Depth has never been more important for Texas high school basketball teams.
College Park has plenty of that this season.
The Cavaliers are looking to get back into the playoffs for the fourth time in five years. College Park finished last season with a 22-11 overall record, including a 12-4 mark in District 15-6A action. The team took the No. 2 seed for the playoffs but lost to Dekaney by seven points in the bi-district round.
This time around, the Cavaliers are confident with a talented group of players returning to the fold. That depth could pay dividends should one or more players have to be quarantined due to coronavirus concerns.
“Really we’re going to be counting on the entire roster,” College Park coach Clifton McNeely said. “I think one of the big things this year is just the number of returning players we have and the depth that we have. For for the first time since we’ve been here at College Park, 10 or 11 guys a night will be in the rotation.”
Leading the way for the Cavaliers is 6-foot-4 senior shooting guard Drew Calderon, who recently signed to play at Indiana State. Calderon was an All-Montgomery County selection after averaging 13.4 points per game. He scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds during the team’s 62-61 season opening loss to Klein Forest last Friday.
“Obviously, Drew being a Division I basketball player, everybody kind of eyeballs him, and he should be the go-to guy and the leader on our basketball team,” McNeely said. “But we have so many other guys that compliment him and play well with him. It’s not like back in the days when we had (current UH guard) Quentin Grimes and we relied on Quentin Grimes. If Drew has an off night, he’s got teammates that can step up and help him.”
Junior guard Ty Buckmon, currently busy playing quarterback for the 6-1 College Park football team, is expected to get back into the mix once the season ends. Fellow senior guard Marvin Dock is another key returner for the Cavaliers.
Senior Markel James has stepped up as a leader and has developed into a strong two-way player. Senior Logan Maksimowicz has been a pleasant surprise on the offensive end so far and has always been a solid defensive player. Senior Jackson Mathias and juniors Ellis Ibizugbe and Isaiah Major Perez have all shown improvement, while junior Darel Reece and sophomore Drake Kelley have made the move up from the junior varsity team.
Nate Murphy, who was a key contributor last season, is out while recovering from a torn ACL.
“I think it’s one of those years I’m thankful we have a deeper roster and a lot of kids who can play,” McNeely said. “The great thing about this group is they just have great team chemistry and work very hard together.”
Competing for a postseason berth will look different for the Cavaliers this season following the UIL realignment. College Park will face off against familiar foes The Woodlands, Oak Ridge and Conroe, as well as newcomers Grand Oaks and Willis, in the new District 13-6A. The teams will play three rounds for a total of 15 games.
“I think we have some great coaches in our district,” McNeely said. “Talent-wise, top to bottom, it’s maybe not like the past two years where you had to fight and claw and get after it. But to be honest with you, that’s all I really know. We didn’t have the typical spring or summer and fall where we went to shootouts and all those types of things and got to see what some of the other schools have to offer. I really can’t comment on any of the other teams, but I know their coaches are pretty good, so I’m sure they’ll get their players to play at a high level.”