The Saxony boys’ basketball team is coming off one of its best years in the history of the program. The Crusaders went 26-4 in 2016 and captured their first district title since 2011, before losing to Whitfield in the Class 2 Quarterfinal.
But this is a new year and a new team, but that doesn’t mean the expectations change.
“The theme is the same as every year, to win every time we show up,” Coach Kevin Williams said. “That is the expectation every practice, every game and every time we step out here. I think we have another good shot to do that again this year.”
The Crusaders will have to replace a senior class that had two primary scorers in William Rogers and Cory Williams. The Crusaders will counter those losses with a 10-member senior class that Williams said has made his job hard.
“It is so competitive in every spot,” Williams said. “I told the team that I’m struggling to find a starting five because nine or 10 of these guys can be starters depending on how we want to play. It’s a luxury that not many teams have. We have go small or go big like we always do.”
Saxony has three returning players that played significant minutes on the floor in 2016. Jalen Williams, Nathan Ruark, and big man Trae Robinson have given Williams the ability to add more to their schemes, rather than starting from square one.
“Just watching them in practice, they are a lot like William and Cory were last year,” Williams said.
“They are comfortable in the system and know what they are looking for. We were able to start practice and I didn’t have to show them every little thing. We were able to refine it instead of having to learn it all in the first place. It’s a luxury because it’s the third year for some of those guys and they understand what I want.”
There is one newcomer to the team that Williams is gushing over. Austin Jarvis, a senior and 1,000 point scorer, transferred from Bismarck and Williams said he is athletic enough to be a good scorer for the Crusaders this season.
“We can finish with both hands and can above the rim,” Williams said. “When I say that I mean he can get up quickly and tip the ball back into the basket, where most kids can’t do that. He allows us to run some lob plays to where if you’re sleeping the crowd will wake you up. We are working on his three. I can’t wait for people to see what he can do.”
Robinson is also coming off a tumultuous offseason in which he suffered a heart attack while in Kansas City. The 6-foot-8 senior has been cleared to play this season and has had to work his way back into playing shape.
“Last summer, he was down to 290 pounds and was running like an NFL tight end. I was beginning to think that this was the player we needed him to be and then he goes up to Kansas City and has a heart attack,” Williams said. “He gained weight and was depressed and wasn’t able to do anything for two months. So he gained weight and I told him he had 20 days to lose 20 pounds. He has worked hard in the weight room and got his conditioning and game is coming back.”
Williams believes his team can get back to the same spot as last season, but he it’s ready to make it a guarantee.
“I think we are the best team in our district,” Williams said.
“But I’m not one of those guys that goes down the schedules and puts ‘W’ or ‘L’ because you just never know. Our schedule is tougher but I think we are able to compete with all the teams on our schedule.”