The Cumberland Valley Christian Blazers are operating under some self-inflicted pressure for this coming boys basketball season, and that’s just fine with coach Austin Sanders.
“We have been looking forward to this season for a while now,” said Sanders, whose team finished 15-15 last year and wound up fourth in the Mason-Dixon Christian Conference tournament.
“Seeing some of these guys grow up through the program and watching them continue to get better every single year is always rewarding. A lot of these guys worked hard in the offseason, and you can tell in practice how it’s paying off. We do feel as if there is a lot of expectation for this team this year, and most of that we put on ourselves.”
A pair of returning juniors lead the Blazers into the season, which begins Monday night with a non-league game at Carroll Christian.
Co-captains Caleb Eckert and Blaine Minnier are two of the top returning players in the MDCC. Eckert was first-team all-MDCC last year and Minnier was second-team all-MDCC. Both should eclipse 1,000 career points this season.
Minnier, a 6-foot-3 junior, was the leading scorer last year, amassing 503 points and averaging 17 points per game. He shot 32% from three-point distance.
Eckert, a 6-foot-6 junior, averaged a double-double, scoring 15 points and pulling down 13 rebounds per game. He wound up with 438 points.
“We have two guys, Caleb and Blaine, who have been in this (JV and varsity) system since they were in eighth grade,” Sanders said. “They want to win and they are starting to realize that it is going to take everyone on this team to accomplish that. It has been awesome to see them not only mature as basketball players, but mature as leaders on this team by helping those who may not have the luxury of fully understanding what is going on all the time.”
Returning from last year are senior Kenneth Hott, who is valued for his defense as he made 33 steals last year, and junior Isaac Kauffeldt, who started nine games.
New to the varsity this year are juniors Ryan Winters and Noah Randolph, sophomores Josh Rowe and Spencer Rathel, and freshmen Nollin Egolf and Aaron Minnier.
Joining Sanders on the coaching staff as assistants are his brother Josh, Mark Eckert and Nate Gaines.
“Losing five seniors and only having four returning players definitely has its challenges, but we as coaches couldn’t be happier with how this team is coming together in the preseason,” Austin Sanders said. “We have the ability to accomplish our goals, but our message has always been ‘consistency.’ We have to be consistent in the small things to enjoy the benefits of accomplishing the goals we have set for ourselves.”