The results have been from ideal for the Northwest High School boys’ basketball team, but to third-year coach Usman Jamil, the season is about process. It’s about establishing a culture and building a team that can attract, develop and maintain elite talent.
At a school with state championship-caliber football and track teams, that’s easier said than done. This season alone, the Jaguars have lost some players including Rasheed Gillis, who decided to focus on football, and Matt Watson, a multi-sport athlete who took his talents to track and field.
Those losses, combined with an injury to Jamar Wilson (knee) and the temporary absence of Xavier Bradley have turned a team that won 14 games — the second most in school history, according to Jamil — into a 4-18 squad.
But beyond the wins and losses, Jamil said he likes what he is seeing.
“It’s exciting to know that I got a group in here that’s really buying into process,” Jamil said.
That’s evident in practices and workouts, he said. During President’s Day, for example, nearly the entire team showed up to the optional workout.
“That tells you that they get it, they got that itch to get together,” Jamil said.
Senior guard Rodney Snider, a defensive back on Northwest’s state championship football team, bought into the process from the beginning.
“I decided to stick with it because I just love playing basketball,” Snider said.
Snider has been a consistent presence in the backcourt, averaging a team-high 15 points per game.
“He’s our only senior that’s really been part of the program from the beginning to end,” Jamil said. “Athletically, he’s very, very gifted. Strong player, great feet — that’s evident in football as well — he just has great instincts defensively and it really helps him.”
Bradley, a senior, was cut during tryouts because of disciplinary reasons but has since returned to provide the team with much needed backcourt help. Bradley said he had never been cut before.
“It was kind of shocking,” he said.
The senior used the time away from the team to fix his off-the-court issues, improving his grades and adjusting his attitude, he said. He didn’t think he had any chance of getting back on the team, and nor did his coaches, but midway through the season, Snider approached Jamil about allowing the talented guard to return.
“I told him, he deserved another chance,” Snider said.
Northwest defeated Walter Johnson 83-59 in his first game back, then followed that up with a 45-40 victory against Quince Orchard.
“Practice got way more competitive,” Snider said. “He just provided that spark. It changed everything really.”
Northwest has since lost eight straight, dropping close games to Sherwood (55-50) and Thomas S. Wootton (58-56), but heads into Friday’s home playoff game versus Quince Orchard (7-14) coming off some of its best practices of the season, Jamil said.
While the Jaguars are losing several of its key seniors, including Snider and Bradley, they have a solid group of returning players highlighted by Donnie Gaines (10.1 points) and Reagan Zamena (7.7).
“I’ll think we’ll continue to make strides as long as our players really follow up with the process,” Jamil said.