“I wanted to try and win with Rhode Island kids,” he said.
Cutting even deeper, Haynes envisioned winning with players whose careers include firm ties with schools that fall under the Rhode Island Interscholastic League umbrella.
Upon inspecting the current roster posted to CCRI’s athletic website, you’ll find 12 out of a possible 13 players whose basketball experience includes hooping it up for an RIIL affiliate. The array of schools that are represented on the 2021-22 Knights squad is the result of a wide net cast by Haynes in his quest to build a program that’s rooted in homegrown talent.
From Juanita Sanchez, to West Warwick, to Coventry, to St. Raphael, to Cranston West, as well as several additional RIIL schools, the proof lies in the proverbial pudding upon shining the spotlight on the hoops-related prophecy laid out by Haynes. You can stay close to home and still make an impact on the hardwood.
CCRI opened this past week with news of a No. 9 ranking in the latest NJCAA D-III Women’s Basketball Poll. By the time Friday morning rolled around, the Knights sported a 13-5 record that included a pristine mark against conference opponents (8-0) – additional supporting evidence that, not only is Haynes winning with kids who live a long three-pointer away from the Vin Cullen Fieldhouse, he along with the talent assembled under his watch are winning big.
Perhaps it’s helped the Knights that Haynes can relate to the path that ultimately led his current charges to come to CCRI. A multi-sport standout who graduated from West Warwick High, Haynes starred at CCRI in basketball and baseball; his lore recognized with a spot in the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Before taking up the coaching mantle at CCRI, he piloted the Bay View basketball program with two state championships as part of an 18-year run.
To Haynes, there’s still a piece of him that belongs to West Warwick – something he reminds the CCRI players about when playing word association regarding certain aspects of their backgrounds.
“I tell them that they’ve got to take pride in the school they came from. You’ve got to take pride in your town. You’ve got to take pride in playing basketball here [at CCRI],” said Haynes.
Due to the pandemic, the Knights did not take the court for the 2020-21 season. For Haynes, he passed the time by following potential in-state prospects. Word of mouth from high school coaches proved helpful as did watching games on streaming services in the pursuit of building a RIIL-centric roster.
“Being able to see them without leaving home worked out perfectly,” said Haynes.
The head coach cut to the chase upon bringing the 2021-22 group together for the season’s first practice. Any preconceived notions that may have existed from playing against one another in high school or AAU … leave them at the door. The girl to your left and your right is now your teammate. Accept it and embrace it.
“They had one thing in common and that’s playing basketball. Our job was to get them to mesh and trust each other,” said Haynes.
From purposely breaking up into mini pods that emphasized skill development, there came a pleasant preseason side effect.
“We developed a closer relationship, almost like a family. It’s a good feeling to have something like that with people you didn’t know as well before,” noted Talia Thibodeau, a freshman forward and one of two captains on the CCRI roster. She played at Cranston West.
Added Michelle Moreno, also a captain and listed as freshman guard via Juanita Sanchez, “I was super excited to play with this group and create a bond.”
— CCRI Athletics (@CCRIAthletics) February 11, 2022
In putting together this year’s schedule, Haynes opted to frontload it with the Knights playing multiple games per week before breaking for Christmas. It was another piece of the puzzle in the quest to get everyone on the same page.
“They didn’t have time to think about anything else except playing basketball. It kept them in the flow. Plus, they were around each other a lot,” said Haynes.
With his homemade recipe coming up roses, Haynes hopes this season signals the beginning of a master plan to formulating a CCRI roster with an added emphasis on RIIL-based talent.
“It’s a good sign for others to see, ‘Oh, I can come here,’” said Thibodeau.
FORMER RIIL GIRLS BASKETBALL PLAYERS ON THIS YEAR’S CCRI ROSTER:
Name and Former RIIL School
- Michelle Moreno – Juanita Sanchez
- Jazlynn DiZoglio – Juanita Sanchez
- Liz Bruno – St. Raphael
- Chloe Rayko – St. Raphael
- Andrea Gabriel – North Kingstown
- Talia Thibodeau – Cranston West
- Victoria Galarza – Cumberland
- Anayah Melgar – Coventry
- Jasmine Wilson – Tolman
- Maggie Schwab – North Kingstown
- Maya-Jane Lima – North Kingstown
- Taylor Enright – West Warwick