Replenishing pieces lost to graduation is as consistent a yearly battle for high school athletic programs as they come.
Whether that loss comes in the form of a defensive core on the soccer field, a scratch golfer on the links, or a dominant post player on the hardwood — finding players to step up and immediately fill the void is hardly inevitable.
For the Beverly High boys basketball team, this year’s missing piece is Pat Gavin, a 20-point, 10-rebound per night standout who now plays at UMass Dartmouth. The Panthers also graduated physical force and stout defender Hugh Calice from a group that won 12 games and clinched a spot in the Division 2 North tournament last winter.
This year, the Orange and Black have a new head coach in Matt Karakoudas, who took over for the retired Scott Lewis, as well as a new unit of starters and reserves eager to make their mark. The team’s second-leading scorer and best 3-point threat, Luigi Derrane, returns as a senior captain, as do key role players from last year in junior Toskany Abreau and sophomore Duncan Moreland.
But outside of that, it’s nearly an entirely new lineup — one that Karakoudas is excited to deploy.
“I’ve been impressed with how quickly this group of kids can pick up a new system ... new offense, new defense. It’s not an easy task,” said Karakoudas, a Peabody native and former Salem State standout who comes to Beverly after a four-year head coaching stint at Pope John in Everett. Karakoudas took the Tigers to the Division 4 North final back in 2016.
“It’s a very intelligent group of kids which I like. Their work ethic is right where it needs to be, and I think they’re all looking forward to a successful season.”
While Derrane is likely the top candidate to take over Gavin’s role as option No. 1 offensively (he averaged 14 points a season ago), it appears this winter’s Panthers squad will rely on a number of different scorers on any given night.
Abreau is more than capable of taking over the fiery Kevin Morency’s point guard duties, while Moreland should feel more comfortable in games with a year of experience under his belt. He’s an early candidate for most improved player.
Matt Rawding joins Derrane as the team’s other captain, and he’ll certainly see an elevated role in the backcourt this year after playing somewhat sparingly as a junior.
With such a guard-heavy rotation, Karakoudas hopes to get his team out in transition and spread the wealth offensively.
“This Beverly team is going to be harder to guard simply because we have 7-8 guys capable of scoring 10-20 points. We’re not going to have a 25-point per game scorer, but we’ll be able to spread it out and use that balance to our benefit,” said Karakoudas. “I think the balance will make us much harder to defend, and on the other end I think we’ll be able to wreak havoc because we’re so quick and have good length.”
Also in the mix for playing time is junior forward/center Micah Davies, junior swingman Kyle Camara and sophomore big man Jack Crowley.
Karakoudas is particularly intrigued with the 6-foot-3 Crowley’s play early on, and feels he could be an integral part to the Panthers’ success.