Chuck Moore (above) guided Coatesville to a Ches-Mont championship and runner-up finish in the District 1 6A tournament. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Jeff Griffith (@Jeff_Griffith21)
As a head coach, Coatesville’s Chuck Moore breaks up the high school campaign into “four seasons.”
He charges his team each year with the same checklist of goals: win the Ches-Mont National Division in the regular season, win the league the Ches-Mont final four, win districts and win states.
In a vacuum, that mantra seems pretty simple; accomplish one goal and move on to the next. Last year, though, Moore’s young group learned just how long those four seasons truly are, spanning from the first weekend in December to, potentially, the latter part of March.
“It’s always the same four goals that we go into every year with,” he said. “They got a taste of states and how fatigued you can get at that point, and we’re like, ‘Okay, this is a pretty long season.’ If we want to accomplish that, we’ve got to make sure that we’re well prepared in the offseason to be conditioned to go the long route.”
Coatesville took the area by surprise in 2016-17, pulling off a 22-6 record, making a deep district playoff run, and defending their Ches-Mont League title, all with just one returning starter from the previous season.
It was in early March, with a loss to Abington in the District 1 6A championship game and a loss to Carlisle in the first round of the PIAA class 6A tournament, that the breakout season of a young Coatesville team, led by prolific freshman guard Jhamir Brickus, skidded to an end.
The Red Raiders came up just short. They’re hungry for more.
“It really showed us what it takes to get there,” senior forward Tyrel Bladen said. “Last year, we were younger guys. I think this year, now that we know what it takes and that we’re battle-tested, I think we can go even further.”
“When you get a taste of that, you want more,” Moore added. “Once you reach a certain level like that, the hunger to get back there and knowing what it takes to get back there is crucial.”
Ahead of the 2017-18 campaign, the Red Raiders ride the noise made last season by Bladen, Brickus and sophomore guard Dapree Bryant, into the role of a Ches-Mont favorite and district contender.
Having only lost guard Kamau Brickus — last year’s starting point guard and the older cousin of Jhamir — and Joe Boulware, a consistently contributing 6-foot-3 forward, a large portion of last year’s standout core is still intact.
“I’ve had high expectations for a while now for this team,” Bladen said. “Even before we started succeeding, I knew the potential of this team, but I thought we hadn’t reached our ceiling yet.”
With two seniors with starting experience on the roster — Bladen and Hassan Young — the question of leadership and where it comes from for Coatesville has a concise answer.
Bladen, a 6-foot-9 rim protector and strong rebounder, will be the featured senior this season. With a strong junior year and a productive summer with N.J. Playaz, he earned three Division I offers, the last of which — Eastern Kentucky — he committed to in October. His classmate, Young, is a 6-foot-2 guard who averaged about six points last year.
“I’m expecting him to be a leader, him being the senior along with Hassan Young, just to be leaders,” Moore said. “Tyrel is probably more of a vocal leader and Hassan more so just by being an example. I expect those guys to be my mouthpiece in the locker room and make sure everyone stays together.”
From a scoring perspective, Jhamir ‘Jig’ Brickus had the epitome of a breakout freshman season a year ago, earning Ches-Mont Player of the Year honors while averaging about 16 ppg.
With his play on the court, he earns his nickname as a shifty ball-handler and pesky defender, with an impressive ability to score off the dribble as one of the smaller players on the court night in and night out.
“I think he’s excited about the season,” Moore said. “He kind of put himself on the map after the great season he had as a freshman. So many kids settle on just the talent of what they’ve done prior, they just think everything’s going to come easy. I think Jig understands that in order to get back to where you were, you have to do more, and he wants to.”
“No one’s going to take it easy on him,” he added. “He’s now kind of created that target on his back. When you play Coatesville, you’re concerned about him.”
As for Bryant, he compliments Brickus — his half-brother — in the backcourt with a similar style of play and similar build at 5-foot-8. The two will share point guard responsibilities this season, as they each continue to come into their own in year two.
That’s the best part, though, in Moore’s eyes. It’s only year two.
“It makes my job easier, being able to have point guards who can run the show,” he said. “Having them back is huge. Any time you’ve got a second-year point guard who understands the system and knows what’s going on, you’re able to progress more as a team. They will both have the ball in their hands a lot.”
Bryant — a wide receiver during the fall months — is one of a handful of players who spent a large chunk of the basketball preseason period making a deep postseason run with Coatesville’s football team.
Several of Moore’s seniors squad double as football players, including 6-foot-3 junior defensive end and forward Tione Holmes, senior running back and guard Aaron Young, and his brother, Avery Young, a 6-foot-1 senior and Rutgers commit at cornerback.
Seniors like Kahtero Summers (6-3) and Johnny Clifford (6-3) are also two-sport athletes who add depth in the frontcourt in the months to come.
“These guys are my football guys,” Moore said. “They add that grit and toughness that’s needed. I know they’ll be ready by the time the season gets going.”
With those players wrapping up their football season in the state semifinals and now joining the talent core of Brickus, Bladen, Bryant and Young on the hardwood, Moore’s hope is that his team will be looking back at a similarly successful journey “four seasons” from now.
And in order to do that, they’ll want to be playing when a different type of season rolls around.
“Basketball starts in the winter,” Moore said. “You’ve got get to March and see the weather start to change where you can open up the gym doors and there’s a nice, warm breeze and the flowers start to bloom again. To be able to play in that longevity and see the seasons change… you know you’re doing something right. ”
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