So much more than basketball
As the temperature continues to drop, the time for basketball slowly draws near. At Darby, the Varsity Boys Basketball Team is preparing for their season opener against the Marysville Monarchs. For the past three years the Panthers have played the Monarchs in their first game of the season, all of which ended within four points. However, last year was the first time in that three year span that Darby ended the night with a 63-60 win against Marysville. Their season opening win started off one of the best seasons in recent boys basketball history at Darby.
The boys ended the 2017-2018 year with a 12-11 overall record and a conference record of 7-5, earning them second place in the Cardinal Division, which was a big jump from their last place finish in the conference the previous year.
Coach Chris Maul heads the Darby Boys Basketball program as the Varsity Coach while Kris Camp and Jim Van Winkle are the Assistant Varsity Coaches. Jim Smalley coaches JV, and Andrew Kisner is in charge of the Freshmen team. Shane Borden is an assistant for both JV and Varsity, and Ben Stickney is a volunteer coach in the program.
Coach Maul has been coaching boys basketball at Darby for fifteen years and this will be his fifth season as the head boys coach, and he spoke very highly of his staff, stating that their unique personalities all help them work well together. One thing the coaches do have in common is that they are all teachers. Coach Maul shared that he felt this is very important because that means all of them are comfortable interacting with the players and parents.
Although interviewed separately, the coaches seemed to be on the same page for their goals this season. They all want their players to leave the program as better people, as well as play at a consistent level each game.
Last season the program graduated six seniors, who helped lead the Panthers to their great season, but the team is still full of talent. This year, the roster is filled by three seniors, five juniors, two sophomores, and a couple of others who will swing between JV and Varsity.
Senior shooting guard Kyle Miller has been the only guy in the class of 2019 to stay with the Boys Basketball Program from 7th through 12th grade, and has played basketball in general since 1st grade.
“It’s always been my favorite sport,” Miller responded when asked why he has continued to play, also adding that it is a great way to stay in shape and be around his friends.
One of the other seniors, Kai Burmeister, would have also stuck with the program for all five years, except during his junior year, Burmeister chose not to play basketball. However, he decided to make a big comeback for his senior season.
“I decided to come back because I really missed playing basketball and I missed the team and coaches,” Burmeister shared.
The coaching staff is excited about this year’s team, as well as the younger boys in the program who will be coming up in future years.
Coach Camp shared that he wants the team to, “Keep a level of relentlessness,” and “No matter up twenty, down twenty, no matter where we are in the game that we’re constantly competing every time.”
Coach Maul felt the same way, adding that although this group is not as tall, they have speed on their side, and are great competitors.
The winter season of sports is one of the longest, and the boys basketball team will have regular season games for about two and a half months. Because of this long span, there are many notable games that the team will play.
The first game of the season will be hosted by the Marysville Monarchs, on Thursday, November 29th. Both Coach Maul and Coach Camp said that this is the game they are most looking forward to this season.
“Game one,” Coach Maul did not hesitate when asked what game he was most excited for, and Coach Camp shared the same sentiments stating, “The first one, always. It’s always the first one.”
After that, the Panthers will not play until Friday, December 7th, against Delaware, which is their home opener.
With this year’s expansion of the Cardinal Division to now include the new Olentangy school, Olentangy Berlin, Darby will see this team for the first time on Friday, December 21st, at Berlin.
On Sunday, December 23rd, both the Darby Girls and Boys Varsity Basketball teams have a once in a lifetime opportunity to play a basketball game in the Quicken Loans Arena, which is the home court for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The boys will play in the Q, against Bishop Watterson at 2:00pm. After that, the team will get to stay and watch the Cavs take on the Chicago Bulls at 6:00pm. Immediately following the Cavs game, at 9:00pm, the Darby Girls Basketball team will have their chance to play Watterson on the Quicken Loans floor.
Five days later, on Friday, December 28th, the Panthers will faceoff against the Hilliard Davidson Wildcats, at Darby.
Two of the biggest games of the season will be when Darby takes on the defending Conference Champions, the Hilliard Bradley Jaguars. Last year, due to a snow delay, the two teams played each other twice within one week. Although Bradley won both, the two games were very competitive, and are expected to be so this year as well. The first game will be on Friday, January 11th, at home, while the second of the two will be on Friday, February 15th, at Bradley.
