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MORE THAN A GREAT SEASON

March 17, 2014
Richmond High School



It has been several days since Richmond saw its basketball season come to an end at the hands of Indianapolis Tech.  I chose to wait a few days before reflecting on this past season because I wanted to absorb what I thought was more than a great season. 

I had the pleasure to get to know all of these young men during the numerous interviews we did throughout the year and I can’t remember a better group of people, not just basketball players. 

Each player had something very distinct about them that made them standout.   It may have their big smile, their laugh, work ethic or humbleness.  Not one time did a player turn us down for an interview even after a tough loss.  In fact, all of them went out of their way to make sure they granted our request, even if it meant staying after practice.  Not one time did a player have an unwelcoming attitude, even after a tough loss or a game that didn’t go as they expected. 

Several players will return next season including Joel Okafor, Davious Webster, Isaiah Rader and Auntonio Brown.  All four possess great qualities in which Joe Luce will be able to build upon.  Those graduating will be hard to replace including Kendal Baker, Nick Thomas, Abdul Shabazz, Mike Tillman, Devin Thomas and Zach Lett. 

To give you a better understanding of what I saw in each player, here is a quick description:

 

Davious Webster: Great attitude, always willing to talk about the team and how he could help win games.  Never put the spotlight on himself.  He was willing to sacrifice his offensive game to guard the best player on the opposing team.  I am sure there were many talking in Davious’ ear about scoring more but he was all about the teamand winning.

 

Joel Okafor: Hard worker…all the time!  Another player who put all the focus on the team not himself.  Loved to keep things loose but also knew when it was time to get down to business.  Great smile and excellent attitude even when things went a little rocky. A lot was expected of Joel this season but like Davious, he was willing to sacrifice his numbers for the betterment of the team.

 

Isaiah Rader: A quiet leader and a “sparkplug” full of energy.  He is much stronger than he looks and has a great attitude because he accepted his role.  No player was more important than Isaiah coming off the bench.

 

Auntonio Brown: Another excellent player off the bench with a high motor.  Brown was undersized but never let that stop him from mixing it up with the big fellas.  He is the kind of teammate you love to have around because he will make you better.  Great attitude and a bigger smile!  We need to get him to 6-6 next season!

 

Kendal Baker: Became known as the “X-Factor” because of his ability to hit the clutch shot, especially late in the game.  When Kendal came into the game, opposing teams knew they better find him or they would pay.  Kendal never took credit for his performances because it was all about the team! Kendal is a rare player because he didn’t let coming off the bench hurt the team…he accepted his role!

 

Nick Thomas:  This Senior was in a tough spot with a guard-heavy team.  Despite the obstacles, Nick played his role extremely well.  Like Rader, Nick provided a spark off the bench and played great defense. Too bad he wasn’t a junior.

 

Abdul Shabazz: One of my favorite players of all time.  Abdul did whatever the coaching staff asked him to do.  He was perhaps the glue that kept this team together.  He was a quiet leader, led by example and played hard all the time.  Undersized as a post player and not a true power forward, Abdul found a way into the starting line-up with his work ethic and attitude.  This is one player Joe will really miss.

 

Michael Tillman:  From where Mike came as a freshman to where he ended his high school career is a true example of what hard work will do. Mike could have easily quit playing basketball when things weren’t looking good, but stayed with it and now will play college basketball.  Mike has a great attitude, a great smile and I will personally miss seeing him in a Richmond uniform.

 

Devin Thomas:  Devin provided the Devils with much needed size and at times looked like he could dominate a game inside.  Devin is a very quiet player who will help someone at the next level if he chooses to go that direction.  One of the more improved players from the beginning of the season.

Zack Lett:  Zach, by far, was the most improved player on this team.  Coming from Seton, Zach has a lot of pressure on him, both on and off the court.  I am sure early on not many gave him a chance to be a solid post player but he proved all the doubters wrong.  Zach improved his offensive game to the point he was able to use both hands around the basket.  He became a solid rebounder and defender and most importantly, he was able to keep his game under control.  His size and attitude will be missed next season.  

This was my 24th season covering Richmond basketball and despite the ending, it was one of the best.  I will miss those seniors who gave so much this season to put Richmond basketball back on the map and make my job fun again!


 


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