Northern Lebanon boys more familiar with coach
It doesn't show up in the boxscore or on any stat sheets, but the value of finding a comfort zone with one another cannot be understated when it comes to team sports.
Last season with a new head coach, a new system and a generally new way of doing things, the Northern Lebanon boys basketball team struggled to a 7-15 record that was probably not an accurate representation of its talent level and experience.
But this year, in their second season under coach Chris George, the Vikings are hoping more familiarity with their surroundings - and each other - will lead to more on-court success.
"It's huge; the kids know the philosophy now," George said. "They know what's expected of them, they know what practices are going to look like, they have an expectation of how things are going to work. That should hopefully have a calming influence. Even though we're younger than last year and maybe not as deep, my hope is that we can grow a lot more and have a little bit more success this year."
It is true that Northern Lebanon will have less scoring, size, athleticism and experience than it did a season ago, given the graduation of a seven-member senior class that included leading scorer Isaac Bicher and athletic classmates Noah Gingrich, Shane Reese and Billy Fellows. But as noted, the cast that does return is more comfortable with George and his system, which bodes well for its outlook.
Time will tell, of course, if that will indeed lead to more success, but as the Vikings prepare for their second season under George, the focus is more on what they do have than what they don't.
And what they do have is a good deal of basketball savvy, including from their most experienced players, junior forward Michigan Daub, junior point guard Caleb Light and fellow 11th-grade backcourt player Alex Yeager, who'll be joined on the floor most nights by NL's lone senior, forward Dominic Celleri, and junior guard Henry Hubbard.
Also in the mix for plenty of playing time will be junior forwards Cameron Gensler and Zach Donmoyer, sophomore forward Josh Bowers and junior guards Thomas Folmer and Christian Trader.
"I think we have basketball players, we have guys who know how to play the game," George said. "They have good basketball IQs. Obviously, we're mostly playing with guards, so the positive there is at any point we have five guys on the court that can all handle the ball really well. And they can all shoot the ball from the outside and make plays off the dribble, so that makes us hard to guard and a little more dangerous."
Size is lacking, with the 6-1 Daub and the 6-2 Gensler serving as Northern Lebanon's biggest players, so that aforementioned strength at guard becomes even more important.
"We don't have a lot of size," George said. "We're gonna be a small bunch. Obviously there are some cons to being small and not being the biggest group of guys and only having one senior, but hopefully for us our skill and our quickness and hopefully our ability to play hard and with intensity will overcome some of those shortcomings."
Another challenge for the Vikings will be competing in a revamped Lancaster-Lebanon Section 3 after the L-L consolidated to three sections from four. Powers Lampeter-Strasburg, Cocalico and Manheim Central have moved up to Section 2, but an Elco team coming off a magical 2015-16 season remains and former Section 4 tough guys Lancaster Catholic and Lancaster Mennonite are now joining the fray.
"We played with all the big boys last year in the old Section 3," said George, a former Elco assistant. "Honestly,in my 20 years being around Section 3, that was the best Section 3 I'd ever seen. You had college basketball players up and down, and you usually don't see that at the Section 3 level. Obviously now, the challenge is Mennonite and Catholic - you'll be dealing with those two. And I think Elco's gonna be really dangerous. It's gonna be a tough section, it's gonna be really interesting."
Northern Lebanon boys
Coach: Chris George, 2nd year
Last year: 7-15
Key returners: Michigan Daub (jr., F) , Caleb Light (jr., G), Alex Yeager (jr., G).
Other key players: Dominic Celleri (sr., F), Henry Hubbard (jr., G), Cameron Gensler (jr., F).
Season opener: Dec. 13, at home vs. Middletown, 7:30.