When watching his team in action, Greenwich High School girls basketball coach Rashamel Jones knows he has the luxury of utilizing numerous player combinations on the court.
“Going through our roster, we have quick guards all across the board and our small forward and post players are very strong,” said Jones, who beginning his first season at the helm of the Cardinals. “We can play with a bigger lineup or smaller lineup.”
Jones, a well-known basketball figure in Connecticut, replaces Chrys Hernandez as coach of the Cardinals. Hernandez stepped down as coach, following 10 successful seasons at the helm, which included an appearance in the CIAC Class LL Tournament final (2016), a trip to the Class LL semifinals (2020) and a spot in the championship game of the FCIAC Tournament (2015). Upon his arrival at Greenwich, Jones, a Port Chester N.Y., native, recognized the potential of the team.
“They are highly skilled athletes and they know the game,” Jones said. “When I came here, I didn’t have to teach them how to play. Now it’s just enhancing that knowledge they already have, enhancing the skill they already have and making it faster and more efficient.”
Jones brings a wealth of playing experience and coaching knowledge to his new position. He was a three-time All-State Team selection while playing a starring role for Trinity Catholic’s basketball team and was a member of the Crusaders’ 1992-1993 FCIAC championship team. After excelling at Trinity Catholic, he went on to play at the University of Connecticut, which won three Big East titles while he was on the squad and captured the NCAA National Championship in 1999.
He takes over a Greenwich team that returns seven players from last season’s squad that lost to St. Joseph in the opening round of the FCIAC Tournament. The Cardinals also begin the season with six first-year varsity players, so there’s a good mix of experienced players and athletes seeking to find their niche.
Seniors Kayla Anderson and Kristin Riggs are the squad’s captains, roles they filled as juniors during the 2020-2021 season. Riggs was the Cards’ leading scorer last season, while mostly playing the point guard position. She should see action at both shooting guard and point guard this winter.
“I’m really excited about the team, we have a lot of team unity, which is good for the chemistry,” said Riggs, who earned All-FCIAC Second Team honors last season. “Also, we have a really deep bench and we’re all working together – anyone can play together.”
Indeed, like Jones, Riggs notices the versatility and depth the team possesses.
“Everyone has a place on the team and a big role and it’s wonderful that we all can get to work together,” said Riggs, who brings stellar dribbling and shooting skills to the backcourt – she’s a significant 3-point shooting threat.
Like Riggs, Anderson is in her fourth varsity season. A power forward, she was one of the team’s leading rebounders and shot blockers, while adding some offense to the position. Anderson received All-FCIAC Honorable Mention recognition for the impressive season she produced last winter.
“I’m really excited to be captain,” Anderson said. “Having this title is very big, my sister (Emily) was also a captain her junior and senior year and I saw the way she stepped up and I want to step up for all these people. We have a lot of underclassmen, so I want to be a good leader for them.”
Greenwich finished with a record of 4-9 last season, but didn’t play a number of its usual FCIAC opponents since the season was shortened and modified due to COVID-19 safety guidelines. The Cardinals are two seasons removed from earning a spot in the Class LL Tournament semifinals. Riggs and Anderson each played important roles in Greenwich’s journey to the Class LL semifinals during the 2020 season, which was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is my second year as captain and it was a little different last year, because of a shorter season, but it’s nice to be able to get out here, especially since two of my seasons were cut short,” Riggs said. “We’re out here to get some wins and try to make a run for states and I think all of us are excited to work together.”
Returning to the backcourt for the Cards is Sophia Sergio. A junior, Sergio provided clutch 3-point shooting and scoring last season, earning All-FCIAC Honorable Mention accolades.
Cami Jablonski, also a member of Greenwich’s 2020 squad, begins her third season on the team as one of its top power forwards. Jablonski brings a strong defensive presence and good offensive skills to the forward spot, as does sophomore Julia Monteiro, who earned minutes in the rotation as a freshman a season ago. Junior Laura Smego is a returning guard and senior Gillian Frey, is back for another season and will add depth to the backcourt.
“We’ve got some underclassmen who are really stepping up,” Riggs said of the Cards’ backcourt.
Said Jones: “We have experience and with that experience, I’m giving them free reign to do certain things. Nothing out there is robotic, this is a fast-paced game you have to think on your toes and make split decisions.”
Kelly Martyanov, a senior power forward/center has rejoined the Cardinals. Martyanov, who did not play on the team last year, after competing her freshman and sophomore seasons, was an offensive and defensive force in the low post her first two years on the squad, the second of which saw the team reach the state semifinals. This past fall, Riggs, Martyanov and Jablonski also competed together on Greenwich’s soccer team.
Zaniya Huggins, a junior first-year Greenwich student who hails from South Carolina, senior Ashley Brown and freshman Lara Young each join the Cardinals as forwards/power forwards.
“We have a very, very strong post team,” Anderson said. “When you have two people with the height that Kelly and Zaniya have you can’t ask for anything else.”
Lauren Resnick (sophomore), Ayanna Davenport (sophomore) and Carolyn Frinkle are each starting their first season on the squad, where they are expected to help the Cardinals in the backcourt.
Bea Owens, Marielle Povinelli and Sarah Peng were the graduates from Greenwich’s 2020-2021 team. Greenwich begins its new season Tuesday with a home game against Kolbe Cathedral.
Jones, who previously worked as an assistant coach at the University of St. Joseph under former UConn coach Jim Calhoun, learned a lot from each coach he played for.
“Right now, we’re doing some of the things I ran myself at UConn, as well as the professional level when I was playing in Australia,” said Jones, who played professional basketball overseas in leagues in Australia, Italy and Spain. “They are learning high-level Division I drills and plays and it’s all about enhancing their skill, whether it’s dribbling, shooting or seeing the floor better – knowing where the open shooter is. I am trying to get them to expand their knowledge of the game.”
SCHEDULE: After hosting Kolbe Cathedral in its season-opener on Tuesday, Greenwich travels to Newtown on Saturday. Greenwich’s home games include: Glastonbury (Dec. 20), St. Joseph (Dec. 22), New Canaan (Jan. 4), Fairfield Ludlowe (Jan. 11), Staples (Jan. 14), Fairfield Warde (Jan. 20), Stamford (Jan. 27), Darien (Feb. 1) and Westhill (Feb. 14).
“We want to try to win FCIACs and win states,” Riggs said. “We’re working together and setting high goals, we have high standards.”
“Chemistry is key for us,” Anderson said. “If we’re playing together, trusting each other and respect each other with all of our abilities, I think we’re unbeatable. We have all the parts, we just have to mesh them together.”