Winter time is basketball season. A time that, just a few short months ago didn’t seem possible, is now in full swing. The Rockets have jumped out to a 7-2 record, with a 4-1 record in GCL play, wasting no time in giving the Rocket community something they can be excited about. This fast start to the season can be attributed to a combination of the preparation and hard work in practice, according to varsity head coach Tim Monahan.
“Players have been doing a really good job in practice with preparation and have been working really hard. We still have a lot of room to grow, which I think is great. I think having a handful of guys from last year’s team, and the experience carrying over, has helped win some of our close games,” Monahan said.
“I think we have had different guys contribute throughout this season so far. Seniors have done a really good job in practice and games. I think each of our guys on the team has had a big moment whether it was a shot or big rebound that has led to a win for us,” Monahan added.
Senior guard Clay Badylak agreed with Monahan. “Carson Seeman obviously is one of the biggest contributors to the team. Caden [Conrad] and Max [Minardi] have also been great captains. They hold you accountable and aren’t afraid to voice their opinions to coaches or teammates which is important,” Badylak said.
Although the season might be different than past seasons because of COVID, limited fans, mask-wearing off court, and social distancing – the team is still making memories.
Junior guard Isaiah Helphinstine had one particular memory that stood out to him as his favorite moment thus far: “One of my favorite memories this season is beating Turpin at Turpin. We were down most of the game and made a 4th Quarter comeback.”
Badylak, a three sport athlete, is making his return to the court after a year off, and is excited to be back playing again with all of his teammates. “My favorite memory this year so far is the relationships that I can make through playing basketball. That’s the biggest thing that I missed from not playing last year.”
Although many would consider being able to play this season a success in itself, it hasn’t come without work or preparation, and it’s taken many people behind the scenes to make these games happen and to keep everyone safe.
Badylak opened up about the challenges of playing in a COVID season,. “Not having a student section is probably the biggest difference this year. We have to create our own energy from the bench whereas we would usually be playing in front of a sold-out crowd on Friday nights,” Badylak said. “The guidelines haven’t really been much of a factor to our team, but other GCL teams are having to quarantine multiples times already this season. It just comes down to being mature, following COVID rules, and wanting to play games bad enough to give up some things.”
Much has been made about playing in the GCL. To many, the GCL is one of, if not, the toughest conferences to play in the entire state of Ohio. The Rockets being able to jump out to a fast start, in such a tough conference, speaks to the way the team has performed so far this season.
Monahan warned his team of some of the challenges they face playing in the GCL. “Looking at our schedule we really don’t have a ‘gimmie’ game. Every game on our schedule is going to be tough. I told our guys we have to be mentally and physically prepared every time we step on the court, in practice or games,” Monahan said.
In a season like no other there have understandably been some lows, but being able to play again has also brought many highs.
“The most difficult part of the season so far is the grind of practice every day and sometimes back to back days. Also because of COVID and other teams having to quarantine, we have to reschedule lots of games. So the back half of our schedule will be packed with games, which means we won’t have a lot of practice time to prepare for opponents. A big success this season so far is winning the close games or games where we don’t play great but still find a way to win. No matter how you got it a win is a win and we will take that anytime especially in the GCL,” Badylak said.
“The most difficult part of the season is having games canceled because of COVID. For example, our game against Fenwick was canceled 3 hours before tip so we had to throw all of that preparation out and focus on a new opponent not knowing if we will play again. And I will say that our preparation for games has been a success. We take pride in watching film figuring out who their shooters are how they run plays. Doing that has led to success for our team,” Helphinstine added.
Monahan summed up the challenges of the season, explaining why playing is so important, not only to him, but to all of the players as well. “[The] Most difficult [part] has been off the court with protocols, ticket info, game day guidelines. This year has been about 90% off the court work just so we can be able to come to practice or play a game, but to me it’s worth it. Just for these guys to have a season and play the game they love. It is worth every minute for them.”
“One of the best things about our team is that it is very balanced. We all contribute in a certain way,” Helphinstine said. Looking ahead, the Rockets are slated to take on Alter at 7:30 on January 24th at Alter.