Despite returning just one starter from last season, the Cuyahoga Heights Redskins have plenty of promise as they approach the 2018-2019 season.
Head coach Michael Tartara is excited about his team’s potential but he’ll have to wait at least another week to see his full squad in action as several players are part of the Cuyahoga Heights football team that advanced to the state Final Four for the third consecutive season.
“As a coaching staff, we are cautiously optimistic about the group we will have this winter,” said Tartara, who is 143-132 in 13 years at the school. “Obviously, with the football team continuing their successful season deep into the playoffs again, we have been unable to work together as a group thus far. However, this has given other players, especially some of the younger players in the program, an opportunity to improve their game and play against better competition on a daily basis.”
Cuyahoga Heights finished last season with a 12-13 record overall and 7-7 mark in the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division.
The Redskins got hot at the right time and advanced to a Division IV district championship game.
“After being able to reach the district final last year and playing in that incredible atmosphere, many of the kids would love to get back to that game and go one step further,” Tartara said. “We will have to value the basketball on the offensive end of the floor and find multiple ways to score both in transition and in the half court. Defensively, we must stay disciplined and limit our opponents to one shot on that end of the floor. As soon as the football season ends, we will have to quickly blend those players in with the group that has been practicing since early November. Each player needs to accept their role on the team in order to achieve the highest level of success.”
Senior Nassiem Salem returns after a strong junior season.
The 5-foot-8 guard earned first team All-CVC and third team all-district honors after averaging 10.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists and two steals per game.
“He is a worker and a competitor that lived in the gym all offseason,” Tartara said. “We are expecting big things from Nassiem this season and can’t wait to see all that hard work pay off for him.”
Juniors Ryan Selig and Sam Shafer also are expected to start for the Redskins this winter.
Selig, a 5-foot-9 guard, averaged 5.1 points and 2.6 rebounds per contest last year.
“He has been waiting patiently for this opportunity,” Tartara said. “He gained valuable minutes off the bench last year and got more comfortable as the season went on. Between Nassiem and Ryan, we hope to have a solid backcourt that can take care of the basketball, create opportunities for their teammates, and also find ways to score themselves.”
Shafer, a wing/post, is busy quarterbacking the football team but Tartara expects a lot out of him when he hits the court.
“After guiding the football team this fall through their successful season as the team’s quarterback, we will need his leadership and support throughout the season,” Tartara said. “He is a very good athlete that was just starting to scratch the surface of his basketball potential last year.”
Several others will compete to fill out the other two starting positions.
Senior Jake Lasky is a wing who is dangerous from behind the arc.
“He has the team’s best interest in mind always,” Tartara said. “He has the ability to knock down the open three and is willing to sacrifice his body on the defensive end of the floor. Every good team needs someone like Jake.”
Juniors Bryan Washko and Kyle Polack provide depth at guard.
“Bryan can shoot it a little and is a knowledgeable player that can help us in the backcourt this season,” Tartara said. “Kyle has the potential to be a tremendous 3-point shooter and defensive player. We hope that he hits the ground running on the defensive end of the floor as a stopper for us and that he finds his shooting stroke quickly after the football season.”
Juniors Jason Bartosik, Curtis Davis and Austin Knaack will compete for time in the post.
“Jason is a tall, athletic player who has the ability to finish inside and use his length to cause problems on the defensive end,” Tartara said. “Curtis is much improved and has continued to work hard on his post game and other ways to help support the program. Austin has a little bounce in his step and often finds himself in the right spot at the right time.”
It may take some time for the Redskins to realize their full potential this season but make no mistake, Cuyahoga Heights has a chance to do something special this winter.
“The biggest challenge right now is the lack of practice time we will have as a full squad prior to the start of the season,” Tartara said. “Despite this obvious challenge, we continue to support the football program and wish them continued success as they chase that elusive state title. Until then, we will continue to work with the guys that we have and try to incorporate those football players as quickly as possible when they join us on the hardwood.”