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Posted On: 07/8/18 12:48 PM
Calvary Christian took a step back last season from its 5A state title campaign in 2016-17 due to the loss of three starters.
However, when revisiting what could’ve been half a decade ago, the fact that 15-13 is considered so-so for the Eagles is a huge testament to the strides made during the Cilk McSweeney era.
After a difficult first season that included a 94-27 loss at Lake Worth Christian, the school considered shutting down the program according to McSweeney.
Thankfully that didn’t happen.
Entering his fifth season, McSweeney has guided Calvary Christian to a state title and three straight district championship game appearances.
Last season, underclassmen Noah Tovar, Greg Glenn, and Matt Khoury stepped in to fill the departures of senior guards Mick Lynott (injury) and Kahleel Gray (transfer) and senior center Elochukwu Eze (transfer).
Now that each is a year older and wiser, McSweeney believes he has a core that can contend in a competitive 5A District 13 anchored by defending state champion University School.
University School boasts the No. 1 2018 player (6-foot-10 center Vernon Carey) and No. 5 2019 player (6-foot-7 power forward Scottie Barnes) in the Prep Hoops rankings.
While the Sharks are clearly the district favorites due to their physically imposing front court, the Eagles’ district is strong from top to bottom with Cardinal Gibbons, Chaminade-Madonna, Pine Crest and Somerset.
“We’re all around the same level next year besides them [University School],” McSweeney said. “It’s who’s better each night. We all have great coaching and players. So it’s always tough.”
Calvary Christian was eliminated by University School in the regional semifinal last season.
The Eagles don’t have any elite size or go-to player in the post but will compensate with a by-committee approach on the perimeter led by 6-foot-6 Tim Dalder and 6-foot-2 Alex Doane.
The 6-foot-6 Glenn was ranked as a top 10 eighth grader in the nation and the 6-foot-3 Tovar showed flashes of brilliances in his freshman campaign as well.
Also, sophomore guard Dylan Canonville is 6-foot-2 but has an impressive 6-foot-9 wingspan.
“We have a great nucleus of guys. Shooting the basketball and the ability to have versatility to dribble and pass as well,” McSweeney said. “The chemistry is another strength.”
Calvary Christian was loaded with plenty of bigs when they captured the state championship such as 7-foot Victor Uyaelunmo, 6-foot-10 Eze and 6-foot-8 Soloman Uyaelunmo.
The approach this season on defense will shift towards alternative approaches without a presence in the paint.
“We’ll do more zones and traps. We’re athletic and long,” McSweeney said. “Man-to-man we won’t have enough size to play it all the time, so we’ll need to mix things up and get after it full-court wise.”
The players will change from year to year but the mentality always remains the same for McSweeney, who played collegiately at Towson and Penn State.
“Offensively I try to emulate what I saw in college with a pro style open offense and sets,” McSweeney said. “A lot of times you see high school coaches just let kids play but when they get to college they have 30-40 plays before the first game and they can’t handle it.”
When players transfer to Calvary Christian they immediately recognize the intricate details of McSweeney’s offense.
“One of my kids that’s now at Butler [swingman Jerald Gillens-Butler], he came from Westminster Academy to play for me during his senior season. The first thing he mentioned was that I had so many sets,” McSweeney said. “I told him in college it’s going to be times ten and it was. He said he was glad he was under me for a year so that he was exposed to that.”
McSweeney is the first person in the history of Broward County to win state boys basketball championships as a player (at Dillard) and as a coach. He credits his high school coach Darryl Burrows for instilling in him the core traits to transform young men into winners on and off the court.
“We had to change the culture around Calvary. They were thinking about shutting the program down and I’m glad they didn’t,” McSweeney said. “Now it’s a place that kids want to be at and flock to. College coaches call me all the time about my kids. It’s a great feeling.”