Sprints, sprints, sprints. That was the theme of the boys varsity basketball team in 2015. Coach Daniel and Mark led the disgruntled team to a .500 record throughout the season, with 0 tournament placements and a lot of conditioning. Every missed layup meant a suicide. Every lost game meant a lap. Every mistake meant you run.
Disappointment would be a close second for the leading theme. Constant running without winning didn’t really make the team happy. The fact of the matter was the team had so much talent, across top backcourt players in Jordan, uber-athletic seniors, three-point specialists, and a motivated bench filled with Juniors and Sophomores waiting for their chance to shine. The lineup was perfect, but with some questionable management it wasn’t long until two top players dropped out, and the teams downfall continued.
Coming into the next season, the team had been taken over by new Head Coach Iyad Abu Touq, along with Assistant Coach Derek Lief. Coach Iyad wasn’t known as a basketball guy in King’s, and Coach Derek had never even played basketball. So, the worry began to brew, regarding whether or not the Lions could revive what was once a leading basketball program.
The lineup was filled with new faces, and new roles. 5 new players coming from JV were expected to play heavy minutes. The team didn’t know each other, but it only took one early season blow-out at the hands of SABS (Choueifat) to unite them enough to win every game falling. They finished with a 15-1 record, and won the AAC tournament (coming back from down ten points in the final three minutes of the championship game).
The next season, they had only lost one senior who played heavy minutes, along with two role players, and in place gained 3 new starter caliber wings, in Jawad Fakhouri ’18, Marcus Liaw ’19, and Mohammad Metwally ’19. The team looked stacked, and proved to be so on the court, winning 25 of 26 games, along with two tournaments placements (first and second).
With a combined record of 40-2, and three tournament placements, in the last 2 years, King’s Basketball has been in its prime these last few years. However, the loss of John Wen, Chanwoo Park, Adam Abadillah, and Lukman Abdul-Halim will prove to be a heavy blow to the team this year.
With the season nearing its start, the 2018 team has the pressure of two years of success on their shoulders. Can they prove to carry on the legacy?
The roster on paper seems very flexible. The team currently has three options at the Point, nine at the shooting guard, eight at the small forward, nine at the power forward, and six at the center. They have five sharp-shooters, seven mid-rangers, seven drivers, and six post-up centers. Defensively, there are eight options for wing-specialists, and six to hold down the anchor under the basket. Complete with athleticism and skill, there is much room for Coach Iyad to experiment with lineup changes.
While there are only nine returning players, the six newcomers are expected to effect the Chemistry slightly, although Omari, Badran, Sururi, and Fakhoury have been active members of the larger basketball community, while Mohammad Abdelaal, a new sophomore, has his older brother and a few old friends from Saudi on the team. Any player left unknown to the team will be brought in over time.
After two preliminary games to start the season off, the Varsity team have already made a name for themselves; keeping up with a Riyadi Club-team in a game with no score, and beating the Orthodox Basketball-Academy team in what was said to be a 120-40 score, with multiple 20, and possibly 30, point games. Based on these first two games, the future looks bright for season.
At the end of the year, again the worry of who the team is losing, and who they’ll be next year, comes up. The Lions will lose both their current starters at shooting guard and center (Yazan Aryan and Omar Abdelaal, respectively), along with key players Jawad Fakhouri, Ibrahim Akeel, and Seif Samara, to graduation.
While these five players have played vital roles in years passed, and will continue through the season, their roles are nothing that can’t be recovered. The beauty of teams in the past is there has never been a single star the is dominating other teams. That is why they have remained strong over the last three years. Losing Rayan Badrie, Rui Qi Wen, Lukman Abdulhalim, and all the other stars they have had has never knocked them down, because those players never run the team.
So, while losing the five seniors will mean that there is a few missing pieces on the team, those pieces will be filled by new players, just as they do every year. Either way, the Lions will continue to roar for many years to come.
Update: The Lions have since won their next two games, against Al-Riyadi Club and Choueifat.