signing with Fairfield.Pearl River senior Kevin Degnan established himself as one of the top players in Section 1 even before he became the first player in school history to get a full scholarship from a Division I men's basketball program,
Not that the versatile, 6-foot-8 forward needed any more distinctions to draw the full attention of the Pirates' opponents this season.
"That's a motivator for me to keep working hard," Degnan said.
His own high expectations provide another motivator. Degnan predicted big things for the Pirates, who also return junior guards Tom Armour and Jack Byrnes as starters from the team that went 11-9 and ended its season with a first-round playoff loss at Peekskill.
"We have a very good team this year," Degnan said. "Everybody is working hard. Everybody is talking. I think we have a chance to go all the way. We have the talent to do that. We have the hard work to do it."
"We will look to those three guys to shoulder most of the scoring load," Pearl River Head Coach Jerry Houston, Jr. said. "We'd love to get those guys in double figures. If you have three guys in double figure averages, that really becomes a telltale sign of a good team."
Armour, who played mostly on the wing last season, will take over at point guard for the Pirates. He will be a key to Pearl River's hopes of cutting down on the turnovers that plagued the team in 2012-13.
"We were really turnover prone," Houston said. "That's one goal this year, to cut down on the turnovers. It's a big telltale for us. We had way too many. It's not going to happen overnight, but we'd like to get to a point where it is much more manageable.
"I think a lot of it was experience last year. Hopefully, this year, one more season for Tommy, Jack and Kevin will lead to better decision making."
Byrnes and Armour both showed the ability to score last year and Degnan demonstrated his ability to control games on both ends. Though his size often puts him inside, Degnan is a dangerous outside shooter who can also create his own shot.
"So far in practice, he has been more vocal," Houston said. "His mobility is good. He seems to be more precise and definitive in what he is doing when he gets the ball. Sometimes in the past, he was indecisive. Now he is more decisive in what he wants to do with it. He's also moving well without the ball."
Senior James Linnane, a top reserve last year, steps into a starting role at forward. He provides a physical presence, but also athleticism.
"He also has a nice 16-foot jump shot," Houston said. "He's not a kid who won't be mobile. He's got good athleticism. He's very strong. We will look to him to anchor us defensively and rebounding wise."
Senior Chris Flood will also start at guard, where he provides solid defense and a good understanding of the system. Junior forward Pat Conway, sophomore guard Jack McKeever and senior guard Brian Chiarello should be key contributors off the bench.
Pearl River opens the season at home against Ramapo 4 p.m. Thursday.
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