Abington coach Charles Grasty guided the Ghosts to three consecutive district titles from 2017-19. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
After falling just short of their fourth consecutive district championship last season, the Abington Ghosts are aiming to get back on top this year.
Since becoming Abington’s coach in 2010, Charles Grasty has turned the Ghosts into one of District 1’s premier programs, winning three straight titles from 2017-19 with Eric Dixon (Villanova), Lucas Monroe (Penn) and Robbie Heath.
That run came to an end last season. After a 9-5 regular season that was surrounded by doubt due to COVID, the Ghosts won four games as the No. 14 seed to advance to the district championship. There they ran into a tough Lower Merion team led by senior Sam Davidson (Franklin & Marshall), junior Demetrius Lilley (Penn State) and sophomore Sam Brown.
Although last year’s team wasn’t as star-studded as previous Abington teams, it had a solid core of seniors leaders, including two first team All-Suburban One Liberty Division selections in point guard Rob Bell (Kutztown) and forward Oreck Frazier, now playing football at Harvard. Caleb Baker, playing football at West Chester, also provided physicality inside, and Antoine Ellis earned second-team honors.
In the absence of Bell, Frazier and Baker, Connor Fields and Derrius Lucas have assumed the leadership roles this season. Fields, who started most of Abington’s games last year, is a lengthy 6-foot-4 senior guard with an improved jump shot who might see some time at point guard this year in addition to his typical ‘2’ and ‘3’ spots.
Lucas is an athletic wing with noticeable bounce, which he uses to his advantage on the offensive glass. Along with his presence inside, Lucas has the ability to handle the ball on the perimeter. The senior struggled with injuries for most of last year, which prevented him from getting into a grove until the end of the season.
“I had no confidence last year,” Lucas said. “Connor and I as two team leaders, the pressure is on us to play well, we can’t make mistakes because they have to feed off our energy. If we’re playing badly then the whole team is going to be out of order so it’s kind of on us.”
“They’ve been around with us,” Grasty said. “Those are our leaders this year, it’s no secret that Connor and Derrius will be our leaders. They had great summers. They came in and worked with the newer guys and let them know how difficult it is and the challenges that they’re going to face.”
After playing at a slower pace and pounding the ball inside last year, Abington will try to speed it up this year.
“Last year we had Oreck, Caleb and Rob, who are much stronger,” Grasty said. “This year we have Connor, Derrius, Paul Glants, Jerimiah Lee, those guys love to get up and down the floor, they can shoot it. We rebound well, we need to work a little more on defense, but we’re up for it.”
While Glants and Lee are both underclassmen, they will be crucial to the Ghosts’ success. Glants, a 6-foot-3 freshman, can rebound, handle the ball and has a great shot from the deep.
“Paul is good, he’s smart and has a very good basketball I.Q,” Grasty said. “He knows how to play and we’re excited that he’s coming in as a freshman, and he’ll play a lot this year. Our guys trust him and they all love each other and that’s important.”
Abington also expects to get contributions from senior guards Fhenyx Schutt, Kahjel Morris, and Jimmy Morino. As a sophomore, Lee will be in the mix for playing time.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how the younger guys are going to play,” Fields said. “[Most of] this team, we’ve been playing forever, since like sixth grade.”
Playing for a program like Abington that has had so much success comes with expectations. Grasty makes sure his players know what it means to play for the school and not to take things for granted.
“They know what happened in the past,” he said. “Right now, they understand that it’s their time, and we definitely play for those who played before us. Those guys come back, talk to us, play, and work out with us and they look up to those guys, but now it’s their turn. They understand that for years and years players have laid the groundwork, let’s not disrespect it by not playing hard and let’s go from here.”