Even though he wasn’t a captain, Brandon DePalma wanted to step up and be a leader for the East Haven boys’ basketball team this season. As one of the few seniors on the squad, Brandon provided a leadership presence by doing things like making sure his teammates were always in the right spots on the court.
“At the beginning of the season, we nominated our captains, but coach made it clear that he wanted me to step up and pursue that role. Even though I didn’t have the role, the younger guys still looked up to what I said,” says Brandon. “I like to make sure my teammates know what’s going on on the court and nobody is making mistakes. One thing we tried to do a whole lot of was, during free throws, we’d huddle up and make sure everyone was on the same page and knew where they were supposed to be.”
Head Coach Ricky Narracci says that Brandon was an asset for his squad because of his high basketball IQ. Brandon was well-versed in the Easties’ offensive schemes and so Narracci relied on him to execute on that end of the court.
“He understood our offense better than anybody, so we would run a few things to get him some looks,” says Narracci. “As much as anybody, he hit some good shots in key spots to keep us in games.”
Brandon saw more playing time than he thought he’d get this season. Brandon was expecting to come off the bench, but when some of his teammates got injured, he stepped into a starting role. Brandon remained in the starting lineup for the rest of the year—even after his teammates returned from their injuries.
“It’s always that next-man-up mentality. You don’t want guys to get hurt, but you have to be ready,” says Brandon. “Losing so many teammates this year, it was the role of the rest of us to make sure we filled their spot. I wanted everybody to come back strong, but I was ready to keep their role for myself.”
More time on the floor made Brandon a better all-around player. Although his specialty was his three-point shot, Brandon also saw a big increase in his endurance.
“As a player, I improved the most to stay on the court and not needing to come out or be hurt like many people had. I didn’t miss a game or a practice, so I feel like my offseason work with coach and the team prepared me for the rigorous season we went through,” Brandon says. “As a team, we started the first week of school. We lifted and would run three times a week. We also had summer and fall league games we were invited to attend.”
As a guard for the Yellowjackets, Brandon also did a solid job of moving around the perimeter to create space for an open shot.
“Moving away from the ball was my biggest aspect. I’m not an attacking guard, so if I was dribbling, I was just wasting time. I’d make effective cuts, run hard off screens, and change up where I was going, so the other team wouldn’t be able to predict where I’d go to get open,” says Brandon. “Teams have to focus on not letting me touch the ball on the perimeter. I stretch the defense because, when our big men would get it down low, I make sure I’m always in a position for a good shot. That way, they know if they double down, it would be trouble for them all night.”
Although the Yellowjackets had a tough season this winter, Brandon kept his teammates motivated to hit the floor every night. He was pleased to see that the Easties never stopped fighting throughout his final season with the team.
“Every practice we made sure we stayed on task, had energy, and were always talking,” says Brandon. “Every day is a new day and we can get better. We focused on our game-plan and went to war every single night.”