CLINTON — Teaching fundamentals, a few key players, and the advantage of being coached by last year’s junior varsity coach, Mike Hayduk, is what this year’s JV coach, Brian Campbell believes are the reasons for the team’s 19-1 record.
The one loss the team suffered was a 49-46 nail-biter to Holland Patent in late January on the road. But the boys jumped back on the horse the following week with 58-30 pummeling of Waterville and didn’t see an “L” in the win/loss column again the rest of the season.
“What we do in practice a lot is fundamentals,” said Campbell, in a phone interview. “All we do really is run...and shoot layups. I like to let the kids play. On JV we’re dealing with 14, 15, and 16 year olds so of course, they’re going to make mistakes and you can’t really get after them for that. I like to let them play their game, knowing they’re going to do enough. We have enough talent on the team to let them go out and do their thing.”
Sophomores Jack Devine, Ikenna Duru and Wyatt Wilcox are three of the players Campbell referred to when he spoke of talent. Andre Jackson, an eighth-grader, along with the sophomores, will probably move up to the varsity level next season.
“Also, Pat Ward, who was probably our most consistent player,” Campell said. “All of these guys will more than likely move up next year. He’s a great offensive threat and he just works his tail off.”
Other members of the team are Jack Palmieri, Matthew Steates, Ryan Chmielewski, Louis Pinto, Tucker Sammon and Tanner Champion.
Campbell said some of the more memorable moments this season came in some close games. That includes the 56-51 win over Syracuse Institute of Technology in the Cooperstown Holiday Tournament on Dec. 28.
“First of all we were short-handed with only eight players,” Campbell said. “We got down by 17 points at the half. But we scratched and clawed our way back and won in overtime.”
The 41-39 win over Mount Markham at home was a barn-burner according to Campbell.
“We were down eight points with under two minutes to go,” Campell explained. “And we went on a run to win that one by two.”
Campbell went on to say this has been a notable season.
“This was my first opportunity as a head coach,” Campbell said. “So it was a very special season and a special group for me.”
Campbell, a former player at Rome Catholic School, earned his coaching experience helping his brother, Kevin, who coached at themodified level at Rome Catholic. Later he helped his father, Steve, who coached at the varsity level at Westmoreland.
Campbell played Amateur Athletic Union basketball with Hayduk, and was in the right place at the right time to get the job.
Campbell said, “I was congratulating Mike on his promotion to varsity head coach last year and told him if there was anything I could do to help out I would. That’s when he said they might be looking for a JV coach.”
Campbell’s assistant, Joe Leibl, from Oneida, was also a member of that travel ball community. Campbell said he was invaluable. “The kids won 19 games and the coaches lost one,” said Leibl, in a Facebook post.
Campbell said he also feels that along with basketball skills, most of the job, in fact, the most important aspect of the job as coach, is knowing and communicating with the players. “It’s really all about knowing what buttons to push,” he said. “What I mean is, it’s like being a guidance counselor, figuring out where they are and what’s the best way to help them achieve self worth. Talking to them...and more importantly, listening to them, trying to put them in, and hopefully keeping them in, the right mental state win or lose. With a team like this it’s not so much about Xs and Os, it’s about putting them in the right frame of mind to succeed and learning how to handle it when they don’t. After all, you can’t win them all.”