Jason Delaney likes a lot about the 2020-2021 Cathedral High School boys basketball team.
It’s a talented team that handles adversity well. It’s a team with good balance and good leadership. It’s a team that’s experienced despite being young.
Delaney likes something else about the ’21 Irish, too.
“They’re a group of guys who want to be challenged and want to be coached,” said Delaney, now in his fifth season coaching the program. “And they respond to those challenges. They go to work.
“The chemistry with this group is really good.”
The Irish, perennially one of Central Indiana’s top programs, have been that again thus far in 2020-2021. As the program and all Indiana high school sports navigate the obstacles of COVID-19, the Irish were 9-1 through games played January 8 – including a 61-47 at Roncalli on January 8.
The Irish were ranked No. 6 in the January 5 Class 4A and No. 5 in the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association Class 4A poll.
“It’s fun basketball,” he said of this season’s Irish. “The ball moves really, really well. These guys look for each other. I can’t think of too many times we’ve taken bad shots. They’re willing to make that extra pass to open teammate. Guys like to play that way.
“We’re not going to have a 30-point a game scorer, but we usually have five or six guys in double figures. You have a determined group of guys who are all on the same page.”
The core of that group:
*Senior guard Jalen Johnson (11.4 points per game, 4.2 rebounds per game), a two-year starter who Delaney said plays a “little bit of everything. He grasps things really quickly. He’s the vocal leader, telling guys where to be and what do and keeping guys in track. It’s been cool to see him mature as a player.”
*Senior guard Vincent Brady (14.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg), an Air Force commitment playing his first full season for Cathedral. “He’s a really good two-way player who can make an impact on both ends of the floor,” Delaney said. “He’s been really good.”
*Junior point guard Tayshawn Comer (16.0 ppg, 6.0 assists per game), a Top 100 player in each of his first two seasons and a player Delaney called “one of the more positive leaders I’ve been around. He does a great job picking guys up. He has a humble leadership about him. He leads every way you want – on and off the court.”
*Junior forward Jaxon Edwards (11.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg), who Delaney said “has been really, really good for us this year.”
*Sophomore forward Jake Davis (8.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg), who played on the Cathedral state championship football team and who finished fifth in the state in charges taken last season. He has 13 chargers taken in seven games this season. “He just continues to improve,” Delaney said.
Delaney said while the 2021 Irish are talent, the Irish’s sectional – Class 4A, Section 10 – is as talented as it ever has been. Perennially one of Indiana’s toughest sectionals, Section 10 this season features four teams currently in the Class 4A top 12 in the state: No. 1 Lawrence North, Cathedral, No. 8 Crispus Attucks and No. 12 Warren Central.
“There were some programs after last year you thought would be down,” Delaney said. “They just reloaded and they reloaded with impact players. It’s every year for Sectional 10. It’s why you come to Cathedral, one of the reasons. You want to be on the biggest stage with the brightest lights and the toughest competition.
“If you want to be a big-time player, you want to play at this level where you’re going against big-time competition. You know what you sign up for.”
What the Irish are facing this season that’s unlike previous seasons is navigating a schedule through COVID-19. The cancellation of an early January game against Avon was one example of the uncertainty currently facing all sports teams.
“It’s made us mentally tougher because you have to motivate yourself at times without the big crowds,” You have to create the energy. It’s also brought us to together more as a team, because we can’t do all of the things we’ve done in the past. It’s forced them to build that bond.
“We’re blessed with the opportunity to even get to compete. There are some states not even competing right now. Every game, every practice is a gift. Everything is a blessing. It changes your perspective and makes you thankful for having the opportunity to compete.”
But Delaney said while the pandemic has made the season difficult, the 2021 Irish are a team capable of playing well through adversity – and a team as capable of a postseason run as any he has had at Cathedral.
“The teams I’ve been around that have been successful have common denominators: really good chemistry, willing to sacrifice for each other, bought in and a determination,” he said. “I see all of that in this group. We’ve got a little e bit of everything: size, athleticism, skill guys. We have guys who play with heart.
“I really, really like this group. The best teams I’ve been around are willing to be challenged by coaches and they’ll respond to it because they want that challenge. I see that with this group of guys.”