Senior Chris Lockwood is a returning three-year starter for the Saugus Centurions boys basketball team.
The Saugus boys basketball team finished the season 16-11, overall last season 5-5 and fourth place in the Foothill League.
Graduating from the team was Jeremy Gatewood, who led the Centurions with 15.3 points a game, and Ryan Webb, who may have been one of the top scorers in the league had injury not ended his season before league play ever began. This year, head coach Derek Ballard enters his fifth year as head coach, tenth overall with the program. He likes the multiple options this year’s squad gives him.
“We’re more balanced this year than we ever have been,” Ballard said. “We like our bigs, we’re scoring inside, our guards like to drive and draw fouls, which has been really good for us. And this is probably the best shooting team that we’ve had since I’ve been here. So we have not just one guy that scores, everybody scores. So the scorebook looks like tens, eights, sevens. We’ve got six or seven guys that are in that column.”
Centurions are 10-5 and ranked 12th in the CIF Southern Section Division 2-A poll. They have scored an average of 63.3 points per game in those 15 games while keeping opponents under 49.
“Defensively, they are very, very good,” Ballard said. “Especially Jacob Dawe. He plugs that middle, and he gets those big hands up. And being 6-7 and long arms, it’s real nice. He’s come into his own this year with his strength and agility, so it’s made all the difference in the world as far as his game.”
The go-to man clearly this year will be three year starter Chris Lockwood, the second leading scorer from a year ago, who has taken the mantle from his mentor, Jeremy Gatewood.
“The buck stops with him,” Ballard said. “If we’re in trouble, he’s going to have to come up with that bucket that gets us out of a tough hole. He shoots really well, he’s been a really good shooter all three years on varsity. This year, he’s been a better team player than he ever has been. He’s playing much better defense, a lot more hustle and dedication. Just the maturity is a lot different than it has been the last two years.”
“Sophomore year, it was just like getting used to varsity, getting up to speed,” Lockwood said. “And junior year, I started coming into my own, but it was still Jeremy at the top and a lot of things ran through him. But now I think I’ve gotten to the top, and a lot of things run through me. I have to step up and be a leader on the team.”
“I think that there’s less pressure on Chris this year because our other guards have been able to show that they can score and are good themselves,” Ballard said. “I think in the past we’ve been very one or two-dimensional, say with Jeremy or Chris Lockwood, and not a lot of scorers on the floor. So this year we really like what we do… offensively spread the ball, make the extra pass. It could be nice because we’re hard to guard. We like what we have.”
Some of those other guards are Jeff Ashburn and point guard Jacob Tobin.
“Our floor general, he takes care of the ball and makes good decisions,” Ballard said about Tobin. “He didn’t in the beginning of the year. He’s a junior, so he’s learning. Recently in the last few games he’s had very low turnover count. He’s a good shooter, he’s a very good driver, a very good passer, but the thing about him is that he’s just a born leader. He talks, cheers his teammates on, he’s got so much passion, and we love that as one of the kids who leads the team. And we love the fact that he’s a junior as well.”
“Jeff Ashburn was a kid last year that didn’t get a lot of time, he backed up Jeremy Gatewood,” Ballard said. “So his game was limited. But there has been a huge jump in his game from last year to even the summer. He takes the ball to the rack hard and with conviction. He gets to the free throw line more than anybody we have. We love his tenacity, he’s able to shoot from the outside as well. He makes plays defensively, a lot of steals, a lot of hustle plays, diving on the floor. It seems like we can pick any of our guards and say the same thing about them.
“We don’t necessarily have any D-1 kid, but we have a lot of solid, high school players that bust their tails.”