Royal Oak Shrine boys basketball off to strong start

By: Christian Davis | Royal Oak Review | Published January 17, 2011

 Royal Oak Shrine junior Lorenzo Dewberry threads a pass upcourt in a game earlier this year. Dewberry has come off the bench to lead the Knights in scoring in two games.

Royal Oak Shrine junior Lorenzo Dewberry threads a pass upcourt in a game earlier this year. Dewberry has come off the bench to lead the Knights in scoring in two games.

Photo by Adam Sparkes

ROYAL OAK — Just as every team huddle has ended since practice began in November, the Jan. 6 Royal Oak Shrine boys basketball practice ended with one word shouted in unison by the players: “trust.”

“We think trust is one of the most important things that a team can have,” coach Mike Massucci said. “In any relationship, the foundation is trust.”

“It shows that we have a sense of togetherness, and we’re like brothers,” senior captain Blake Washington said. “We come as a cohesive group, and when one of us makes a mistake, it affects everybody.”

Mistakes haven’t happened often: The Knights were 6-1 at press time and 1-0 in the Catholic High School League AA Division.

Massucci said the key has been sharing the ball. Shrine averages around 20 assists per game, which is the most in the coach’s 16 seasons with the program.

“We have a lot of guys that can score, and a lot of guys that like to share the ball,” Massucci said. “That’s such a great ingredient for not only wins, but team climate, too.

“I really believe it’s the trusting environment and the family environment that we have that has allowed people to blossom and reach their potential.”

Freshman Jared Wangler is flourishing in the system, leading the team with 13.5 points per game.

If there’s one thing the Knights lack, it is height. The coach said Shrine’s tallest player is 6 foot 3, making rebounding a challenge.

“We talk a lot about being gritty, defensive positioning, manning up and getting the basketball,” Massucci said. “Just like anything in life, you can’t worry about the things you can’t control. So we’re going to worry about being the best team we can be, and using our strengths and exploit the other team’s weaknesses.”

Shrine finished 10-12 overall last season, which is below the standard that Massucci and his senior captains — Bertram Marks, Washington and Johnny Oldani — are accustomed to.

“I’ve seen a lot of great teams here, and we’re just trying to bring back that sense of ‘we’re at the top,’ and winning,” Washington said.

“There’s a great tradition at Shrine,” Massucci said. “We’ve had a lot of good teams and a lot of good players, and what we’ve tried to do more this year than in the past few years is make a connection to that special tradition.

“Whenever you feel like you’re part of something special, I think, it’s hard to take a day off.”

Catch the Knights against Pontiac Notre Dame Prep at 7:30 pm Jan. 21 at Prep.