MARBLEHEAD — The Marblehead boys basketball team has some big holes to fill this year after losing some key players, but the Magicians aren’t making any excuses. After a 13-9 record and a trip to the Division 2 North quarterfinal round last year, the idea is to keep moving forward.
“We learned a lot last year and did a lot of growing as the season went on,” said coach Mike Giardi, now in his fifth year. “Obviously we ran into a juggernaut in the tournament (sectional champ North Andover), and that was probably good for us. We realized that we can’t get complacent and we have to work even harder if we want to get to where we want to be.”
In order to get back to the quarterfinals and possibly beyond, Marblehead will have to fill the holes left by some of their best players. Derek Marino — a 1,000-point scorer who averaged nearly a double-double, Dewey Millet — a powerful forward who averaged 10 rebounds per game and Seamus Keaney — a cerebral guard who got after it on both sides of the ball, are all gone this year.
“We’re going to have some pretty big gaps to fill,” Giardi said. “It’s obviously tough when you lose players of that caliber, but we also had a lot of guys who are returning that played last year because of all the injuries we dealt with. So I think we have a decent amount of experience coming back.”
One of those players who missed some time with injury last year is Billy Ackerman, who has been named a team captain as a senior. He and his six fellow seniors — Brendan Bugler, Mike Rubino, Keshaun Agnew, Greg Garber, Adam Sherf and Chris Gally — will be looked upon to lead the way for the Magicians.
There’s also a promising group of juniors ready to contribute. Sean McCarthy, fresh off a great season on the football field, headlines that list of juniors that also includes Devin Romain, Adam Zamansky and Sean Grady.
“We have a very solid group of seniors,” Giardi said. “Billy will likely be looked to as our leader on and off the court, but all the guys will help with that. As for our juniors, I think they bring energy and experience to the table. We have a couple of football players who will hopefully be riding high after a good season, so I think we’re in a good place.”
Giardi says that so far in practice it’s been a learning experience, with a number of players figuring out where they fit in their new roles. The Magicians have already had one scrimmage against Bishop Fenwick and will have one more against Ipswich Friday before the season gets going next week.
As with most years, it’s going to be a tough road to get through the Northeastern Conference this year, and Giardi knows it.
“The league is very well-balanced as it usually is,” Giardi said. “You simply can’t look past any teams. Going up against teams like Swampscott, Danvers, Beverly, Gloucester and the like, you can’t take a single day off. And that’s not including our non-league schedule, which is also pretty tough. We’re going to have to bring it every single night.”
Marblehead opens the season Tuesday at home against St. John’s (7).