The morning fog is still lingering on Country Day’s campus as juniors Jacob Chand and Rod Azghadi arrive for their morning basketball practice.
The Cavaliers’ varsity basketball team has no official team captain, but the junior duo of Chand and Azghadi lead the team as an athletic force and inspirational leaders on the court.
To coach David Ancrum, the team doesn’t have its captain yet.
“We need a Kobe Bryant or a Michael Jordan. That’s who our captain will be,” Ancrum said.
Chand and Azghadi have been playing basketball for Country Day since their early years at the school, Chand starting in fifth grade and Azghadi in eighth grade. However, both have had a love for the sport since childhood.
Chand’s basketball career started in the second grade with the Folsom Youth Basketball Association, and he’s been playing ever since. He has been on each of Country Day’s basketball teams since the fifth grade.
“Basketball was a sport I’ve really enjoyed since I first started playing,” Chand said. “My grandpa got me into it, and he has been my biggest motivator. He comes to all my games, and I work hard so I can improve to make him proud. Basketball is the kind of sport where if you put in the work, you will instantly see results.”
Azghadi started playing basketball simply as a form of exercise in a church league from fourth to sixth grade. He joined Country Day in the eighth grade and started playing basketball the same year; he has played every year since then.
During their freshman and sophomore years, Azghadi and Chand only experienced one win on the Varsity Boys’ Basketball team. This season, however, the team has an overall record of 7-6, which the two see as a positive.
“We used to have a losing mindset going into games,” Azghadi said. “The team had gotten used to losing, and that brought our confidence down.”
The Cav’s success so far, however, has changed the team’s perspective.
“We’re beating teams that we got blown out by in previous years,” Azghadi said. “That gets the guys excited and eager to both play and improve more.”
Outside of winning, Chand and Azghadi want to see the improvement of the team as a whole.
“I am excited to see everyone develop,” Chand said. “All of us want to improve individually and together. Attending Anc’s labs and putting all of our efforts into each practice and game will help accomplish that and I’m excited for what’s to come.”
“Anc’s labs” are invitational training sessions for basketball players across Sacramento, including Country Day middle schoolers, high schoolers and alumni, college athletes, students from other high schools and even former NBA players. Run by Ancrum, the sessions can be anywhere from one to three hours including a variety of drills and, given time, a scrimmage.
Ancrum has coached Country Day’s basketball team for 20 years and has seen growth and development from Azghadi and Chand since their freshman year.
“Every coach wants guys like them on their team,” Ancrum said. “They put in the effort it takes to produce results, they arrive early and stay late. Their efforts since they were freshmen have greatly changed their game. They spend time on weekends, early mornings and after school practicing and getting better, and it shows in every game.”
From the views of Ancrum, Azghadi and Chand, the team still has areas to improve upon. The team makes “silly mistakes” that can easily be avoided.
At the start of the season, the Cavaliers struggled with turning the ball over. In one game, they had over 30 turnovers. They have since improved, now considering 15 turnovers to be an obscene amount.
“Each time you turn the ball over, that’s a possession where you don’t score and a new opportunity for our opponents to score,” Chand said. “We would pass the ball to people who weren’t looking or miss passes altogether.”
The team needs to work on some of its fundamentals as well, such as consistently making their layups and keeping their heads up while dribbling.
“Overcoming these difficulties is a team effort, but I know these guys (Azghadi and Chand) can lead the team through that,” Ancrum said. “Those two work hard and they don’t complain, you enjoy coaching kids like that.”
“More than anything I want to have fun this season,” Chand said. “If we can grow as a team now then that will put us in a good position for our future. I’m excited to see what the rest of the season has in store for us.”
— By Miles Morrow
Originally published in the Feb. 1 edition of the Octagon.