The thing that stands out about Boys Basketball Program at Darby is the community that Coach Maul and the other coaches have worked so hard to build.
A few years ago, when the program was not winning many games, Coach Maul decided that he wanted his players to get something out of their time playing basketball at Darby, that was not related to their record.
“It had to be more than just whether we won or lost for kids to have a good experience,” Maul explained.
He went on to credit Coach Smalley with coming to him and suggesting adding this emphasis on culture to the program. Which turned into a success seeing as most former players have said that their favorite part of playing basketball at Darby has been all of the things they did with the team that was not playing basketball.
Since then, the team participates in several service projects and character building activities during the season, as well as events that give parents the chance to get to know the teams and coaches.
On Tuesday, November 13th, the team hosted their annual Tip Off Dinner, where the families of the players on all of the Darby Boys Basketball teams, grades seven through twelve, pay for a plate of food from Carrabba’s Italian Grill. At this event, attendees and players enjoy their meal in the Darby Cafeteria, and then move to the PAC for a presentation introducing each of the teams and coaches. Then Coach Maul will talk about all of the other aspects of the program.
On Sunday, November 18th, the Varsity team and the coaching staff took the money they earned from the Tip Off Dinner, and put it to good use at the Ronald McDonald House. The program gave the money they earned to the chef, who went out and purchased all the food necessary to cook a meal for the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House. The Panthers then cooked and served the meal to around 200 families, with the help and instruction of the chef.
The team volunteered at this last year, and was something that many of the returners, including Miller, were looking forward to.
“It keeps the team connected and makes you realize you have so much more than what other people do so you don’t take as much for granted anymore,” Miller said when asked how the service projects the team has done has affected the program.
Burmeister enjoyed the time he spent volunteering at Ronald McDonald House.
“It was a really special opportunity to serve people in need. We later got a tour of the facilities and it was great to see all that Ronald McDonald House was doing for people with need,” Burmeister shared.
The next event that the team had was their annual Panther Madness, another get to know the team event that the basketball team puts on, except unlike the Tip Off Dinner, this night includes all Boys and Girls Basketball teams, from their youngest Travel Team up through Varsity.
Held on Tuesday, November 20th, admission for Panther Madness was a canned good item, that went to a food pantry, in order to help feed families in need. In the end, the program collected over 700 canned goods.
That night, each team was introduced and given a couple minutes to do a drill for the crowd. However, when it was time for Varsity, the lights dimmed down, leaving a single spotlight. Each player was introduced one by one, and given the opportunity to shoot whatever shot they wanted to, in front of a full gym. Most of the players went for the half court shot, but only junior Jacob Foster made it, and the stands erupted with cheers when he did. Burmeister, junior Nick Skelskey, and sophomore Andrew Patrick all showed off their athleticism when they dunked, Patrick’s off of an alley-oop from Miller. The Panthers then split into two teams and participated in a brief scrimmage, and then the night ended with a three-point contest against the Varsity Girls Basketball team. Miller, Patrick, and junior Parker Hambel shot for the boys, against seniors Annie Rauch and Sydney Wyngarden, and sophomore Sophia Iouse who represented the girls team. After a close competition, the Boys came out with a 31-30 victory.
This evening was a fun way for all the teams to get to show off their skills, as well as collect food for those in need, before the season is underway.
Even though the team has a full plate of events in the preseason, Coach Maul works hard to focus on lots of character building during the season. One way they do this is through a team mantra.
This year, Coach Smalley suggested that the program use “Relentless” as their motto.
“Whatever we’re doing, you are relentlessly all about that thing,” Coach Maul explained the meaning of the word as it relates to the program, and mentioned that everyone in the program received a bracelet that has their mantra on it, so the players and coaches will be reminded to stay relentless, whenever they see that on their wrist.
The other major character building the team does is their Wednesday breakout sessions. Every Wednesday, the team ends practice thirty minutes early, and they go to a classroom and work to build a team bond, as well as personal skills.
In sum, the Darby Boys Basketball Team are looking to have an even better season than last year. Throughout my interview with Coach Maul, I noticed that a smile never left his face when he was talking about his team, and it is evident how much he cares about this program. With his passion, a strong coaching staff, and devoted and hardworking players, the team is on its way up. Even if all the games do not end in their favor, the skills and lessons that are being taught in that program will take them far in life, and that is one of the biggest victories of all.