The expansion Evergreens bring a lot of fresh faces to the Kronum league.
This is part two in an 8-part series leading up to the 2013 Kronum regular season. For part one, go here.
2011 Results: N/A, Expansion Team
2011 Leaders (stats accumulated with other teams):
Returning Professionals: Joe Petrino (from Nimble Jacks), Jeff Yetter (from Work Horses), Vince Rota (from Jet Sets), Sean London (from Jets Sets), Shane Dugan (from Night Owls)
Key Rookies: Ryan Ayres, Ryan Maley, TJ Kane, Gerry Plescia, Alec Jadacki, Dom Petrino
With only five members of the roster having played in the Kronum professional league last season, the Evergreens will be, by far, the least experienced team out on the round. Although they have been playing together as a unit throughout multiple rec league seasons, there’s something to be said for having players who have been through the ups and downs of a professional campaign. Luckily for the Evergreens, they do have some guys who have been there before; first and foremost is Joe Petrino.
The move for Petrino from the Nimble Jacks to the Evergreens equates to the James Harden trade from the Thunder to the Rockets this past NBA offseason; that is, a highly efficient scorer who was already producing at a high level, being asked to take on a larger role, hopefully leading to an MVP-type season. He was the 7th leading scorer in the league as a part of a championship Nimble Jacks team, and will now be receiving a greater number of shots for an expansion Evergreens squad counting on him to be the man. The key for the team will be whether, with opposing defenses geared around stopping him, Petrino will be able to maintain his scoring efficiency. If anyone is up for the challenge, it is Petrino, who ranked 5th overall in shooting percentage (min. 4.0 shots per game) at 57.1%, and 7th in flex zone shooting percentage (min. 10 attempts) at 53.2%. The flex zone shooting is particularly impressive given that Petrino is also skilled at hitting rings, tying the Urban Legends’ Kevin Glover for most ring shots made from the flex zone last season with seven. Even when Petrino goes for a ring and misses, the shot still usually finds the crown and provides a rebound opportunity for his teammates. With the Evergreens, he will be taking on more of a role in the middle of the field, where he already ranked 8th in cross zone scoring, and 5th in cross zone shooting percentage (min. 5 attempts), going 11 for 30 (36.7%). The Evergreens have built their defense around turnovers and quick transitions; Petrino will be the man they look toward for a game-changing 4-pointer after a forced turnover.
Other players will need to step us as well for the Evergreens to truly compete. Veteran crosser Jeff Yetter joins the Evergreens after an injury limited him to just 4 games during the Work Horses’ disappointing 2011 season. A composed presence out on the field, Yetter is both an excellent distributor, ranking 13th in assists per game, and a versatile scorer, using hands and feet to tally points from the wedge, flex, and cross zones last season. The other main crosser for the Evergreens is captain Ryan Ayres. Though it is his first season playing professionally, Ayres has officiated Kronum matches since the beginning and has likely seen as much Kronum action has anyone in the league. While not a huge scoring threat, Ayres will more often than not make the right decisions while orchestrating the offense and it would not surprise me to see him among the assist leaders come year-end. The final main cog in the Evergreens’ offense will be rookie Ryan Maley. During offseason and preseason play, Maley has played offensively in the middle of the field more than any other wedgeback in Kronum. He is capable of scoring from the cross, flex, and wedge areas and will provide a unique wedgeback-crosser hybrid aspect to the Evergreens’ offense.
While the Evergreens appear to be able to put up points with any team in Kronum, a strong defense is what elevates teams to the next level and is an area where the team is especially inexperienced. Veteran Vince Rota will anchor the back line as the only returning professional wedgeback. Rota has championship experience with the Nimble Jacks before moving to the Jet Sets in more of a rotational role. The Evergreens will be counting on Rota full-time, who recognizes shooters’ angles and closes out on players in the wedge zone as well as any wedgeback in Kronum. Alongside Rota and Maley, rookie Gerry Plescia has shown flashes of brilliance in net during preseason play, and will round out the wedgeback rotation with Dom Petrino and Luke Pinto.
On the field, the Evergreens will adopt a controlled chaos defensive philosophy, opting to create as many turnovers as possible in lieu of maintaining more structured defensive assignments. Veteran crosser Sean London and rookie ranger TJ Kane embody that school of thought. London has a well-earned reputation as a ferocious defender, hounding main scorers all over the field and excelling at getting under their skin. Kane has been flying over the field in preseason action and should rank among the steals leaders when all is said and done.
This expansion squad has a lot of talented and intriguing pieces. Questions remain as to how well a relatively inexperienced defense will operate and how quickly all of the rookies will adjust to the intensity at the professional level when it counts.
Regular Season Prediction: 5-5 (T-3rd place)
The Evergreens have enough talent to compete within the league, win some games, and even secure an upset or two. However, experience does matter and the Evergreens are likely a year or two away from true title contention.