Dulaney boys basketball squad unveils new look on Friday
by Nelson Coffin
They ran. They practiced. They ran some more.
That’s how the last 40 minutes or so of one practice went for the Dulaney boys basketball team this week under the watchful eye of coach Matt Lochte as the No. 15 Lions prepared to open the 2017-18 campaign at home on Friday night against Western Tech.
Four games — beginning with a matchup against seventh-ranked Our Lady of Mount Carmel at Coppin State University on Saturday in the Shirts vs. Skins Classic — follow in the next week, giving Lochte’s club a busy stretch before things slow down to a more normal pace before the Christmas break.
With all those games forthcoming, Lochte was forcing the conditioning issue before the Lions begin the season with a ton of talent and lofty expectations, despite losing four starters to graduation.
Knowing what lies ahead for the Lions, Lochte was working on stamina for a team that will feature seven players logging most of the minutes until the substitution rotations widen with more seasoning.
“They have really responded well to some intense practices,” he said.
Although almost no one would expect Dulaney to be able to handle top-ranked and defending Class 4A state champion Perry Hall when the teams clash on Jan. 3, the Lions are not shrinking from the prospect of pulling off the upset, either.
Because Dulaney will have a chance to meet the Gators later in the playoffs, it will likely have two cracks at knocking them off.
Still, it won’t be easy.
And it will take some offensive fireworks to get the job done, Lochte said.
“We’re not going to beat teams with defense,” he said. “We’re going to have to outscore them.”
Even so, the Lions are confident they have the wherewithal to do just that by employing multiple defensive presses.
“We will defend in the full court,” Lochte said, even though that style will be fatiguing. “My concern is a lack of depth and a lack of experience, but I’m encouraged by our ability to score.”
With all that in mind, an optimistic attitude has taken hold of the team.
“We can win a state championship,” 6-foot-7 sophomore guard Che Evans Jr. stated. “I know we can.”
Rumored to be transferring after a banner rookie season last year, Evans stayed put at the Timonium school to give Dulaney a major force in the backcourt and the paint.
And the irony is that not only did Evans stick around, but he and the Lions will be the beneficiaries of a battle-tested transfer from Calvert Hall, 6-foot shooting guard Josh Cornish, joining the team.
Lochte said that he was “pleasantly shocked” that Cornish, a Southern Utah commit, was coming to Dulaney to play with his younger brother, Ike, a 6-foot-6 freshman.
“Josh brings us leadership, a great skill-set and experience,” Lochte added. “He’ll be the best shooter in our league.”
Josh Cornish said that he has felt welcome at Dulaney from the outset.
“Everything’s been great,” he said. “They brought me in and treated me like family.”
Like Ike Cornish, 6-foot point guard Ryan Conway is a promising freshman who will also start for the Lions.
Rounding out the starting five will be 6-foot-2 junior forward Cameron Amoruso.
Senior forward Kevin Sharp, a 6-foot-5 leaper, and 5-foot-10 junior Tavon Bradley will be the first two off the bench.
Having won 113 games over the last six seasons, it should come as no surprise that Lochte’s club will once again be looking to eclipse the impressive 20-win plateau by season’s end.
Yet he knows the Lions will have to be on their toes to make it happen, given the strength of rivals in Baltimore County.
“This is the strongest the league has been since I’ve been here,” said Lochte, who began as assistant to former coach Rod Norris in 1999 before taking over the program in 2004.
With Perry Hall No. 1 and Dulaney at No. 15, the VSN Top 20 also features Baltimore County teams No. 12 Woodlawn and No. 17 Milford Mill Academy.
Lochte said that New Town, Randallstown and Dundalk, among others, will also be in the mix of competitive county rivals.
That’s why, to close practice, Lochte told Josh Cornish to “knock down” two free throws — or the session would continue.
The coach had emphasized earlier that the Lions “have to make 80 percent” of their shots from the line in order to thrive this season, given the number of times their attacking style will draw fouls.
With the poise and presence of a player who has been around the block a few times, Cornish calmly drilled both shots to end practice with a positive vibe.
Afterward, he spoke about his new surroundings.
“We have a lot of talent,” Cornish said. “And we really like each other as a team. I think we’re going to be very good this year.”