The 2017-18 season was not one for the GDS men’s varsity basketball team to remember. With a 9-14 overall record, an early Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAC) playoff exit and two bruising losses to a Sidwell team led by now Villanova-wing Saddiq Bey, the team hopes to quickly shift its focus to the coming year.
One upside of coming off of two seasons with no conference wins is that the team has gained new experience that they will try to transfer into their play on the court. Fall sports seasons are wrapping up and winter is coming.
Ray Milburn and Jodi Jackson will coach this year’s team. Last year was the senior farewell tour for James Vidano and Jacob Boles. Their replacements, seniors Daniel Koenig, Deniz Mete and Allan “Bubu” Ebert, will lead a younger squad studded with talent. Throughout the year, we should expect to see the depth and athletic abilities of the team at work.
Freshman Jay Rainey, sophomore Jordan Rayford, and junior Montez McNeil all bring something new and special to the court. Junior sharpshooter Austin Collins said, “[Rayford] has special athleticism and basketball IQ.” Much of the team will look for him to be a leader on the floor.
“The younger players are amazing, central parts of the team,” said junior guard Dennis Kongoli. “I think we’re a good shooting team overall.”
Collins, too, listed shooting as well as improved size as strengths. Size saw a considerable increase with the arrival of Victor Muresan (6’9”), the son of former Washington Bullets center and tallest-ever NBA player Gheorghe Muresan.
Outside of their full team practices, some of the guys have been working on their dunks. “Everyone’s excited,” said Collins. “We know we’re going to be a lot better this year. Everyone’s hyped.”
Reflecting on years past, Collins also pointed out “recently, the commitment has stepped up,” suggesting that the players have recognized a positive change in the program that is yet to be fulfilled. The players seem generally more excited to play hard and win games.
Although the team expects much improvement, this preseason has revealed some weaknesses that the players aim to address by the beginning of the regular season.
“We need to work on passing and efficiency while limiting turnovers,” said Kongoli.
Collins, though he recognized a boost in size, added, “our weakness is probably rebounding.”
In several fall league games, the team rolled out a noticeably slimmer rotation in order to focus on maintaining stamina and aggressiveness through all four quarters. Given that the Hoppers will have a deep and malleable lineup, adjustments within the rotation should be interesting to watch develop.
Many students are eager to fill the bleachers and cheer on what may be the best Hoppers team in years. The regular season, which features 15 home games, begins on November 13 against Takoma Academy and runs through the MAC Tournament, which will take place the last week of February. GDS will again host the Holiday Invitational and participate in the Good Counsel Tournament in December. Rivalry games versus Sidwell are scheduled for January 18 and February 12, home and away.
By Micah Hurewitz’20