By Gavin Menu
During his first season as head coach of the Bridgehampton boys basketball team, Ron White was hoping to mentor the program’s next “big three” and maybe even lead the Killer Bees to their 10th New York State Class D Championship, which would tie them for the most in state history.
Talk about high expectations.
White, an alumnus of the program who won state titles as a player in the late 1990s, has taken over as head coach following the retirement of Carl Johnson, whose 27-year career ended with a heartbreaking 61-60 loss to S.S. Seward in a state regional semifinal last winter.
After he was tapped to take over the program last spring, White was looking forward to the return of a talented group of players, but there have been bumps in the road thus far. Sophomore point guard Nae’Jon Ward transferred to Southampton and junior J.P. Harding, the team’s best overall player, underwent emergency surgery to remove his appendix this week and will miss up to two weeks of action.
“I think I might be cursed,” White joked on Monday before choosing to focus, instead, on things he can control, like teaching his young players the basics of playing basketball. Joining White on the sidelines is another legendary alumnus in Maurice Manning, who has come on board as an assistant coach.
“We’re trying to get in shape — getting used to getting up and down the court efficiently,” said White, who also serves as president of the Bridgehampton School Board of Education. “I’m trying to teach them how to play the game. I think if you’re just teaching plays, they become too mechanic.”
White’s son, Elijah, returns for his sophomore season and is expected to be a key contributor in the frontcourt alongside Harding when he returns. A pair of juniors, Jonny DeGroot and Nat DePasquale, are also expected in the staring lineup, giving the Bees four player who are 6 feet tall. White is particularly excited at the progress Harding made during the offseason.
“He’s a beast,” White said about Harding, who has the potential to score in bunches. “He’s now playing facing the hoop, he’s starting to shoot the ball a lot and penetrate. I think he’s going to play low D-I or high D-II in college.”
White expects to fill out the starting lineup with either junior Jacqhr Carr or one of two sophomores in William Walker or Franky Bonilla.
The Killer Bees will be tested early and often as Bridgehampton makes its way through a mandatory non-league schedule that includes teams like Mattituck, Mercy and Center Moriches. The team, which will compete, as usual, in League VIII and as a Class D school in the postseason, will begin this season at home on Wednesday, December 6, against Babylon at 6 p.m.
“It would be great to win the Class D championships,” White said when asked about big picture goals. “I’m all for that, but I’m also for making noise outside the class. I think Bridgehampton, across the board, has always had a history of making noise in other classes as well.”