Staples winter preview: Seideman, Pritchett form 1-2 punch for Wreckers basketball

WESTPORT — Any improvement the Staples boys basketball team may make in 2016-17 might start with better fortune in close games. Staples went 2-8 in games decided by five points or less a year ago and 1-5 in 2014-15.

The Wreckers return much of the core who endured those losses, which resulted in never being able to challenge for an FCIAC playoff spot despite showing signs of potential.

“That left a bad taste in our mouths,” said senior Justin Seideman, who will start at point guard for the third straight season this winter. “This year we’ve just practiced; when we’re in those situations we know what we need to do. It just comes down to us being willing to make that play, and not be afraid of making that play.”

Seideman, Sean Pritchett and Brendan Massoud will captain the Wreckers, who went 7-13 a year ago and were knocked out of the first round of the Class LL playoffs by Danbury. In addition to those three, senior Matt Fair and junior Max Sussman will round out an experienced group.

Wreckers coach Colin Devine also expects sophomores Gabe Wick and Evan Vishno to make important contributions. Massoud and Fair will provide the height inside as the Wreckers remain a perimeter-orientated team as they have in most of Devine’s decade in charge of the program.

“We’re a little deeper than we have been in the past; we can play more kids,” Seideman said. “Most Staples teams consistently shoot the ball well, and I think this year is the same case. I think we have a lot of 3-point threats.”

Seideman and Pritchett have unrivaled chemistry on the floor, spending years playing together at Staples and for AAU teams. Pritchett — a 6-foot-3 forward who can defend most of the court — complements Seideman perfectly, especially in the pick-and-roll game.

“Sean is a great player and I think we can be one of the best duos in the FCIAC this year,” Seideman said. “We play really well off each other; this will be our third year on varsity together and I think that experience has been very beneficial for the two of us.”

The Wreckers will have to attempt to end their playoff drought without Ben Casparius, who opted to focus on the upcoming baseball season. Casparius suffered a fractured foot midway through last year and missed the rest of the season.

Staples will participate in a pair of tournaments to start the season, first with New Canaan (Saturday), Darien and Trumbull before hosting one with Kolbe Cathedral, Wilton and Newtown. The Wreckers begin their FCIAC season Jan. 3 at home against Danbury.

“Obviously our first goal is to make the state tournament, and if we can win the close ones we lost last year then we might be in good contention for an FCIAC playoff spot,” Devine said. “The key to this season is that we got great senior leadership with our captains.”

The close wins could follow. Devine pointed to rebounds and avoiding turnovers — in addition to key free throws — as the possible difference between coming out on top.

“If we’re unlucky we’re unlucky, but we’re going to make sure we did everything we could preparation-wise to get those close wins,” Devine said.,