New-look Green boys basketball looks to continue success

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent

GREEN  This is the second half of the story for high school basketball teams that enjoy a memorable run of success with a veteran-laden roster.

When those upperclassmen who led the way graduate, they leave behind a roster of players who haven't had as much of a chance to shine due to sitting behind talented seniors who helped their squad to league and postseason success.

Green sophomore Zach Oddo scores a reverse lay-up against McKinley's James McCollugh, Jan. 31, 2020.  (CantonRep.com / Ray Stewart)

Welcome to 2020 for the Green boys basketball team. The Bulldogs are coming off back-to-back district final appearances, an outright Federal League championship and a 23-win season that put last season's team among the best in program history. It is, safe to say, a tough act to follow.

"We've got three letterman back in senior Nathan Smith, as well as juniors Zack Oddo and Trey Martin," veteran head coach Mark Kinsley said. "We're excited about what they can do and we expect a lot of them not only on the court, but with their leadership because they've been through a lot of big games."

Smith, Martin and Oddo have played key roles in their varsity careers, but even if their current positional designations and roles within the offense remain the same, they will be asked to churn out even more production as teammates who haven't gotten a chance to shine yet on the varsity level adjust to the speed and pace of the game.

Two of those players are seniors Jameson Pine and B.J. Glass. Pine and Glass have had the misfortune, Kinsley noted, of playing positions that were well-stocked with established older players and had to continue to work on their games and remain patient while waiting for their turn in the lineup.

However, the veteran coach noted, going up against those older players in practice every day for a program that has grown accustomed to winning 20-plus games a year and making deep tournament runs. Translating that practice experience into practical success in games is a hurdle that takes many players time to clear and that could be even truer this season.

Juniors Quinn Simmer and Marc Adam are also part of that group looking to carve out a spot in the rotation for the first time and will be counted on to add depth as the season gets underway.

The realities of the COVID-19 pandemic have affected each sport in a different way and despite the best efforts of coaches, athletic directors and district officials at area schools to both enact and follow health and safety protocols while adapting to the ever-changing landscape created by the pandemic, there have been disruptions.

"That's going to be a huge part for the year, not having the offseason like we normally have where new guys could have had experience playing top level competition, it's even more important for them to be able to adjust," Kinsley said.

Green has been hit by the pandemic as directly as any program, with the virus forcing the team into quarantine recently. Not being able to get together as a group or practice is far from ideal less than three weeks out from the start of the regular season, leaving the Bulldogs to do what they can through digital and individual means.

Some players have basketball hoops at home, according to Kinsley, while others have neighbors who allow them to shoot on their hoops or parks nearby where they can go and shoot on their own. Beyond that, working on ball-handling skills – which can be done anywhere with a flat surface and a basketball – and connecting via text messages, emails and Google Meeting calls has become the go-to method of staying in touch until quarantine is lifted.

Of course, given that Gov. Mike DeWine has hinted at a possible second statewide shutdown if Ohio's COVID-19 cases continue to rise, there is the chance that even when the Bulldogs are cleared to get back on the court, they could face another roadblock in their quest to get ready for the season.

"We've stayed in touch through emails, texts, Google Meetings ... guys are staying in touch with one another and coming up with workouts to do," Kinsley said. "The key is trying to keep some semblance of conditioning, to get out and run and work on their game so we can be in a good place when we get back together."

Through all of the uncertainty and shifting realities of each day, a sense of optimism and excitement remains in place. The team's returning players as well as its new faces know this is their chance to add to the growing Green basketball legacy, one that has seen their team claim a place alongside the likes of Jackson, Canton McKinley and Lake as consistent league title contenders.