Coming off a 9-12 season, the Central York boys' basketball team wasn't on a lot of opponents' radar entering the 2013-14 season.
The Panthers were expected to improve over last year's mark, but they weren't usually in the discussion when championship contenders were mentioned.
Whether or not Central ends up playing in the 2014 York-Adams League title game remains to be seen.
One thing is certain, though. The Panthers have gotten everyone's attention.
Central is leading York-Adams Division I with a perfect 4-0 record. The Panthers are 8-2 overall, with the losses coming to Bishop McDevitt and Wilson, teams with a combined record of 23-0.
What's fueled the dramatic improvement?
Royce Clemens, one of the team's two senior starters, points to two things: unselfishness and a practice intensity that matches the demeanor displayed in a game.
"No one is worrying about scoring so many points," Clemens said. "Everyone has bought into that concept. And we take every practice like it's a game. We always go hard in practice."
Sam Saxton, a junior, is the team's leading scorer at 14.3 points a game. He's followed by Charlie Gingrich (11.7), Clemens (9.8), Jared Wagner (7.9) and Andrew Sauers (6.2). Gingrich and Wagner are sophomores, and Sauers is a senior. Saxton leads the team in 3-point baskets with 15.
Saxton and Gingrich, both listed at 6-2, are the team's tallest starters.
"The beauty of these guys is their versatility," Central head coach Kevin Schieler said. "We don't have a 6-6 guy in the post who we can pound the ball in to, or a guy who knocks down 3-point shots all night long. What we do have is a group of guys who can all do multiple things. And I consistently play nine guys."
The depth will come in handy. Central has nine games scheduled in the next 19 days.
"The schedule is so compact," said Schieler, a 2000 York Catholic graduate who played basketball for former Fighting Irish coach Mike Keesey. "You almost need to have a deep bench because of the amount of games you play in a short amount of time."
Games, matches and practices are a major part of Clemens' life, from the beginning of the school year to the end. He plays three sports: soccer, basketball and volleyball.
"It's awesome to play three sports," Clemens said. "I've been exposed to different teams and different people. I don't get much free time during the week, but that's OK. I wake up, go to school and then depending on the time of practice, I'll have time to get some homework done. Later on, I'll get the rest of the homework done."
Clemens will play one sport, for sure, in college, NCAA Division I volleyball at Penn State, but his main focus right now is high school basketball and helping Central do something it hasn't done in 40 years.
"When you walk in the gym and look up, there's a banner (listing championship years) and it reads 1974 (for boys' basketball)," he said. "We want to add to that banner."
-- Reach Dick VanOlinda at firstname.lastname@example.org.