Elijah Sutton is a quiet kid.
That’s the first thing Dover boys’ basketball coach Brian Schmoyer said about his soft-spoken, 6-foot, 4-inch forward.
Sutton’s play so far this season, however, has been anything but quiet.
With Keith Davis, the Eagles’ top scorer from last season at 20 points per game, out indefinitely with an injured shooting hand, Sutton has stepped up for the defending York-Adams League Division II champions with four straight games of more than 30 points. He's helped Dover to get off to a 4-1 start.
“Elijah is a quiet kid off the court, but when he steps on that court in practice or games, he is really a leader,” Schmoyer said. “He’s a humble kid, but he’s the type of kid who calls me on Sunday night who asks to get on the shooting machine before practice. He’s a gym rat. He’s earning everything he’s getting right now.”
30-point games: After scoring 17 points in Dover’s season-opening win over Bermudian Springs, Sutton tallied 32 in a loss to Camp Hill, 39 in a victory over Kennard-Dale, 38 in a triumph over Red Land and 31 in a win over Gettysburg last Friday.
He’s averaging a Y-A League-leading 31.4 points per game. That is nearly double his average of 16 points per game from last season. He is the only player in the league scoring more than 25.3 points a game on the young season.
“When Keith went out, it kind of changed our game a bit and our style of play,” Schmoyer said. “Elijah has stepped up tremendously since the beginning of the year.”
Sutton, a senior, said this is the first opportunity in his basketball career for him to be the focal point of an offense.
“I knew it was going to be a struggle for us, losing that many points a game in Keith, but I knew it was an opportunity for me to step up,” said Sutton, who is also averaging double-digit rebounds. “I’ve just been putting in the work to be ready for an opportunity like this.”
Sutton’s development: As a freshman on the junior varsity, Sutton, who is now being recruited by several NCAA Division III colleges in Pennsylvania, was mostly a spot-up shooter.
“Back then, I was really slow, and I could only shoot,” Sutton said. “I’ve improved on my handle, scoring off the dribble, scoring in the post and pulling up.”
“In the offseason, he’s really worked on making himself a complete player,” Schmoyer said. “He worked on strength and quickness, and he’s really developed a low-post game. He’s a versatile player who can also shoot the 3, create his own shots and create shots for his teammates.”
One of the best aspects of Sutton’s game is his efficiency at the charity stripe. He’s shooting 96.4 percent this season from the line, making 53 of 55 attempts. No other Y-A League player has attempted more than 33 free throws this season.
“He’s attacking a lot more this year,” Schmoyer said. “He’s getting banged around quite a bit, and he’s doing a great job finishing inside. He’s an unbelievable free throw shooter. He’s really dialed in on the free throw line.”
The other Eagles: Sutton is one of a few seniors on a young squad that returns only four players who saw varsity time last season. With Davis out, that makes Sutton, Victor Dorm and Ryan Hilbert as the only Eagles with viable experience heading into this season. Dorm is averaging 13.6 points per game as the Eagles’ second offensive option.
“When you lose 20 points a game with Keith, you have to have guys step,” Schmoyer said.
Davis’ status: Schmoyer said it’s possible Davis will return this season from his right hand injury, but nothing is certain. Davis had surgery to repair the hand two weeks ago, and Schmoyer said his return all depends on how his hand has responded to the operation.
“It all depends on where the healing process is,” Schmoyer said. “Keith is a hard worker, and I’m pretty confident that he will come back at some point later in the year.”
With Eastern York, West York and York Suburban looking like improved teams, Sutton said the Eagles will be a tough team to beat if Davis returns.
“It’s definitely going to be scary for the rest of the county once Keith comes back,” Sutton said.
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.