Despite heavy graduation losses, Eastern York boys' basketball standard remains the same
- Eastern York is coming off a season in which it went 14-11 overall.
- The Golden Knights have just one starter returning from last year, junior Stephen Wisler.
- Demonte Martin and Karter Hinkle are the only two seniors on this year's team.
(Editor's note: This is the third in an occasional series of stories leading up to the start of the York-Adams winter sports season).
There's a standard with the Eastern York boys' basketball program.
No matter the makeup of the team in any given season, the Golden Knights are still expected to contend.
It was the case with last year's team that had plenty of senior leadership and was coming off a 2015-16 season that saw the Golden Knights make the District 3 Class 3-A finals.
With four key members of last year's squad having graduated, and only two seniors and one starter coming back, new players will be expected to play new, more important roles this season.
In most cases, that would lead to a team taking a step back, both in record and expectations.
Eastern York, however, isn't most programs.
So, anything less than a postseason appearance won't be tolerated, no matter how young the team is.
"We had a big summer this summer," head coach Jon Reichard said during York-Adams League winter sports media day. "We played in the men's league in York and got beat around a little bit and grew up. ... Time will tell."
Limping to the finish: Last year's team might've perfectly symbolized how a Golden Knights team should play.
Going into the season, it was probably the most experienced team in Division II and it showed on the court. Eastern raced out to a 10-1 start and appeared destined to not only run away with the D-II title, but contend in the league and District 3 4-A tournaments.
A season-ending knee injury to leading scorer Jared Achterberg, however, quickly brought the team back to the rest of the pack. Yet, even with the loss of, arguably, its best player, Eastern grinded and battled its way to a winning record and the league and district playoffs.
However, the team went one-and-done in both tournaments, finishing 14-11.
"I think it was huge because that atmosphere is a little bit different than the regular season," Reichard said about getting younger players playoff experience last season. "Everything jumps up a level."
While this season's team is young, the players have been around the varsity game long enough to rid themselves of inexperience.
Most of the players that will see significant time this year were at least on the bench for the Knights' unforgettable run to a district silver medal two seasons ago.
Still, spectating is much different than playing and contributing, and that'll be the step most of this year's roster will need to take. Of the players expected to contribute significantly to Eastern this year, really only two players, Demonte Martin and Stephen Wisler, saw key minutes in 2016-17.
Martin is one of two seniors this year, along with Karter Hinkle, but Hinkle was primarily a junior varsity player as a junior. That leaves Wisler, who's still only a junior, as a leader by default going into the season.
"I'm just trying to lead by example," Wisler said at media day. "Even at open gyms, the kids that haven't played or were playing JV, kind of watch me and watch the guys from last year to see what they were doing. I'm just going to try to keep them on the right track and work my hardest and we should be successful."
Young division: The Knights won't be the only young team in D-II.
Dover, the reigning D-II champs, are still a team comprised mostly of underclassmen, while West York is in a similar situation. Perhaps the most experienced team in the division this season will be Kennard-Dale, which is made up of mostly seniors, which could pay dividends for the Rams.
Even with the influx of young players, Eastern is taking a page out of the Eagles' book. Last season, Dover flew under the radar, only to separate itself from the rest of the division and claim the D-II title with no seniors on the roster.
That's the plan the Knights hope to follow this year because, as we've seen, there are no down years when it comes to expectations at Eastern.
"We're not going to treat it like we're putting our eggs in next year's basket or down the road," Reichard said. "We're playing for this year. They've already accepted that. ... I think with the program, nothing changes. We just continue to build off of what we've created and it seems to replicate itself."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org