Pitch a tent and pass the offering plate–the Chesapeake men’s basketball revival is on, and first-year coach Andrew Sachs will be headlining those taking up the program.
“We are going to win,” said Sachs, who inherits a club with a string of seven consecutive losing seasons. “Twenty wins. That’s a good season for us and I think that’s a realistic goal for us.” And one word summarizes how Sachs will be attempting to turn things around this winter: youth.
Twelve of the 14 players on the roster are freshmen. That doesn’t concern Sachs since he knows the Skipjacks possess more than enough talent to excel in many areas when the season starts with the Jamboree Tournament at the Community College of Baltimore County Catonsville on Oct. 28.
“We are starting from scratch,” Sachs explained. “But I think our backcourt is pretty good and our frontcourt guys will contribute. And we can really defend. If you look at my teams in the past: Bethany (College) was number one in the country in steals and one year at Salisbury, we were number two in the country in team defense.”
Sachs seems to be the right coach for the job. He’s won big at his two Division III head coaching stops, guiding Salisbury University to a 59-24 mark (2015-2018) and Bethany in West Virginia to a 117-49 record (2009-2015). “He brings a winning mentality, and he will change things right away” Chesapeake assistant coach Delonte Joyce said. “It’s the fire he brings to practice. He doesn’t cut anybody any slack. He is a straightforward guy, and he treats everybody the same. When players notice those type of things, they respect the coach more and want to play for him.”
Chesapeake possesses a lot of standout guards with a variety of talents. The leader of the Skipjacks will be freshman point guard Mahzi Thames, a graduate of Meade High School. Thames led Anne Arundel County in scoring last season, but Sachs calls him a terrific setup man. He can dissect a defense, control the tempo and is an outstanding ball handler. “He is our best passer and has great vision,” Sachs said. “He is tall for a point guard. He can really create for himself, but can create for others as well.”
Freshman combo guard Joey Adams has the potential to knock down several three-pointers in a game. He’s the shortest player on the roster, but might be the most intense player on the team. “Joey was the Bayside Conference Player of the Year two years ago at North Caroline,” Sachs said. “He can really shoot the basketball and he’s got a lot of heart.” Two sophomores, guard Damon Gomer and forward Amir Pettiford, also figure to play big roles. Gomer played for the Skipjacks during the 2017-18 season and Pettiford transferred in from Division II Concord University in West Virginia.
Gomer has particularly impressed Joyce. “With his athleticism, he can really cause havoc on the defensive end, and on the offensive end, he can really shoot the ball,” the coach said. “With him on the court, we can get a lot done as far as pushing the tempo.”
Freshman guard DJ Barnette should provide good production off the bench. Freshman forward Justin Atwood, who plays with a lot of energy, starts in the frontcourt. Freshman forward Kevin Hubbard (6-7) and freshman center Nate Cannon (6-8) hope to be valuable contributors.
“We can be pretty good this year,” Joyce said. “With Coach Sachs coming on, we will end the season with a winning record.”