance, who recorded 13 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocked shots.
Vance played 25 games for CSN last season, averaging six points, four rebounds and a little over one block per game.
“He’s starting to realize how good he can be and what a force he can be inside,” Donahue said. “He’s got great touch. His timing on his blocks is great — he never gets fouls blocking shots. It allows us to then pressure more because the guys know, ‘I’ve got a shot-blocker, a human eraser back here.’”
Another notable performance in CSN’s season opener was turned in by Chris Kastroll, who averaged just over one point and rebound per game last season. He drained multiple 3-pointers Tuesday en route to a 12-point, five-rebound effort.
Weiss loves the balance on this Seahawks team; he said it’s great to have “so many equipped guys that can do so much.”
After just one week of action, Donahue refrained from putting any postseason expectations on his team.
“We talk about going up the mountain as a team. We’re all connected; we’re just trying to climb it together (and) see how high we can go. Every team says the same thing: yeah, they want to win a state title. We just want to get better each day as people and as players.”
Garrett Hull didn’t get his happy homecoming against Community School. That came two nights later when the Golden Eagles edged Gulf Coast, 59-57, before the NHS faithful.
Despite losing his debut, Hull said “it feels great” to be coaching at his alma mater (he graduated from Naples in 2004). He got the Naples job after guiding Immokalee’s boys basketball team to its first district title in 16 years.
“It’s a little different on this end — from being a player and a student and now being a teacher and conducting class and conducting practice at a new school, but it’s been great,” Hull said.
Still waiting on two Naples football players to join the team (Devin Moore and Paul St. Louis, who Hull said recently suffered a broken ankle), the Golden Eagles figure to be a more athletic bunch than last year’s blue-collar bunch guided by Hull’s predecessor, Pierre Eaton. Naples nearly reached the regional finals last winter, losing by three at Lehigh.
Seniors Joe Consolino and Darius Bradley are the only Eagles who saw significant varsity action last season. Hull said those two, along with fellow senior Jett Robinson, will be counted on to provide leadership for the Eagles.
“We’re more athletic. We fly around more,” Hull said. “We don’t have one all-out scorer; we have a lot of guys contributing different times on different nights. But I like that about our team. What makes it hard is trying to find the hot hand through the game. Some kids’ minutes will minimize or maximize during the course of the game. It’s a journey we’re trying to find, and then we’ll have to re-find it when the football players get here.”