Development key for Comets heading into rest of season

Sophomore Ben Menker gets excited after a big play against Sycamore.

Savannah Libby | The Chronicle 

Andrew Little | Sports Editor  

Since joining the Greater Miami Conference in 2008 the Mason Comets boys basketball team has had only three losing seasons (2008, 2010, and 2013). In that time the Comets have claimed two conference titles and been among the winningest teams in one of the toughest public school conferences in the state of Ohio. Sitting 5-7 overall and 1-6 in the conference (as of 1/17 press time) the Comets face the potential of only their fourth season under .500 in the last 14 seasons.

Coming into the 2021-22 season, the Comets returned only one player who logged significant varsity minutes. Guard Alex Morton, who averaged 13.1 points per game last season was placed into the position of carrying the bulk of the load for the Comets while also serving as a mentor to a blossoming group of younger players who will be tasked with continuing the Comets’ string of winning in future years.

While the seniors still have time to right the ship, a tough schedule lies ahead. A closer look at the rosters reveals that despite the challenges of this season a bright future awaits the Comets since eight of the team’s most significant contributors are underclassmen, including six sophomores.

Sophomore Ben Menker logged some varsity minutes a year ago as a freshman, but this year the 6-4 guard made the leap to the varsity starting lineup. Menker is currently averaging 7.8 points per game including a 16 point outburst in the Comets’ January 11 win over Colerain. At first the pace of the game required a major adjustment for Menker and the rest of varsity newcomers. Menker feels that going into the second half of the season, the younger players are now more comfortable on the varsity level.

“It’s a big switch from freshmen or JV to varsity because of the physicality and how fast the pace of the game is,” Menker said. “We have had enough games under our belt now that we know what we need to do, and how fast we need to move and communicate. Now we are [becoming] varsity players and not just JV players playing varsity.”

Long time head coach Greg Richards who has logged his fair share of wins during his tenure as Mason head coach knew this year’s team was going to have to grow up fast but he remains confident in his younger players and their desire to put in the work to continue Mason’s winning ways in a league that typically sees teams play upperclassmen.

“These are talented young kids that are deserving of varsity time,” Richards said. “Which is now tough for a young team to do because this league is Senior and Junior strong.”

The coaching staff recognized that with inexperience comes mistakes but Richards has been more focused on how well his team has learned from their mistakes. He feels his players are now starting to move on from their mistakes and focusing more on the next play rather than dwelling on a play that is already over.

“We are learning and when we make mistakes a lot of times those mistakes can be amplified if they let it,” Richards said. “Now I think they’re taking a step back and understanding this in order to skip to the next play and that’s getting better, but it’s still a work in progress.”

Sophomore long-range shooter Matt DeBrosse went from a player on the freshman team a year ago to the varsity level this season. DeBrosse proved he was a valuable addition to the team

in the very first game of the season when he went four for four from behind the three-point line while scoring 14 points in the Comets’ season-opening win against Tri-Village.

It’s been a major adjustment for DeBrosse who felt one of the biggest challenges this year’s team faced was getting used to playing with a completely new set of teammates. He believes that as the season has progressed the younger players are starting to blend in more which has helped the overall growth of the team.

“We really didn’t know each other well at the beginning of the season,” DeBrosse said. “We have really grown and gotten to know each other. The guys are having fun, and just building chemistry is really what brought us all together.”

Another sophomore who keeps showing signs of constant improvement and a preview of what is to come for the Comets is 6-5 forward Jake Hanley who has made an immediate impact on the defensive end of the court for the Comets while continuing to improve his offensive skill set. A standout on the baseball diamond, Hanley is currently third in the GMC in blocks per game while being called upon to guard some of the league’s top big men. After playing exclusively on junior varsity as a freshman, Hanley started the season coming off the bench but has become a staple of the starting lineup.

The Comets have some tough games ahead, all against teams ahead of them in the GMC standings. These upcoming games provide the team with an opportunity to climb in the standings and show how the team has made major strides blending together and playing a complete game. At the start of the season, it was more about learning how to play together and getting comfortable at the varsity level. Now as the team is starting to play more like a collective whole, Menker feels the team is still learning and the first half of the season provided them with the opportunity to build toward finishing the season on a strong note.

“There’s room for improvement,” Menker said. “A lot of the challenges we were facing this year are helping our younger guys experience it to learn and build off that.”

While several sophomores are getting exposed to the varsity level this season. The Comets have relied heavily on the steady play of seniors Morton (13.6 points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game, 2.4 assists) and point guard Todd Middleton who is averaging nearly 10 points and 4.5 assists per contest. The team’s lone two juniors Jack Ullom (9.8 ppg., 6.8 rpg.) and Ben

Golan (6.8 ppg., 3.4 rpg.) have played significant roles this season and are yet another reason for optimism heading into the second half of the season and looking ahead to next year when they’ll be counted on for senior leadership. Richards believes his young team is finding their rhythm while working hard to play off the strengths of each other in order to gel together as one unit. He can see their progress in the way his players are starting to acknowledge each player’s abilities.

“I think everybody individually was trying to find their own niche,” Richards said. “When that happens, it’s hard to come together as a team. As the season is progressing. I think we’re all understanding each other’s tendencies, roles, strengths, weaknesses, and I think that’s helping them come together as a team.”