This season brings several new looks for the defending District 1-4A basketball champion Catholic Crusaders (1-3).
Under first-year head coach Jeff Gill, the Crusaders display a young team that witnessed nine seniors graduate last May.
In addition to those graduates, the team watched as coach Nick Mead resigned his position as head coach to devote more time to his family.
That’s when Gill entered the picture, hoping to continue the momentum built by Mead and the previous classes.
“It has been a great transition, I really feel blessed to coach this team,” said Gill, who has served as an assistant coach for the past eight seasons. “I’ve been head JV coach and varsity assistant for a while. Coach (Nick) Mead laid a great foundation. He had a lot of success and a bunch of district championships. Mead and I are very close friends. He put me in such a great position.
“The administration at Catholic is as awesome as anywhere. Richard LaBounty at athletic director and Sister Kierstin Martin are supportive of athletics, and they want things done the right way. That is what they are used to.”
Catholic’s starting-five is composed of three sophomores and two juniors, according to Gill, and has cut the margin in each loss this season.
After suffering a 12-point loss (Washington) followed by an 11-point loss to Pace, the Crusaders picked up a win at Milton the following night.
Just before the Thanksgiving break, the Crusaders battled Fort Walton Beach into overtime before falling by seven points.
“We’re gonna be a blue-collar team, and I’m proud of them,” Gill said. “We win more than our share of 50-50 balls. We’ve had a lot of guys get floor burns from diving for loose balls. We’re not as big and experienced as most teams, but we are going to try to outwork people.”