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Nov 28, 2017 7:15 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Season Preview: New Era For Bridgehampton Boys Basketball Begins This Season

J.P. Harding, left, and Elijah White are the only two returning players for the Bridgehampton boys basketball this season. DREW BUDD
Nov 28, 2017 9:20 AM

The Bridgehampton boys basketball team had an exciting offseason, capped by the long awaited world premiere of “Killer Bees”—the documentary about the program—at the Hamptons International Film Festival in early October.

Now it’s back to the hardwood, and the Killer Bees will have a much different look when they take to the court in December than when they did the last time they played, which was in the Class D Southeast Regional Semifinal, where they suffered an excruciating 61-60 loss to S.S. Seward. For the first time in 27 years, someone other than Carl Johnson will lead the team after he retired following last season. Ron White, a former player under Johnson, was tapped as his successor over the summer.

To go along with the changes at the top, seven players graduated from last year’s team, many of whom were the last holdovers from the last time the team won a state championship in 2015. And Nae’Jon Ward, the team’s starting point guard last season, has transferred to Southampton. That leaves just two starters returning from last season—junior J.P. Harding and sophomore Elijah White, the coach’s son—who will now have to step up and lead the team. Coach White said he’s looking for all of his players to continue to grow as the season progresses.

“We’ve got a good core of guys that want to learn. They’re scrappy,” he said.

“J.P. Harding is going to be a stud. I think he’s definitely one of the top players in Suffolk County,” Coach White added. “I’m challenging him to be more of a vocal guy. Elijah got some valuable minutes last season, starting several games last year. You see growth, from when he played in eighth grade on JV, going to ninth playing on varsity. He’s also needs to be vocal.”

Nat DePasquale, a sophomore, is the only other returning player from last year’s team. He will look to get more valuable minutes this season. Returning to the program after a year off is Jonny DeGroot, who played on junior varsity as a sophomore, but opted not to come out for the team last season. Coach White expects DeGroot to step right in and provide valuable minutes. Will Walker, a sophomore, is up from JV, entering his first season on varsity.

Bridgehampton is one of three Class D teams in Suffolk County this season, along with Shelter Island and Smithtown Christian. The Bees haven’t had much competition from either of those teams the past few seasons, often being the only team to finish with a .500 record or better in League VIII to automatically win the Class D county title. But Coach White said Shelter Island is not going to be a pushover this season and the two teams could actually have to play one another for the county title.

Pierson, Greenport, Ross and Southold make up the rest of Bridgehampton’s competition in League VIII this season. Greenport is an early favorite for the Class C county title but will have to get through Stony Brook, which has won the title the past five years. Pierson reached the playoffs last season and should vie for another postseason spot.

Bridgehampton begins the first month of the season with a slew of non-league games, starting on Wednesday, December 6, at home against Babylon at 6 p.m.

“Because we have such a rich history of basketball, everyone is going to bring their best game against us and I think that may be a challenge for a lot of us,” Coach White said of his players. “We have a banner on these walls for just about every year we’ve played, and if teams beat us, it’s something, they can put a feather in their hat.

“Across the board, we have to be very appreciative of the opportunity of being coach and realize it’s a privilege of putting on the uniform,” he added. “I don’t think were taking it lightly and we’re going to try and come in every day to get better.”

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