Eric Dixon Previews Wissahickon’s Boys Basketball Season

By Eric Dixon 12/03/2018

The Wissahickon High School boys basketball team is  greater than the sum of its parts. “We don’t have any stars,” says boys head coach Kyle Wilson (below, left). They haven’t needed any to be considered a good team as they have for the most of the 15 years Wilson has been at the helm. “We play together for each other.”

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Head Coach Kyle Wilson and his son Chase Wilson

Observing a recent practice, one clearly see the patient way Wilson and his staff work to instill concepts and principles central to the Trojans’ selfless brand of basketball. Wilson and the Trojans posted a 20-7 mark last season. Wissahickon basketball is consistently competitive in the ever changing landscape that is high school basketball.

The student athletes are attentive and attempt to take in every word of instruction, giving only nods in response. The focused and respectful manner they receive coaching caught first year assistant, Andrew Trella, off guard.

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Wissahickon Trojans

“We have great kids,” Trella explained. “I didn’t expect them to just listen to me right away.” He went on to say how much he appreciates working with the kids and how their attitudes and respectfulness has made coaching them easy. While Trella is new to the staff, Michael Scheier, long time assistant and head of the JV team is well versed in coaching and brings a wealth of knowledge to the program.

“(Scheier) always brings a different perspective,” Wilson said while explaining how the decade and half together allowed them to build a symbiotic relationship based on trust and mutual respect. The two often ask each other hard questions and are comfortable being very candid in how they answer those questions.

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Michael Scheier, Assistant Coach

Some of those hard questions involve how to deal with parents and players who may have an issue with the staff over the decade and a half the pair have coached together. Both are sensitive to the parental perspective as both have experienced the ups and downs of watching their own sons come through the Wissahickon program as players, albeit from the coach’s seat. According to Scheier, “would I expect that from my kid?” was a question they would ask and answer with compassion as they continue to help other kids develop and grow under their stewardship.

Coach Wilson is enjoying an additional bit of assistance this fall as his son, Chase Wilson, has come back to the area and is helping him get the team ready for the season. The younger Wilson, is a former Wissahickon standout, was continuing his basketball career at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Florida before an injury prematurely ended his season. This unfortunate happenstance has become a boon for the Trojans as Chase Wilson has been able to provide additional guidance to a team that will have to help a number of players learn new and bigger roles this upcoming season. “We will ask them to trust in what we are doing and the framework we have in place,” Trella responded when asked how the staff would help the players adjust to new responsibilities and expectations.

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One such player is Carmen Ostroski, a talented 6-5 wing forward who was a role player last year. The athletic, National Honor Society student-athlete will be called on to be much more this season. In preparation for the transition he took advantage of Coach Wilson’s generosity with time in the gym this summer. He added that he “worked a lot on my shot creation and shooting.” Ostroski, a junior co-captain, also has bought into the coaching staff idea regarding the team concept adding that ““Execution is going to be huge for us. We have to get our execution down.”

Another key player for the Trojans this season will be senior c-captain Eddie Fortescue, the four year varsity member who was named second team All American Conference last year. Wissahickon had three all league performers in 2017-18, including Max Rapoport (1st team) and Zach Reiner (2nd-team), however the hardworking scoring guard is the only one of the trio who returned. He will lead his younger teammates and remind them to “be in the game and stay focused.”

Coach Wilson will is hoping he can also find a couple of “D.O.R.K(s)” to contribute. They are players who “Defend, are Offensively apathetic, Rebound and Know their role.” This isn’t surprising at all coming from the head coach of a team well-known for their cerebral style of basketball.

 

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Eric Dixon Previews West Catholic Prep’s Boys Basketball Season

By Eric Dixon 11/26/2018

“Take a breath. Relax. Now Reset.”

Coach Miguel Boc and his staff are engineering a cultural and organizational “reset” at West Catholic Prep that they believe will eventually bring the program the respect and accolades that come with winning. But for now its “One day at a time,” the first year head coach explains.

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Coach Miguel Boc leads a practice at West Catholic Prep

Watching them go about their work at a recent practice, you get the feeling that the fresh air the program has so desperately needed is finally flowing into the Burrs gym at 46th and Chestnut. Coach Boc can be seen going back and forth from one end of the court to the other as assistants, Kyle Finklea, Jonathan Michaels and Jermaine Washington oversee drills. As he steps in to add a detail or point you can see the energy and passion he brings as he exudes a seriousness that belies his years. At 28, he’s the youngest on the staff. Still, there is no mistaking who is in charge.

