This is a talented group. Really, really talented.
But while that’s unquestionably true for 2021-2022 Cathedral High School boys basketball, Head Coach Jason Delaney something else is more important.
The Irish are a good team. Really, really good.
“It’s a joy to come to practice and come to work with these guys,” Delaney said.
Delaney said it’s the team part that gives the ’21-’22 Irish – even more than a roster of players who as of late November had received 53 scholarship offers – a chance to be special.
The Irish, perennially one of Indiana’s stronger programs, began the season 2-0 with high aspirations. Those aspirations were evidenced by a milestone moment for the program when the Irish were ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Class 4A state rankings on November 29.
“We’re not going to hide from it,” Delaney said. “Why hide from it? Every day for months, we worked on being great and being the best. You have to embrace it. We also talk about keeping our backs against the wall because you have a target on your back. If you’re back’s not against the wall, you’re going to let up a little bit and someone’s going to hit that target. We are always playing with a purpose.”
The 2021 Irish feature five players considered among the Top 100 players in Indiana, a group that includes:
*Tayshawn Comer, senior point guard. Comer, who has committed to Eastern Kentucky, has averaged 12.5 points and 8.5 assists through two games. “He’s everything we ever envisioned him in being a leader,” Delaney said of Comer, a Junior Indiana All-Star last season.
*Jake Davis, junior small forward. He led the state in charges taken as a sophomore and was averaging 15.0 points and five rebounds through two games.
“Those guys kind of control everything and everyone just kind of get in line,” Delaney said of Comer and Davis.
Also leading the Irish:
*Jaxon Edwards, senior. Edwards, who has committed to Murray State, has averaged 14.5 points and 3.5 rebounds. “He’s versatile and a highlight waiting to happen,” Delaney said.
*Xavier Booker, junior. Booker, after averaging about 10 minutes a game as a sophomore, has emerged as a force this season and has scholarship offers from programs such as Michigan State, Purdue and Indiana. “He continued to work hard and believed in what we’re doing,” Delaney said of Booker, who has averaged 17.0 points and 7.5 rebounds. “He’s doing well.”
*Sincere Germany, junior. A starter, he has averaged 11.0 points and 2.0 rebounds per game this season.
*Jaron Tibbs, a junior who exceled as a wide receiver in football. He also is a Top 100 basketball player in Indiana.
“They’re willing to root for each other and sacrifice for each other,” Delaney said. “It’s an awesome group of kids who allow us to coach them, and it’s become more player-led.”
Delaney said that could be seen before the team’s preseason scrimmage against Pike.
“We didn’t have to say anything; the players were leading everything [in the shootaround],” Delaney said. “That kind of gave you chills. We looked at each other as coaches and said, ‘We’ve gotten it to where we want to.’’’
Also making the Irish a contender is a deep roster that features senior Jaiden Malichi, sophomore Anthony Fields, freshman point guard Lebron Gough and freshman Deric Cannaday as well as a senior core of reserves that includes seniors Luke Hern, Gabe Rodriguez, Jerren Conway.
“They work extremely hard,” Delaney said. “When you’re willing to sacrifice of yourself, you’re going to get blessed in return and that’s definitely these guys. They could have easily transferred to other places and scored more points and maybe gotten more headlines, but they all have chosen to stay here for a bigger goal.
“They kind of hold each other accountable and when that happens, they’re willing to listen to each other. That’s a big key. These guys listen to each other and are willing to accept that. When you have that kind of chemistry, it makes you a better group and a stronger group.”
And while the Irish have lofty goals, and the talent to reach them, the road to that status isn’t easy. The Irish once again play in Indiana’s Class 4A, Section 10 – perennially the state’s toughest section that this season featured all seven programs in the preseason Top 20.
“We’re going to put them through the hardest schedule I could get,” Delaney said. “I told them, ‘It’s going to test every fiber in your body – mentally, physically, spiritually.’ We’ll be tested day in and day out. People come to Cathedral to play on the biggest stage. Now, you have a spotlight to perform. We’re playing the best we can. If you want that stage, you’re going to have the opportunity here.
“We’ve had to go through heartbreak to get to this point. They’re sick of falling short. It’s a special group. It’s a very determined group.”