When Hamden Hall headmaster Bob Izzo asked Dave Beckerman to consider returning to his former post as the school’s boys basketball coach, he did it with one thing in mind: to make the Hornets competitive once again.
They had been during the Beckerman glory days when Danny Oglesby, Scott Draughn and Casey Hughes wore the uniform, and even for a time after Beckerman stepped down the first time following the 2003-04 season. But the program only won six games in the three seasons before Beckerman returned for a second stint.
The 74-year-old Beckerman proved he’s still able to find way to relate to today’s players. With associate coach Jay Karlins and Ogelsby by his side, Beckerman has led Hamden Hall to back-to-back appearances in the Fairchester League tournament semifinals.
“I promised the headmaster I’d help the team restore its tradition and winning attitude,” Beckerman said. “We’ve come quite a ways. How do you evaluate a program? Certainly, the majority will tell you it’s the win and loss columns. Since December, we’ve won 14 out of 15 games. I think its the individuals on team, how much their mental and physical abilities.”
He rattles off the names of some of his players. At the top of the list is T.J. Rountree, the leading 3-point shooter in the area (72), now the school’s single-season record holder at over a 52-percent clip. Forward Dan Draffan has “come out of nowhere and dramatically improved and has been the catalyst for our team.”
Aiden Rountree, Andrew Rice, Chris Wright and even eighth grader Avery Brown have all contributed to the Hornets’ success. As for Vin Baker Jr., son of the former NBA player by the same name who transferred in from Old Saybrook and reclassified as a junior “without question has a world of talent. Once he masters the physical and mental aspects of the game, he could go as far as he wants. He has a 6-foot-7 frame, he’s long and athletic.”
Beckerman maintains a residence in Boca Raton, Florida and due to business reasons, Karlins has coached a few games. He remains non-committal if he will be back for a third season.
“It’s been very rewarding, I think the program is back at a competitive level and should continue being competitive, assuming whoever is the coach continues to be involved in the community and encourages players and their families to take advantage of a place like Hamden Hall,” Beckerman said.
Hamden Hall had its biggest win since Beckerman’s return last Tuesday when the Hornets rallied at home to beat Greens Farms in overtime. That earned Hamden Hall the No. 2 seed – and the bye into the Fairchester Tournament semifinals where the Hornets will likely face Greens Farms again on Thursday.
The winner will likely have to travel to New Canaan on Saturday to face the two-time defending champions, St. Luke’s. Hamden Hall is hoping to gain a bid into the New England Prep School Athletic Council Class C tournament. A win on Thursday could go along way in determining whether that happens.
“This group doesn’t quit. They play until the last possible play. Teams are going to have to beat us,” Beckerman said.