Boys basketball sets high expectations after long hiatus


Photo courtesy of George Calhoun.

The boys basketball team poses together on media day in their four different sets of jersey colors.

By Justin Greenzaid, Sports Editor

Strutting the halls in their brand new gray Nike tech fleece sweatsuits, the boys basketball team knows expectations are high for the upcoming season. Due to the pandemic, the team hasn’t played an actual game in over two years, and just two players from the 2019-2020 team are returning this season. 

The team is still technically the defending 4A West Region Champions as they won the region in 2020 for the first time in school history. This year however, the team is aiming to make it all the way to the state championship. They see winning the region as just the floor for their true potential. 

“We know that the end goal was to win a state championship that year [2019] and to know that we were just two games away from being able to compete for it just drives our hunger more this year and pushes us to not only get back to where we were but to actually go the distance and be able to compete for that state championship,” WCHS junior point guard Isaiah Mbeng said. 

The team will rely on many new players this year including three new transfers, all in the junior class. Bryce Wilson and Andrew Silver, two senior leaders and the only returning players with varsity experience, are going to have to be role models for the newcomers. 

“I lead by example as other players on the team look up to me since I have been on varsity for 3 years so I have a lot of experience in the program,” Silver said. “I lead all the stretches before each game and practice as well.”

Despite the fact that the team hasn’t played a single real game together, they already have a very strong bond. The team has been playing together in various summer and fall leagues, helping to build the connection needed for a state championship caliber squad. 

“The one word I would use to describe Churchill basketball is ‘family.’ We have a tight knit group of players and coaches who would do anything to help one another whether it be related to basketball or not.” Silver said. “We definitely get along well. We have been playing together starting from summer plus a couple of new players who have meshed well with the team.” 

The team has already gotten a taste of their public school competition in some off-season leagues, but they have also been challenged against some tough private school opponents. The team played in a very challenging Capitol Hoops league over the summer which includes many of the best DMV private schools. By challenging themselves by playing tougher opponents, the team is much better prepared for their upcoming season. 

The team kicked off their winter season with a scrimmage against St. Andrews, defending Mid-Atlantic Conference champions, on Nov. 23. The team held their own against the neighboring school and played a very good game, clearly showing indications of future success. 

“We can win a state championship and I think I can speak for the rest of the guys when I say this. We know it takes more than just saying it and we have to put in the work and do the things others don’t want to do to be that much better,” Mbeng said.

Although the Montgomery County opponents may be of very little test for the Bulldogs, the team understands that they cannot get complacent if they want to be state-title contenders. The team will have to face much better Baltimore County teams once they make it to the state playoffs. 

The biggest challenges locally for the team will probably be against Walter Johnson and Bethesda Chevy-Chase, but even then the team still has a significant advantage. The team kicks off their official season on the road against Gaithersburg on Dec. 7, and the first home game is Dec. 9 against Springbrook. The more notable matchups will come on Dec. 20 and 22, as the team hosts BCC and then travels to play WJ. 

“I think our biggest challenge will be understanding that nothing is given to us and we have to work for everything. We understand we have a lot of hype around our team but that means nothing if we don’t perform to our potential,” Silver said. 

The most notable players to look out for this year, other than the already established senior leaders Bryce Wilson and Andrew Silver, are juniors Isaiah Mbeng, Wyatt Dunn, Ezekiel Avit, and Tre Stott. As noted above, much of this talent is transfers as Dunn transferred from St. Johns, Avit transferred from Urbana, and Stott transferred from Springdale Prep. All three will be huge role players for the team this upcoming season. 

The team has a ton of poised shooters and ball handlers, but doesn’t have a true center in the starting lineup. Fans can look for the team to play a fast paced game to compensate for being a bit small. Needless to say however, the team will still be slamming down windmills and throwing alley-oops to one another, making for some very exciting games. 

“We need our student section to be full, loud, and as crazy as possible every home and away game so that we can feed off the crowd’s energy,” Mbeng said. “People would be surprised how much the crowd actually helps the players on the court, and they’ll be having a lot of fun too watching us make some big plays and get some wins.”