By Justin Joseph | [email protected]
Coming off the heels of a 5-15 season last year, the Martin Luther School basketball team knew heading into this season there needed to be significant changes.
“Last year, people didn’t really want it as much as they should, they took it as a joke,” sophomore guard Justin Trail said. “This year they really want to prove themselves…. everybody matured over the summer.”
Already off to a 4-2 start on the season, head coach Jon Kablack knew he needed time to turn around the program after dealing with COVID-19 and a young, growing team last season.
The 2022 basketball season was the first full season with Kablack as the head coach of the team. The year prior was abbreviated due to COVID and his first season, a year before that, the entire season was canceled.
Looking forward to the unique challenges of his first full season as coach, Kablack knew he had his work cut out for him.
“Last year I started building and I had a very young team” Kablack said. I had a couple ninth graders starting for me on the varsity level, so it was a very young team.”
This year Kablack brought in help from a senior transfer named Tristan Elcock, a six-foot guard that averages 12 points and three rebounds on the season to help steward the Cougars offense.
Kablack has stated that this addition is the key to the Cougars success due to Elcock’s speed and defensive tenacity allowing them to press teams before entering the half court and cause turnovers.
When paired alongside fellow teammate Justin Trail, this dynamic duo has been hard for teams this season to counter thus far.
Team captain and leading scorer Gavin Hugine made it known that their team has one goal in mind this season: qualifying for the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) tournament at the end of the season.
“It would mean a lot. It would show the growth in determination we had from last year compared to this year,” Hugine said.
For others like Trail, he also plays for bigger things off the court.
“I’m mostly doing this for my mom, I want to make her proud too because it’s really just me and my mom,” Trail said.
Many players also said this year’s team is closer than they were last year and that the coaching staff encourages them to train together, lift together and workout together, which will translate well to their relationships and chemistry on the court.
They are hoping that this newfound connection and joy of being together will lead them to the top of the Private School Athletic Association (PSAA) this year.
The Cougars kept their winning ways when they faced Waldorf Monday evening, winning 69-67.