If one flashes back to March of 2020, the New Oxford boys’ basketball team was sitting pretty.
The Colonials, led by first-year head coach Nate Myers, had just routed York Suburban to reach the PIAA Class 5A quarterfinals for the first time in school history.
Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, cutting short what had been a magical run. Myers lost two of the program’s all-time leading scorers in Abdul Janneh and Brayden Long to graduation, while standout underclassman Thomas Haugh transferred to pursue other opportunities.
Fast forward a year and a half and Myers’ Colonials are rebuilding for the second consecutive year, though the New Oxford head honcho is excited about where his program is at.
“We’ve got a good group,” he said. “We’ve got 22 kids total between varsity and junior varsity, but we’re young. We’ve got 22 kids and 12 of them are sophomores, plus five seniors and five juniors.”
The Colonials will have to replace a good chunk of offensive production again in the 2021-22 season after the graduation of leading scorers Connor Jenkins and Braden Carver, both of whom averaged 14.5 points per game a year ago. Jenkins also ranked fourth in Adams County with 35 made 3-pointers, while Carver checked in at No. 6 with 30.
Much of that responsibility will fall into the hands of seniors Aden Strausbaugh, Adam Pascoe and Hunter Crabbs. Strausbaugh was the team’s third-leading scorer a season ago with 8.6 points per game, while Pascoe and Crabbs will bring some much needed leadership to the young group.
“We’re inexperienced at spots, but we think some of the young guys have a chance to be pretty good,” Myers said. “We were able to have open gyms and get to summer leagues and do things this offseason that were a night and day difference from the previous season with all the COVID restrictions, so that was big for us.”
One area Myers feels his team can excel in the coming season is on the defensive end, where he hopes stops and turnovers can lead to easy, transition baskets.
“We’re going to have to scratch and claw on the defensive end to win games,” he said. “That’s one thing we’ve talked about a lot in the offseason is working to get stops and creating good looks for ourselves at the other end.”
The more stable offseason and return of non-league play is something Myers feels will be an asset for his team, noting that the squad he has at the end of the year could look drastically different from the one at the start of the season.
“Our goal is to get better every time we’re together in the gym,” he said. “Whether that’s for a game, for practice, in the weight room, watching film, we want to get better every time we’re together. By the time the end of the year rolls around, we’re going to have much more experience, and that’s something that I think will definitely show up in our play.”
Another asset he hopes will return in the coming season is a home-court advantage that was considered one of the YAIAA’s best prior to the pandemic.
“We’re going to need that support for our young players,” he said. “We’ve got great support among the community and I hope that returns, because that was one of the strangest things last year, the home gymnasium being so quiet and then you go on the road and you have even less support.”
Despite rebuilding for a second consecutive year, Myers says the energy and excitement around the program hasn’t waned.
“It’s a different excitement, with that youth and with that energy,” he said. “We’re excited to watch them develop and one day these guys are going to be juniors and seniors and will have the opportunity to get back to where we were.”
Clay Sauertieg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org