After selecting his varsity team on Nov. 19, new Catonsville High boys basketball coach Dennis Keihm gave everybody on the roster a clean slate and a chance to earn a key spot in the rotation for nearly a week’s worth of practices.
“I have not done anything with the rotation,” said Keihm, eight days before the Comets open the season at Oakland Mills on Dec. 6. “I have not done anything with the starting five. Right now, everybody has got an equal opportunity to play with the different groups.”
That was scheduled to change Nov. 28, when positions were supposed to be more refined, but before that, he just wanted to see athletes who hustle and have strong basketball IQs.
“My motto on the team this year is you have to play hard and play smart,” Keihm said. “It's going to come down to the kids for the play hard part, and my job is to teach them to play smart.”
The Comets graduated six of the nine players who saw the most playing time on last year’s 10-10 squad, coached by Teron Owens.
They return six players from the varsity, including senior sharpshooters Ben Hall (6-foot, 1-inch) and Caleb Owens (6-3) and junior perimeter threat Mark Brady (5-10).
Seniors Tiree Holmes (6-3) and Andrew McInerney (6-3) and junior KJ Spruill (6-5) also have varsity experience.
Keihm’s formula for success is simple.
“I truly believe that the road to success for us is we take easy shots and we keep the other team from getting easy shots,” Keihm said. “If we shoot a high percentage, we will be OK.”
The Comets will have several newcomers vying for those open shots, including seniors Khali Davis (6-3), Jack Eiswert (6-1), Nathan McMahon (6-3) and Zion Stanley (6-4), and juniors Dashawn Dixon (6-5), Parker Doula (6-3), Nathan Emge (6-1) and Devin Hunt (5-9).
“We've got a long way to go, but I’m optimistic, I really am,” said Kiehm, who started the Catonsville C-Hawks boys travel basketball program 10 years ago.
It currently has travel teams in the U-14, U-12 and U-10 age groups, and he coached the U-14 squad that went 24-6 last year.
He believes the varsity can improve if the players embrace the team concept.
"I've got good kids. I've got all I need and it's my job to meld them into a team,” Keihm said. “We are going to play a little differently then we have in the past. I've got to change some of the mindset. I would like us to be more Tim Duncan than Lebron James.”
After opening the season on the road, the Comets will be close to home at the Community College of Baltimore County, Catonsville, when they play North County at 12 p.m. in the first game of the IAABO Basketball Challenge tournament on Saturday, Dec. 8.
The tournament, organized by the Central Maryland basketball officials, benefits the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and features five games.
The other games are C. Milton Wright vs. North Caroline (2 p.m.), Mervo vs. Calvert Hall (4 p.m.), Woodlawn vs. Oakland Mills (6 p.m.) and City vs. Gerstell Academy (8 p.m.).
“I’m trying to get as many people from Catonsville there, but we are expecting 1,200-1,500 people, so it’s going to be a really decent-size event,” Keihm said.
Keihm isn’t sure what type of team he will have in the second game of the season, but he knows what he wants.
“What my hope is for us is that we become a good team,” he said. “The goal is to be the best team every night even if we don’t have the best five players out there.”