Vinny Belcaster has seen teammates come and he’s seen teammates go.
He remains at Morton.
The only senior in the Mustangs’ rotation, Belcaster is convinced he has the supporting cast to make it work.
“All my friends my age left the team, so trust was a big thing, but I’ve never been happier with a team in my life than I am with this team,” said Belcaster, a 6-foot-3 guard. “I know they have my back.”
Morton (3-4) seems a team not to overlook, all things considered.
The Hornets come off a promising weekend. They were right with Hinsdale South for two-plus quarters of a 75-57 loss, then beat Milwaukee South 64-35 at a shootout at Morton College.
“I think that was the best game we’ve played all year,” Belcaster said. “It was a good learning experience after the Hinsdale game.”
Belcaster, the latest in a family well-known in Morton basketball, is in his third year on the Mustangs’ varsity. A talented driver, he’s improved his shooting.
His biggest improvement, though, could be in the intangible of trust.
“We played [Dec. 10] and he really passed the ball well, which was fun to see,” Morton coach Anthony Martinucci said. “He’s going to have to learn with a new group, and has to learn to trust his teammates. He’s averaged about 15 points per game, but the assists have gone up. He’s really become more coachable.”
Belcaster acknowledged that he had an “OK” junior year. He spent the summer in the gym working on his perimeter game.
Belcaster had perhaps his best game of the season against Milwaukee South, making four straight 3-pointers at one point.
“I’ve been an OK shooter,” Belcaster said, “but I want to be an excellent shooter.”
Belcaster wasn’t the only Mustang who had it going in their most recent game. Latik Murphy, a 6-foot-3 junior, scored 20 points in the first quarter.
“He played the best game I’ve seen him play. He really caught them by surprise,” Martinucci said. “Latik could always drive, but he’s improved his shooting.”
The Mustangs are young, but their biggest concern could be their lack of size. Alexis Landeros, a 6-foot-4 soccer player, is a stocky hard worker that a few colleges have asked about. Freshman guard Jesus Perez is another soccer player getting minutes.
After Landeros, though, the Mustangs don’t have a player taller than 6-3.
“If he gets in foul trouble, we’re very small,” Martinucci said.
Morton also is playing quite the demanding schedule. West Suburban Gold opponents Proviso East, Willowbrook and Hinsdale South are all near top 25 teams in the Chicago area. The Mustangs were at a tough Riverside-Brookfield tournament at Thanksgiving.
At Christmas they’re at the Proviso West Tournament, where they open with defending Class 2A champion Orr.
“We’re not going to duck anybody,” Martinucci said. “We never have.”
Belcaster isn’t backing down from anybody, and he’s hoping to get noticed for the next level. He’s talked to Division I schools Toledo, Western Illinois and Southern Illinois and Division II Lewis. He recently visited NAIA school Roosevelt and also mentioned Triton as a JUCO possibility.
“I’ll go anywhere that wants to take me and give me an opportunity,” Belcaster said. “I just want to play ball, have a good rest of my life and have fun.”