With numerous multi-sport athletes on its roster, the Greenwich Academy basketball team is indeed, primed for its new season, which begins with a road game Wednesday against Kent School.
“We have a lot of athletes and a lot of players returning back to the program,” Greenwich Academy coach Jordan Griffith said. “I’ve very excited for this group.”
Griffith is beginning his second season as GA’s coach, but the 2020 campaign was modified/shortened due to COVID-19 safety precautions. The Gators played just a handful of games and scrimmages last winter.
“Last year was a crazy year with COVID, we didn’t have a proper preseason and we didn’t really know what we had with a lot of girls sitting out,” Griffith said. “This feels like my first year. We had a full preseason, now we are going to have a full season and we are going to do some traveling, so it gives us an opportunity to have a sense of normalcy.”
Caroline DesChamps and Ellie Johnson are Greenwich Academy’s captains. DesChamps is GA’s lone senior. A point guard/shooting guard, DesChamps will be relied upon for leadership in the backcourt.
“I’m really excited and I’m glad we have so many new people coming out for the team,” said DesChamps, who is in her third season on the varsity squad. “We have a lot of new underclassmen, which is exciting, so I see the basketball program keep going on when I graduate. It’s exciting for Ellie and I.”
DesChamps likes the spirit she’s seen from the team during the preseason.
“It seems like everyone’s focused and excited for the new season,” DesChamps said. “I want everyone to stay focused and I want everyone to play energetic, have fun and put all they have on the court.”
Johnson is one of GA’s multi-sport varsity athletes. She has committed to play lacrosse at Stanford University and besides also playing lacrosse at Greenwich Academy, she’s a standout defender on the school’s field hockey team.
The team will look to Johnson for strong defensive play and rebounding at the forward position.
“I think of myself more as a defensive player, getting rebounds and covering taller girls, which I’ve done in past seasons, but I’m really excited to start things on offense as well,” Johnson said. “This is such a great group of girls. They are so dedicated and have been ready to work hard since the first day, so it’s a pleasure to be a leader of these kind of athletes.”
Griffith knows GA has two captains that will give maximum effort each day on the court.
“Caroline has been on varsity for three years, she is an incredible leader,” Griffith said. “She works incredibly hard she has been awesome in being a leader and communicating. Ellie’s athletic resume speaks for itself. She is one of the hardest working athletes I’ve ever been around. These two captains have been incredible throughout the entire preseason and they will be great for us this year.”
Freshman Ruby Montanez will look to spark the Gators at guard, along with DesChamps, sophomore Sydney Dettmer and junior Maddie Azrak. Junior Ellie Burdick, also a lacrosse and soccer player at GA, brings versatility, as she will add depth and athleticism at both the forward and guard positions. Burdick has committed to play lacrosse at Dartmouth.
Joining Johnson at forward are junior Elizabeth Spaulding, who will start and see plenty of action at power forward/center and junior Kay-D Ferjuste, who Griffith said is a strong finisher near the basket.
Freshman Emily Sherman brings shooting to the forward spot, while freshman Este Tejpaul, who is coming off a strong season on school’s soccer team, where she played goalie, can be a playmaker at forward.
Juniors Izzy Rosales and Allie Spaulding return at forward, along with sophomore Peyton Wolfram (also a lacrosse player).
“A lot of girls are going to play a lot of different positions,” Griffith said. “That’s what I enjoy about this team, we have girls that can switch and play multiple positions.”
GA plans on being an up-tempo, team, as it hopes to force the opposition to commit turnovers with its pressure defense.
“I intend on using their athleticism,” Griffith said. “We can move and attack and we really enjoy being around each other as well. “We’re going to press a lot and use our energy.”
Having athletes who have experienced success in other sports could be an asset for the Gators, as they enter the 2021-2022 season.
“With such great athletes, who have played at the varsity level in other sports, they understand about progressing together as a team,” Griffith said. “We only have one senior, so if we can build on everything early on and cohesiveness as a group, we will be successful in terms of getting better and win some games as well.”
Prior to arriving at Greenwich Academy, Griffith served as an assistant basketball coach at Archbishop Stepinac in White Plains, N.Y., for three seasons and spent two seasons as an assistant coach at Scarsdale (N.Y.) High School. He worked in the broadcast journalism industry before getting into coaching, serving as professional and college basketball television analyst.
“The school and the community here at GA is incredible,” Griffith said. “They have had so much success in so many sports.”
As always, the Gators will play a challenging schedule, featuring FAA and NEPSAC foes. After traveling to Kent on Wednesday, they will visit Miss Porter’s School on Saturday, before playing Choate Rosemary Hall in their home-opener on Dec. 8.
GA visits FAA opponent School of the Holy Child on Dec. 13, then will travel to rival Sacred Heart Greenwich for a Dec. 15 matchup. Before the Holiday, Greenwich Academy will compete in the St. George’s School Tournament (Dec. 17-18) and their first day back from the Holiday Break will see them visit St. Luke’s School (Jan. 6). The Gators will also play home games against Masters School (Jan. 12), Hamden Hall (Jan. 26), Cheshire Academy (Jan. 28), Berkshire School (Jan. 29) and Greenwich Country Day School (Feb. 14).
“The first day, there were so many athletes at tryouts which was great and immediately, there was 100 percent effort,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm surrounding our program this year and that gets me excited about our season, especially with the many games that we have on our schedule. I’m really excited to see how it will pan out.”