Sean Drennan said that he has become accustomed to the Dickinson High School boys’ basketball roster being filled with players right around six feet tall.
“I’m so used to it now,” said Drennan, the veteran Dickinson head coach. “We go out on the court and face Snyder or [St. Peter’s] Prep and I say, ‘Can’t we just get one?’”
Drennan perennially has a roster that resembles the one he has this year. His tallest player is 6-foot-2 sophomore Amadou Sy.
For example, high-flying Hudson Catholic, the five-time defending Hudson County Tournament champions, has five players 6-foot-4 or better. Prep has twin brothers who stand 7-feet tall. How can the Rams try to compete?
But the Rams do their best every night to stay with the Hudson County powers, posting a 5-1 record thus far.
Dickinson already sent a message to the rest of the county, when they won the Charlie Dolan Tournament in Kearny two weeks ago, defeating a determined and inspired Memorial squad in the title game, 73-55.
“It’s an impressive win,” Drennan said. “I’m very happy with it.”
The Rams defeated Nutley, 73-44, in the opening round of the tourney.
So how does a completely undersized team do as well as the Rams are doing thus far?
“We’re really athletic,” Drennan said. “We are so used to being undersized that we play other ways. We’re really fast and athletic. We go out on the court and get after it.”
The Rams lost Troy Lopez, who averaged more than 20 points per game last year, to graduation. Lopez now graces the roster at nearby Rutgers-Newark.
But most of the team that won 17 games last year has returned, especially 6-foot junior guard Tyrek Battle-Holley, who does a little bit of everything for the Rams.
Battle-Holley is averaging 17.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, despite being only 6-foot tall. He posted a triple-double in the title game of the Dolan Tourney, scoring 20 points, collecting 10 rebounds and dishing off for 10 assists.
Holley comes from good stock. His uncles, William and Derrick Holley, both played for Dickinson where they were coached by Drennan’s father, Bill “Red” Drennan. Seems like a family affair.
“The game starts and Tyrek goes to work,” Drennan said.
Senior guard Kamal Williams is another returning starter. The 5-foot-10 Williams is the team’s leading scorer thus far, averaging 19.5 points per game.
“I think we have one of the best backcourts in the county,” Drennan said of Battle-Holley and Williams. “They really feed off each other. One night, one might get 25 and the other gets 15. The next game, it’s the other way around. We average about 77 points per game and we get about 40-to-45 from those two. We play at a faster pace and that gets everyone involved. It gets everyone into the game.”
Senior small forward Kelvin Arroyo is a 6-foot sharpshooter and can really knock down the 3-point shot. But how well he shoots from beyond the arch is almost mindboggling.
The Rams have played six games thus far and Arroyo is yet to make a 2-point field goal. He’s averaging 10 points per game and has only connected from 3-point range in those games.
“He made 48 3-pointers last year,” Drennan said of Arroyo. “That’s his role and he knows it. He keeps everyone honest.”
Arroyo drained six 3-pointers in the Dolan title game against Memorial.
Sophomore Jason Garcia is a 6-foot power forward.
“He’s our best defensive player and one of the best defenders in the league,” Drennan said. “He also can dunk with both hands.”
The Rams have two players with the unique last names of Sy – and they are not related.
Senior Boubacar Sy is the team’s starting center – at 5-foot-10! Imagine when Sy has to face Hudson Catholic with 6-foot-8 Louis King, 6-foot-9 Precious Ikediashi and 6-foot-5 Danny Rodriguez standing in front of him. That’s some challenge.
“He definitely plays big,” Drennan said. “He’s strong and fronts the ball well. All of our kids play bigger than what they really are.”
The other Sy is 6-foot-2 sophomore Amadou Sy – the Rams’ tallest player.
“He’s one of the most improved players in our program,” Drennan said. “He rebounds well and blocks shots.”
Junior George Jones is a 5-foot-10 power forward. Senior Jose Ruiz is the team’s backup point guard. He’s 5-foot-8. It’s almost like taking a visit to the island of the Lilliputians (Gulliver’s Travels for you literary folks) or perhaps the land of the Smurfs (for those inclined to watch cartoons on Saturday morning).
It’s easy to say that the Rams are overachieving – because they do the same thing every year. But now, they’re succeeding even more in a wide-open county race. Sure, the defending champion Hudson Catholic has to be considered a nose ahead of everyone else, but the rest of the county lot is up for grabs with five teams already posting records of 5-1 or better in the early going.
Drennan knows his team is right there, right in the mix. You might not be able to see them, because they’re so short, but they’re there. They face Snyder and Perth Amboy this weekend in a stretch of four games on the road in a row.
“We thought we could have this record at this point,” Drennan said. “We’re playing at a high level. We played together in the summer and the fall. Winning the tournament [the Dolan tourney] was big for us, because now, we have a championship already this year. It was our only guaranteed shot of winning a championship. Now, we really have to earn a championship. They’re hard to come by. We hadn’t won a championship in a while, so that was a good feeling. We’re doing well.”
The Rams are definitely a team to watch as the season winds down. You just might have to look hard to find them.
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com.