SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Sports

December 11, 2012

In The Paint column: Local hoop teams face big questions this year

The gym lights have been turned on and the sounds of whistles have been filling the evening air at local high schools for the past two weeks. The boys basketball season is once again upon us and, as usual, the season starts with many questions and very few answers.

In time, everything will begin sorting itself out on the hardwood, but there are some topics that simply can’t be left alone any longer.

Here are five burning questions that need answers before most teams tip-off tonight:

1. How does Danvers overcome the loss of George Merry? Merry was the most unique player on the North Shore last season. A 6-foot-8 center with unusual athleticism and a soft touch, Merry was equal parts intimidator and go-to player for the Falcons.

With Merry in the middle, Danvers reached the mountaintop, capturing the Division 3 state championship last March. Four of the Falcons’ top six players from last year’s championship team return, but not Merry, who is currently playing for WPI in college. How Danvers fills that void will go a long way in determining if it’s capable of defending its title.

Although 6-6 sophomore Peter Merry — George’s younger brother — is in the Danvers’ program, he’s probably not going to be ready to be a steady varsity contributor this winter. That means George Merry’s contributions must be divided this season.

Defensively, senior forwards Nick Bates and Danny Connors must protect the basket for the Falcons while guards Eric Martin and Nick McKenna apply the pressure on the perimeter. On offense, McKenna seems the most likely player to become Danvers’ most consistent offensive threat, while Connors must become an option in the post.

2. Does winning equal losing for Beverly? Panthers’ coach Scott Lewis hopes that’s not the case, but the reality is that Beverly found itself stuck in the mud this preseason because of the football team’s run to the Division 2A Super Bowl.

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