This is a new era for the boys basketball team at James M. Bennett high.
Gone are the big names like Kory Holden and Jorden Duffy, and former head coach Dean Sullivan departed with them. To pile on to that, many of the starters from last year’s team are gone too.
Barry Gaines transferred back to Wi-Hi, while Michael Jean-Charles and a slew of others graduated.
So the cupboard is especially bare for first-year varsity head coach Dustin Mills.
“We’re only returning one guy who has any sort of varsity experience,” Mills said. “He was a freshman call-up last year and he has a great motor.”
As an assistant under Sullivan, Mills was the head coach of the JV squad last year and also filled in as the varsity head coach for Sullivan for a couple of games last year. He went 2-0, beating Stephen Decatur and North Dorchester.
Before that, he coached the Clippers’ girls’ JV basketball team for a few years and has also been an assistant football coach for several seasons.
“I don’t necessarily have the experience of a lot of other coaches around here, but I consider myself to be a student of the game and I’m always trying to learn more,” Mills said.
Here’s what else Mills had to say about his team this season at the Governor’s Challenge Media Day on Nov. 23:
What’s the make-up of your team this year?
“Our team is going to be young and aggressive. We’re going to play hard-nosed basketball. We’re going to get up and down the floor and defend the rock and the rim. It might not be the prettiest form of basketball, but I think it’s going to be effective for us.”
In recent years, the Clippers have either had a Kory Holden or a Jorden Duffy, and the offense revolved around them. Without them, will the plays and the mentality of the team be different?
“Our motto is one word: relentless. We want to play from the opening tip to that final horn and be tough. It’s tough to replace that kind of level of talent of a Kory Holden or a Jorden Duffy, but I think we’re going to make up for that with a larger group of guys who are going to fill the stat sheet. It won’t be just one individual, but several individuals.”
Who are those individuals?
“We have 13 on varsity right now – so we have a very deep squad – and I’m comfortable with any of those 13 being on the floor at any given time. It’s not like where you keep 12 and only play seven of those guys.”
How are the Clippers going to win games this year?
“We’re going to make mistakes, but you can make up for mistakes through hustle and effort plays. Getting 50-50 balls, picking up dirty boards and things like that, which I think we’re going to do really well. I think that’s going to win us a lot of ball games. For the last three consecutive seasons, Bennett has won 14 or more games. We have a tradition and a standard that has been set for us and we’re going to do our best to up-hold that standard. We’re not looking to take a step back this year. We’re going to keep that Bennett flag flying high. We’re going to stay up top and ball out.”
The Clippers start their season on Saturday, Dec. 5 at the Bayside Conference’s Tip-Off event at Chesapeake College. At 4 p.m., they’ll take the court against the Colonel Richardson Colonels.