Camden ready to step up in new-look Tri-Valley League

(One in a series)

CAMDEN — It’s been far too long since the Camden boys basketball team has been considered a force as a member in the always competitive Tri-Valley League.

But second-year head coach Eric Bird believes that the times are changing, and he has seen his Blue and White squad make the necessary strides to be competitive this season in the hope of getting to that next level.

"Its a tough, tough league. I know that I learned in my first season that we have to be ready to play every night," said Bird.

"These teams in the Tri-Valley come ready to play every game. Each team is unique and we have a different game plan for each game. We cant go at them the same way. But I think with all of our experience, we should be ready for everything and should have a successful season," he added.

The Blue Devils open up their season at the Sherburne-Earlville Tournament against Unadilla Valley on Friday night at 6.

Bird, who is a Rome Free Academy graduate, took over for Tom McCarthy last season and led the Blue Devils to a 5-13 overall record while going 2-12 in the TVL. The Blue Devils finished their season strong, and with the return of six players, including three starters from last year, on their 12-man roster, they could be ready to make a breakthrough this season.

Returning to the team are guard Karl Kirch, forward Colby Stratton, forward Hunter Gibbs, center Robert DeWolfe, guard Jordan Bodway — all seniors — along with sophomore guard Ryan McCarthy.

Newcomers include senior guard Ethan Proper, junior forward Jimmy Henry, junior forward Dylan Narolis, junior guard-forward Mason Moran, junior guard-forward Gavin Huante, and sophomore center Marc Snow.

The team will be without the services of David Zeiders, Marcus Pattington, Cody Bourgeois, John Gums, Eric Nicoli, and Eric Zeller, who were all lost to graduation.

Bird said he has hopes for a especially strong season from McCarthy, because of "his ball skills and natural feel for the game," along with the elevated play of seniors Kirch and Stratton.

"We’re a lot quicker this year, and I would consider that one of our strengths. We’re quick on defense, we shoot the ball very well, and if we can work on rebounding the basketball as a team, we should be very competitive with all these teams. But we have to rebound the basketball," he said.

Bird said that he has been emphasizing the need for strong play on defense and wants to keep opponents in the 50’s and 60’s in scoring.

Camden will once again compete in the TVL, which is comprised of one league this season, including transport Rome Free Academy, along with New Hartford, Whitesboro, Notre Dame, Holland Patent, and Oneida.