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Cardinals Put Potential to the Test

  • Chase Hussey passes the ball to a teammate during the Stevens boys basketball practice at Stevens High School in Claremont, N.H., on Dec. 9, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Chase Hussey passes the ball to a teammate during the Stevens boys basketball practice at Stevens High School in Claremont, N.H., on Dec. 9, 2013.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Tyler Haines and Jordan Haines block Daniel Croteau as he passes the ball during the Stevens boys basketball practice at Stevens High School in Claremont, N.H., on Dec. 9, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Tyler Haines and Jordan Haines block Daniel Croteau as he passes the ball during the Stevens boys basketball practice at Stevens High School in Claremont, N.H., on Dec. 9, 2013.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Stevens Basketball Coach Scott MacNamee instructs players during a drill at the Stevens boys basketball practice at Stevens High School in Claremont, N.H., on Dec. 9, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Stevens Basketball Coach Scott MacNamee instructs players during a drill at the Stevens boys basketball practice at Stevens High School in Claremont, N.H., on Dec. 9, 2013.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Chase Hussey passes the ball to a teammate during the Stevens boys basketball practice at Stevens High School in Claremont, N.H., on Dec. 9, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Tyler Haines and Jordan Haines block Daniel Croteau as he passes the ball during the Stevens boys basketball practice at Stevens High School in Claremont, N.H., on Dec. 9, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Stevens Basketball Coach Scott MacNamee instructs players during a drill at the Stevens boys basketball practice at Stevens High School in Claremont, N.H., on Dec. 9, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

Claremont — Scott MacNamee is beginning his fourth year as the Stevens boys basketball coach. To some, that may seem like the start of a career. To MacNamee, it was almost too much.

As a high school basketball player, MacNamee played in Lebanon for Lang Metcalf, where physical as well as mental conditioning were vital — and MacNamee was one of the more aggressive Raiders.

That’s why when last year’s Stevens squad went from a potential final four club to one that went just 10-9 and was bounced in the playdown round of the Division III tourney by Campbell, MacNamee began to doubt himself.

“I think I lost the team and began to believe that maybe this coaching thing was not for me,” MacNamee said. ”We just lost too many games we should have won. We weren’t in shape physically and mentally.”

MacNamee, after much soul searching, decided not to resign. Instead, he has upgraded his own personal commitment, making it known that this year his team will not lose games because they are out of shape.

You could see the commitment to that direction as the preseason winds itself down toward the start of the regular season. Before the Cardinals took to the floor for practice Monday, Chris LeBlanc, a personal trainer, had the players going through a variety of exercises.

It’s become part of the daily regimen in Carr Gym.

“Being in shape is underrated,” said MacNamee. “This is part of the reason I came back.”

McNamee knew there were other things besides desire and conditioning that led to the downfall a year ago.

“Everything seemed to go wrong at once,” the coach said. “There were injuries and discipline (issues) as well. It just all seemed to go wrong at the wrong time.

“We had so much potential.”

Now that the page from last year has been turned, MacNamee seems rejuvenated. And he has three senior standouts in Don Pellerin, Ryan Tanguay and Jordan Haines whom he has named as tri-captains. “I’m not a big captain guy, but I want these three guys to be challenged.

“I’ve had those three guys since they were freshmen and now they have come full circle.”

While there is acknowledged basketball talent on this team, coupled with the potential to reach those Division III playoff heights, MacNamee steps softly after what happened last year.

“Potential is one thing, results are another,” he said. “You don’t know what you have until you get going. Last year I was super optimistic. Let’s just wait this year.”

The waiting will end on Dec. 17 with the opener at Kearsarge. The first home game is Dec. 20 against Monadnock.

Before then, there is still work to do — on and off the court. After a short practice Monday, MacNamee took his team to Kimball Union Academy to watch the Wildcats play Proctor Academy, a team that runs an offense similar to Stevens.

Then it’s back to the basketball laboratory today and a scrimmage with Lebanon.

“I think these guys are responding to me,” said MacNamee. “I think mentally they understand that basketball is not more important than life, but they really want success.

“There is a desire here. We just have to stay within ourselves.”

During the football season Tanguay, one of the quarterbacks, seriously thought he might go his senior year with three state championships. Stevens was close in football, losing in the title game to Bow.

“I guess that leaves just two championships,” he said. And it all starts in a week.