During her first three seasons as a member of the Greenwich Academy basketball team, Francesca Sileo displayed impressive shooting from the perimeter, while becoming one of the Gators’ leading scorers.
A leader on the court in past years, Sileo will have added responsibility this season, as she is serving as one of three captains of a team with five underclassmen on its roster.
“We’re very young this year,” Sileo said. “We have a few freshmen and only five returning players, so we just have to work hard, do what we can and have some fun.”
Sileo, a guard, who can also see action at forward, will be Greenwich Academy’s go-to player on offense, which was also powered in previous seasons by twin sisters Kaitlyn and Olivia Davis, both of whom have graduated and are playing at the collegiate level.
“Francesca has been one of the keys to this program, an integral part to the program,” GA coach Wes Matthews said. “A lot of weight is going to be on Francesca’s shoulders. She may have to play the one, two, three four for us, but she is ready for it. She knew this day will come, where she will be a leader.This is the part of basketball I want her to embrace, because at the collegiate level she will be asked to be a leader.”
Greenwich Academy advanced to the FAA Tournament semifinals during its 2018-2019 season, where it lost to Sacred Heart Greenwich.
The new-look Gators opened their new season at Kent School on Wednesday.
“Right now, we are working together and learning about each other as a team,” Sileo said. “I’ve always had the best role models to look up to, great captains in the past.”
Among the returning players are senior captains Tyler Gray and Christina Maldonado. Gray, a forward/shooting guard, begins her third season on the squad. She sees the team being solid defensively.
“Defense is going to be one of the biggest things we need to work on and meld together, because we are a young team and defense has been one of our strong suits — it’s my favorite part of basketball,” Gray said. “We’re focused on being competitive on the basketball court and transferring what we do in practice on to the basketball court.”
Maldonado, a guard, also served as one of the captains of Greenwich Academy’s soccer team in the fall — a squad that made it to the FAA Tournament finals and qualified for the NEPSAC Class A Tournament.
“I’m excited to have a new team, because one of my my favorite parts of being on the team is building a team atmosphere and getting to know each other on and off the court,” Maldonado said.
AT THE HELM: Matthews enters his sixth season Greenwich Academy’s coach. During his first five seasons as coach of GA, the team made four appearances in the FAA Tournament semifinals, including last season and advanced to the finals once (2016-2017 season).
A Bridgeport native, Matthews starred at Harding High School, before continuing his basketball career at Wisconsin. He enjoyed a 10-year career in the NBA, playing for Washington, the Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs and Philadelphia 76ers.
WHO’S GONE?: Twin sisters Kaitlyn and Olivia Davis graduated. The sister duo sparked the Gators offensively. Kaitlyn Davis finished her GA basketball career, which started when she was in eighth grade with 1,305 career points. She eclipsed the 1,000 career point plateau as a sophomore.
“Kaitlyn and Olivia pretty much built this program,” Matthews said. “They were very integral in getting other girls excited about playing basketball here. The Davis twins were a blessing to coach. It will not be the same without them.”
WHO’S BACK?: Sileo brings a 3-point shooting threat to the backcourt and is experienced at running the offense as a point guard.
“I think we can run the ball up the court,” Sileo said. “We are a pretty tough team and we definitely need to continue to work on our ball-handing and shooting.”
Gray is a versatile player, who should contribute at both guard and forward. Maldonado, a defensive standout on the soccer field, brings her skills on defense to the basketball court.
“Tyler does a lot of things well, she is a defensive guru and Christina is a great athlete, who will help us tremendously,” Matthews said.
Returning to the frontcourt is junior Sofia Gianuzzi. Last season saw Gianuzzi made key contributions at forward and she should also see action at center this season.
Junior Clea Ramos returns to the backcourt.
NEWCOMERS: Freshman (guard) Maddy Azrak, sophomore Caroline Deschamps (forward), forward Elizabeth Spaulding (freshman), forward Izzy Rosales (freshman) and forward Ellie Johnson (freshman) are starting their first season on the squad.
SHOWDOWNS: Dec. 7, Miss Porter’s School, away; Choate Rosemary Hall, Dec. 11, home; Holy Child, home, Dec. 16; Sacred Heart Greenwich, Dec. 18, home; Jan. 9, away, St. Luke’s; Jan 29, Hamden Hall, home; Feb. 8, Hopkins School, home; Feb. 10, Greens Farms Academy, home.
DID YOU KNOW?: Kaitlyn Davis scored a team-high 23 points in her debut for Columbia, which was also the team’s season-opener. She also grabbed seven rebounds.