AMSTERDAM —What a long, strange road it has been.
The Amsterdam boys’ basketball team begins a traditional winter season on time this year, and the Running Rams are looking to change up their playbook.
“I spent a lot of time during the pandemic retooling ourselves and retooling myself to what can give us the best advantage,” Amsterdam coach Tim Jones said. “Sometimes I think playing that [up-tempo] style was great for some teams and maybe people got used to it and comfortable with it.
“I want to keep everyone else on their toes.”
Jones has his Rams looking to play up-tempo defense versus trying to run their opponents out of the gym.
“It’s something I haven’t stressed if you’ve been to our games too much,” Jones joked. “We like to be up-tempo get you into that rat race and get you moving.”
Amsterdam graduated leading scorer Yandeel Vazquez after last season, along with Tommy Ziksin, James Shatas, Anthony DeRosa, and J.J. Rivera.
“Those are five seniors that we need to fill what they were able to do as a group,” Jones said.
Many of Jones’ players are football players who have played a pair of seasons on the gridiron since their last basketball season.
Restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic pushed the 2020-21 football season into the spring, starting just after basketball had been completed. Amsterdam went 0-5 during that rescheduled football season, then bounced back with a strong season this fall, only missing out on a Section II Class A playoff berth due to a tiebreaker.
Now, football stars Jhai Vellon and Tyrell Douglas return to the hardwood ready to recapture that winning magic from the gridiron.
“The first couple of days were tough coming off my [shoulder] injury,” Douglas said. “Now I’m starting to get into the groove with everything and things were looking good.”
Vellon comes off a successful season as quarterback of the Rams and the back-to-back seasons helped with his conditioning, compared to last year when his first season didn’t start until January with basketball.
“It was weird, I was out of shape a little bit, but I tried to stay in the gym as much as possible and get ready for football and basketball,” Vellon said. “This year I’m moving a lot faster, better footwork, jumping higher and am better conditioned to run longer, getting up and down the field, up and down the court.”
The Rams will need every once of athleticism under Jones’ new playbook.
“We’re going to need it from a lot of players on a different night every night,” Jones said. “It may not be that same guy and that is the buy in, can we get a collective effort.”
He will be asking something of everyone on the court each night.
“Can we get three rebounds a quarter from everyone, can we get these little, small goals that will add up to a great team,” Jones said.