Biggest basketball surprise in Ohio? How about Dayton Chaminade Julienne

Image

CJ senior Joe Staley has helped the Eagles power to a 9-1 record. (Photo by Nick Falzerano)

Prove it time for Chaminade Julienne. The Eagles have been the most surprising boys basketball squad in Dayton – and arguably Ohio – this season after posting an 11-10 record
in 2008-09. But a combination of players reaching their potential, a
well-organized offense, physical defense and team chemistry has led to
a 9-1 record and No. 2 ranking among the state’s Division II teams.


Prove it time for Chaminade Julienne.

The Eagles have been the most surprising boys basketball squad in Dayton – and arguably Ohio – this season.

Not much was expected of them in the preseason after an 11-10 record
in 2008-09. Their leading scorer, guard Ryan Bass (18.6 ppg),
transferred to Dayton Dunbar. Their only impact player returning was
6-foot-3, 240-pound center Joe Staley who averaged 15.3 ppg last year.

But a combination of players reaching their potential, a
well-organized offense, physical defense and team chemistry has led to
a 9-1 record and No. 2 ranking among the state’s Division II teams.

CJ’s only loss was 74-69 at No.1 ranked Dunbar the second game of
the season. It grabbed attention on Dec. 27-28 in the Holiday Classic
at UD Arena handing Dayton Thurgood Marshall (55-38) and
Trotwood-Madison (55-39) their first losses of the season.

Now comes a second weekend for CJ to prove it belongs at the big
money table with other D-II powers in the state. Friday, Jan. 15, it
hosts 9-1 Cincinnati Moeller (tied for No. 9 in state Division I poll).
Monday, Jan. 18, it plays Centennial High School from Roswell, Ga., at
6:45 p.m. at Kettering Fairmont’s Trent Arena. The game is part of the
three-day Flyin’ to the Hoop exhibition which features some of the best
high school talent in the county.

Centennial was 4-2 as of Jan. 14 and ranked among the top 10 in
three different Georgia 6A state ratings. It is also the No. 3 ranked
team in the Atlanta metro area, which covers all divisions.

Moeller is probably the more meaningful game for CJ being a Greater Catholic
League opponent and one of the state’s traditional powers. Beat Moe and
you’ve got people’s attention and respect. The Crusaders are led by one
of state’s top guards in 6-3 Charlie Byers (14.5 ppg) and 6-9 Griffin
McKenzie (9.8 ppg) who has signed with Xavier.

“They put as much pressure on the ball all over the floor as anyone
in the state,” said CJ coach Joe Staley. “One of the reasons we’ve been
pretty good so far is that we haven’t made many turnovers. Moeller has
been scoring a lot of off turnovers. So it will be a big key to the
game.”

Point guard Tim Szabo has been one key for CJ averaging 4.4 assists
and two turnovers per game. As with all the CJ players, his passing and
ball handling is much sharper than last season.

The biggest surprise has been 6-5, 180-pound senior Matt Vest. Last
season was his first at CJ after transferring from Carroll. His play
was tentative much of the season and he averaged 5.5 points and 5.1
rebounds as the third or fourth scoring option.

When he committed to Wright State in November, it appeared to be a
favor to the Vest family. His father, Mark, a big time scorer for WSU
in its NCAA Division II national championship days in the 1980s, is in
the school’s Hall of Fame and a color commentator on team radio
broadcasts.

Now Vest appears to be the one of the recruiting steals of the year.
He grew three inches and added 15 pounds over the summer. That size
along with a great summer in AAU competition has helped him blossom as
a player.

Vest is averaging 16.3 points per game. 5.3 rebounds. 3.8 assists
and shooting 63-percent from 3-point range. He is both and inside and
outside threat and handles the ball against pressure.

“We’ve had some good players here, but Matt is the best player at a
wing we’ve ever had,” said Staley. “To me he’s the best all-around
player in Dayton. Period.”

Vest will be a walk-on at Wright State next season and be on scholarship beginning in the 2010-11 season.

Joe Staley, the coach’s son, is a load in the middle. He admits his
vertical jump is no higher than a bottle of water, but he is very
nimble for a big man. His resume includes: strength, quick feet, a soft
touch and a series of old schools post moves around the basket that
make him difficult to stop.

He is also an outstanding passer and 45-percent shooter from 3-point range.

“As individuals we may not be that talented, but as a team we’re
playing pretty well,” said Staley. “There’s no egos. We always look for
the open man with the best chance of scoring. No one has a problem with
making one more pass.

“And we take pretty good shots. The whole coaching staff preaches to
us about not forcing it, take the high percentage shot. Over the season
I think we’ve developed a team pride in getting the assist.”

The other two starters are 6-4 wing player Jon Bibbs and 6-2 guard
Luke Pyper. Bibbs is a leaper averaging 8.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per
game. He has been especially tough defensively shutting down the lane.

Pyper averages 5.6 ppg and has been in double figures in four of the
last five games. He is developing into an effective 3-point shooter to
ask pressure off Vest and Staley.

The top player off the bench is 6-4 sophomore John Staley, another
of the coach’s sons. He is averaging 5.3 points and 2.1 rebounds mostly
in the role of defender and rebounder.

“These guys really enjoy playing together,” said coach Staley. “We
might not have the individual talent of some of the schools. But I
think we’re a pretty good high school team.

“The chemistry between these guys is amazing. They go hard all the
time and they’re very smart on the floor, taking good shots, making
good passes and playing good defense.”

Whether that will be good enough to play the likes of Moeller and
Centennial is yet to be seen. But the tough games will certainly help
CJ in the brutal Dayton Division II sectional tournament against the
likes of Kettering Alter, Bellbrook, Dunbar, Fenwick, Thurgood Marshall
and Wilmington.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *