Derry boys basketball looking to build on strong offseason

Tuesday, November 23, 2021 | 4:34 PM

High school basketball practice officially began for the 2021-22 season Nov. 19, but the Derry boys basketball team, like all teams across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, have been holding offseason workouts since the end of the previous season.

Derry’s Tom Esposito, who is beginning his 18th season as a head coach, has been pleased with the offseason work his players have put in since the team bowed out of the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs with a loss to Quaker Valley.

“At least we were able to have an offseason,” Esposito said after the 2020-21 season was interrupted, at times, by the ongoing coronavirus. “We had a good turnout all summer when the players could attend. They were able to sharpen their skills.”

After graduating eight seniors, including four starters, from a squad that posted a playoff victory over Southmoreland, the Trojans are looking to rebuild.

Gone are leading scorers Ryan Bushey (15.4 points per game) and Sam Jones (10.7).

The lone starter returning is 6-foot senior guard Tyson Webb, whom Esposito considers a four-year starter. Webb averaged 6.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game as a junior.

Esposito said Webb was back in the gym on his own in April shooting between 150 and 300 shots a session.

Guard Gabe Carbonara, a 6-3 junior, was one of the top reserves last season. His role will expand as Esposito will use him as the point guard. Carbonara averaged 5.2 points per game.

“Gabe is very skilled and he can handle the rock,” Esposito said. “He has great feel and his ceiling is unlimited. He loves the game and with his size and physical strength, he’ll be able to handle the position.

“We have eight guys we feel comfortable with. We’re eight deep and hopefully we’ll be able to develop a few more players.”

Esposito said the skill training that assistant coach Matt Polinsky put the team through in the offseason will pay off.

“We were putting them through college-level drills and they picked it up,” Esposito said. “Everyone improved.”

Others battling for starting jobs include 5-11 senior forward Jake Watson, 6-2 sophomore guard Nate Papuga, 5-9 sophomore guard Brady Angus, 5-10 sophomore guard Ahmad Ward, 6-3 junior forward Ethan Frye and 6-2 junior forward Ashton Beighley.

Derry finished third in Section 1-4A behind North Catholic and Deer Lakes. The other teams in the section are Knoch, Burrell, Freeport and Keystone Oaks.

“Our section is so brutal,” Esposito said. “North Catholic lost a lot but is always good. Every team is returning a lot of players.”

Esposito said Knoch’s Ryan Lang is one of the top players in the section.

“We have to grow as a team and our basketball IQ has to improve,” Esposito said. “We’re just trying to navigate another covid season and take each day as it comes.”

If they can avoid setbacks, the Trojans might be in for a fun season.

Derry boys at a glance

Coach: Tom Esposito

Last year’s record: 6-7 (5-4 Section 1-4A)

Returning starters: Tyson Webb (Sr., G)

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at


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