Entering this past winter, Central York did not have much of a boys' basketball tradition in terms of championship banners.
The Panthers had not won a league title since 1974, but a few coaches around the YAIAA said they were worried about the Panthers. Junior guard Sam Saxton was one of the reasons for their concerns.
Saxton, a 6-foot-2 guard who led Central to a 24-5 record, scored a team-best 15.5 points per game. He used his height to his advantage against smaller defenders and his quickness against bigger ones. The combination helped Central to a perfect YAIAA record and a league tournament championship.
The league's coaches in Division I and Division II voted him as the Player of the Year.
After a such a successful junior season, Saxton took some time to answer a few questions. Here is what he had to say:
If you could, would you trade winning the YAIAA title for a District 3 gold medal?
(No.) I think the league title just because it's been 40 years. I know we've never won a district title, but bringing the league title back was important. We still got next year.
Your team graduates a few seniors, including Royce Clemens and Andrew Sauers, but brings back a number of key guys, too. What will be key in maintaining your success?
To fill their roles. Andrew was a real vocal leader and Royce was a great athlete. Tyler (Wagner)'s work ethic in practice.
You pointed out how important sophomore Jared Wagner was, definitely. Think you guys have the tools to adjust?
Yeah, definitely. Jared brings a lot of energy. That's why he was so good off the bench.
What's your favorite pastime away from the basketball court?
(pauses) Man ... (pauses again) ... I like to just hang out with friends, go on vacation with the family. A lot of things I do are centered around basketball.
I was just about to say, basketball dominates, huh?
Have any can't-miss TV shows?
I watch a lot of shows on Netflix. I watched Breaking Bad and Prison Break. They don't show any more episodes now, but it's something I watch.
Have any rituals during the basketball season?
I wouldn't call it a ritual, but I just try to stay hydrated. I carry a big water bottle at school.
Does anyone ever stop you for having a big water bottle?
Favorite pre-game or post game-meal?
I know a couple of times we had pre-game dinners. I think baked ziti is my favorite. It's not something real heavy and tastes pretty good, too.
If you could eat dinner with any three people, dead or alive, who would they be?
Definitely Jackie Robinson, maybe. I guess Michael Jordan is a given, and probably Larry Bird.
What would you ask them?
Probably questions about basketball for Jordan and Bird. What they did growing up and how cool it was to be playing around all those fans. Jackie, I remember I watched "42," and it's real inspiring. I'd just ask him how he got through that and what it was like.
What's your music preference?
I listen to a lot. I like some country, some pop, like modern-day stuff, some hip hop or rap. I'm pretty spread out in my music. I don't listen to any classical music or jazz.
Pick one: LeBron James or Kevin Durant?
Yeah that's a tough one. Pure scoring ability, I have to go with Durant, but to control the game and win I'd have to go with LeBron.
If you had an MVP vote, who would you choose?
I'd give it to Kevin Durant.
You still have a year left, but what do you see yourself doing after high school?
I'm definitely going to go to college and get a degree. I want to play basketball. I'm interested in engineering, curious about biomedical engineering.
What contributed to Central York's turnaround/breakout season?
A lot of it was just the team getting along with each other. We've always gotten along but not to the extent of team chemistry we had this year.
Why did it take 40 years for the school to win a league title (last one came in 1974)? Was it surprising it took that long?
Yeah, it's definitely surprising. I guess it just wasn't really a history to have a dominating team. I guess the mindset wasn't there.
Did going unbeaten in the YAIAA catch you by surprise?
I definitely expected one slip-up in the league. My goal was to win the league, but I didn't expect to go undefeated like we did.
Since it had been so long since Central won a league title, do you think you guys should do a throwback night next season?
That's actually a good idea. That would be fun.