“Next man up” is a popular sports adage, meaning that every player must be ready to perform when it’s his time to take the court.
This is the scenario that the Trinity Classical Academy boy’s basketball program finds itself in after losing standout seniors Noah Peterson, Ian Caddow, and Michael Mateo.
In their stead steps Caden Kulp, Ryan DeMarois, and Koby Schafer, all fresh off the football field. The trio knows finding the finesse basketball requires after only a few weeks removed from the aggression of football is a tough transition, but these seniors believe they are up to the task.
“You have to get in shape again because football is very different from basketball stamina-wise,” Schafer said. “You have to get your shot back after not playing basketball for a couple of months.”
Although first-year head coach Tod Bernard will look to Kulp, DeMarois, and Schafer for leadership, donning them as the new “big three” is not a statement he desires to make.
Bernard’s coaching philosophy stresses that every player on the team must make contributions on the court and, as such, he gives them “the green light to score.”
“Each one of these guys has to have a scorer’s mentality. That’s what’s going to make us tough as a team down the stretch,” Bernard said. “When you have a few guys who are dominant and the rest are role players, you get stopped pretty quickly.”
Giving each player the go-ahead to shoot goes hand in hand with Bernard’s belief that getting more shots up yields more opportunities to score.
While Bernard envisions the Knights as an outside shooting team, he is content with them scoring at the basket as they find their basketball rhythm.
DeMarois, for one, is more than happy with getting points in the paint.
“We’re probably faster than every team we’re going to face,” DeMarois said. “And we’re football players so we can finish through contact.”
This combination of speed and strength also benefits Trinity’s defense, as it gives them the ability to play man or zone defense depending on the situation.
Securing steals and scoring off the fast break is an “added bonus” for Bernard, whose defensive mindset is to put constant pressure on the opposition’s offense.
Trinity has struggled at the beginning of the season (2-8) due to a tough schedule and playing a majority of their games without Kulp, who is recovering from an ankle injury sustained during the football season. The early adversity, however, will not deter the Knights.
“We understand that we are playing tougher opponents and aren’t going to be discouraged by that,” Kulp said. “We’re learning from these experiences and will keep working on the things we can improve to get ready for the rest of the season.”
After taking over a Trinity team that last year made its way to the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 4A playoffs, Bernard feels humbled by the slow start, but reminds himself and his players that this is a new season that requires them to take on new roles.
So far, he is proud of what the Knights have been able to accomplish.
“This is a team that’s going to surprise a lot of people,” Bernard said, “I’m seeing glimpses of really good things, and I’m excited.”