Jason Delaney doesn’t expect this season to be easy.
As Delaney sees it, that’s OK because Cathedral High School boys basketball has a chance to do special things in 2019-2020. Overcoming adversity could make it more special.
“It’s a lot of new faces,” Delaney, entering his fourth season as the Irish boys basketball coach, said. “I call us young and talented in terms of experience and age.”
The Irish, a perennial Top 10 program in Indiana recent seasons, lost what Delaney called about 90-to-95 percent of their statistics from a 2018-2019 team that ranked among the state’s best. That left a capable team, but one that enters the season waiting the return of multiple key players.
Cathedral started the season 2-1 and were ranked No. 11 in the state in Class 4A in the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association rankings as of mid-December.
“We have a lot of young guys, which means in the next couple of years they will be returning,” Delaney said. “It’s just a great group to coach right now, because they’re hungry and they want to be really good. I really enjoy this team because they play really hard.
“The effort’s there, day in and day out. Even in practice. They want to get better and they want to learn. It’s exciting.”
The Irish in 2019-2020 will be led by a four-person senior class, a core of juniors and a point guard expected to be one of the state’s top players over the next three seasons: Sophomore Tayshawn Comer, one of Indiana’s Top 100 players as a freshman who already has emerged as a team leader.
“He’s going to be good, but he’s equally good in the classroom – and he’s one of the top guys in the weight room,” Delaney said. “All around, you see the work ethic. When your most-talented player is also your hardest worker, you know you’re on to something. He’s going to be one of the best when he walks out of here.
“You can see guys follow his lead. He’s our leader. They don’t care what grade he’s in. When you can show through your actions and you back it up, guys are going to follow you.”
The Irish started the season with Comer starting along with 6-foot-8 sophomore Pete Moe, senior Grant Taueg, senior Ryan Trusler and junior Jalen Johnson. They expect key contributors – junior Camden Jordan, junior Nick Bremer, sophomore Jaxon Edwards – to return in January, with junior transfer Vincent Brady also expected to be eligible that month.
“It’s kind of a tale of two seasons,” Delaney said. “Right now, we’re gaining experience. We believe that the guys getting that experience right now are going to be contributors and in the long run it will make us a much deeper team with lot of guys who can contribute in different ways. When there’s an opportunity, you see the guys who are going to seize it. It’s great to see the fight in our guys.
“That’s exciting for us, is that you get to see a variety of guys in the program. You have some seniors who have waited for this moment for four years. You have some freshmen who have come in and are ready to play now, but they all blend together and mesh together and work as a really good unit.
“There’s good chemistry there as well. Sometimes you don’t see that in programs, but for us: the older guys have embraced the younger guys and the younger guys are embracing the older guys. You see that chemistry that that we’ve been working on for the last couple of years building.”
The Irish opened the season with a 73-51 victory over Howe before beating Brebeuf Jesuit 60-57 and losing to 60-55 to Warren Central.
“We have a long way to go, but the great thing is even though guys are going down with injuries you don’t see a huge drop off,” Delaney said. “When you start seeing that you have a program developing, it’s when you can march on. When you graduate guys and don’t miss a beat, we continue to march on.
“That’s when you know you’re building something from the top to the bottom. People come here with the hope and thought of an opportunity, and guys are getting an opportunity right now.”
One thing Delaney said hasn’t changed: the Irish’s path through the regular- and postseason remain as difficult as any Indiana, with the Irish playing one of the most-competitive regular-season schedules before competing in what typically is the state’s toughest sectional tournament.
Of the Top 20 Class 4A teams in the early-season IBCA rankings, five are in Cathedral’s sectional. Of the initial Fab 15 in Indianapolis, four of the top five are in the sectional.
“Even though we graduated a lot, the schedule didn’t get any easier,” Delaney said. “We haven’t changed our approach of what we do based on injuries or graduation. We continue to have that goal in mind, to hang the first Class 4A banner.
“We know it’s going to be tough. We’re excited for this year, but we’re also really excited as the future goes on as well.”