Katahdin boys have new coach, new outlook

2 years ago

STACYVILLE, Maine — The Katahdin boys basketball team had to overcome a number of hurdles before the new season even began.

The Cougars were in need of a new head coach and also have had to deal with the majority of the team sitting in quarantine after one of their players tested positive for COVID-19.

But don’t think the team is going to use any of those hurdles as an excuse for not pursuing excellence on the hardwood this season.

Chris Cloukey takes over the program from Brandon Robinson, who served two years at the helm. Cloukey served as a volunteer assistant for Robinson for two seasons (2018-19 and 2019-20) and last year served as the junior varsity coach.

He also has experience coaching players from around the state between the ages of 5-18 at the Living Waters Bible Camp in Danforth from 2015-2018. 

“COVID has hurt us for sure,” coach Cloukey said. “There are lots of rules that we must comply with and the masks are not our favorite. But we have not let that stop us and have conditioned extra hard so that the masks are not even noticed.”

The majority of the players were deemed close contacts after one of the players tested positive. The group has been in quarantine for two weeks, missing valuable practice time. In fact, the Cougars opened their season Dec. 10 on the road against East Grand and at home Dec. 11 against Fort Kent with just one member of the varsity squad able to play.

“This is not the best situation we wanted to be in as those guys were greatly conditioned, but we’ll make the best of it and might even surprise ourselves with the second string,” Cloukey said. 

Members of the Katahdin varsity squad are seniors Justin Hurlbert, DaQuan Lindsey and Bradley Bailey; juniors Kyle McNally, Grady Ritchie and Jeff Martin; sophomores Josiah Rogerson and Kaden Lane; and freshmen Connor Edwards, Josh Martin and Sam Boone.

“My outlook for the season is (focusing on) fundamental basketball,” Cloukey said. “Let’s stop and look at our previous years and recognize that fundamentally we have been off. That’s not to look on the past with disappointment, it’s to help look at what we can improve to get better and produce more wins. As a team, we have a great outlook for this season.”

The Cougars have good size and could be one of the quicker squads any given night. McNally (6-foot, 3-inch forward), Hurlbert (6-2 forward) and Martin (6-5 center) give Katahdin an impressive “big three” to help control the rebounds on both ends of the court. 

“Our strength, I believe, is a wide variety of shooters, but more so junior varsity swing players who are also excellent shooters,” coach Cloukey said. “We have conditioned extensively, so defense and endurance are also our strengths.”

The Cougars finished 2-10 last season and lost three players to graduation — Kaden McNally, Wesley Richardson and Bradley Hotham.

The coach added he feels Katahdin could be one of the teams that surprises people the most this season. 

“Being the underdogs that we have been the past few years has lit a fire in all of us,” he said. “We have built a strong foundation and are continuing to do so. Katahdin is hungry.”