MADISON >> Seven seniors return this season for the Hand boys basketball team, and they are ready to make 2012-13 a distant memory.
Any additions to this experienced group would be a bonus. Consider senior Andre Frederick a pretty big bonus.
At 6 feet 8, 210 pounds, Frederick, a transfer from Detroit who recently signed with Robert Morris, should help the Tigers have an even more successful season than they were expecting.
“I’ve been saying all along that this is a special group,” Hand coach Frank Rossi said. “The group really welcomed Andre. His personality meshed with theirs very well. My guys were excited to have him and he was excited to be here. Obviously, his talent and ability are driving this because they know he can take us to a different level.”
Hand already had plenty of size in seniors Philip Crampton (6-7) and Asa Palmer (6-6) before Frederick arrived. Rossi admitted to adding a few new wrinkles to the playbook where the Tigers can boast two post players on the floor at all times.
Frederick’s biggest impact should come on the defensive end.
“My role is to be that post presence, help out in the post area, block a shot, rebound and play defense,” Frederick said. “They have helped me fit in and made me feel more comfortable.”
Said Robert Morris coach Andrew O’Toole: “He really has good timing on blocking shots and should be able to affect games with his athleticism at the high school level. He is quick around the basket and uses both hands well. He has some of those things you can’t teach. Some of his athletic gifts, along with his skill and ability on top of it, makes him a really good player.”
Frederick received interest from a handful of Division I programs while playing at Frederick Douglass Academy, an all-boys school in Detroit. He signed with Robert Morris, a member of the Northeast Conference, last month.
So how did he end up in Madison? His father, Buster, grew up in Hartford and played at Bulkeley. After living in Detroit for 18 years, Buster wanted to move to a more stable community and school system for his children. He rents an apartment with his two sons in Madison — Alonzo, a junior, is on the swim team.
“Madison was my first choice,” Buster said. “Andre has adjusted very well here.”
Andre said his intention is to major in software engineering at Robert Morris.
“Now I don’t have to go through wondering if my grades or test scores are good enough to get me into college,” Frederick said. “That’s done. Now I can focus on my basketball skills and my high school grades.”
O’Toole noted Frederick’s ability to run the floor and that he’s not afraid to be physical. His athletic gifts should bode well for him in the Southern Connecticut Conference.
Rossi said Frederick fared well during the team’s fall season, but the real lights go on Wednesday in the Tigers’ season opener against Wilbur Cross at home. Hillhouse is also on the schedule — twice.
“He is a tremendous athlete around the rim, the best at that I have ever coached,” said Rossi, in his 11th year as a head coach (seventh at Hand). “He is an excellent rebounder. He has some work to do on the perimeter facing the basket. His game 10-15 feet away is a little inconsistent, but I don’t know if there are a lot of guys in this league who can play with him at the rim.”
More important will be Frederick’s ability to fit into a group that has played together for years. Rossi admitted the players felt like they underachieved last year and have “put a lot of pressure on themselves” to make big steps forward.
With Frederick aboard, the potential is there for a special season in Madison.
“Immediately, it was like he had been playing with them for a long time,” Rossi said. “Before he came here, there was a lot of buzz around this particular team. From a chemistry perspective, this is the best team I have ever coached and also one of the most unselfish groups I have ever coached. These are kids that want to give assists. They never saw Andre as a threat.”