“It’s his program,” says Michaels, who at 51 is the sage of the group, as he speaks whimsically of how the other staff members are young enough to be his sons. “I was done, then Boc called me and asked me to give him whatever I could. Now I’m here all the time.” Michaels, like Boc, has a love of the game and the students. He says the youth of the the staff has “energized” him.

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Assistant Coach Jon Michels and Miguel Boc

For Coach Boc being the 3rd coach in four years at West Catholic Prep has it’s challenges, but far more rewards. He is grateful for his young charges who he believes were looking to embrace a new direction after the uncertainty of the past few years. He comes in as a disciple of one the best coaches in our area, Andre Noble of Imhotep Charter School. The most influential thing he takes away from his time with the perennial area powerhouse isn’t directly related to basketball.

“I want my kids to know I care. I want them to know I have their backs”, says Coach Boc. The biggest thing he saw in Noble was “his heart”. He wants to show his staff and players the same thing. He wants them to know that he genuinely cares for them as people and players. He wants to focus on their lives beyond high school and find a college situation for all his players. These are lofty aspirations, however Coach Boc believes he can reach them if he can master the next most important thing he took from Noble: “his attention to detail”.

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The recently refurbished floor in the West Catholic Prep Gymnasium

It’s no surprise, assistant Coach Michaels, a 30 year coaching veteran, shares this respect for the details. “The importance of the little things”, as he puts it, could be seen in how diligently Michaels explained the nuances of post defense and offense to junior Naadhir Wood, a talented 6-7 forward. Wood and his teammates were receptive to the repeated tutelage. Michaels explains that he can be stern with them and hold them accountable because they know “what I’m all about.” They know he cares for them. He regards them like one of his own children. “They’re mine.”

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D1 prospect Samier Kinsler ’19

Coach Boc will rely on Wood’s deft post touch and the leadership and perimeter scoring of Samier Kinsler (6-0) and Imere Harris (5-11), an experienced backcourt tandem, to keep the team afloat as they learn to navigate the deep, rough waters of the Philadelphia Catholic League. Although half of the 12-man roster are seniors, the group still has to learn and grow together as the season goes along. Four juniors and just two freshman round out the varsity squad that wants to “get to the Palestra and go to States” according to Boc’s coach on the floor (COF), Kinsler.

But first they will “Take a breath. Relax. Reset.”

 

Eric Dixon Previews Pennsbury’s Boys Basketball Season

By Eric Dixon 11/23/2018

The definition of winning for Coach Bill Coleman and his staff  has become fluid over the past 8 seasons at Pennsbury High School. The coach noted that although he has always appreciated the importance of his impact on the lives of his players, he realized some time ago that he needed to shift his focus from winning not just on the scoreboard to winning more in other areas of coaching as well.

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Coach Bill Coleman and Pennsbury Basketball Team

Player development and leadership training has worked its way to the forefront of the Bucks County program which is a perennial top 3 finisher in the Suburban One League (SOL) National Conference the last few years. Last year they finished 3rd with a 14-9 record before bowing to Bensalem in the first round of the District playoffs in disappointing fashion, coming up just 3 points shy against their inter-county rivals.

This flexibility in the understanding of winning is shared by long time assistant coach Gary Jones, also entering his ninth season at the school. “We want to win in every situation. We want to win on lose balls, we want to win” in how the team prepares, said Coach Jones. They also want to win in how they develop kids “Development is 100%” added the former LaSalle Explorer.

“We will not be outworked,” declared Coach Coleman, who is praised by his staff for his work ethic and commitment. “Outwork Everyone” is one of the coach’s primary tenets. As a staff, which also includes Pennsbury alum Adam Doan, who guides the JV team, they hope that they can impart to the team how important it is to work hard to succeed. That message seems to have reached senior team leader Gary Francis, a do-it-all 6-4 forward.

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Gary Francis

“I am taking things way more seriously, watching more film, talking to Coach more,” said Francis, adding that he’s been working hard to improve his ball-handling and shot creation as he prepares to take on a “way bigger role” for the Falcons. The well-built wing has lofty team goals that include bringing a National Conference title to the program in his final varsity campaign. The conference has been realigned, moving last year’s champion Abington out and William Tenent in.

