All Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake boys’ basketball coach Kevin Himmelwright had to do in order to confirm the excitement around his program heading into this season was look at a clock.
“I told them to be here at 5:15,” Himmelwright said prior to last Tuesday evening’s scrimmage with Galway. “They’re here at 4:45.”
For Himmelwright, a 2006 Burnt Hills graduate in his third season as head coach at his alma mater, that’s a sign that the Spartans are geared up to make the 2021-22 season a major turnaround for a program that’s trying to pull itself up after an extended stint laboring near the bottom of the always difficult Suburban Council.
With a core of exciting underclassmen surrounded by a number of steady senior 3-point shooters, Himmelwright believes his club has the ability to make sure that no opponent has an easy night against the Spartans this season — and maybe can make a little noise themselves, especially once the team reaches the Section II Class A tournament.
“It’s been a grind the last couple of years here, trying to get things back to where everybody wants them here,” Himmelwright said. “Burnt Hills sports have been very, very successful the last couple decades, and it’s unfortunate where the basketball program’s been.
“[In the Suburban Council] there’s no easy games. Unfortunately, Burnt Hills has been an easy game for some teams the last couple of years. I hope we’re doing the right things and changing that.”
Burnt Hills went 2-12 last season, playing 14 games in a little more than a month during a schedule that was condensed and featured no Section II or state postseason play due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This season’s crop of Spartans has “embraced the grind” to get the program back on an upward trajectory.
Maybe the foremost adherent to that mentality is junior Luke Haluska, the Spartans’ scrappy point guard, whom Himmelwright is “confident has led the Suburban Council in charges taken the last two years.”
“He’s without a doubt the heart and soul of this team,” Himmelwright said.
Junior guard Alex Doin was the Spartans’ second-leading scorer and leading rebounder last winter, while wiry senior center Matt Ormsbee will lead the way in the post and sophomore Myles Yannuzzi — “without a doubt, the future of the program” — is expected to make a leap this season after recovery from knee surgery hampered his freshman campaign.
“They’ve grown a lot,” Himmelwright said. “It’s a different team than I’ve had the last two years here, for sure. They’re hungrier, they’re tougher, a little bit more athletic — which is great.”
Himmelwright’s hopeful the team’s growth will start to show itself when the season opens Wednesday against South Glens Falls.
It’s the first step in a path to get the boys’ basketball program up to the level of Burnt Hills’ litany of championship-level programs in other sports.
“It’s down the road,” Himmewlright said, “you can’t make it happen overnight. It takes a lot of work.
“We have all the right stuff here. We just need to have the right person or people to put everything together, and we’ll get there.”