They Are Who We Thought They Were…

“Now if you want to crown them, then crown their ass! But they are who we thought they were!”

Dennis Green, Cardinals Head Coach 2006

With 43 points and 14 rebounds in the Gonzaga DC Championship Game Abington’s Senior Superstar, Eric Dixon (WeRone Hoops), officially put the PIAA on notice! Playing against a tough, deep and talented St. Frances Academy squad that is perennially ranked in the top 25 nationally, Dixon put on a performance for the ages. He scored in every way imaginable… jump hooks, fade aways, up and unders, turn around jumpers, face up 3s, etc. Eric was really digging deep into his bag… The DC crowd was in awe of his skill level. He was named tournament MVP despite losing to the Panthers in the title game. Dixon (Villanova commit) is now the all-time leading scorer in the history of Abington HS basketball with over 1700 points. He will likely end up in the 2400-2500 range when it’s all said and done.

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Eric Dixon, named MVP after scoring 43 points and pulling down 14 rebounds

Plymouth-Whitemarsh’s Senior All-American candidate, Naheem McLeod (PYO Hoops) kicked in the door for his senior season. Before a full house in a new gymnasium McLeod exploded for 41 points and 14 rebounds to lead P-W to close win over Norristown. The 7’3″ McLeod (Florida State commit) displayed a wide range of skills in this contest. He advanced the ball in transition, he pulled up and made jumpshots beyond 3 point range, there were a few no look passes and of course about a gazillion dunks! As a senior, McLeod clearly understands that this year’s team will only go as far as he can carry them. He appears more than ready to carry the load.

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McLeod in action against Norristown. (Photo Credit: Raw Sports)

Cheltenham’s Division 1 prospect, Zahree Harrison ’20, jump started the Cheltenham campaign with two outstanding performances. Harrison was named the MVP of the Tip Off Classic after filling the stat sheet with12 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 steals in the first contest and piling up 23 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 steals in the second game. He continues to garner interest from mid-major programs along the eastern seaboard.

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Harrison (center, holding MVP trophy) after title game

Constitution’s “Big 2” Keshaun “Champ” Hammonds and Jabari Merritt scored 21 and 17 points, respectively, as the Generals defeated Miguel Boc’s young and fiesty West Catholic Prep squad. Looking for extremely big things from Hammonds and Merritt this season. Both are being closely monitored by several mid-major programs.

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Keshaun “Champ” Hammonds, Division 1 combo guard prospect

La Salle’s Senior point guard Allen Powell is off to great start. He had 17 points and 7 assists in the first game of the season. The next game he put up 19 points and again dished 7 assists while earning the MVP in the Scholastic Play-by-Play Tip Off Classic! Led by Powell, La Salle is a real threat to make it to the Palestra this year. Several low to mid-major programs have been inquiring about this sharpshooting point guard.

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Allen Powell, La Salle Senior Point Guard

Neumann-Goretti sophomore Chris Evans, came out letting it fly! Lil’ Money connected on 6 out of 7 three point field goal attempts and earned an MVP award in the Scholastic Play-by-Play Tip Off Classic. His range and the green light Carl Arrigale and the Saints have given him will pose problems for opponents all season.

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Jeremy Treatman and Chris Evans, Neumann-Goretti sophomore

Yes… It’s early…

But, they are who we thought they were!

This week, Overbrook, led by the dynamic Division 1 PG prospect, Naim Walker ’21 and the prolific scorer Khalif Washington ’19, travels to O’Hara where they will face first year coach Ryan Nemetz’s squad. They will also host arch rival West Philadelphia on Thursday.

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Khalif Washington, center

Donta Scott (Maryland commit), Dahmir Bishop (Xavier commit), Chereef Knox (Undecided), Jamil Riggins (Binghamton commit) and Fatayn Wesley (undecided) lead nationally ranked Imhotep as they host Hammonds, Merritt and Constitution on Tuesday. On Saturday, Imhotep faces Delaware powerhouse Samford in the Diane Mosco Tournament at Archbishop Wood.

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Donta Scott, Imhotep Senior

Then on Sunday…

Roman Catholic attempts to hand Imhotep it’s first loss in Philly in three years. Scott, Bishop, Knox, Riggins and Wesley were freshmen the last time they tasted defeat in a local matchup. Seth Lundy (Penn State commit), Hakim Hart (St. Joseph’s commit), Louis Wild (undecided), Lynn Greer (ESPN top 100), Jalen Duren (ESPN top 5) and Justice Williams (ESPN top 100), more than any other local team in recent memory, possess the talent and athleticism to matchup with mighty Imhotep. The game could very well come down to a chess match between the Imhotep Head Coach and Roman’s Matt Griffin.

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Roman Catholic Star, Seth Lundy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

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.”

Philly Ballers… Why NOT Rider?

Over the past decade or so, the Rider University basketball program led by Tommy Dempsey and subsequently Kevin Baggett has been very successful in landing local prospects. Arguably, the Rider coaches have recruited the Greater Philadelphia region more effectively than any other staff. At minimum, the Broncs have outperformed expectations on the recruiting trail.

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Mike Ringgold, Roman Catholic HS and Rider University

On the face of it, this makes no sense… Rider shouldn’t be able to get so many good local players. After all, there are some things just assumed to be true…

For example, it is expected that the frequency of top student-athlete commitments increases with higher Cost of Attendance stipends and other cash considerations. In other words, more money spent results in more frequent and higher ranked recruit commitments. While Rider offers a modest stipend to basketball players, Rider is NOT a High Major program and does not even field a football team. Financially, Rider cannot compete with big boys.

