By: Joel Bryant
After long and tedious waiting, basketball season is finally upon us. Ever since last season was capped off with a difficult 66-60 loss to Kentrell Barkley and Northern Durham, Heritage students and fans have been anxious to see how well the underclassmen-led team would progress. While it’s safe to assume that those younger players have improved greatly over the last year, Heritage will still have to overcome the loss of seven seniors. If there’s any coach who’s up to the challenge, it’s DeMatha Catholic alum Tilden Brill. Coach Brill stepped up in a big way last season, leading the Huskies to a 15-9 regular season record in his first experience as a head coach.
Heritage is armed with two of the best players in the Cap-8 with sophomores Jarren McAllister and Jayden Gardner, both of whom started on Varsity as freshmen last season. Gardner, a 6’6 forward, was a dominant force last winter, breaking the school record for most points in a season. Jarren McAllister finished second to Jayden in points and rebounds last season and is currently the lone player in the Cap-8 with an offer from an ACC school (Virginia Tech). Widely known as the best young duo in the area, Jayden and Jarren look ready to take the team to an even higher level.
Outside of those sophomores, the Huskies will get their biggest boost from seniors Dante Williams and Sam Katowitz. Williams, who primarily plays shooting guard, can be one of the deadliest shooters in the conference this year, while Katowitz can seemingly play any position on the floor effectively. To Coach Brill, Sam is the X-Factor. “Sam is a guy who got off to a rocky start last season with a broken nose. I didn’t think he ever got into his groove,” said Brill ” He’s worked hard this preseason to get into great shape. With his ability to shoot from the perimeter and rebound, he’ll give us a tremendous boost on both ends of the floor.” Both of these guys have been a staple in the program for a long time and will be depended on this season as leaders.
This year’s team will also feature a slew of juniors. The class of 2017 includes guards Thayer Thomas, Colton Reed, and Bryon Thorpe. All three of these guys will help alleviate the loss of 5 senior guards from last year. 6 foot 5 forward Ian Hinkley played significant varsity minutes as a sophomore and may end up starting down low with Gardner in his junior year. Eric Swanson, a 6’7 forward, will be expected to come off the bench frequently this season. With his size and improving offensive skills, Swanson should be a nice contributor moving forward.
The Huskies will have an opportunity to take over the Cap-8. Both of the top two teams from last season, Millbrook and Broughton, lost many contributors to graduation. Millbrook will be without Chris Clemons, Robert Brown, and Andrew Evans while Broughton will have to fill the void left by Jerome Robinson, who is now at Boston College. The Wildcats and Caps will surely have some talent come up from JV, but neither may be as talented as Leesville Road. The Pride may be the biggest threat to the Huskies’ Cap-8 aspirations. Leesville features two solid juniors in Alex Hunter and Jonathan Mebane in addition to senior Ben Zemonek, one of the best players in the conference.
Biggest Keys to Success
- Jarren McAllister. At the very least, he’ll be one of the better players in the conference. At his best, no one is close to him.
- Jayden Gardner will make Heritage one of the most difficult teams around if he can get to the foul line often and convert with consistency.
- Sam Katowitz and Dante Williams must be leaders both on and off the court to get the team where it wants to be.
- Early success may depend on how quickly Thayer Thomas and Ian Hinkley can pick things up after being in football mode since the beginning of the school year.
Games to Watch
- December 11th vs. Leesville.
- January 8th vs. Millbrook.