Up-tempo will continue to be the calling card for the Bay boys basketball team this season, with the goal of getting shots up in seven seconds or less.
With senior guard Ashton Price leading that charge, seven seconds might at times seem slow.
Price, a returning Second Team All-Ohio selection from a year ago, has gone from a reserve role to the Rockets’ forefront in just two years. And with an offensive arsenal that few in the area can match, he’ll be a nightly threat to fill the stat sheet, so long as a season is played.
“I’m really excited to get back out there,” Price said. “COVID’s disappointing and not something that anybody wants, but you’ve got to make the best of every situation. I’m really looking forward to getting back out there and battling with my teammates and getting better every day.”
The Rockets went 10-13 last season while playing a rotation that was low on varsity experience and replacing one of the most decorated senior classes in school history. When the team was humming, Price, who was challenged by coach Jared Shetzer and his staff to improve in the off-season prior, exploded as a go-to scorer, averaging a school-record 24.2 points and adding 3.7 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.
He broke Bay’s single-game scoring record, which had stood since 1972, with 47 points in a win over Valley Forge on Dec. 17, 2019.
“That kid loves basketball, and he just loves to compete,” Shetzer said. “He’s a coach’s dream in that you can ask him to do x, y and z, and then he does x, y and z and starts over again with a. He just always finds something extra to do. I just think it’s made other kids better because he’s a kid that works, and you can lean on him in practice and say to the younger kids, look, this is what happens when you put in the time.”
When it comes to the development of Price, Shetzer points to work ethic as the driving force behind it. Never satisfied with his progress, Price has spent more hours on the court than he can count, taking more shots than he can count, whether it’s at home or at the gym.
As COVID-19 forced schools to close last spring and The National Basketball Academy (TNBA) AAU program to halt its schedule, Price decided to put in the time on his own, taking shot after shot and working on ball-handling at home. On days when it rained, he practiced dribbling in his garage. In an attempt to add size and strength, he’d sometimes hit the weights twice a day.
The end result of such effort is a basketball player that can score from anywhere and help the Rockets move fast and, if the game plan is humming, pile up the points.
“I think I’m a much stronger player than I was a year ago,” said Price, who was an All-Great Lakes Conference selection and co-captain on the Rockets boys soccer team this fall. “I feel way more explosive when I attack the rim. I feel like my jump shot and my range and everything, every aspect has improved.”
Price has made big strides in the past two off-seasons, but he learned at a young age how to compete and improve. Growing up two doors down from former Rockets standout guard Erik Painter meant frequent driveway contests. The older Painter, who graduated as a First Team All-Ohioan and the school’s all-time leading scorer in 2019, often won.
Painter wore the number zero when he played for the Rockets. Since last season, Price has also worn that number as an homage to his friend and former teammate.
“We’ve been battling in the driveway since we were eight, very competitive,” Price said. “I wouldn’t be the player I am if he wasn’t two houses down from me. I learned so many things that I feel help me even now. Basketball’s also a mental game, and playing against Erik when we were younger, he’s bigger, stronger, faster, more skilled than me. And growing up, I always wanted to beat Erik because he’s a great player. He just taught me a lot of things.”
As for this season, the Rockets have already been on a delayed track as the pandemic has wreaked havoc on winter schedules. The team was in a two-week quarantine that ended Dec. 1, then decided to postpone their season opener at Buckeye Dec. 4 due to a lack of preparation time. Their next game was tentatively set for Tuesday at home against Holy Name, followed by a trip to Fairview on Friday.
When they do finally take the court, the Rockets will be a more experienced bunch. Four of the team’s five starters from a year ago are back in Price and forwards Sam Houk, Cullen Gergye and Cooper Lyons. Holden Eckert, one of the team’s top reserves last year, will round out the starting five. Cooper Mendelow, Jack Sutherland, Jack Moell, Aidan Cseh, Owen Payne and Andrew Chesterfield will make for a deep bench.
“Those guys have really given us a lot of depth,” Shetzer said. “We’ve really got a nice group of kids. What we have is a group of guys that really work well together, and I think that can be a recipe for success.”
In a GLC that should be tough top to bottom and added a recent Southwestern Conference champion in Lakewood, the Rockets will try to speed their way into the mix for its top spot.
“As long as we play hard, play together and share the ball, I think we’re one of the top teams in the conference,” Price said. “The GLC’s always tough, but I think if we play our style we have a chance to have a pretty good year. We just have to get better every day.”
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