(Dec. 6, 2013) Byron “BJ” Johnson assisted Stephen Decatur boys’ basketball team Head Coach Mark Engle the last two seasons. When Engle stepped down, Johnson was happy to take over the program this year.
“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to coach again. I enjoyed my time with Mark and I appreciated coaching with him,” Johnson said. “Basketball is in my blood. I just love to coach.”
Johnson has 26 years coaching experience, with a number of those years leading local teams. He was an assistant varsity coach at Decatur (1987-88, 1990-91, 2011-12) and head of the JV team (88-90). He was at the helm of the Snow Hill varsity team from 1995-98. After Snow Hill, he became the head varsity coach at Decatur (1999-2003).
Now, he’s back at the helm and the transition was easy for both Johnson and the players since he was an assistant coach the last two seasons.
Johnson has 10 player’s on his roster, five of whom are varsity veterans. Seniors Tyler Hunter, P.J. Copes and Chase Sams and juniors Colen Gaynor and Randy DuPont all competed last year, when the Seahawks went 12-11. The 2012-13 season ended in the first round of the 3A East Regional tournament with a 53-37 loss to Centennial.
Seniors Talib Rice and Danny Beck, junior Graham Hall and sophomore Keyon Eley have joined the squad from the JV team. Torrey Brittingham, originally from the area, moved back from Seattle and has been a welcomed addition to the team. Johnson said the sophomore point guard will help the team be successful.
Beck and Hunter are the team’s captains and Johnson said they have done a good job leading the Seahawks.
“I will help lead the team by being dominant in the post, showing leadership on the court and picking my teammates up when they’re down there. It’s my last year and I want to go out with a bang,” Hunter said. This is his second season playing for the Decatur varsity squad. He transferred from Wi-Hi last year.
“There’s a big improvement since preseason began. We’re in better shape and our chemistry is getting way better,” Hunter said.
Added Beck about his new captain role, “It’s just doing the little things right. Working hard and pushing everybody to do their best.”
“I think we’re doing [well], we’ve just got to finish some games out. We tied a couple [scrimmages] so far just on blowing leads. We’ve dominated most of the game and then we lost it at the end,” Beck said after Decatur’s scrimmage Tuesday in Berlin. The Seahawks had a lead, but Cape Henlopen fought back and tied the score at 60-60, which is how the scrimmage ended.
Johnson said he has a good mix of players from the top to the bottom of his roster. The players were able to start bonding earlier than usual, during a spring league, which Johnson started.
“The kids know each other and it makes the team jell better the more they play,” Johnson said. “Playing in the off-season will help us this year.”
The team motto this year is to keep climbing and playing as a unit. Putting their teammates first will also help the squad be successful, he said.
“Everything we preach is ‘team.’ There’s no ‘I’ in team,” Johnson said.
The Seahawks will take one game at a time, but Johnson said there are several goals they hope to accomplish this season: win all home games, finish on top in the Bayside South Conference, take home a Bayside title then the regional crown. The ultimate goal is a state championship.
Johnson hopes the community will come out and support the Seahawks this year.
“I think we’ll give them a treat this year,” he said.
The team is also selling T-shirts and Decatur students who wear them to games will get in for $3 instead of paying the $5 admission.