After losing it’s stop two scorers to graduation and getting upset on its own court in last year’s Group 3 playoffs, Coach Rich Bolds’ Chargers are eager to play a tenacious brand of basketball in 2019.
How do you replace a pair of players that each averaged more than 17 points per game, two seasoned seniors who were the go-to guys at Timber Creek Regional High School?
Chargers head coach Richard Bolds kept pointing out toward the floor, naming one player after another. Justin Bladen. Demetrius Paynter. Sean Miller. Eric Benjamin. Austin Green. Ahmad Roberts. Shawn Thompson.
He just kept rattling off names, as if the roster list was endless.
“We have a nice mix,” Bolds said of his new, deep rotation for the 2018–2019 boys basketball season. “I think it’s five juniors, four sophomores, one freshman and three seniors.”
Replacing Maurice Murray and Isaiah Sanders might not happen overnight, but Bolds isn’t necessarily looking for a couple of scorers anyway. He wants to win with an army of aggressive kids eager to play tough defense every night.
Sounds exactly like a man who spent his collegiate career as a walk-on at Temple University under college basketball legend John Chaney.
“As Coach Chaney would say, ‘you don’t play defense, you don’t play,’” Bolds said.
It’s a philosophy that he adheres to, too, one that kept Bladen, maybe the team’s top shooter this season, on the JV squad as a sophomore last season. But if his current crop of kids ready to make a name for themselves buys into both the unselfishness of playing in a deep rotation and committing themselves to the defensive end on every possession, the Chargers could be a fun team to watch in 2019.
They could make everyone forget the end of last season, when the top-seeded Chargers were upset on their home court in the South Jersey Group 3 semifinals against Delsea, leaving a “terrible taste” in Bolds’ mouth.
“I’m focused on the defensive end because that was our Achilles heel last year,” he said. “Delsea came in and they were small like us, but when they walked through the door, I told my guys, ‘They’re ready.’ That team just got better and better each game, defensively. That’s my blueprint. That’s the only thing I’ve been focusing on. I told our managers, we’re not even keeping score. No books, I don’t care about that. All I care about are rebounds, turnovers, steals, charges.”
Because if you play that way on defense, the offensive opportunities will come easily.
“Absolutely,” Bolds said in agreement.
As for who will score all those points left behind by Murray and Sanders, though, Bladen, who grew up across the street from Sanders, showed off his shot in a scrimmage against Highland a week before the regular season. Paynter, also a junior, is a big-bodied 6-foot-6 post player who will get his points, too. Miller, a senior guard, has the potential to post double digits nightly.
And then there are some of the underclassmen that excite Bolds.
“If (Austin Green) does what he’s supposed to do,” Bolds said of the 6–5 sophomore, “he’s going to be a star. Austin is probably going to be a star.”
Born and raised in Philly (Ben Franklin High School), playing under Chaney and then coaching under Phil Martelli at St. Joseph’s University for four years prior to joining Timber Creek in 2011, Bolds is a teacher of the game at heart and he has plenty of pupils with talent on his floor. The process of molding them into a potential winning team (Timber Creek went 20–7 last season) is the fun part.
“My goal this year, and we always have one goal each year, is that we want the №1 seed,” Bolds said. “We want the №1 overall seed so we can have all of our playoff games here and hopefully with the schedule we play, the Olympic conference schedule, we can get better each game.
“We play some tough teams, Plymouth Whitemarsh (Plymouth Meeting, Pa.), Camden, Penn Wood (Lansdowne, Pa.), Camden Catholic, Paul VI. You can’t have an off-night, which I love. Because if you’re telling me you want to play beyond high school, you’ve got to be competitive.”