Dulaney boys basketball coach Matt Lochte has amassed more than 250 career wins in 17 seasons with the Lions, but he’s never entered a season without a familiar face on the team.
Until this year.
“I’ve never coached a single player on this roster on the varsity team,” said Lochte, whose 2019-20 team went 18-5 after the 2018-19 squad lost in the Class 4A state semifinals.
The COVID pandemic canceled the 2020-21 season, so Lochte will depend on some former JV players and a pair of transfers to help the Lions maintain their winning tradition.
“We are hoping because there are so many open spots, competition is high every day, but along with that is a ton of inexperience,” Lochte said.
The lack of experience at the varsity level has made practicing fundamentals and repeating drills a necessity. Fortunately for Lochte, he has a veteran coaching staff that includes Steve Labbe, James Dickey, Lancy Cash and Jason Carrington.
“The only thing that returns is the entire coaching staff that has been together for nearly 20 years, but that does help,” Lochte said. “We are being reminded every day that we can’t take anything for granted.”
For several years, the Lions have had veteran players in the program and some are still contributing at the next level. Dulaney currently has 10 players playing college basketball, including four in NCAA Division I.
“It’s unbelievable, it’s outstanding,” Lochte said.
One of the players on this year’s squad who has college potential is 6-foot-3 junior guard Eric Zhang.
“He will definitely be a college player in two years,” Lochte said. “He’s a lefty that can really score the ball and he’s very athletic and he defends. In each of our scrimmages, he’s scored 20-plus points.”
Joining Zhang in the backcourt is junior guard Peter Hylind (6-2), a perimeter shooting threat. “He’s fairly athletic and a really good shooter,” Lochte said.
Senior Graham Schultz (5-10), a transfer from Virginia, is slated to be the starting point guard. Junior forward Patrick Wynne (6-6) is the tallest frontcourt player.
“He’s got great touch and feel around the basket, alters shots, great post game and shoots free throws at a high percentage,” Lochte said.
Junior forward DJ Taylor-Peay (6-4) is a transfer from St. Paul’s.
“He’s a big strong athletic post player who, if not leads our team in rebounding, should be one of the top rebounders,” the coach said.
Sophomore Ezra Tall (6-4) figures to be one of the first players off the bench.
“What I do like about the team is we are young,” Lochte said. “Of our top seven or eight guys, most of them are juniors.”
Schultz and guards Zachary Orr (5-10), Nathan Smith (5-11), Noah Unger (6-1) and Justin Morris (6-3) are the only seniors on the roster.
Juniors vying for playing time include: Jamariez Corley-Scott (6-0), Jalen Ryles (5-8), Kevin Graziano (5-11), Ryan Skerry (6-2), Luke Labbe (6-0) and Kiyle Hamwright (6-5).
Based on early-season scrimmages against Gaithersburg, Douglass, Thomas Stone and Randallstown, fans are likely to see different looks defensively.
“We are going to do some different things. We probably won’t be the typical pressing team Dulaney has been for 15 years,” Lochte said. “We will probably play some matching zone, switching man-to-man and pack it inside, forcing teams to shoot from outside and priding ourselves on no second-shot opportunities and really rebounding the ball well.”
In the meantime, the coaching staff will continue focusing on fundamentals.
“We’ve got to do the little things as a team well. We’ve got to set screens on offense, we’ve got to take pride in the ball and possess the basketball and not turn it over,” Lochte said. “We’ve got to really execute on our special teams and dead ball situation stuff.”
Dulaney opens the season on Dec. 8 at 6 p.m. at St. Paul’s.
“We’ve got a good schedule put together. We play a ton of private schools and we will be playing in a holiday tournament,” Lochte said.
The Lions will face McDonogh, Friends and Concordia and also compete in the eight-team J.T. Bogle Invitational at Glen Burnie High over the holidays.