The boys varsity basketball team, which finished 2-12 in the league and 5-15 overall last season, is losing its two leading scorers for the upcoming season: seniors Ted Zhou and Jackson Crawford.
Zhou, a point guard who averaged 16.8 points and 5.8 rebounds last season, is ineligible to play this year. According to the California Interscholastic Federation, a player can not compete for more than four years or eight semesters of high school.
Zhou said he played in ninth grade in China, which is considered middle school there. Zhou then transferred to Country Day, starting in ninth grade, and played on the school’s basketball team for three years.
Despite his ineligibility, Zhou said he still wants to be involved in the team. He is taking online courses to receive a certificate as an assistant coach, Zhou said.
“I’m allowed to practice with the team,” Zhou said. “So I’ll try to improve their skills, very much like a coach or trainer.”
Crawford, who averaged 15.3 points and 6.7 rebounds last season, is also leaving after three years on the team. Crawford said his growing interest in golf drew him away from basketball.
“Due to the combination of pressure from my college applications and the first semester of senior year, I decided that I’d rather focus on school and playing in golf tournaments than committing my time to basketball,” he said.
Crawford said he will miss the competitiveness of playing.
“I’ll miss playing in the gym and having the home game atmosphere,” he said. “(David Ancrum) is a player’s coach and fun to be around. He pushes everyone to maximize their potential. I’ll definitely miss being on a team and seeing everyone get better together. ”
Zhou agreed, adding that he has a filial respect for Ancrum.
“I remember one time I was dribbling down the court and I made this really good jump shot, and I remember (Ancrum) standing up and cheering me on.
“The joy I felt can’t be described, so I will definitely miss that feeling of being cheered on by (Ancrum and the crowd).”
Senior Chris Wilson echoed Zhou and Crawford’s statements about Ancrum’s coaching style.
“I like that (Ancrum) knows what he’s talking about,” Wilson said. “He’s got a lot of experience in basketball, and been on the other side of things, so he knows what the players are thinking. Also, he tells you what he’s thinking. He doesn’t hold back. He really cares about your game.”
Junior guard Max Wu also decided not to come back, leaving Country Day with four returning players. Twelve new players signed up, raising the possibility of the first junior varsity in five years.
Small forward Wilson (4.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg), senior center Aaron Graves (3.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg), junior point guard Avinash Krishna ( 1.8 ppg, 1.6 rpg) and junior power forward Martin Cao ( 2.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg) will be returning this season.
Wilson said he’s optimistic about the new season.
“I’m looking forward to having a lot of new talent and more people on the team,” Wilson said. “I’m also excited to see how returning players improved, including myself.”
Wilson added that he is excited about the opportunity to have a bigger role on the team.
“(With Crawford and Zhou leaving), we’re going to have to step up and take that role,” he said.
Krishna agreed. “When I first heard about (Zhou) not playing, I was like, ‘That sucks,’” he said. “And then I heard about (Crawford) not returning, and I was like, ‘That really sucks,’ because we were losing the bedrock of our team. Losing the two most talented players on any roster is devastating. However, I’m hoping we’ll (add) some fresh talent.”
Ancrum said he’s certain the team will overcome losing Zhou and Crawford.
“It’s tough, but somebody will emerge,” Ancrum said. “That’s usually how it works; a guy will (step up). Sometimes it’s someone you didn’t think had it in him.”
According to Ancrum, most of the new members will be freshmen, some who have never played on a basketball team.
Freshman Tonye Jack, for example, said he joined because he wanted to improve his skills.
“I’m looking forward to improving my dribbling and bonding with the team,” Jack said.
Freshman Rod Azghadi, who played on the middle school team, is also looking forward to the season.
“In eighth grade, I was the biggest guy on the court,” the 6-foot-1-inch Azghadi said. “But now, I’m going to be playing against seniors and juniors. I’m excited for that challenge.”
However, Azghadi said the lack of seniors is going to be detrimental to the team.
“We are all young,” he said. “The other teams are going to be loaded with seniors, and we barely have any upperclassmen.”
The Cavaliers will open the season on Friday, Nov. 22, at 7 p.m. against Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning at Nevada Union High School in Grass Valley.
—By Arijit Trivedi
Originally published in the Nov. 12 edition of the Octagon.