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Novar Gadson, John Bartram HS and Rider University

It is also assumed that the frequency of top student-athlete athlete commitments increase with better living arrangements. Private apartment style housing with single bedrooms and private bathrooms are preferred to traditional dormitory-style housing. Rider does NOT offer such luxurious accommodations.

The frequency of top student-athlete commitments increases with participation in a High Major or Power Conference (ACC, Big 12, Big 10, SEC, PAC 12 and Big East). Rider plays in the decidedly mid-major MAAC Conference.

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Danny Stewart, Neumann-Goretti and Rider University

The frequency of elite student-athlete commitments increases with higher numbers of NBA players from the college program. Rider has had one player, Jason Thompson, go on to play in the NBA.

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Jason Thompson, Lenape HS, Rider University and the NBA

Lastly, the frequency of top student-athlete commitments are supposed to increase with higher numbers of NCAA tournament appearances. Dempsey and Baggett have ZERO (0) NCAA tournament appearances. Baggett did win the regular season MAAC title and play in the NIT last season.

Despite their inherent disadvantages, Rider basketball coaches have convinced more than 25 area players to commit to playing for the Broncs in recent years.

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Junior Fortunat, Roman Catholic HS and Rider University

How? Why? What gives?

Based on my personal observations of their recruiting strategy over the past decade, I’ve come to some conclusions about the way Rider goes about the business of  recruiting.

They aren’t intimidated by bigger programs from bigger conferences. Rather than assuming kids will go with the biggest name, Rider coaches view student-athletes as satisficers — as young people who choose the option that will satisfy their needs and wants without putting too much emphasis on making sure they access every possible benefit and potential amenity.

The Rider coaches know their program is “good enough” and they make sure the kids and their people understand that fact.

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Nurideen Lindsey, Overbrook HS, St. John’s University and Rider University

This is a significant point for Rider basketball coaches. More specifically, Rider coaches have strong and trusting relationships with multiple AAU/grassroots programs and most area high school coaches. This allows the Rider staff to enlist these stakeholders to ensure complete unfettered access is granted during the recruitment process. This is especially helpful if competing programs offer significantly higher COA stipends and other cash considerations, upgraded living accommodations, play in a high major conference or has a much higher number of NBA players. Rider coaches rely, almost exclusively, on relationship building.

Although the Broncs have considerably upgraded the basketball facilities, Rider coaches still sell their family environment and commitment to graduating kids. When competing against Big 5, Atlantic 10 and CAA programs, they identify targets early in the process (10th and 11th grade), establish relationships with key stakeholders (parents, mentors, AAU/grassroots coaches and HS coaches) and enlist them to facilitate the informational flow to the targeted student-athlete. Then the focus becomes gaining widespread understanding and acceptance of the fact that Rider Basketball will satisfy their desire to get a college education and prepare them to play professional basketball.

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Tyere Marshall, Martin L. King HS and Rider University

Additionally, Rider coaches have incorporated an understanding of “frustrated behavior” into their pitch to the family and stakeholders. The list of area student-athletes that returned to Philadelphia after experiencing failure and frustration at Power 5 schools is extensive. Jaylen Bond struggled at Texas (Big 12) before he returned home to rebuild his career at Temple. Devin Coleman barely played at Clemson (ACC) before becoming a key member of some strong Owl squads. Likewise, Dalton Pepper was a deep reserve at West Virginia (Big 12) before emerging as a star at Temple.

City-wide the list long. Tyrone Garland started at Virginia Tech (ACC) before returning home to La Salle. BJ Johnson spent 2 seasons at Syracuse (ACC) before piling up more than a 1,000 points in 2 years at La Salle. Tasheed Carr was at Iowa State (Big 12) before returning play point guard at Saint Joseph’s.

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Anthony Durham, Abington HS and Rider University

In most cases, the stakeholders around a student-athlete are from the same low-income environment. They likely have similar uncertainties and fears. Rider coaches explicitly acknowledge the pattern. They note that for decades a significant number of Philly kids have chosen to attend high major programs only to return to Rider, La Salle, Temple and other local schools.

Rider coaches establish among the families, stakeholders and the student-athlete a firm understanding of the precarious nature of signing with high major programs in distant cities. The coaches at those high major programs do not necessarily have to come back to the Philadelphia area for additional players. If they do not give the targeted student-athlete a fair opportunity, there is no natural consequence for the program. If the student-athlete leaves out of frustration, the coaching staff does not have to answer to members of the community in the player’s hometown. Indeed, if there is competition for playing time between the targeted player and a player from the area where the college is located, the local player will likely win out.

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Stevie Jordan, Conwell-Egan and Rider University

The question becomes: Why take chance on a program with an unproven record of developing and educating players from Philadelphia?

Located in the leafy, safe and low-stress suburban enclave of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, Rider provides a nearby alternative to the urban setting of some area colleges. Moreover, with over 100 victories and 3 post-season appearances in 6 years, Kevin Baggett has built a highly competitive basketball program.

Rider coaches work diligently to ensure that student-athletes and stakeholders visit campus regularly to become familiar with life in the Rider program. They make sure the message is conveyed that all the needs of Rider student-athletes are met while at Rider and beyond.

Philly kids have been listening closely… See current freshman, Ajiri Johnson (Bonner/WeRone Hoops) and 2019 commit Chris Ings (Neumann-Goretti/K-Low Elite)… I strongly suspect they will continue to do so…

 

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.