After the boys’ basketball season last winter, Hillsborough High School graduated 11 seniors.
The Raiders came into this season with a completely inexperienced rotation. Given this situation, Hillsborough coach Scott Kallens made a decision: don’t focus on outcomes, just development. Kallens would devote the winter to molding varsity talent and building a rotation.
Hillsborough, as expected, didn’t win a lot, going just 2-21. The Raiders’ season ended on Feb. 16 with a 51-32 defeat to Franklin High School in the second round of the Somerset County Tournament.
But Kallens accomplished his goal of finding and developing talent for next winter. The group just needed a year to get used to the varsity speed and grind.
“We gained a tremendous amount of experience,” Kallens said.
The most exciting player in the group is point guard A.J. Strawderman. During the season, Strawderman grew from a pass first player into a capable scorer, too.
The junior excelled at the end of the year by playing a two man game with Hillsborough’s other most exciting underclassman, center Jared Smith.
Smith can back defenders down and play above the rim. But Kallens wants him to work on finishing this offseason.
If Smith improves in that area, he may be able to raise his points per game average from eight to double digits. The coach even thinks his big man can average double doubles.
“We have every reason to believe he can be a 15 and 10 guy,” Kallens said.
With Strawderman and Smith as the foundation of Hillsborough’s offense, the coach hopes to run pick and rolls next winter. This would also space the floor for the Raiders’ best shooter, Allen Holmon, who will also be back.
Holmon made more than one three pointer per game this year. He could make a lot more in 2020.
“Allen is a talent,” Kallens said. “He’s going to be a big piece for us.”
Hillsborough will also have its best defensive player back next winter. Adam McCaffery can lock down players at multiple positions. The junior goes all out for every minute that he plays.
“Which is not something you can demand of every player,” Kallens said. “Adam takes it personally. He’s willing to work harder than the other guy.”
A creator, a potential double double machine, a gunner and a lockdown defender. It’s a solid core. But Kallens will not have to depend solely on those four players.
Hillsborough’s junior varsity team finished above .500 this winter. Near the end of the season, Kallens was even considering bringing his top JV players up to varsity.
Ty Kang was the JV team’s Strawderman, a point guard who can pass and score. Andrew Lauan was the type of player that Hillsborough’s varsity team could have used: a slashing scorer.
Both guys should make a varsity impact next season, especially Kang.
“He had conquered the JV level by the end of this season,” Kallens said. “He was able to direct everything that was going on.”
The Raiders have the pieces to win more games next year. Kallens will spend the offseason trying to mold his talent into a unit that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Hillsborough will play in various team camps, a summer league and a fall league.
“There will be lots of opportunities for our players to improve,” Kallens said.