With the 2013-14 high school basketball season underway, the Daniel Boone Blazers stand with an even 1-1 record, with no league games played. The Blazers are led by head coach Ian Gendreau, and seven, yes seven, seniors, amongst them Dan Downs, who is looking to have a big impact on the squad this year.
Two games in, the Blazers had a win against Cocalico (57-38), and were beaten by Lancaster Mennonite (51-50). “I think we’re playing really well,” said Downs. “Sometimes we have some mental lapses, which can do more harm than good in the end, such was the case in our one loss so far. Against Cocalico, we got revenge on a loss we suffered last season.”
Expectations for the team, according to Downs, are not to be talked about. He said the team never really looks but one game ahead. He said that obviously the squad wants to get to the county, district, and maybe state playoffs, but the team tries just to look at the next opponent.
“We do it that way so we’re not losing focus on what’s actually important, so we don’t jump the gun at any time,” said Downs.
For himself, Downs wants to help his team offensively by making the easy lay-ups,and pull down as many rebounds as he can. He’s working on improving his defensive play, and is trying to be a more“coachable” player.
Downs is a center for the squad, and his main contribution to the team is to be there to get any rebounds, and play lockdown defense on any opponent’s bigger players, citing the fact that he is one of the bigger players on the team.
“I have a little bit of a scoring role as well,” said Downs. “I take what points I can, and I try not to complain unless I’m really open and I thought I should’ve gotten the ball. It’s never anything personal, I try to put myself in the best position for either my teammates or myself to score.”
With seven returning seniors on the squad, one would tend to think that Boone is well endowed with playing experience, etc., but Downs had a different take.
“People will think with that many upperclassmen on the floor, we should be experienced, and we are,” he said. “We’ve played AAU together, and we’ve played with each other for four or five years, but in the long run, we’re not that experienced because we haven’t won a playoff game.
“We’re not tempered enough in big game situations,” Downs continued, “because we aren’t at that point to say ‘We’ve been here and done that’. We won some pretty big games with Reading, Wilson and Exeter, but we haven’t had that playoff feel yet. So we’re experienced in one sense, but we’re not in another.”
Downs’ role on the team as a center ultimately limits the amount of shots an opponent gets.
“In a perfect game, everyone wants to have one shot, make it, or get your rebound back so you have more than one shot,” he said. “If I can do my best and our opponent only gets one shot and we repossess the ball, in the end, we could offensively have a few more possessions, and that’s a few more points that we can put up on the board.”
On the offensive side of the ball Downs may not pile up the points, but he doesn’t need to score much.
“With the new offense we have this season, my job just isn’t about setting screens for my teammates, but in times when I do get the ball, there are cuts that teammates make, and if they’re open, I’m able to give them the ball. Scoring is always important to players, but it’s not as important to me.
“I’ll put up the shots I get, but as long as we win the game, at the end of the day, I’m happy. I’m not going to throw up shots that aren’t necessarily part of my game. I have to play within my abilities and hope everything falls the right way.”
The senior also said he feels like a leader, both on and off the court. “I help in the off-season by raising money for the team. Examples would be our shooting shirts, sweatshirts and sweatpants, and we’re even getting team backpacks this year. It’s the first time since I’ve been here that we’ve gotten these sorts or nice things, and I like to feel like I contribute a fair amount.
“I feel that all of my teammates are leaders on the squad one way or another, even some of the younger players. They help push us in practice, and all-in-all, everyone adds a little something different to the team.”
Now that the team is in Division 1 of the Berks League, there are very few “easy” games on the schedule. Downs and his teammates know that.
“We have to play hard every night if we want to be successful” said Downs. A playoff spot is the first goal for this team. With the team they have, it’s a very reachable goal, and Downs will do everything he can to get his team there.