Whenever Stratford had success in boys basketball, players had to be committed to every aspect on the defensive end of the floor.
Stratford coach Paul Dudzinski likes those blue-collar players who do some of the dirty work like rebounding, taking charges and grabbing loose balls on the floor — some of the necessary things teams need each game in order to have a successful season.
Dudzinski has some of those players in the program this season. And while it’s still too early to gauge how good the team can be, winning its first four games has put Stratford at least in the conversation of South-West Conference contender.
“We are by no means the best basketball players up and down the lineup, but we have the makings of a good team,” Dudzinski said. “I do like this team.”
And while none of the four victories were against teams in the current top 10 of the latest Register poll, they were quality wins, that included crosstown rival Bunnell, the ninth-ranked team in the preseason poll, at Manchester in the season opener, and against New London in the finals of the Red Devil Holiday Classic.
Senior co-captain Eric Rankin has been the leading scorer in each of Stratford’s first four games. The guard is averaging 21.3 ppg., and was the tournament MVP of the Red Devil Holiday Classic.
“Eric has improved each season. He is something to watch,” Dudzinski said.
Mar’quess Daniels, a sophomore transfer from Georgia, has helped provide depth at forward that also includes senior Nick DiIulio, the other co-captain, and junior Mike McClean.
“We have guys we can run in and out and also bang you around,” said Dudzinski, now in his 16th season at Stratford. “These guys grind it out and try hard. We do make mistakes, but we play with enthusiasm and effort.”
Stratford has all this week to prepare for Kolbe Cathedral on Saturday at home. This like the Bunnell win, is a non-SWC game. The Red Devils must face both teams again.
“Both programs have great respect for one another,” Dudzinski said. “They have played well against us in the last few meetings. Hopefully, we can bring it this time.”
Stratford opens its SWC slate on Jan. 7 against Notre Dame-Fairfield.