LATHAM Last year’s 52-36 loss to Troy in the Section II Class AA semifinals still haunts the returning seniors on this year’s Shaker boys basketball team.
“All last year, we focused on that loss in the semifinals, and it motivated us to work harder,” said senior guard Andrew Holmes.
Holmes, forward Malik Dare and forward Tyler Hoffman form the veteran core of this year’s Shaker Blue Bison – a team determined to win another Suburban Council North Division title and get beyond the Sectional semifinals.
“It’s going to take a lot of hard work, listening to coach (Jeff Holmes) and believing in each other,” said Dare.
Shaker graduated several key players from last season including forwards David Morrison and Chris Landers, as well as guard Zach Yakel.
“We lost heart and soul,” said Jeff Holmes, who is entering his 24th season as Shaker’s varsity head coach. “We didn’t just lose good players; we also lost great chemistry guys.”
Having Dare, Hoffman and Andrew Holmes back is a good starting point for the Blue Bison. Dare and Hoffman give them a strong inside presence, while Holmes has a reputation as a solid three-point shooter.
“He had a really good year for us last year,” coach Holmes said of his son. “We’re expecting him to be a more complete player this year. He can’t just be our three-point sniper.”
Shaker fans will notice a difference in Dare’s appearance this season, as the slender forward has added upper body muscle during the off-season to make him tougher for opponents to deal with near the basket.
“He’s gotten bigger and stronger. He worked hard in the weight room,” said Holmes.
The rest of Shaker’s roster is dominated by junior varsity call-ups, but one newcomer – guard Will Francis – should be a familiar name to those who saw him play last season down Route 2 in Watervliet.