METHUEN — It would be nearly impossible for two teams to have less in common than last year’s and this year’s Methuen High basketball teams.
In 2011-12, five of the top seven players were seniors. This year’s squad has one returning starter and the five other returning lettermen are just sophomores.
That starter is senior guard Nathan Bueno. For that, second-year Ranger head coach Matt Curran is eternally grateful.
“It’s kind of a unique situation,” said Curran, whose team opens up play in the 38th annual Greater Lawrence Christmas Tourney tomorrow night against Lawrence. “For him, it’s probably not an ideal situation. We’re lucky to have him. He’s been great.
“Since the day last season ended, he’s been our captain. He gives kids rides. He’s a true leader. He’s setting the example. He’s setting the bar pretty high. He goes hard every day. He’s non-stop. He’s a very respectful, hard-working kid. I love the kid. He’s what you want in your captain and leader.”
Bueno, who is the team’s lone captain, had his leadership skills put to the test from the get-go. The Rangers bolted to a 17-3 lead at Tewksbury only to see the Redmen storm back for a 68-64 season-opening win on Friday.
“I just told them, ‘It’s a long road. There are 19 more to go. We’ll get better. Keep your heads up,’” said the wise-beyond-his-years Bueno.
It’s flattering to be considered a highly respected leader, but Bueno can play, too.
He had 15 points in the opener and added six rebounds, five assists and three steals.
“He’s our best defensive player, he handles the ball,” said Curran. “He’s worked at it. The knock on him was his jump shot. He’s developed as an all-around point guard who can bring the ball up, can take it to the rim and has the jumper to complete his game. And for someone his size (5-10, 150) he’s one of our toughest kids and one of our best rebounders. I can’t say enough good things about him.”