BENNINGTON — Mount Anthony boys basketball has one of the most amazing histories in the state of Vermont, from coach Dave Fredricksen winning five consecutive titles from 1987 to 1991 and in 2004, when current coach Dan Sleeman was leading the Patriots to record scoring games, including a national record against Brattleboro.
But for the past few years, Mount Anthony has struggled, winning one playoff game since 2011, including a playdown loss to Rutland last season.
They look to change fortunes this season, with a ton of senior leadership and a pair of twin brothers who have come to help propel the Patriots to its first state championship since 1991.
"Being unselfish is a big emphasis, because we have a lot of options offensively," Sleeman said. "Sharing the ball is something we take pride in. We haven't been playing a month yet, so there's still some jockeying for position."
Sleeman, in his 15th season, has seven returning starters and nine seniors. Returners include Pat Powers, Nick Armstrong, Hunter Davis and Henry Salem, along with Damon Burgess, Tyler Champagne and Matt Anderson.
Champagne is the quarterback for the Patriots, a shooting guard with a smooth release and the aggressiveness to get to the hoop.
"He's months ahead of where I expected," Sleeman said. "He runs the offense. We don't want to live and die by the three, but it is a weapon for us."
Burgess and Anderson, along with Powers, Armstrong, Davis and Salem, all will play a big role in Mount Anthony's success, and on any given night, a different player can lead the Patriots.
"All those guys are the heart and soul of the team, they can't give the attention to one person," Sleeman said. "It's obvious we have a lot of interchangeable parts. Each week is a different challenge."
The Patriots also have two new pieces in senior transfers Jonas and Josh Parker. Each came from a different high school in New York state — Jonas at Middletown High School and Josh at Chapelfield High School — both in the Hudson Valley region. Jonas is 6-foot-7 and has already used that size to his advantage in the early season with a team-leading 18 points against MSJ. Josh is a few inches shorter, coming off the bench in the first game.
Both will make a major difference, with enough size and athleticism to compete with top Division I teams like Rutland, Burlington or Rice. Jonas has played on the big stage — last year, Middletown reached the state quarterfinal in Class AA.
"Jonas can play inside or outside and it's something we need to take advantage of," Sleeman said.
The rest of the roster includes Atrael Pineiro, who was at Mount Anthony, transferred to Hoosac School and is back. Also, Ben Winslow, Brian Grace, Matthew Glanovsky and Ryan O'Neill will get as many minutes as possible.
"Atrael looks to be a good player off the bench and he's been a big surprise for us," Sleeman said. "He's still trying to learn the final things on offense and defense. Matt has been a great surprise too, all those guys are accepting the roles as backups. They push the others, practice is important this time of the year."