Team tries to overcome inexperience


Addy Porter

Now in his sophomore year, starting guard Grant Johnson is a perfect example of the youth leading the boys basketball team. He is pictured here shooting free throws in a 40-26 loss at Heights Dec. 4. Johnson said the team's chemistry may make up for its inexperience.

Kaegan Cowan, Web Editor

While many athletic teams’ strength is experience, this season’s boys basketball team is not marked by its seniority. Indeed, three seniors start for the Crusaders including Jack Barrier, Jacob Schmitz and Scott Valentas, but coach John Cherne said one of the team’s most striking features is its youth.

“I think we’re super young,” Cherne said. “We have Scott and Jacob, but if you really look into it, there’s three or four guys who have considerable varsity experience and the rest are young. They’re getting along, and they genuinely like each other. I think they enjoy playing for each other, but what it’s going to come down to is, how fast can the young ones learn?”

Sophomore guard Grant Johnson characterized the team as a “brotherhood,” but also emphasized the variety in the players’ skill sets.

“This year, we have star football, cross country, soccer and baseball players,” Johnson said. “Only a couple would call basketball their primary sport. Everyone has these skill sets, and we’re trying to put them together as a team and trying to win, using everyone’s individual skill sets.”

Cherne described his coaching style as “evolving,” and explained how he often has to change his coaching style to adapt to different groups of players.

“I genuinely believe I’m a lifetime learner, and [learning] never stops,” Cherne said. “I know more now than I did when I started coaching. The game [of basketball] has changed. I don’t think there’s a system I teach, and right now, I’m struggling because we’re so young. This year, I’m doing more scrimmaging because of their inexperience. Changing my practices to involve more scrimmaging is difficult to do because coaches usually teach how they played or like whoever taught them.”

As for results on the court, Barrier said he thinks the team can be successful if it stays focused.

“If we work hard and stay focused through the season, I think potentially the team could go to state and win state,” Barrier said. “Winning state is our goal this year, and nothing else.”

As of Dec. 13, the team was 2-2 with an overtime victory vs. Northwest and a 20-point win vs. North. The team has two remaining games this month, Dec. 14 vs. Southeast and Dec. 18 at East.

Johnson acknowledged that the team is not projected to be very successful by outside sources, but he believes the team’s chemistry will be beneficial in order to return to the state tournament, something the team has not done since 2015.

“We’re not expected to do well, we’re not even ranked in the Top 10 in 5A,” Johnson said. “But, after practicing—at the start of the season, I wasn’t sure we’d be very good—after we’ve been scrimmaging and working together, we really have good chemistry.”

A few players who potentially could have competed for varsity spots did not try out, but Barrier said he did not think the team would be adversely affected.

“I don’t think [losing players] hurts the team at all, because the guys who are playing right now are really committed,” Barrier said. “I think if you quit after the last season, you wouldn’t be fully committed, so I think that really plays out well for our team and shows how committed we are to the process.”

Cherne said one of the major points he tries to get across to all the players is that they must do their job; since not everyone is capable of being a leading scorer, some players are going to be relied upon for other elements like rebounds and defensive stops. He also covered his individual job as the coach.

“My job as a coach is to move the ‘middle,’” Cherne said. “It’s to get the average kid to overachieve. The most important person is not the leader. The most important person is the first follower.”