Mettel develops into clutch basketball performer
Justin Mettel developed into a premiere player in the Patriot Division of the SWC.
A senior tri-captain for the Weston boys basketball team, Mettel earned All-Patriot Division honors for the second straight year. He averaged 13.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.6 steals per game this year.
"It feels good, it's definitely a great accomplishment and I'm happy I could do it," Mettel says.
In recognition for his success, he was selected as the team MVP.
"It feels great and it's an honor and a privilege," Mettel says. "It's always been a goal of mine and it felt good to accomplish it."
Mettel came a long way before earning All-Patriot recognition. He saw limited action on varsity sophomore year before becoming a starter as a junior after working hard over the summer between both years.
The 5-11 Mettel possesses a good jump shot and torched Weston's opponents from the perimeter.
"A lot of practice," says Mettel. "I'm in the gym all the time, I work at my shots and I get better and better."
Opponents couldn't afford to solely focus on shutting down Mettel's outside game because he would beat them by driving to the basket. He blazed by many opponents when they overplayed him from outside and hit many easy layups on those plays, and at times, drew contact as well.
"The drives came after my freshman year," says Mettel. "I used to shoot a lot back then and teams knew how to play me. I learned how to pump fake and drive then. I was always good at finishing and I learned how to maneuver my body in the air and draw contact and absorb it."
What made Mettel's performance remarkable this year was his coming back from a torn labrum in his left arm, which sidelined him for nine months.
"Justin's one of the toughest, if not, the toughest kid I ever coached," Trojans Coach Ryan Errico says. "Coming back the way he did shows he's a warrior. When the game is on the line and we need to make a big basket or a free throw, Justin has ice in his veins and gets it done. He doesn't fold under pressure, he thrives under it."
Fouling Mettel was costly for many teams because he rarely missed from the foul line.
"Coach Errico had us put up a lot free throws in practice and his philosophy was you shouldn't miss too many free throws if you practice every day and get your rhythm down," says Mettel.
Finding his open teammate is another strength of Mettel's. His crisp passes frequently "set them up for easy layups.
"Teams focus a lot on [senior tri-captain] Cole [Rosemann] and I tried to find my open," says Mettel. "There was a right time to shoot and a right my teammates would be open. I had a great feel for the court and I had great communication with my teammates. I knew when they'd cut and I'd get them the ball."
Guards normally don't grab many rebounds but Mettel's tenacity allowed him to snag more boards than the average backcourt player.
"It's a matter of boxing out and being scrappy," says Mettel. "After the big guys box their guys out, I'd to go in and get it."
Mettel's success isn't limited to the offensive end. He also helped Weston's defense by not allowing his opponent much room to roam.
"Defense is all about heart," says Mettel. "You have to play with intensity in order to stop the person you are guarding. If you have heart, you can guard anyone."
Dribbling the ball near Mettel is usually a mistake because of his ability to steal the ball. He was good at snatching it away and converting his thefts into easy layups.
"It's all about anticipation," says Mettel. "You never get it by reaching in and it's a matter of reading the pass and getting into the passing lanes."
Sometimes, Mettel forces turnovers by pressuring his opponents into throwing the ball away or fumbling it into a Trojan hand.
"You get up on your guy and force him to make mistakes and play aggressively," says Mettel.
Life on the court began for Mettel in kindergarten when he played with his father. He owned a toy basketball set back then and always liked playing. Growing up, he played travel basketball for four years after playing at the recreational level.
Mettel was born in Los Angeles before moving to Connecticut at age 3 and to Weston at 5. Growing up, he played baseball and soccer, giving up the latter in sixth grade and hanging up his baseball cleats after his sophomore year.
Playing AAU basketball for the Connecticut Elite under Coach Seth Babakian also enhanced his game.
"I played against good competition, four to five times a week, and it got me better," says Mettel.
Leadership is a strength of his as he served as captain for the Trojans, mostly leading them by example.
"Being captain was a good experience," says Mettel. "I tried to lead the younger kids by setting a good example, teaching them good habits and to be the best they can be all the time."
Errico was pleased with the way Mettel guided the team.
"Justin showed a lot of leadership on the court," Errico says. "He worked hard every day in practice and battled through tough moments, which served as a good example for the younger kids."
Two players he mentored aren't teammates but they are closer to him than his teammates are. Mettel has helped his younger brothers, Zach, a 6-2 freshman at Cheshire Academy, and Aidan, a third grader who served as Weston's ball boy the past two years.
"Justin helped me by teaching me how to play basketball and to be a leader on and off the court," Zach Mettel says.
Aidan Mettel says, "Justin teaches me how to shoot and tells me not to double dribble. He always tells me to never give up and to keep on fighting."
Academically, he's taken AP courses and is able to balance it with basketball. Latin is his favorite subject.
"It's easier during basketball season because you have a set schedule and focus a certain amount of time on it," says Mettel.
Next year, Mettel will attend a Division I school but won't play varsity basketball there. He hopes to play club or intramural.
"I wanted to go to a big school for college life rather than to a small school and play basketball," Mettel says. "I'll miss it, I already do."
If it weren't for the injury, Mettel might have played college basketball. Although he's tough, the torn labrum still had a long-term effect on him.
"Before his injury, his goal was to play in college," says Errico. "He fell behind in the conditioning and the injury was tough to bounce back from. If he was healthy and put his mind to it, he could play in college."