Two seasons ago, the Newfield Trojans boys basketball team reached the state final four. Last year, they did not leave Section IV, falling in the semifinals to eventual sectional champions Unadilla Valley. The Trojans only had two seniors on their roster last year, meaning the great majority of this year’s team has experience with each other.
The team is led by coach Chris Bubble, who guided the Trojans to the state final four in 2017 and 2018 and was named the Coach of the Year by ESPN Ithaca in the latter year. He can sense just how eager this team is after last year’s early exit from the postseason.
“They’re pretty motivated,” Bubble said. “When I looked today, we returned 10 kids from the team that made it to the sectional semifinals. I know they didn’t like the result we had last year, so they’re hungry and ready to go. The experience we have will certainly help us this year.”
Senior captain Josh Wood reiterated that sentiment, explaining how last year’s result was not indicative of what the Trojans are capable of.
“We’ve just experienced a lot of winning,” Wood said. “For a lot of teams, [sectional semifinals] might seem like success, but for us, we felt that we had a lot more in us. So, this year, we’re trying to come in more prepared, better at everything, and hopefully, we’ll go farther.”
As far as where exactly the team came up short last year, coach Bubble is well aware of where Newfield has room to grow.
“We need to execute a little better,” Bubble said. “At times, we didn’t do our best in terms of offensive execution and certainly defensively the way we ended the season. That’s not necessarily indicative of how we played defense throughout the course of the season, so we’re looking to improve defensively a bit because we know we can score no matter who we play.”
With that in mind, the team’s four captains, Jacob Humble, Daejahd Leckey, LaRon Boykin and the aforementioned Josh Wood, have another area in which they’d like to improve.
“We’re definitely working on us four [captains] having more leadership this year,” Leckey said. “We had three juniors and a sophomore [last year], so we just have more seniors this year and we’re looking to guide people the right way.”
One of the youngest players receiving that guidance is freshman Jalen Hardison. Last year, Hardison was a full-time starter on the varsity team as an eighth-grader, and coach Bubble is excited to see his growth this season.
“With the experience under his belt, I think he’s going to surprise people with what it is that he can do,” Bubble said. “We’re looking for big things from him and adding his scoring ability and on-ball defense to what the older guys can do.”
What makes this team special, though, is chemistry. As previously mentioned, 10 players are returning from last year’s squad, and the captains discussed that positive aspect of the team.
“Our chemistry is pretty crazy,” Boykin said. “We’ve been with our team for about three years, and we’re just young. We really know how to act with each other.”
Wood touched on the grind of the basketball season and how playing alongside friends simply eases the process.
“[The chemistry] is really helpful,” Wood said. “It’s a long season. We’re here four to five months at least, so being able to be with people you like every day, two hours every day, eight in the morning on Saturdays, gamedays, whatever it is, is great. If you know you can trust everybody and you love everybody, you’re going to play a lot harder.”
Humble added that the friendships on the team reach beyond the court, and the more time they spend together, the attitude of the Trojans grows stronger.
Newfield is coming off a great fall season in which the boys soccer team won its first postseason game in program history and the football team reached the Section IV finals. And now heading into the winter season, which Newfield loves, excitement is brewing.
“It’s important,” Bubble said. “Winning breeds winning, so when we have some other winning teams, it’s great. Girls basketball has been really successful, too. So, the winter season for us is always pretty competitive, and we’re looking forward to getting it started.”
Newfield will participate in the Drago Tournament hosted by Oneonta High School on Nov. 25 and 26, and then the season kicks into full gear on Dec. 3 with a battle against reigning Section IV runner-up Lansing.
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