This article was written by senior Sam Forkin.
Coming into the 2013-2014 season, there was no doubt in anybody’s mind that our team wasn’t going to be the dominant force as we were the year before. Having lost Dominic Dixon, a 6’8 power forward usually never seen in 1A basketball, knockdown shooter Eric Wott, senior leader Kevin Bates, and Jonathan Grubaums, people viewed us as a small, young team with little experience and little expectation to succeed the way we did in the past. However, aside from the outlook people had on us on paper, we had one thing this year that a lot of the other players and I can confirm that we didn’t have in the past, and that was confidence. Even though Tyler Diehl was our tallest player and guard at only 6’3, we looked past that and saw ourselves as equals compared to any team that we would play.
As many know, there was a big change from last year to this year in the coaching staff of the Trailblazers. Previous assistant coach Brandon Lafferman was hired to take over the head-coaching job for the Trailblazers. Coach Lafferman was able to get on a personal level with each and every single one of his players and honestly had belief in everyone’s abilities on, and more importantly off, the court. Coach Laff trusted me, cared about me, and put his trust into my hands whenever I was in his presence. It not only made me feel very comfortable but made a team of 12 players feel comfortable in their own shoes. It allowed us to not hold back whatsoever and explode into a unique team playing a different type of game that has ever been seen in University High School.
After starting out the season on a bumpy road, with many different experiments and coaching tactics, the team finally came together after the Vincennes Tournament. After losing three of the four games in Vincennes, not only were the coaches fed up with the performance, but also, more importantly, the players were able to realize what needed to be done in order to start winning games. Just like last year after the George Washington game, a flip switched and it all went uphill from there. We didn’t care if we were the underdog, we didn’t care if people came in the gym and laughed at our size. We began to put that aside, and the second the ball would go up for tip-off, it would be game on. We would hit the floor and play our game. We weren’t forced to run endless amounts of sets, or to play a certain type of defense at all times. We played within confined rules. The coaches literally just told us go out and do what you do, and with that being the mindset in our heads, that’s what we did, and that’s how we won.
Although the season didn’t end the way we planned for it to end, with another sectional championship and more, I can honestly say I wouldn’t trade this season for any other one. I wasn’t playing for a team where I had to search for my role this year. I was becoming part of a family. When I would hit the floor, we would play basketball together, the game that we all shared a love for. We accomplished a lot over the course of the year. We beat multiple 2A teams and ranked 1A teams and became the favorite in our own sectional. We reversed the insults that we were receiving from reporters at the beginning of the season to compliments. We didn’t have a successful season off of winning state or winning sectionals, but our success was defined by a group of kids coming together, every night, and doing something that nobody thought they could accomplish in a completely unique way. And that is why my senior season of basketball was a year I will never forget.