COBLESKILL — During one week’s time last month, Justin Maxwell formally accepted the SUNY Cobleskill men’s basketball coaching position, got married and headed off to Hawaii on his honeymoon with his wife Ashley.
“So,” he said recently, “in the month of August, there was a lot going on.”
This month is less hectic — but there is still plenty to do. Maxwell, a Guilderland High School graduate who was a walk-on player for two seasons at Siena before playing two seasons at Utica, had served as the interim coach at SUNY Cobleskill following the departure of Jake Scott — who took the coaching job at Keuka — for several months before he was hired. Those months offered Maxwell the opportunity to start recruiting, which was an extensive offseason job for a program that had just lost its head coach and didn’t compete in the 2020-21 season because of restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“So I’ve had to go recruit basically a whole new team,” Maxwell said. “We’ll be very young, and we’ll take our lumps early, but that’ll come around down the line for us.”
Maxwell said “75% or so” of the program’s roster will be new players this season, and utilizing the talent pool within the Section II landscape is a priority for the coach. His first recruiting class included Yandeel Vazquez (Amsterdam) and Ja’Nyve Smith (Bishop Maginn) among it.
Maxwell had been hired as an assistant coach last October at SUNY Cobleskill. Prior to that, Maxwell spent five seasons as the head coach at SUNY Ulster. During his years at SUNY Ulster, he led the program to four NJCAA Division II Region XV tournament berths, as well as a Region XV championship, East District championship and a spot in the final sixteen of the Division II NJCAA championships in the 2017-18 season. Prior to SUNY Ulster, Maxwell spent two seasons on coaching staffs at Buffalo’s Hilbert College and Canisius.
Maxwell, 34, played for coach Ron Osinski at Guilderland High School. Maxwell’s years at Siena saw him play for Fran McCaffery, who guided the Saints to NCAA tournament berths in 2008, 2009 and 2010 before taking over the Iowa program.
Maxwell referred to his years playing for McCaffery as “a basketball education.”
“There’s things I learned from him those two years that I’m still using today,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell’s team is able to start practicing Oct. 15. “Building our culture and our team camaraderie,” are important steps for the team to take during this month
“With a new team — such a new team — that can be challenging, so baby steps for us right now are important,” Maxwell said.