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Collin Connor

In addition to Francis, Coleman will also lean on juniors Collin Connor and Kyrie Miller to provide leadership to his young team, which boasts just 2 seniors. Along with Connor, the staff is hoping 6-2 junior guard Cooper Arnold can provide floor spacing and create lanes for Francis and the mercurial Miller, a 5-10 speedster. Junior forward Charlie Nuschke, a lacrosse player, will be called upon to control the paint for the squad.

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Kyrie Miller

Luke Dellagratte, a heady 6-4 forward, is the only other senior on the team and will be looked upon to provide important rebounding and defense on a team that is challenged with an overall lack of size. However, what they lack in size they will make up for in effort and intensity, according to Coleman. “We will be defensive and disruptive,” he said. The team will also be “tough” says Coach Jones. “Resiliency is very important. It’s a common trait among great layers at all levels of the sport.”

Eric Dixon Previews Bishop McDevitt’s Boy’s Basketball

By Eric Dixon 11/12/2018

“Trust!”

It’s the foundation of many good things and is an extremely important part of any successful team.

McDevitt Boys basketball discovered its value last season when it posted a 15-13 W-L record, including 6-8 in the very tough PCL. The overall win total marked an 11 game improvement from the previous season.

What was the key to the team that some considered “ the corniest team in the league,” according to junior guard Amir Harris, garnering a top 3 seed in District 12-3A playoffs? The players and staff echo each others sentiments in giving credit to their ability to come together under first year coach, Will Chavis, and learning to bond and trust each other on and off the court.

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Will Chavis, Bishop McDevitt, Boy’s Basketball Head Coach

“We bonded” said sophomore forward Jamil Manigo. “We went places together, went out to eat together.” Manigo also said that the team was lacking that kind of camaraderie when he first came to the Wyncote, PA campus. The team engaged in several team building activities ranging from going bowling and to social outings to attending college basketball games at Arcadia and Villanova as a unit.

Harris, also cited “trusting one another” and developing an attitude where they would pick each other up if they were having a bad game instead of bickering as Manigo mentioned they had done in years past. This building of trust and fraternity within the team was one of the few expectations Coach Chavis brought into last season. “Last year we didn’t really have any expectations, per se” said Chavis, who is entering his second season at McDevitt. “Just tried to come in and establish rules, that we would play fundamentally sound and that we would try to play for each other and make the right play every time. That’s all we were trying to establish last year.”

A commitment to working hard became a common theme on the team. “Work,” was the response of Robert Smith, the team scoring leader at 15.6 ppg, when asked how the team was able to manufacture the turn around. According to the third team All-Catholic guard, “Working on what we did wrong and how to improve on it” was the focus of the team last year and also coming into the upcoming season. Coach Chavis mirrored those thoughts.
 “The work ethic of the kids,” contributed to the Lancers success said Chavis. “They started to buy in to what we were trying to teach and they started to learn how to become basketball players.”

Along with working hard and playing together together, Chavis and his assistants, Rashim Sims and Dan Greenberg, also wanted to instill a culture of accountability and constant development. “I just kept telling them to get the most out of their ability.” This message has resonated with Smith, who aspires to be a first team performer this season, who said “I work hard everyday on my craft to get the best (out of my ability).”

Another key factor in the team’s play was the willingness of the players to commit themselves to the defensive end and understanding and executing their roles. Smith’s backcourt mate, Harris, mentioned the team’s defense as a key factor in helping the team win. “We started to win games and make them tougher for everyone.”

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Playoff game against, eventual State Champion, Neumann-Goretti last March

Chavis expects contributions from several players beyond Smith and Harris this season. They include sharpshooter Seneca Willoughby and big men Cameron Gardner (6-5) and Gabe Harris (6-6). Gardner has taken to Coach Chavis’ “C.H.A.M.P.S.” an acronym, which stands for Character, Humility, Accountability, Mental Toughness, Progression and Service. “When we listen to coach, we do (well),” said Gardner, who worked this summer to improve his mid range shooting and quickness this summer. Gabe Harris, whose father played professionally overseas, will look to contribute to the team as a tough defender, rebounder and scorer. Other possible contributors include guard Shamir Mosely (6-1) and wing/forward Quin Guilyard (6-4).

Regular season games commence in early December.