Head coach Jon Eyster stresses defense at Northeastern. His Bobcats are allowing just 44.8 points a game while scoring 61.3 points a contest.
Head coach Jon Eyster stresses defense at Northeastern. His Bobcats are allowing just 44.8 points a game while scoring 61.3 points a contest. (File photo)

Only a small sample of games are available to evaluate, but Northeastern boys' basketball coach Jon Eyster is already certain about one thing.

"Comparing any year I've been here, this team is a lot better at taking charges," said Eyster, who is in his 18th season. "Defensively, we're long and athletic and pretty cohesive."

The Bobcats are giving up their bodies for the cause while surrendering very few points.

In four games, all of which resulted in victories, Northeastern is allowing just 44.8 points a game. They're scoring 61.3 points a contest.

"Defense comes first, that's how all of us are taught to play," Bobcats' senior Braheem Riley said. "At practice, that's all we go over, defense, defense, defense."

Northeastern s Braheem Riley takes a shot during a recent game against Dallastown. Riley is a returning starter for the Bobcats.
Northeastern s Braheem Riley takes a shot during a recent game against Dallastown. Riley is a returning starter for the Bobcats. (Bil Bowden photo)

Riley and his teammates count on mixing transition points with points out of the offensive sets.

"If we get a steal, we have a lot of high flyers on this team," Riley said. "We won't force it (a fast break), but if it's there, we're going to take it. The defense has helped us. We know we're not going to win games all the time with just shots out of the offense."

The offense is in the highly capable hands of an NCAA Division I college recruit, Khalid Nwandu. Nwandu, who earned a scholarship to Mount St. Mary's, is pouring in 24.3 points a game.

"Khalid is a 6-2 guard with a 6-7 wingspan," Eyster said. "He's a gifted player who's worked very hard at improving his skills."

Derrick Hoffman, a 6-4 sophomore, who was a key player as a freshman, and Riley complement Nwandu with 13.0 and 9.8 points-per-game averages, respectively. The Bobcats don't shoot a lot of 3-pointers. Nwandu and Christian Eyster, the coach's son, have four of them apiece.

"Derrick's gotten a little stronger, and he's going to benefit from teams focusing on Khalid," Jon Eyster said. "Braheem guards the other team's best player, and we got a glimpse in the summer league of what he could do offensively this season when he led us in scoring."

Riley admits he wasn't a scoring threat last season.

"Teams would play off me," he said. "I worked hard in the offseason on my shot."

Nwandu and Riley are the returning starters from a 17-10 team that lost Elijah Cooper, Chris Nwandu and Eric Steadman to graduation. The trio combined for 35.5 points a game. That's a lot of offense to replace. However, the Bobcats are setting their sights high this season.

"We're not going to get knocked out of the county tournament in the first round again," Riley said.

Eyster's only prediction is that he feels his team will be in every game this season.

"I didn't say we're going to win them all," he said. "Going into the season, I felt like we would be able to defend, and with a Division I point guard (Nwandu), I was hoping we would eliminate turnovers."

So far, so good on both fronts.

Here's a bonus, the offense is almost as productive in the early stages of the season as last season, when Northeastern averaged 63.4 points a game.

Of course, it's only December. A good start to the season is nice, but the 2012-13 Bobcats would much prefer a strong finish in the York-Adams and District 3 playoffs.

-- Reach Dick VanO linda at dvanolin da@yorkdispatch.com.