Local high school basketball teams improving during DRIVE League summer action

Turners Falls’ Jackson Cogswell drives against Easthampton’s Trevor Canon-Smith during DRIVE Summer League basketball action at Greenfield High School on Tuesday.

Turners Falls’ Jackson Cogswell drives against Easthampton’s Trevor Canon-Smith during DRIVE Summer League basketball action at Greenfield High School on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Turners Falls’ Kainen Stevens goes to the basket against Easthampton during DRIVE Summer League basketball action at Greenfield High School on Tuesday.

Turners Falls’ Kainen Stevens goes to the basket against Easthampton during DRIVE Summer League basketball action at Greenfield High School on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Easthampton’s Logan Boyle goes to the basket against Keene during DRIVE Summer League basketball action at Greenfield High School on Tuesday.

Easthampton’s Logan Boyle goes to the basket against Keene during DRIVE Summer League basketball action at Greenfield High School on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Easthampton’s Chase Canon-Smith goes to the hoop against Keene during DRIVE Summer League basketball action at Greenfield High School on Tuesday.

Easthampton’s Chase Canon-Smith goes to the hoop against Keene during DRIVE Summer League basketball action at Greenfield High School on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

Staff Writer

Published: 07-05-2024 2:01 PM

GREENFIELD — The summer is a great time to work on your game, and the DRIVE League provides that opportunity for a number of local boys high school basketball teams. 

Games take place multiple nights a week at Greenfield High School, with local schools like Greenfield, Athol, Mahar, Turners Falls and Franklin Tech competing in the league in hopes of improving for the high school season next winter. 

Earlier this week, Keene competed against Easthampton and Turners Falls played the Eagles before Franklin Tech closed things out against Smith Academy. 

While the Thunder did not secure a win against Easthampton, falling 61-45, the summer isn’t about adding tallies to the win column, rather working on different aspects of the game that will hopefully pay dividends during the varsity campaign. 

“It’s been going well,” Turners Falls rising junior Jackson Cogswell said. “We’re not the best team in this summer league but it's just about getting better for the varsity season. We come here weeknights, we have fun and we try to win. We want to get better.” 

With a large graduating class, the Thunder will have a number of new faces on the varsity squad next year. Some will come up from JV while some are rising freshmen with a chance to make the varsity squad. 

Getting a chance to mix the new players with the returning players and developing chemistry is one of the Thunder’s goals during the DRIVE League season. 

"We’re developing chemistry for the upcoming season,” Cogswell said. “We lost a lot of seniors last year. We lost six or seven really good players. It’s too bad but we need to keep getting better. We have a lot of younger guys, freshmen, sophomores... we can make them be really good for our program if we can get them better. That’s what summer league is for, to get those younger guys better.” 

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While the DRIVE League kicked off just under a month ago, Cogswell said he’s already seen improvement from those younger players as they’ve grown into roles and gotten more comfortable on the court. 

“I’ve seen guys taking the ball to the hoop way stronger than they did before,” Cogswell said. “Guys are making shots that six months ago they wouldn’t have made. This is where they can work on that and improve.” 

Franklin Tech’s Cam Candelaria knows just what his team needs to work on this summer. 

Candelaria, who played for the Eagles last winter as a senior before graduating this spring, returned to coach the Franklin Tech squad in the DRIVE League this summer. 

After a challenging 2023-24 campaign, the Eagles are dialing in to improve with each game they play. 

“Especially after how our season went last year, this is a great chance to get better,” Candelaria said. “We’re looking to improve. We have people here who will be playing on the team next year. It’s room for them to grow and play.”

Like Turners, Franklin Tech has a plethora of younger players on its DRIVE League roster who are hoping to take strides forward to play on the varsity squad in the winter. 

Candelaria is trying to take the lessons that Eagles varsity coach Ryan Roberts was preaching last year and instill that message to the younger players. 

“There’s been some struggle but you seem glimpses of what [Roberts] was talking about last year,” Candelaria said. “Last year we didn’t have the greatest season but after talking in the locker room, he said he saw glimpses of what we can do. Watching the way we push the ball sometimes, if we can do that the whole game we’d be better. Or if we just move the ball, there’s always a time to win like that.” 

For Candelaria, getting to coach has provided a different perspective. He’s enjoyed getting to see the players he’s played with for years, as well as the inexperienced players, grow throughout the summer season. 

“It’s pretty fun,” Candelaria said. “A lot of the kids know me so they don’t think I’ll actually coach them so they don’t listen a whole lot. Whenever we have subs they listen because I’ll just sub them out. It’s fun to see them grow. I’ve known three of these kids since they were freshmen and sophomores. Watching them grow has been cool to see from a senior point of view.” 

It’s not just Franklin County schools competing in the DRIVE League. 

With Brattleboro, Keene, Hampshire, Easthampton, Smith Academy and Narragansett all sending teams, local schools get the chance to test themselves against teams they may not be playing during the high school season. 

“We don’t play Brattleboro, Keene, those teams,” Cogswell said. “I’m glad we aren’t just playing the same teams we play during the season. It makes it different.”