TOWNSHEND -- Leland & Gray has hired Andrew Nystrom as the high school’s new boys varsity basketball head coach, and he said he can’t wait to get started.
"We’ll begin practicing in about a month," said Nystrom, who for the past two seasons served as assistant coach for the Rebels alongside Phil Davis, who retired from the team last year.
But Nystrom’s not the only one looking forward to what should be a dynamite season for the team.
"We feel fortunate to have Nystrom on board," said Marty Testo, the school’s new athletic director. "It has been a smooth transition, and both returning and potential players are very excited to have Nystrom as their new head coach."
A Leland & Gray alumnus, Nystrom once played hoops on the Rebel team, and has been active in other programs at the school throughout his career.
After practice gets underway, one of the team’s first scrimmages will be played against Brattleboro.
"That will be a good game to see where we stand," said Nystrom.
Last season, the team had some decent numbers to stand on.
Leland & Gray finished third overall in the state earning a 15-5 record in the process. 2010 was an even better year, as the Rebels went 17-3.
"The school’s been on a winning stretch for the last seven years," said the coach.
Within that time, the Rebs have bagged a soccer state championship, three-peated in baseball,
"I was really impressed with Nystrom’s familiarity with the school’s programs," said Testo. "What he stressed to us was that he would be committed to the program long-term. Our hope is that someday students from the area will consider coming to play here because of our coaching."
There are few public high schools in southern Vermont that compare to Leland & Gray’s growing enrollment, according to Nystrom. He thinks a big reason is the variety of sports the school has to offer. "The youth programs have improved dramatically over the last 10 years," he said. "And we’ve got a large pool of players to draw on for the upcoming season."
Rebels star forward Drew Barnum will make his return after being out with a knee injury in 2011. Barnum was a starter on the team his sophomore year.
Also returning this year is Mike Bergeron at center, and Billy Nupp at small forward.
"I’m six-foot three and these guys are all about my height," said Nystrom.
Other playmakers include Jake Sherman, Zach Wilkins, Andrew Brown, and Riley Kenney. Nystrom said he also expects contributions from the sophomore class.
David Aquino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 164.