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With a New Look, Eagles Are Thinking Big

The boys' basketball team has four new starters this season, but expects to move forward, not back.

There is a different feeling around the West Deptford High School boys’ basketball program these days. Some of it comes from the fact that therehas been a major roster turnover from a year ago, but most of it comes from all of the winning that has been going on over the past 12 months. Last year, the team surprised many by reaching the playoffs after winning a combined eight games the previous two seasons. The program followed with success during the fall and summer and now is looking to make a major statement as the regular season is set to tip-off today. “I think (the new attitude) has kind of been a culmination of winning last year, making the playoffs and then going 7-3 in summer league, 3-3 at team camp and winning the fall league,” said head coach Don Clark. “There is a different attitude where they expect to have success and a lot of it is that we have basketball players.” What Clark is referring to when he says “basketball players” is the year-round commitment to the sport many of his current players have. Last year’s core of Tom Jakubowski, Tim Krott, Tim Fair and Kyle Redrow were a pleasure for Clark to coach and helped elevate the program, but each of the players achieved greater success in another sport. This year, things are a bit different. “About 90 percent of the kids playing now played summer league,” Clark said. “We used to get 25 percent of the kids out for that because they would have other commitments. Consequently, you are not going to get much better because you don’t play enough. It’s not their fault, it is just the way it was. This was a group of kids who really are basketball players.” The Eagles will be led by junior Justin Hansen, who enters his third year as the starting point guard. Hansen will see his role increase this season as he will not only be counted on for increased scoring, but also leadership. “His first year, he was willing to do anything,” Clark said. “He understood he was a freshman and he eased into it. Last year, he was surrounded by a senior class so it wasn’t really his team. He now understands that this is his group and has taken on a leadership role. He is our team captain and will probably pick up his scoring role. I think the thing that will help him is the players around him because we are a lot better, basketball-wise.” West Deptford also has size inside with seniors T.J. Harcum and Ian Mcqueen, who go 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-4, respectively. McQueen missed all of last season with an ankle injury, as did junior Brian Kuda, who is 6-foot-2. Clark spoke glowingly of his junior class, which includes Isaiah Wothy, Tyler Leonhertd and Sean Langan. Sophomore Preston Harcum and freshmen Marques Owens (Gerald’s brother) and Luke McKeown are also expected to see time on the floor. Add in Mike Gardner, who transferred from a school in Chicago, and it is easy to see why Clark has a cautious optimism entering the season.“If we can somehow pick up quickly—and it will be tough with Haddonfield and Woodbury on the schedule before Christmas—we could be a team that really could develop,” Clark said. “In practices we will have a 5-on-5 battles where it will be a war. It’s not like we will have five good players and then the next five can’t dribble the basketball. They are going to get better because they will be going against good players every day.”Clark is also excited about the team’s depth and the different looks the Eagles can thrown at teams.  “We have options,” he said. “We can go big; we can go small. Last year, teams would go zone on us and we didn’t have the outside shooting to make them pay, but now we do. We have the makings of something that could be good. I see us competing night in and night out and maybe we will surprise somebody.”

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