Seniors at heart of Wilton boys hoop team's strong start

Whether you are building or rebuilding a high school sports program, one constant is usually in place: The work doesn’t take place overnight.

Instead, the makeover requires an assortment of steps designed to augment one another and move the process forward.

Through the early part of this season, the Wilton High boys basketball team looks to be the realization of what can happen when the process goes according to plan — when all the hard work and dedication put in motion several years ago come to fruition.

Whether it was a change in the coaching staff, the continued influence of the town’s youth basketball feeder system, or the skill and determination of the players which acted as the main driver is not important. The end result is that the program has taken great strides in the right direction over the past several years.

Four years ago, Joel Geriak was hired as an assistant coach of the Wilton varsity squad. One year later, Geriak became the head coach when Tim Tallcouch left for another job. Geriak credits his players for providing the base of the program’s turnaround.

“Chris Nugent and Ian Ross got things started in their junior and senior years in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons. Then along came Weston Wilbur and he was the foundation of the program,” said Geriak. “Weston was followed up by Olondi LeGrand, who was the heart and soul of the team. Both Weston and Olondi led by example and helped motivate their teammates. Last year it was Eric Houska who carried the torch for the Warriors and took them to another level on the floor.”

This year's team has gone even further in regards to senior leadership. Five seniors  who have played basketball together since fourth grade comprise Wilton’s starting lineup: Matt Shifrin, Scott Shouvlin, Richie Williams, Michael Bingaman, and Lucas Savoie.

The camaraderie and familiarity are easy to spot: Those five play as one cohesive unit on the court; they cheer for each other; they play unselfishly; and their shared objective is to help take the program to the next level and maybe win a championship.

On any given night, any of the team’s seniors can lead the team in scoring or any other offensive or defensive category.

“We have been playing together on the same team since the fourth grade travel team,” said Shouvlin. “We love playing together; we trust one another, and we have great chemistry.”

Regardless of this season’s outcome, the core group of seniors has blazed a trail that has brought energy and excitement to the Zeoli Field House. The student section behind the basket is nicknamed the “Tribe,” and the boosters had T-shirts made up that say “Fear the Tribe”. The tribe is out in full force for every home game.

With a total of eight seniors on this year's squad — the aforementioned five are complemented by Miles Elmasry, TJ Savvaides and Ryan Curtis — both the players and their head coach know that this season could be among the most special in program history — even if they aren’t getting ahead of themselves.

“I don't think about. I'm focused on this year,” said Geriak. “We take it one game at a time.”

Geriak and his staff do have the pulse of their players and have motivated them into believing that they hang with any other team in the FCIAC. That, coupled with the self-motivation of the players, has led to a 6-1 start for the Warriors going into Friday’s game with Staples.

Although it’s far too early to tell how the story will end, there is no denying that the narrative so far has been a page-turner. And it’s not too early to believe that no matter what transpires, coaches and players will be able to look back on this season and proudly say, “I was a part of that.”