According to boys basketball coach Don Hurlburt, the Eagles (0-2, 0-1 Region 5AAAAAA) began the region portion of their season earlier this season than they have in any of his previous 10 seasons at the helm.
Despite the winless start, Hurlburt remains confident that Etowah will come around as the season wears on. With five seniors and seven juniors, there are plenty of veterans to look to for leadership.
Among the key returners are seniors Jack Shaughnessy and Destin Porche. Junior Dante Richitelli, who played often as a sophomore, will play a larger role this season. The trio led the team in scoring last season.
Richitelli, started every game as a sophomore, averaging 11.5 points per game. Porche, entering his third year on the varsity team, averaged 16.8 points as a junior, and Hurlburt calls him “one of the best high school shooters” he has ever seen.
“He was with us the whole summer,” Hurlburt said of Porche. “He is a two-sport athlete. He plays baseball as well. He was with us for the whole summer for the first time in his career and that made a huge difference for him. It made a huge difference for our team. So we are expecting great things from Destin again this year.”
Shaughnessy, a four-year varsity player, will be one of the Eagles’ captains. Last season, he led them with an 18-point scoring average.
Shaughnessy already holds a college offer from Appalachian State, but Hurlburt expects more opportunities to come for him as the season goes on.
“We are very excited, as everyone is this time of year,” Hurlburt said. “In the 11 years that I have been here, I’ve had teams that were more talented as a group, and I’ve had kids that are more athletic, and I’ve had teams that are bigger. But I would stand up and say that I have never had a better group of kids on a team at Etowah. In terms of their work ethic, their attitude, their chemistry, they are second to none.”
Etowah struggled to an 8-18 finish last season and went just 3-11 in region play.
The good news, however, is that all of the players from that team are back.
“We took our lumps the last couple of years,” Hurlburt said. “It’s hard to compete with the Wheelers, and Miltons and Waltons of the region when you have a bunch of sophomores. But they are back with us.”
It took just two weeks after the 2012-13 season ended last February for the Eagles to get back to work. Hurlburt said the players worked hard through the summer.
“We have some kids that can score, that can shoot the ball,” Hurlburt said. “We are excited about the season. All these kids want is to play basketball. For the first time in a couple years at Etowah, there are no side-stories, there are no agendas, there is no drama. They just come to the gym to play basketball. Off the court, they are good kids with good academics.”