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Boys Basketball Eyes Championship Run with Deeper Team Despite Covid Restrictions

Reaching the Nepsac Class A Semifinals, Andover Boys Basketball overcame a slow start to the 2019-2020 season to finish with a 13-11 record, one of Andover’s best performances in recent years. In the playoffs, Andover, the sixth-seed, upset defending champion Phillips Exeter Academy in the Quarterfinals but fell to second-seed Hotchkiss in the Semifinals. 

This year, the team hopes to improve upon last year’s success, though complications surrounding Covid-19 have made training difficult. According to Head Coach Terrell Ivory ’00, restrictions have forced the team to adapt, but with more contact allowed, players have been able to play more competitively.

“The biggest difference is that in order to still keep the kids safe, the kids are only allowed to compete in 15-minute intervals, so every 15 minutes they play, they take a break to get water, hand sanitizer. The rule is that if you’re in the vicinity of someone for longer than 15 minutes, the risk of transmitting the virus increases significantly, so basically we just take a break every 15 minutes and make sure the guys can rest for a little bit and do all the things they need to do, but because we can compete, I haven’t had to change much up,” said Ivory.

In addition to this new environment, the team has welcomed some new faces with the departure of several Seniors last spring, according to Co-Captain Sam Kumler ’21.

“Last year’s team was really good. We graduated a lot of very skilled players, obviously Dallion [Johnson ’20] and a lot of other key players. This year, though, we have some returners, who have had plenty of minutes, and some new guys to help us out. I’d say that this year, we’re a more balanced team and we probably have a deeper bench than previous years, which will help us. And already, a few weeks in, people have been playing well together with good team chemistry and we’re sharing the ball, so it’s looking pretty good,” said Kumler.

Ivory added, “We haven’t had tryouts yet, but right now there are maybe seven to ten guys that will potentially play on the team… We normally have around 12 to 15 kids, it depends on the year, but I never keep less than 12 or more than 15. We graduated a lot of Seniors last year, but this year we brought in three post-graduates, two eleventh graders, and one or two ninth graders that I think may be able to play on the team. That’s six or seven guys that have a good chance of making the team that are brand new, and maybe some guys who played on JV may be able to make the team this year.”

Despite these changes, the players are optimistic heading into the season and look forward to training and building stronger connections with each other, according to new Upper Ed Washington ’22 and returning player Caleb Blackburn-Johnson ’22.

Washington said, “[Covid-19] makes it uncertain, but I’m most excited to get to know the guys more because that’s the only thing I’m sure I’ll be able to do… I’m excited regardless of how many games we play or what the crowd will look like. I know if we do have games, it will be great in its own way, and if we don’t, I know our coach has been talking about us scrimmaging against each other in jerseys with referees, so I think it’ll be exciting.”

“I am excited to get to know my teammates better. I live in the same dorm as a few of the PGs, and the team as a whole gets along really well, both in practice and when we see each other outside of it,” added Blackburn-Johnson in an email to The Phillipian.

According to Ivory, while the possibility of an interscholastic season is still unknown, the goal remains the same: a championship run. 

“I want to win a championship. If we have a season, I fully expect us to compete for a championship … I think the team this year has more depth from top to bottom, and maybe even more talent than what we had last year,” said Ivory.

Ivory continued, “For the first time since I’ve been here, we have three post-graduates who could all potentially play in college, and we have 2 starters that are returning, Sam Kumler [’21] and Bube Momah [’22], the two captains of the team. Then we have some younger kids that could be really impactful to the team… so I think our talent top-to-bottom and depth is even better this year, and I think our team chemistry is really strong already from spending the first few weeks together, and I love that about the guys I’ve been able to work with up to this point.”