The last decade of boys Varsity basketball has seen Jamestown rise as a powerful force in Section 6, Class AA. The team has racked up countless league and section titles, gone to several state championships, and posted a winning season every year since the winter of 1988-89. Head coach Ben Drake, who is in his nineteenth year coaching basketball for the Red Raiders, sat down with the Jamestown Gazette to talk about his new team, his summer camp programs, and what’s been the key to all his success.
Cortney: What kind of talent do you have on the team this year?
Coach Drake: I think time is going to determine that, because we have a lot of new faces on the team this season. There are only two guys on the roster that played significant minutes last year. Everybody else either didn’t get a lot of playing time or has moved up from the JV team.
In terms of players, though, our biggest strength is James Rojas. He is a returning all-state player and player of the year in our league, and he had a really good summer. We’re expecting him to be our leader this year. We also have returner Matt Hill, who is a very good shooter and has worked hard to improve in the off-season as well.
Cortney: You put on a lot of basketball camps and leagues in the summer, for almost all grade levels. What kind of impact do you notice these camps have on the Varsity basketball program at Jamestown?
Coach Drake: Well, one of the big things is that a lot of the kids who are now playing for me have been coming to my camp since they were in elementary school. So most of our coaches have been able to establish relationships with the kids at a young age, have gotten to know them as players and people. Besides that, we run tournaments and leagues for grades five through seven, so kids just have a lot of opportunities to play and improve.
Cortney: Jamestown’s school website dubs you the “all-time winningest coach in J.H.S. history.” What’s been the key to your success?
Coach Drake: I guess, number one, is that I’ve been here a long time – when you coach for this long, you’re bound to accumulate some wins. But besides that, I have a great coaching staff. I’m really fortunate to have a group of guys who enjoy teaching the game to our younger players, so by the time those players get to me they’ve already learned the basics. Then it’s just up to me to refine things and push them to the next level. Another key is committed players. I’ve been lucky to work with talented kids who just have a passion for basketball – it’s nice to coach kids who want to get better. You know, to have fifteen kids show up when I open the gym at 8:00 a.m. during summer break, that says a lot. The things we do year round are really what allow us to win in the wintertime.
Cortney: You’ve got your first games coming up this week. What have you been focusing on in practice leading up to those games?
Coach Drake: I feel like there’s been so much that we need to cover this year because we do have so many new guys. I’ve been trying to spend an equal amount of time on both the offensive and defensive ends. We need to improve our offensive execution because a lot of the guys are still learning how to do things, such as play calls. At the defensive end, we have several defenses that we like to play and our guys are still trying to learn the nuances of each of those defenses. It’s going to take a little time for us. I feel like with this year’s team, we’ll get better as the year goes on. Hopefully come the end of February, when playoffs start, we’ll be a better team than we are right now.
To read more of Cortney Linnecke’s creative and informative contributions to the Jamestown Gazette, please go to www.jamestowngazette.com.