Clarkson/Leigh boys hoops 2018-19: Patriots with questions

November 23, 2018

Coach Jeff Bachman enters year two at Clarkson/Leigh with a mostly unknown group of boys basketball players.

After graduating four seniors, the Patriots opened practice on Nov. 12 with a roster young in both age and court experience. Gone are Anthony Bruhn, Haden Held, Jacob Gall, Garrett Schroeder and the more than 25 points per game those four averaged together each time out.

Experience remains with a strong complement of younger and older players, but outside of a few, most will be seeing their first significant varsity minutes in a starter’s role.

“We’ve really been hammering fundamentals – ball handling, shooting especially – trying to get ourselves ready to go and hopefully up to a varsity-caliber level,” Bachman said. “This is only my fourth year as a head coach total, and we have a lot of freshmen in our 19 players, we have a foreign exchange student who’s never played basketball before, we also have a good from El Salvador who has limited basketball experience and a senior who’s playing for the first time since eighth grade. We’re very inexperienced, to say the least.”

Clarkson/Leigh went 2-14 a year ago with a senior-driven lineup, was 3-20 in 2016-17 and 4-20 three years ago. Prior to that, the Patriots enjoyed successful seasons with win totals of 14, 13 and 15.

Last year’s group started 0-10 going 0 for November and December before finally capturing a victory after the turn of the calendar.

Bachman, who prefers a dribble drive offensive system will be forced to make some adjustments to his system due to a lack of seasoned ball handlers. On the bright side, however, he feels like the team will have enough length to play more zone and force teams to try and beat the Patriots over the top.

A gritty attitude is another element Clarkson/Leigh plans to use to its advantage.

“I think one of our biggest strengths is going to be our toughness and our competitiveness,” Bachman said. “They’re a group who works very hard and who’s always in the weight room. We’ve had a lot of success in football, and I think that all plays into it.

“They get after each other in practice, our practices are very competitive and they get after it whether it’s in sprints or a box out drill, they’re all working hard to prove themselves and earn minutes.”

Clarkslon/Leigh scored just 43.6 points per game last season, turned the ball over at a rate of almost 20 per game and shot just 37 percent.

Ten times the Patriots scored fewer than 40 points. Defensively, they gave up more than 70 four times and 60 or more 12 times.

So yes, perhaps it’s a group that will go through ups and downs, but overall the only real way to go is up.

“As far as number of wins to make this a successful year, I don’t know if that’s .500, doubling our wins or adding one more win,” Bachman said. “We talk about getting better every day.

“A lot of it has to do with not being intimidated by other teams. If we play a ranked team, show up and go to battle with them and give everything we’ve got.”

Based on what Bachman has seen in practice, he doesn’t believe his group will back down.

That will come in handy against a schedule that includes 10 opponents with a winning record from a year ago. All 10 of those won 12 games or more including two that had victory totals over 20.

“I definitely think we have a team that can do that, that can be competitive every single night. As the program grows, as our young guys mature, that will lead to more wins,” Bachman said, “maybe not this year, but certainly in the future.”

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