By Grant Gierhahn ‘20
Often overlooked, but paramount nonetheless.
Certainly for Br. Rice and most high schools nationwide, sophomore basketball serves as a critical stage for player development: not only preparing players for the varsity grind, but also amplifying their overall maturation.
Led by first-year Head Coach Don Duffy ‘83, the sophomore Crusaders have battled to a solid 13-5 (.722 winning percentage) overall record, winning five out of eight contests in the ferocious Chicago Catholic League (CCL).
Along the way, the Crusaders earned first place in both the Fenwick Thanksgiving Tournament and the Shepherd Christmas Tournament, giving themselves a valuable morale boost heading into the reliably cutthroat CCL portion of their schedule.
Thus, the sophomore Crusaders are not taking their foot off the gas.
“The rest of the season is going to be challenging, as all of our remaining games are against the best teams in the CCL – St. Ignatius, DePaul Prep, Loyola. We’ve suffered a few losses of late, but I believe our guys are up to the challenge,” Coach Duffy said.
Anchored offensively by freshman Ahmad Henderson and sophomore Will Flanigan, the Crusaders, however, pride themselves on team defense and have demonstrated visible improvement over the course of the season.
“I think one of our staples as a team, and something we spend a lot of time practicing, is we play pretty good team defense. We’re not very big, so we really have to be cognizant of boxing out. It’s a work in progress. As with all younger teams, shot selection can sometimes be better, but there has been definite improvement as the year has progressed,” said Coach Duffy.
As for Duffy himself, his first season at the sophomore team helm has been a “whirlwind experience.” Nevertheless, he has been fortunate enough to exploit the select basketball intellectuals that call Br. Rice home, enkindling a much easier head coaching transition.
“Coach McBride is our assistant coach and he has been very helpful in making the transition. We are also fortunate to have Rice grad Tim Papiernik helping out this year. He was a manager for the University of Notre Dame basketball team. Coach Frasor, Coach Klutharch, Coach Vogt and Coach Richardson have been invaluable in sharing their experiences, as well. I bother them regularly,” Duffy said.
Above all, though, “I’m fortunate to have kids who really work hard and want to get better,” said Coach Duffy.
With that, anything is possible. A forceful finish to grueling CCL play is firmly within reach.
Finish strong, sophomores!