Hard Work and Team Play Equal Success at Rye Country Day

Loud chatter and perhaps a few paper airplanes flying around are what wait inside the classroom door for a teacher running late. It’s no different for the high school coach. Without anyone at practice to give direction, most athletes will aimlessly mill about.

So, imagine Vin Minotti’s surprise when, upon his 4:02 arrival to a 4 p.m. Rye Country Day boys’ basketball practice, he was met by the sound of squeaking sneakers and bouncing balls. The head coach could only smile as he watched his tri-captains – Jason Rogers, Lowes Moore and Patrick Manus – running drills sans coaching staff. The team-first mentality that has trickled down from the captains has the Wildcats off to a blistering 9-2 start.

Jason Rogers

“That moment was a real testament to this team,” said Minotti. “We’re such a cohesive group and that’s what the staff is enjoying. This is my fourth year running the program, and the kids have changed the culture. Team comes first – check your ego at the door.”

Rye Country Day’s hallmark is defense. They press relentlessly and alternate between a switching man-for-man and straight man scheme. Minotti’s Wildcats adapt well to scouting reports, having bought into the notion that defense and rebounding lead to fast break points.

Against Hamden Hall at home January 11, the fruits of Rye Country Day’s hard work were on display. The Wildcats trailed by as many as nine points and allowed their high-octane opponents to dictate the game with 37 points by halftime, but clamped down after intermission. Rye Country Day went on an 18-4 run and never looked back in the 68-51 victory.

Darren Douglas

“Hamden had been scoring at least 70 points per game, and in the first half we let them get into their flow,” said Minotti, who claims his team can never afford to have an off night on defense. “We told the boys that’s not what we were looking for – we try and hold people down in the 40s to 50s range. To overcome that kind of deficit was a credit to our defense, which in turn created offense.”

Rogers led the way with 20 points and five rebounds. His prowess on the offensive glass allowed him to score four buckets on close-range putbacks. While the Wildcats run an up-tempo style, they have showed poise in the half court set thanks to his Kevin McHale-like array of low post moves.

Brian Glazewski

“It’s extremely rare in this day and age that your best overall player is also the hardest worker and top leader,” said Minotti of his four-year star. “He is a prime example of what hard work and determination can do for a player.”

To credit only Rogers would go against everything the Wildcats are. Manus and Moore are both integral to the team’s success; Moore filled the box score against Hamden with nine points, seven rebounds, two blocks and three assists. With no player over 6-foot-3, RCDS puts the fearless junior up against players sometimes a half-foot taller, and Moore routinely outplays them.

Lowes Moore

Sophomores Alex Gendelman and Darren Douglas, who play many important minutes, have Minotti impressed by their poise. Gendelman ran the point like a senior versus Hamden, and finished with nine points and seven rebounds. Douglas scored 13 points and also recorded a pair of steals.

Alex Rieger, Andrew Shapiro and Brian Glazewski round out the senior group. Glazewski – a star for the football team – had not played since his freshman year because of injuries, but has been Rye Country Day’s unsung hero.

“He’s the guy who does what people call ‘the little things’. We call them ‘the important things’”, said Minotti. “He slows down the tempo when we need to and is very good at creating deflections. What he does won’t show up in the box score, but we see it in the game film and it’s our prime example of what players do to win games.”

Alex Gendelman

Entering the second half of the season, Minotti has his team prepared for the target that inevitably will appear on their backs. No longer the little engine that could — a role they played in a run to the Fairchester Athletic Association final last year — the Wildcats will only get back to the FAA tournament, and punch their ticket to the NYSAS tourney as well, with hard work and team play. And they wouldn’t have it any other way.

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