Cameron Gardner has experienced some tough going as a member of the Bishop McDevitt boys’ basketball squad.
The Lancers went 7-37 overall and 1-25 in the Catholic League in the forward’s first two varsity seasons.
“We had some decent players, but we didn’t mesh well as a team,” Gardner said. “The chemistry wasn’t where it needed to be.”
Now, with Gardner as a senior cocaptain, McDevitt is 9-0 overall and 3-0 in league action. It has posted impressive and confidence-boosting victories over Archbishop Wood, Archbishop Carroll, and St. Joseph’s Prep.
The Lancers have made significant strides under second-year coach Will Chavis, a former standout at Engineering and Science who went on to play at Texas Tech under Bobby Knight. McDevitt went 16-11 and 4-9 in the Catholic League last season. As the No. 10 seed, it lost to No. 7 St. Joe’s Prep, 57-51, in the first round of the playoffs.
“We came up on the short end of a lot of close games last season,” Chavis said. “I expected us to learn from the mistakes we made and be better this season.”
Chavis, 38, played professional ball in Amsterdam, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, and Italy.
“He’s passed along all that he learned over the years to us,” Gardner said. “He’s like a friend and, for some, a father figure. There’s nothing more you could ask for in a coach.”
Gardner prepared for the season by regularly practicing at Finley Recreation Center and playing for a pair of club teams: the Philly BallHawks and Positive Image.
“The main things I worked on were my ballhandling and shooting,” the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder said. “It was also important to me to get in better shape, so I did a lot of conditioning drills and running.”
Gardner, who lives in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia, is a combination forward for the Lancers.
“He’s a good character guy and leader, shoots the ball well, and is a gym rat,” Chavis said. “He just likes playing basketball.”
Gardner is joined in the starting lineup by junior guards Ahmir Harris and Robert Smith, senior guard Seneca Willoughby, and 6-4 junior forward Jamil Manigo. Smith, a third-team all-Catholic selection last season, and Manigo average about 17 and 13 points, respectively.
Of Smith, Gardner said, “He does a little bit of everything. He plays hard, he scores, he passes, he rebounds, and keeps everyone level-headed.”
Chavis says depth has played a part in the early success. Junior guards Glenn Smith and Shamir Mosley, senior guard A.J. Greenberg, 6-6 sophomore forward Gabe Morris, and 6-5 junior forward Kevin Young are among the contributors off the bench.
Gardner, a fourth-year starter, is thinking of continuing his hoops career at Arcadia, Bryn Athyn, or Penn State-Harrisburg.