SCHENECTADY — John Miller is a firm believer that bringing freshmen boys’ basketball back to Schenectady High School this season will eventually pay dividends for his varsity team.
“We’re definitely happy with it,” said Miller, the Patriots’ second-year varsity coach. “We’re trying to see the future. It will take time to see the fruits.”
The seeds were planted when Schenectady reintroduced freshmen basketball to its boys’ program to go along with its junior varsity and varsity teams, and changed its modified approach.
“John asked us to bring it back this year,” Schenectady athletic director Steve Boynton said. “It’s probably been six years since we had freshman hoop.”
Schenectady freshman coach Ben Capeless sees his team as an essential building block for the varsity team that, in past years, was consistently among Section II’s elite, and won state championships in 1998 and again in 2001.
“It’s a step that wasn’t there before,” said Capeless, whose freshman team has won eight of its 10 games. “The key is to keep them together and develop them as opposed to losing them.”
In recent years that void in the program — a budget casualty — left some Schenectady ninth-graders with no place to play at the scholastic level.
“If they couldn’t make the JV, they were done,” Boynton said. “Now they have a place to work on their skills.”
“The impact will send a ripple effect through the entire program,” Miller said. “It balances out the entire program.”
Miller coached the Schenectady junior varsity team for three seasons before serving as Eric Loudis’ varsity assistant for the 2016-17 campaign. He said he kept some freshmen on his JV teams that showed great potential, but weren’t prepared for that level of play.
“Now, instead of the junior varsity having some guys that are not really ready, they have a place,” Miller said.
Boynton said Schenectady boys at the modified seventh and eighth-grade levels, as well as sixth-graders, are competing in an intramural basketball program that involves the school districts’ three middle schools. Boys in that category also have opportunities to develop in the Capital District Youth Basketball League and in AAU programs.
“John is doing different things with the modified,” Boynton said. “We’re getting more kids involved. We’re not cutting 100 kids. Studies show kids who are involved in after-school programs do better academically, behavior-wise and attendance-wise. And doing the intramural program has freed up money. We’re saving on bus trips and coaches.”
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.
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Categories: High School Sports, Sports