EASTHAM — Nauset Regional graduates Bobby Joy and Sunny Green were standout athletes in high school here. Now they’re playing college basketball and are learning that the transition is both a strategic and a physical one.
Green earned All-Star honors and helped lead the Warrior women deep into the Division 2 state tournament in three of her four years at Nauset. Joy finished his high-school career with 1,266 points, the second-highest total in Nauset basketball history.
After their high school successes, both chose to go to UMass Boston and to play ball for the Beacons.
The two are now sophomores, but because of the pandemic there was no freshman season last year, so Joy and Green say they feel like freshmen — at least on the court.
“We knew we weren’t going to have games in the fall,” said Green of her freshman year. But finding out in December that there would be no basketball at all was rough. At that point, their teams would normally have been in midseason form. But now the school’s gym was closed. The women’s team didn’t even have a coach at the time. Student athletes were meeting online, but you can’t play basketball over Zoom.
They tackled the challenge of the lost season in their own ways.
Green turned to training with her old Amateur Athletic Union team. Then, by summer, the women’s team at the college found a coach and got a workout program underway. She devoted herself to the workouts.
Joy said he made sure to keep playing basketball in some form all year long. He worked out with Bob Catalini, a basketball skills development coach in Sandwich. And he played with friends in local parks just to get some shots up. Over the summer, he found plenty of informal pickup games at outdoor courts. Driving from Harwich, where he grew up, to Chatham and to Eastham, Joy took advantage of the chance to play against older guys.
“It was definitely another year of maturing and developing,” he said. “For me, it was beneficial in a way — a chance to get better and stronger.
“But it was tough mentally,” Joy added. “I’d spent my whole life playing ball and it gets taken away like that. It’s hard to persevere.”
Joy’s best game with the Beacons this season came against Bridgewater State on Nov. 17 when he posted 13 points in a win.
Green, a 5-foot 7-inch guard who grew up in Brewster, said she focused a lot on her jump shot. Her regime included 1,600 shots each week of the summer. She’s currently averaging 8.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.8 steals this season.
For both players, college basketball presents new challenges. The outside jump shot, and especially the three-point shot, has become a more central part of the game over the last 10 to 15 years, starting at the professional level.
Among the pros, former Boston Celtics player Ray Allen retired in 2014 at age 39 holding the record of 2,973 three-pointers made. Last week, on Dec. 14, Steph Curry, who plays for the Golden State Warriors, broke Allen’s record. Curry is just 33.
Curry has been in the N.B.A. for 12 years and is credited with transforming how the three-point shot is viewed. His team’s philosophy has shifted during that time, with the outside shot becoming a vital weapon. Other teams have followed suit, and plenty of younger players have tried to emulate the way their favorite players hoist deep shots.
Now, the NCAA may be trying to adjust for this trend.
“The three-point line actually got pushed back this year,” Green said. “I didn’t know until the first day of practice that it had been pushed back a foot.”
Green said she’s not bothered by the line getting farther from the basket. Neither is Joy. They’re used to attempting shots from way downtown.
“I’ve always had it in my game,” Joy said of his outside shot.
Nauset girls basketball coach John Piemontese has always been a “fundamentalist” when it comes to the game. But he said he’s noticed a shift toward more threes at the high school level.
“Now you’re adjusting every game to the opponent that you have,” he said. Determining whether a team is going to be focused on perimeter shooting is key.
The farther outside you are when you shoot, the weirder the bounce is off the basket if the shot doesn’t go in. Even a good rebounding team can be affected by this.
“If you’re going up against a team that likes to shoot outside shots, the rebounds are different,” Piemontese said. “It’s a whole different mindset.”
Joy, who is a 5-foot 10-inch guard, said the biggest adjustments in college play are about size and speed. He has to focus on his shot a little more now that “everyone is just bigger.
“Some centers on Cape are guards here,” he said. “It’s something you have to adapt to. You have to be smarter, more technical with your game. At this level, I got to be a better jump shooter because I can’t get by with just quickness.”
Green said she benefited from how dedicated and structured her Nauset teams were. She is comfortable at UMass, she said, but in college, student athletes have to take care of themselves.
“The biggest adjustment is probably more self-motivation,” she said. “You’re expected to know certain things already.”
The UMass men’s team is currently 5-6 while the women’s team is 2-7, as both teams head into the winter break with no scheduled games until the new year.
Both teams expect uphill battles for the rest of the season, but Green and Joy say their teams hold a lot of promise for the future. Green has five other sophomores and two freshmen playing alongside her. The men’s team includes seven freshmen and two other sophomores besides Joy.