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Mespelli Pointing the Way for Nipmuc

Nipmuc basketball returns to the hardwood this season with a number of familiar faces, but some of them will be playing different roles. The Warriors graduated star guard Kelley Rooney, and head coach Jim Grant has to move senior Joe Mespelli to the point guard from his natural shooting guard position to help fill the void.
"Rooney is like some other players I have had in the past, you can put someone else in the position but you can't really replace them in the same way," said Grant. "We are asking Mespelli to do more, we have to."
Grant believes much of the transition for the veteran will be within the mental aspect of the game.
"It's a mentality," he said. "If you are the two-guard most of your life you are thinking about creating your own show, now he is learning how to create his own shot and also create offense for everyone else and it isn't easy."
Grant expects the quick and athletic Mespelli to be able to adapt. Nipmuc will also rely on Darren Moore, a 6'2" senior who returns at the center position. He will start alongside 6'4" junior Derek Moore to give the Warriors a strong inside presence."Darren is athletic and very strong and has some good inside moves," said Grant. "Derek is long and aggressive, I think he will do a good job on the boards."
Grant has competition at a number of positions this season. At the small forward position, 6'2" junior Danny Dias is the likely starter. He is another natural athlete who also plays football and is one of the quicker players Grant has had. He returns to the line-up after missing all of last season after suffering a knee injury on the gridiron. Craig Miklavic, one of the team's better outside shooters, will also see time at forward. 6'3" junior Sam Merten will round out the forward rotation.
There is also strong competition at the other guard position opposite Mespelli. Seniors Nate Bertrand, Tommy Paine, and Brandon Gale will all see minutes and all bring different strengths to the position. "Competition is always good," said Grant. "But guys are going to have to not get discouraged when they don't play as many minutes in certain games, there is a fine line between getting playing time and not."
Connor Columbo, a 6'4" junior who has shot up six inches over the past two years will back-up Moore at center. Stephen Pihl, Ryan Mallone, and John Jango are all juniors who will play off the bench this season and are expected to play bigger roles next year.
Grant expects defending state champion Whitinsville Christian to be the team to beat yet again this season, with Sutton and Hopedale also among the stronger teams on the Warriors' schedule. Nipmuc has added some new challenges to the slate, taking on perennial D2 power St. Bernard's as well as a D1 city school in Worcester Burncoat.




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