March 13, 2024

With Players Showing Improvement Across the Board, Hun Boys’ Hoops Kept Growing as Season Unfolded

GAME TYME: Hun School boys’ basketball player Drae Tyme, right, heads to the hoops in a game this season. Junior forward Tyme, who also stars in football, gave the Raiders some rugged inside play this winter as they went 10-14 and advanced to the Prep A state semifinals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For the Hun School boys’ basketball team, its run in the Prep A state tournament epitomized the up-and-down campaign produced by the squad this winter.

Hun defeated Peddie 86-60 in its Prep A opener on February 15 before falling 67-59 at Blair in a semifinal contest four days later to end the season with a 10-14 record.

“We came out and did what we were supposed to do and what we needed to do; we were clicking, it felt good,” said Hun head coach Jon Stone reflecting on the win over Peddie. “In the Blair game, we played really hard and we gave ourselves a chance to win. It was a good game, it was a hard-fought game. I am certainly proud of our guys. We would have loved to come out on the winning end for sure. They are a good team. We played well enough to win, we just didn’t make enough plays.”

While Stone would have loved to see the Raiders advance to the Prep A final, he was proud of the progress made by his players over the course of the season.

“We had our banquet the other night and I couldn’t stop talking about improvement from player one to player 12,” said Stone. “To me that is what it is all about — you have got to be able to make improvements. There is no doubt that each one of my guys improved this year in different ways and sometimes the same ways. I think we improved as a team too. At the end of the day we would have loved to win more games, but at the same time we grew and developed and got better. As a coach, that is what you want.”

The team’s senior group of Mac Kelly, Sam Wright, Derrick Melvin, and Markus Brown gave Stone all he could want. Star point guard Kelly proved to be a catalyst for the Raiders, averaging a team-high 17.3 points and 2.8 assists per game.

“Mac gave us so much in terms of toughness, competitiveness, ability to make shots, and ability to run the team,” said Stone. “We just needed all of that stuff this year — he was really good with it. As good as he was last year, he improved this year.”

Senior transfer guard/forward Wright added a lot in his one season with the program, averaging 12.3 points and 5.1 rebounds.

“Sam was great, he is so versatile and able to do so many things,” said Stone of Wright, who also stars on the diamond and has committed to attend Quinnipiac and play for its baseball program. “His on-ball defense is just remarkable with his lateral foot speed. There is no doubt he could play college basketball, let alone college baseball, which is what he is doing. Probably one of the things that both he and Mac did that most people wouldn’t realize is how good they are defensively.”

Sharp-shooting guard Melvin produced from the perimeter even as he dealt with a hand injury late in the season.

“Derrick played with so much energy, he was our leading 3-point percentage guy this year,” said Stone of Melvin, who shot 42 percent from beyond the arc and scored 8.8 points a game. “He just made so many shots, he did so many great things. It was fun to have him. His energy and attitude were as good as his ability to make shots. We missed him for three weeks, and he got cleared just in time for the playoffs. It was awesome to have him back.”

Brown gave the Raiders an inside presence with his work in the paint, averaging 3.5 rebounds a game.

“The amount of improvement that he made was great,” said Stone. “The value he gave us was not as offensive statistically as some of the other guys, but his defense was so good. He is just so long. Not only did he block a lot of shots, but he effected more than he blocked. His ability to rebound was just terrific for us.”

Hun boasts some terrific returners in junior Drae Tyme, junior AJ Mickens, and sophomore Sage Mateo.

“Each of these guys improved so much, they are certainly the building blocks we have for the future,” said Stone.

The rugged Tyme, who also stars on the gridiron, was a versatile performer this winter in the frontcourt, averaging 8.3 points and a team-high 6.5 rebounds.

“Drae is similar to Sam, he will play college football but he can play college basketball — there is no doubt with his ability to do things at both ends of the floor,” said Stone. “He is a terrific defender, he improved so much offensively this year. He is so unselfish. He is a great passer but it is also his mindset. In this day and age when everybody wants to score, he will score when needed but not force it. I feel like he has never forced it, which is hard to do at this age. His role was so vital. We lost two 6’6 guys in the first week of the season in George Xoxakos and Luke Wafle. Drae really stepped up front, and so did Markus for that matter.”

Dynamic guard Mickens also stepped up this season, averaging 9.7 points and 1.1 assists.

“I think AJ made some great strides this year and really had some fabulous games for us where he was hard to stop,” said Stone. “He is still not quite where he needs to be, but he will get there. We are certainly looking forward to watching more progress out of him next year.”

Stone enjoyed seeing Mateo make progress over the winter.

“Sage can shoot but I think some of the areas he really improved in were as a guard,” said Stone of Mateo, who averaged 5.5 points and 2.2 assists. “He really has a great ability to pass, he really looks for guys well. He really started to rise in the latter part of the season and his rebounding as well. He really started rebounding the ball well. He had some eight rebound games for us. He had a couple of six assist games for us. I think he really improved in those two areas for us.”

In addition to that trio, reserve guards, sophomore Eshan Kulkarni and junior Jasai Vargas, provided depth and showed potential.

“They didn’t play a lot at the beginning of the year; they got chances at the end of the year, especially with all of our injuries and they both responded positively,” said Stone. “Eshan shot 50 percent for the year. Literally every game I put him in, he would hit shots. It was remarkable how good he was because when you play limited minutes, it is hard to do that. He always responded. Jasai’s defense has always been strong but his offense has really come on too. Probably in the last five games of the year, he hit a three in three of those games. They both gave us some good things.”

With all of the good things Stone saw this winter, he believes the program is in a good place.

“It was a fun year, it is sad to see the season over,” said Stone. “As always, I am looking forward to next year.”