A new identity


Due to fleeting nature of life in an American school abroad, the annual turnover of athletes is a familiar occurrence. The school’s sports teams lose and gain new personnel every year, and coaches are forced into tweaking their game plans to accommodate the strengths and weaknesses of new players.

The boys varsity basketball team, however, has faced a mass leaving of players either graduating or transferring to different high schools or sports.

“In all my years here, I have not seen a team with so many new faces at the beginning of a new season,” Athletics Director Sandy Lloyd said.

After losing five starting players from last year and boasting only two returners from 10 players, the team is in the midst of developing an entirely new character.

Coach Joe Chodl recognized that he has rarely had so many of his players leave at once, but that he did not want to call this season a reconstruction period.

“I don’t like the term ‘rebuilding,’” Chodl said. “No matter how many players leave or return, the team is always different than the previous year. Whether we bring back ten guys or none, the unique team presents a unique challenge and my job is to utilize the players in positions to succeed based on their skills.”

Whatever one may choose to label it, the departure of key players such as former captain Aboudi Qattan (’12), Luke Gilbert (’12) and Bennett Grigull (’13) among others, has stripped the team of its spine.
Current co-captain Jake Dooris (’13) asserts that this season’s goals are the same as in previous years, despite a turnover in playing personnel. Perhaps the bar is set very high for a team that has traditionally attracted the most spectators during its games and has celebrated numerous successes in the past, but doubts linger about the team’s ability to compete against stronger and more experienced opposition.

“We know that there are a ton of people that believe that we won’t amount to anything and we want to prove them wrong,” Dooris said. “This just gives us extra motivation.”

Furthermore, Chodl insisted that there is plenty of room for optimism. He has been positively surprised by influx of new players on the team and commends the “severe motivation” of his athletes. He believes that the time is ripe for some of the younger players to step up to the plate and take responsibility.

Nick Muoio (’16) is relishing the opportunity to get some valuable playing time this year and hopes to make his mark on the team. “I think the fact that so many experienced players left gives us young players the opportunity to play and improve our game. Also the more we play together the accostumed we get to each other which will benefit us in the long run,” he said.

Although he is very happy with the current progress of his team, Chodl admitted that the current level of communication on the court is not ideal. “This year’s team is not quite as vocal as I would like them to be. At the end of the season you would expect a team to have good communication. Right now we’re missing that,” he said.

Dooris thinks the team’s biggest loss from last year’s team was captain Qattan. “He was our captain, and as a leader he brought the team together and made us cohesive.

In terms of tactics, Chodl does not plan on altering too much from his game plan last year but acknowledges that he will need to tinker with certain aspects. “I don’t run a system that guys fit into, but system that enhances and that’s tailored to the strengths of each team,” he said. “The strengths of the current team are its competitiveness, energy, defense, athletic ability and aggressiveness and I will adapt accordingly.”

He plans on running a very strong man-to-man defense and aggressive offensive style which utilizes a lot of screens and down screens.
After last week’s surprising loss at home to TASIS as well as the disappointing last-minute loss to Lakenheath High School, the team will hope to bounce back with wins.

Dooris acknowledged that the beginning will be tough, yet he has no doubts about the character of the current crop of players and their ability to turn results their way. “We have a group of players that are not only talented, but also mentally strong. A combination of the two will get us the wins we need,” he said.