The Lions are looking for juniors Tyreke Huff and Jordan Lipford to lead a team filled with young talent.
Cherry Hill High School West junior Tyreke Huff knows first-hand how hard one has to work to win on the basketball court.
As a freshman, Huff was a part of the 2016–17 Cherry Hill West boys basketball team that finished with just one win.
“My freshman year, I was on that team, so I know what the struggle was,” Huff said. “We had to keep pushing.”
Two years later, Huff is now a leader and one of the key players for Cherry Hill West. Along with fellow junior guard Jordan Lipford, Huff is hoping to lift Cherry Hill West boys basketball to a winning record in 2018–19, something the team hasn’t achieved since going 18–10 in 2014–15.
The Lions are looking to improve upon last year’s win total of eight under head coach Aaron Burt, who has heightened expectations in his second year in charge of the program.
“It’s a lot different,” Burt said of this preseason compared to his first one with the program last year. “A lot of the returning players know what to expect from me. They know how I want them to compete and play. It’s a big turnaround from last year.”
Two of those returning players, Lipford and Huff, emerged as offensive threats as sophomores last year. The two combined to score more than 400 points for Cherry Hill West last season.
“What I mainly focused on my sophomore year was being able to make plays, find open guys, score the ball, doing anything I could to get a win,” Huff said.
“This summer, I was working on my jump shot a lot, that’s what I was focusing on,” Lipford said. “I picked up a bigger role as a sophomore last year. Coach put in some plays for me and I just put the ball in the basket.”
Burt is looking for Lipford and Huff to do a lot more than score points this year. He expects them to step up as leaders as two of his main returning players this season.
“They know what to expect,” Burt said of his two junior guards. “It’s just getting to really do it, day in and day out, walk it, talk it, things of that nature, and hold everyone accountable.”
“They’re trying to learn (leadership), on and off the court and they’re doing an excellent job trying to learn,” Burt added.
Huff and Lipford are being asked to lead a fairly young Cherry Hill West team. There will be a lot of new faces contributing to this year’s team, with Burt expecting multiple incoming transfers and freshmen to log minutes on varsity. One of the top additions is Hakim Melvin, a transfer from Camden Catholic High School who had a positive impact on the Lions’ football program in the fall and is expected to similarly boost the boys basketball team.
“Hakim is going to be such an impactful player, not just on our team but in South Jersey,” Burt said. “He’s very athletic, he’s a good leader and he’s going to be able to do a lot of things both offensively and on defense.”
Among the other returning players for Cherry Hill West is junior Amari Robinson, who Burt expects to emerge this season, and sophomore Jaydon Davis, who scored more than 100 points as a freshman last year.
“I’m looking for him to evolve as one of our guys that can just play meaningful minutes,” Burt said of Davis. “How much he plays is going to be on him, how much he grasps the concepts and energy.”
One area where the Lions are lacking is in size. Without a lot of tall players, the Lions’ game plan is to play at a fast tempo.
“We’re trying to wear people out,” Huff said. “That’s why we work on getting in better condition in practice.”
Lipford believes the Lions have shown a lot of energy in the preseason and thinks the team is capable of wearing out opponents in the Olympic Conference this year.
“The practices this year, we have more energy,” Lipford said. “We like to keep everything loud and keep the intensity up so we have more intensity in the games too.”