Eleven months ago, the Red Rams boys basketball team walked off the court at SRC Arena with their heads hung in defeat. They fell by just two points to rival Christian Brothers Academy in the Section III Class A Championship. Entering the 2021 season, a much different Jamesville-DeWitt team will be taking the court under a much different set of circumstances.
After losing four starters and several other key contributors, it was never going to be an easy season for the Rams. Complications brought about by COVID-19 certainly haven’t helped the situation.
For a while, it didn’t even seem like there was going to be a season at all. However, a push led in part by Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon resulted in a shortened season spanning only from February to March.
Head Coach Jeff Ike said that the sudden start to the season definitely impacted how the program prepared for the season, but it was still manageable. “I think that the uncertainty played a role in getting everything set and ready. There was a rush when we found out we were going to practice, so thanks to my manager Austin Isaacs and the staff, everything went pretty smoothly.”
Several precautions have been put in place to reduce any health risks. This includes wearing masks at all times, using gloves during water breaks, sanitizing all equipment, and socially distancing when possible. Jamesville-DeWitt has also made the decision not to allow fans at games for the time being.
Beyond logistical issues caused by COVID-19, there are certainly many holes for J-D to fill going into the season. Losing so many contributors means that many younger and less experienced players will have to fill their shoes.
The biggest loss was class of 2020 guard Payton Shumpert, a 6th team All-New York selection that led the team in nearly every stat. Graduating alongside him were fellow starters Matthew Cieplicki and Matthew Bradford. Sophomore Trey Autry, another former starter for the Rams, transferred to Western Reserve Academy in Ohio.
This leaves senior Preston Shumpert (Payton’s brother) as the lone remaining starter for Jamesville-DeWitt. Shumpert, who was an All-New York Honorable Mention, is confident in how the team will play this year.
“I believe we will be competitive. All of our players bring something different to our team, and we’re all tough minded. We’re ready for our season to begin.”
There are plenty of big shoes to fill on the team alongside Shumpert. Other returning players include seniors Gunther Schnorr, Marshall Withers, James Saroney, Brian King, and Nuwr’iyl Neal.
The Red Rams will also welcome eight new juniors moving up from the junior varsity team. Highlighting this group is a tandem of players that were called up to the varsity squad for the playoffs last year. Matthew Keeler and Brendan Kohberger will both look to contribute after seeing limited action during Sectionals in the 2020 season.
A wild card for J-D this year will be senior Johnny Keib. The SCAC Player of the Year in soccer and a Yale commit in lacrosse will be back on the court for the first time since freshman year. Keib was a very strong player for the Red Rams freshman squad back in 2018, so it will be interesting to watch how much he’s able to contribute this season.
Although there won’t be a postseason at all this year, the team won’t be holding back at all according to junior Ben Schellinger. “We’re still trying to compete and win games. No matter how many we have, we want to win them all.”
In fact, Keeler specifically mentioned the same goal. “I want to go undefeated, and I think we’ll go undefeated.”
The road towards that perfect record begins exactly where last season ended: a matchup with CBA. The Red Rams will host the Brothers in their season opener on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. You can watch the game on YouTube for free here.
Finally, after 11 months, J-D will get their chance at revenge.