When Kelvin Lee looked to his bench last season, he didn't have a lot to work with in the 2011-2012 campaign. Coming off a season where a Bradley Beal-led squad reached the state quarterfinals, the Red Devils slumped to 9-17 last season.
Lee doesn't expect to have last season's trouble with depth or the team's won-loss record as play tipped off Monday. Chaminade opened on the road against Pattonville and defeated the Pirates 56-37, led by 16 points from power forward Jayson Tatum.
Lee's Red Devils have reloaded in a big way, led by the Freshman Tatum, who scored an invitation to try out for one of Team USA's junior squads after an impressive summer hoops camp showing.
Read: Chaminade's Jayson Tatum Prepares For Shot With Team USA
Tatum can play 4 spots on the court. He already has the attention of top college programs around the country, even ahead of the pace set by Beal, now a rookie with the Washington Wizards.
"The youth can play a little bit," Lee said after a recent practice, talking about Tatum and fellow Freshmen Will Gladson and Tyler Cook, who will also figure on Chaminade's front line.
(The Freshmen were away on a field trip on the day Patch caught up with the squad in preseason practice)
"They’re going to make some mistakes. I gotta understand that these kids are freshman, they’re gonna make mistakes, I gotta live with that . But they’ll grow. I’ve already told them about 5-6 games into the season, I’m going to start calling them sophomores," Lee said.
The trio, along with point Guard Garrett Roberts, who sat out last season after a transfer from Marquette, gives Lee the most new faces he's seen in 16 years on the Chaminade bench. Roberts, who practiced with the team last year and supported his team from the sideline, is looking forward to embracing the role of being the coach's voice on the floor. Lee calls him the best point guard he's had on the team in recent years.
Senior holdovers Jack Hummell and Andy Kleinlein say their younger counterparts are blending in. "They’re willing to listen, they’re willing to work hard, they’re willing to bust their butts. I think they’re going to fit in just fine with the program," Hummell said while Kleinlein contrasts the Beal-led team he played on as a Sophomore by saying this year's younger version will win based on a collective effort.
Lee's squad will face a rugged test in the Metro Catholic Conference with strong teams at De Smet and CBC this season, along with a new-look St. Louis University High School team coached by one of Lee's SLU players in Erwin Claggett. Despite Chaminade's new-found higher profile, it will stay close to home this season as opposed to past years which has seen travel out of the area.
Next year offers up a chance to play in a Sugar Bowl related tournament, after what Lee hopes is a 20 win season that lets him use his depth on the bench long into the postseason.