Basketball might be a winter sport, but summertime, third-year Clarksburg High School boys’ basketball coach G.J. Kissal said, is when basketball players are made.
“That’s when they have the chance to take the next step and really develop themselves,” Kissal said. “I always cherish this time of year, it’s the beginning of the process. Nov. 15 is not the start of the 2014-15 season, it’s when we have summer league tryouts the week after Memorial Day Weekend.”
The Coyotes (20-5 record in 2013-14) will have a lot of questions to answer early in the 2014-15 season after losing five of their top six scorers — 48.4 points per game — but they have gotten off to a 6-2 start in the St. Andrew’s Episcopal School summer league. And though summertime results aren’t always the best gauge of a team’s future, a promising foundation has certainly been set for one of last year’s Class 4A West Region finalists.
“I think a lot of teams are going to underestimate us because we lost a lot of starters and that’s fine, I think we will be good anyway,” 6-foot-6 rising senior forward Austin Duffy said. “Everyone on our team is committed. I go to the gym by myself to work out and I see other guys there. Other guys are getting shots up at their house if they have hoops up. A lot of guys have showed a lot of improvement even since the summer started.”
Aside from providing athletes time to hone their own individual skills, summer league, Kissal said, is a time when team identities are formulated. While the goal is to build an overall program and not just individual teams every season, each group develops its own dynamic, Kissal said.
While Kissal admitted this year’s team might boast the same overall athleticism that propelled the Coyotes a year ago, he said they move the ball around the floor better thanks to his players’ experience playing together for many years in youth leagues.
“Actually a lot of us have a lot of chemistry through the past time we’ve played together so we already established that so I’m not too surprised with how well we’ve done this summer,” returning 6-foot-6 forward Nelson Jones said.
While Clarksburg graduated the majority of its starting lineup, the Coyotes were helped along by a deep bench last winter, Duffy said, so there are still a lot of talented players coming back. These players’ experience in big-game situations, Kissal added, will be valuable down the road.
“Every time you experience something for the first time, there’s a sense of uncertainty,” Kissal said. “When you see it again and again, then it’s not going to be this shocking experience to them. They know what they’re getting themselves into and that’s huge.”
Jones and Duffy provide good size in the paint and last year’s second leading scorer, rising junior Andrew Kostecka, provides strength around the perimeter and in the backcourt. He has paced Clarksburg this summer with 16.2 points per game and is currently second in the league in scoring. Kissal also emphasized that every player on the floor is capable of stepping into any position when needed.
While the Coyotes will certainly need to find ways to support Kostecka’s scoring, Clarksburg is a defense-first team. If the Coyotes can keep opponents’ numbers to a minimum, they will give themselves an opportunity to win every game.
“This is an important group,” Kissal said. “I think people are like, ‘Clarksburg’s done, they graduated all these guys.’ And we did, we graduated a lot. It’s on the next generation to prove this is a good program [and that we weren’t] just a good team.”