Although high-school sports are back in action on more traditional schedules, with games not as frequently cancelled or postponed due to COVID, athletic programs continue to have their own unique challenges because of significant practice and training time lost over the past two years.
For programs such as the Clearview boys basketball team, with head coach Rob MacKerchar entering his sixth year at the helm, the lost time has made the transition between varsity cores more difficult.
“When I first got the program, we honestly had a lot of freshmen that saw a lot of varsity action their freshmen years and continued to work together throughout their time here, so it was basically the same core nucleus,” MacKerchar said. “So the older guys on the team here now sort of only sprinkled with them over the years, and now with them being the leaders and getting to work with new younger players, it’s almost kind of like starting over in a way.”
The core nucleus went 18-8 in its final year at Clearview before the next generation got their start with the Pioneers, going 8-7 in last year’s abbreviated season. This year’s returners showed promise last year, with players such as Anthony Charles, Carter Bobbitt and Jamel Yasin stepping up.
The opportunity to form the kind of team chemistry needed to create a strong varsity team has been rare for younger teams as of late, but MacKerchar believes his group has shown the promise and talent needed to overcome such obstacles.
“We knew we had some good athletes and players coming into this year that have been around the program for a bit already, but helping them find their role, I think, was our most important focus at the start, and to their credit, I think they’re really starting to figure it out,” MacKerchar said.
“We, like all other teams, lost a lot of off-season time the past year or two and had a shorter season for them to be on the court at all last year,” he added. “But we definitely knew we had a good group coming in and wanted to try to build around that.”
Charles, a returning player in the midst of his senior year, averaged 12.1 points a game last season and looks to serve in an important leadership role for the Pioneers. After a quick season last year, in which the majority of the team was getting its first real taste of what a full season of varsity basketball is like, Charles is excited to see what the team can do this year with that added experience.
“Last year, pretty much everybody playing were rookies when it came to varsity basketball, pretty much across the board, having not gotten too much time before that last year,” Charles said. “So last year was really about giving us the chance to get a feel for the speed of the game at that level. Now this year, we were prepared to really hit the ground running.”
Bobbitt, a returning sophomore who played in all 15 of the team’s games last year, felt the rush of the high-school season, with limited time for pre-season work before the start of last year. But after a more traditional off-season, he more than ready for the season moving forward.
“It took me a little bit of time to get used to the game, which I felt like I was by the end of the season, but I still wasn’t playing up to my potential I felt like,” Bobbitt said. “So going into this season, I had the entire summer and fall to really get me more comfortable, since I also knew what to expect, and it’s helping us with how we’re playing.”
As a hungry team ready for this season, the players say they have one thing on their minds: a Tri-County Conference Championship.
“We came into the season knowing we could be really good, and because of that, we want to win the conference,” Charles said.
“My biggest goal is to win the conference this year with my team,” Bobbitt said. “I think that would really help the program take the next step.”