Making Progress Despite Abbreviated Season, Hun Boys’ Basketball Produced 8-2 Record
GREAT SCOTT: Hun School boys’ basketball player Jack Scott dribbles upcourt in a game this season. Junior guard Scott’s solid all-around play helped Hun go 8-2 this winter. (Photo by Lexi Thomas)
By Bill Alden
Although the Hun School boys’ basketball team dropped a 64-62 nail-biter to the Patrick School in its season finale on March 2, that defeat didn’t put a damper on a positive campaign for the program.
“We just kept getting better, improving, and growing with confidence,” said Hun head coach Jon Stone, whose team ended the 2021 campaign with an 8-2 record.
“We were pretty disappointed with the last game and the result. We were right there, we had a lot of chances. We just couldn’t close the deal.”
The Raiders were excited to get a chance to play back-to-back games against Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) rival Peddie, posting a pair of wins, topping the Falcons 78-60 on February 27 and 58-52 on March 1.
“It was great to play a team in our league. We played Blair early on which was great,” said Stone.
“It doesn’t feel like a season if you don’t play some league games. We were super-excited to hear that they were cleared to play and then to play them back to back was great. It was great for us to get wins both times.”
Hun displayed offensive balance in the victories over Peddie, with four players (Jack Scott – 20 points, Dan Vessey – 15, Kelvin Smith – 14, and Toby Thornburg -11) scoring in double figures in the first meeting and three (Vessey – 18, Smith – 16, Isiaha Dickens – 14) hitting that mark in the second contest.
“We had quite a few games this year where we had four or five guys in double figures; I think that is when we are at our best,” said Stone.
“I kept telling our guys all year long this team has been similar to some of the other great teams we have had in the past where you know who are you going to guard. If you key on somebody, somebody else is going to get all they can eat, so to speak. We had that with this year’s team.”
The Hun players showed some great character to go along with that balance as they worked their way through COVID concerns.
“I was really, really proud of them, that is a testament to the team itself,” said Stone.
“I think part of our success on the court was our ability to be resilient going through all of this. Everybody at first was kind of disappointed at the thought of not having a season and not practicing when we normally practice and having to adjust on the fly. They really took it well and in stride. There were some ups and downs in there but everybody really handled it well and did what they had to do to be able to play, practicing outside and with masks on and keeping distant.”
Stone was happy to see his team play 10 games, particularly considering that MAPL rivals Blair had only two contests and Lawrenceville had none.
“I was telling people all fall if we can get 10-15 games in, I would be happy,” said Stone.
“To get 10 games in was just terrific. We feel so lucky and blessed and that part was great. We had to shut down for a little while and we weren’t allowed to play. It wasn’t anything we did. We could have gotten close to 15 had that not happened. We were lucky and nobody on our team had it, coaches or players. We were super lucky for that and thankful to have had any kind of season here.”
Noting that this year’s squad developed a good chemistry, Stone and his staff was thankful to get the chance to guide the players on a daily basis.
“It is just a great group of guys to coach,” said Stone. “We loved coming to practice every day to work with these guys. There was good energy and good competitiveness, it was a really great culture with the team this year.”
Star guard/forward Kelvin Smith produced a great senior season, contributing in a number of ways to the Raiders this winter.
“Kelvin was tremendous and he is going to be a big loss for us next year,” said Stone of the 6’4, 220-pound Smith who is headed to Yale where he is planning to play both football and basketball.
“We are really going to have someone step up to fill his shoes and his role. As a leader, he really stepped up this year. Not that he wasn’t a good leader last year but he just was really terrific on the court and off the court this year as a leader. His play was terrific as well. He is just so powerful and strong and he had the ability to do so many different things. He led our team in assists, he was one of our best defenders, he can score, and he can rebound. Ironically shooting might be his weakest thing, relatively speaking, but he shot the three really well this year. I think he shot 33 percent, for most guys that is pretty good.”
The squad’s two post-graduate players, Tijmen Suijker and Randall Brown, proved to be good team guys.
“Tijmen came in from the start and was such a tremendous leader; he brought a great perspective and ability to bring the team together and share all of his past experiences,” said Stone, noting that Suijker only played two games due to injury.
“We didn’t know life with him on the court very much; we will certainly miss his contributions off the court for sure. Randall came to Hun to play lacrosse; he didn’t play basketball his senior year and he said he would love to play again and be a part of a team. From day one, Randall brought a great energy and attitude to practice and workouts. He was committed and wanted to be a part of a good team and a good program. He came off the bench and brought so much energy physically to the game, diving to the floor and things like that. He is low maintenance and high energy, a coach’s dream.”
While the graduation of that trio will leave a void, Hun will be returning some high quality performers, starting with a pair of star guards in junior Scott and sophomore Vessey.
“We are going to miss those guys for sure but we are super excited with what we have coming back,” said Stone.
“Jack and Dan are a terrific one-two punch in the way of scoring from the backcourt and controlling the ball and tempo.”
The Raiders also boast some talented young players in the frontcourt with the trio of junior Dickens, junior Thornburg, and sophomore Anthony Aririguzoh.
“Isiaha really improved this year, he shot the ball very well this year,” said Stone.
“He was much more consistent and rebounded the ball very well. Toby showed a ton of improvement this year and was really a big part of what we did. His defense was really terrific; he did a lot of things that you don’t see in the stat book that made a big difference. Aririguzoh really grew and developed this year. He got a lot of valuable court time. He is one whose best days are clearly in front of him. He does a lot of things you can’t teach, he is so long. As he develops more and grows more, he is going to be pretty good.”
Looking ahead to next winter, Stone believes that Hun has the potential to be very good.
“With a team like ours, you don’t always have the continuity piece from year to year,” said Stone.
“So the continuity alone, I think will keep us in the running no matter what. We will likely add one or two guys to fill some of the void that Kelvin is leaving along with Randall and Tijmen. We are pretty excited for next year, We have got size and good guard play.”