A starting line up consisting of 5 seniors with more off the bench warrants some promise for the upcoming season.
By John Roeder
As said by Morning Call sports journalist Keith Groller, “No one has more returning players than the Freedom Patriots.” The Freedom basketball team, who as a whole has played a lot of games together over the past three seasons, are led by their two returning captains Nick Ellis and Aaron Levy.
“We have vocal leaders and silent leaders,” head coach Joe Stellato explained, “They are both important and they have already made a difference in the season.”
Freedom won the district title in 2020 led by Malik and Caleb Mims, along with a freshman Nick Ellis who at the time was just starting to make his name a regular in the competitive EPC, winning the Rookie of the year award.
“As a team I think the goal is to win a district championship and compete in the state playoffs,” Ellis said when asked about the upcoming season. “We would also love to be the first Freedom team to win an EPC championship.” Ellis, with two district gold medals over two sports, winning gold in 2020 for basketball and in 2021 for football, is no stranger to the bright lights. After a long run in the district playoffs as a starting defensive end and tight end for the football team, Ellis looks to be ready to get back out on the basketball court to start the season.
“My personal goal is to score 1000 [career] points,” Ellis explained, “[I want] my teammates to achieve their [goals] as well.”
The last players to score 1000 points in a Freedom uniform were his former teammates Malik and Caleb Mims. This Freedom team looks very reminiscent of that team, led by a majority of seniors, with players who have lots of experience. While it’s nice to reminisce, it takes more than just experience alone to win in the EPC. The work that has gone into the off-season is one of Coach Stellato’s biggest compliments to his team.
From the way they have transformed their bodies and gotten stronger in the weight room to the time they have spent getting shots up and working on their craft, Coach Stellato believes the time they have spent there will really show this season, giving the crowd something to be excited about.
Other players to watch this season include Jaden Tillet, captain Aaron Levy, Joe Dew, Krishna Mangaroo, Nate Sletvold and Jalen Fletcher.
With a record of 10-13 and an early first round district playoff exit to Parkland last season, this senior-led Freedom team seems to be ready to take the next step.
“My expectations are that we play as a team,” Coach Stellato said, “We are very experienced and this should help come playoff time and in big games.” In the EPC, every game is a big one. Freedom, who is 3-1, has plenty of big games coming up, and has already set the tone for the season in their 38-37 home opening victory over Becahi. Ellis was limited in that game due to a turned ankle he suffered in an earlier contest against Mid-Valley. As he gets healthy, this Freedom team will look to take leaps throughout the season and continue to improve.
Photo Credit Bill Leicht Photogrophy