Weekly Feature



2017-12-07 / Sports

Central boys hoops set to begin life without WNY’s all-time top scorer

by JASON NADOLINSKI
Reporter


Returning starting point guard Rudy Bragg, right, will be among the players on Cheektowaga’s boys basketball team looking to increase his production at both ends of the floor this season. 
File photo by Jason NadolinskiPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Returning starting point guard Rudy Bragg, right, will be among the players on Cheektowaga’s boys basketball team looking to increase his production at both ends of the floor this season. File photo by Jason NadolinskiPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com For the better part of the past five years, Cheektowaga’s boys basketball team was considered an instant contender for a Section VI championship due to the fact that Dominick Welch — whose career as a Warrior concluded last winter with him recording 2,376 points to become Western New York’s all-time leading scorer — was on its roster.

With Welch now attending prep school at the Spire Institute in Ohio, the Warriors are going to have to do a bit more to maintain that rep as a perennial contender. Fortunately for coach Patrick Cullinan, this year’s crop of players appear ready to tackle that challenge.

“We have a number of players who have varsity experience and have had the luxury of playing with Dom for multiple years,” Cullinan said. “But now, there is no Dom to defer to, so it’s time for them to step up and make plays — and we’re confident they will be able to do so.”

Cheektowaga, which finished 14-8 after reaching the sectional semifinals, will be leaning on returning seniors Rudy Bragg, Alekzander Bryant and Davon Brown to be among the team’s leaders both in terms of on-the-court production, as well as in the leadership department.

Bragg, an ECIC III Second Team all-star and returning starting point guard, “puts a ton of time into working on his game,” Cullinan said, but “will need to step up and make the plays a senior should.” Bryant, a 6-foot-2 ECIC III Honorable Mention all-star with “a soft touch,” will be asked to “be more consistent finishing around the basket and grabbing rebounds for us to find success,” Cullinan said.

Brown, a 6-2 forward who is the team’s returning first player off the bench, “is a hard worker who does all the little things,” Cullinan said, but “needs be more assertive offensively and score some buckets for us, as well as pound the glass on both ends.”

First-year varsity guards Jason Saloman and Armondez Cleague, both juniors, are also being eyed as potential contributors this season. Cullinan called Saloman a “strong, versatile, athletic player who can play most positions,” noting that “we will look for him to provide needed scoring and on-the-ball defense.” Cleague, meanwhile, is a “quick guard who can get to the rim, so we’re leaning on him to start our transition game and finish at the rim.” Defensively, Cullinan believes that Cleague’s “active hands will jump start some run outs with steals.”

The Warriors, who scrimmaged Lancaster back on Nov. 24, doesn’t open its regular season until it hosts Springville on Monday. Cheektowaga then faces crosstown rival Maryvale Wednesday before another week-long break keeps the Warriors off the court in a competitive sense until Depew’s Holiday Showcase Tournament on Thursday, Dec. 21.

“Everyone’s going to be looked upon to contribute at both ends of the court and will be needed to make plays for us to compete for wins,” Cullinan said. “We’d like to try and win back-to-back league titles this year, and if the five guys on the floor leave it all out there, play hard and lean on each other, it should put us in position to find team success and win some games. If we bring the effort and finish around the basket, we could surprise some people.

“I have a group of kids who get along, like each other, and want to win and be successful. They want to leave a legacy at Cheektowaga and have shown so far they are willing to put in the work to get it done.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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