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New Canaan boys basketball team looks to take next step after five-win improvement last season

Two seasons ago, the New Canaan boys basketball team endured what could arguably be considered one of the most difficult in the history of the program, winning just a single league game and struggling to be competitive in the majority of their contests.

The disappointing campaign prompted New Canaan High School to bring in Mike Evans, the school's third basketball coach in as many years.

Evans and company made considerable strides last season, starting 5-5 before eventually finishing 6-14.

"We've got a group of very hardworking guys that are very cerebral, ready to study the game. They retained a lot from last year, which was a very big transition year," Evans said. "The system never left when the season ended. We went right into the spring training that we do, summer camps, summer workouts and fall workouts. That continuity is huge. Seeing the same face, hearing the same voice, expecting the same things."

A combination of a tough schedule, injuries and fatigue all contributed to the 1-9 finish, but New Canaan believes it can remain competitive in the always challenging FCIAC.

"I can tell you I'm really sore right now; we're working really hard in practice," senior captain and center/power forward Andrew Penchuk said. "If we continue practicing hard we'll have success throughout the whole stretch of the season and not just the beginning."

As was the case last year, the Rams are aiming to make an appearance in the state tournament for the first time since 2008-09.

"We have high expectations for ourselves," senior captain and shooting guard Erik Jager said. "We have goals of being over .500 and making a playoff tournament, building camaraderie as well as talent, building a program in general, sparking some interest in the community."

Evans said that the starting five is still a matter of some conjecture, as there is ongoing competition.

"It's ongoing but the guys are all willing to fight for it, which is impressive," Evans said.

And while the Rams are aware that their schedule isn't likely to contain any layups, they believe that having the same coach for consecutive seasons should provide some stability.

"We trust our coaching staff and it's a big thing for us this season having a returning coach for the first time," Penchuk said. "We trust our coach, we trust the players and that's a big thing for us going forward this year."

The Rams lost last season's leading scorer Andrew Read to graduation, but many familiar faces return. In addition to the two captains, New Canaan brings back Beau Santero, Claude Chandonnet and Zach Allen, among others.

"We have a fantastic post game and a lot of big guys who can really play their position well, great coaching and this year I think really good camaraderie," Jager said. Read Full Article 

jchik@bcnnew.com Twitter: @jchik17

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