Berkeley High School’s boys basketball team will be coming off the best campaign in the program’s history when it takes to the hardwood for real in a few months.
To say it could be challenging – or even unrealistic — to put on some kind of an encore performance would be an understatement.
Coach Joe Wallace’s team lost 10 seniors and the top four scorers from a squad that went 26-2 and lost a hard-fought Class 5A state championship game against Dorman High School. All five players who started the title game moved on.
The Stags used June to crank up their rebuild. They played 10 games between a camp at the University of South Carolina and one in Spartanburg. Clearly, they weren’t in Kansas anymore, as Dorothy says in the Wizard of Oz.
“This was definitely a summer of growth for what will be a new-look Berkeley Stags basketball team,” Wallace said. “Prior to going to camps, we only had four practices which really limited what we could do on both ends of the court.”
Of the 10 summer contests, Berkeley played just three with any varsity returners. It’s a group that needs as much floor time as it can get.
“It’s a welcomed challenge with getting these guys prepared to compete on the varsity level,” Wallace said. “I was pleased at the camp in Spartanburg. There was a lot of teaching and learning on the go happening.”
Varsity returner Keyaun Johnson, who saw very little action last winter, was a bright spot offensively and on the defensive boards. Newcomer Mark Crawford handled the ball well and was able to get to the basket with his quickness. Jalen Wallace also showed signs of what the Stags are going to need as a team defensively, getting several deflections and blocks.
“I expect this group to really play great team basketball, not caring whose name may be in the paper,” Wallace said. “We will continue with our “We before Me” mentality.”
Another staple will remain. The Stags will get after it on the defensive end.
“As in years past, I want my team to sell out on defense, create turnovers and score easy buckets,” Wallace said. “We were able to do some of that this summer but not on a consistent basis. We have work to do and I welcome the challenge.”
Guard Hakeem Meggett, a senior, can return after averaging 7.4 points and three rebounds a game. Guard Solomon Butler, a junior, was a regular contributor and forward Marcel Jackson, a senior, averaged 3.7 points and 2.7 boards.