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Eisenhower's Charyles Bell, Seth Washington, Patrick Punch, Raiheem Washington, Terrell Norris and Vann Johnson
OVER THE PAST TWO CUMULATIVE SEASONS, THE EISENHOWER EAGLES HAVE BEEN THE KINGS OF DISTRICT 16-6A, GOING 24-4 IN THAT TIME SPAN.
Swoop Nation reached the Regional Semis and Quarters in back-to-back campaigns. Twins Ja'Mere and Ja'Mare Redus led the way as leaders on and off the court during that run.
With both of them now at TSU, where does Eisenhower go from here?
"I hope it's going to be a smooth transition," coach James Johnson said. "We have a few returners and some kids who haven't been on varsity, but have been in the program and practicing with us for a few years.
"As long as we continue to buy in and play hard, we will be fine."
Running the point will be senior Vann Johnson, while Seth Washington will stretch defenses with his outside shooting along with Terrell Norris.
"Vann is as quick as anybody you're ever going to go against," Johnson said. "We are just working on getting the ball out of his hand on time. Washington is a great shooter and Norris is a great athlete, who can kind of do it all."
The headliners for Eisenhower will be senior Charyles Bell (6-foot-6) and junior Patrick Punch (6-foot-5). It's now their time.
"I've seen what the Redus' have done the past two years and I know the expectations," Punch said. "It falls on me now and I feel like I know what to do. It feels natural."
As the first-option on offense, Punch has gotten more comfortable with his new role.
"I've worked a lot on my ball-handling and overall basketball IQ on the floor," he said.
"I used to play hesitant and deferred to the seniors, now I just go out and play.
"People don't realize that this is a process. The work we put in in the offseason is what people don't see. It's where the bond of our brotherhood begins."
Bell is rangy hybrid with some serious bounce. He has a knack for getting to the rim and has a lethal mid-range jumper.
"We are just going to pick up where the seniors left off last year," Bell said. "I'm going to bring a lot of leadership and energy every night. For us to be successful and continue the tradition, we are going to need to just play hard and communicate."
No one is feeling sorry for Eisenhower as Westfield, Nimitz and Davis are coming for the district title.
"The older guys are going to need to be coaches on the floor," Johnson said. "When I'm not talking, they better be. Everybody shoots for Ike. When we play, we are going to get everybody's best game. That's nothing new, so we will need to be ready."
Bradley Collier/VYPE Media
Eisenhower's Vann Johnson
COMING INTO THE FALL, ALAINA LEE GAVE HER PLAYERS A CHOICE.
Either they would play volleyball or run cross country, so that once they got to basketball season in mid- November, they would by physically ready to play.
This year, the group chose cross country.
"It was hard at first but if you have your teammates pushing you, then you just keep going," senior Dashanique Hall said.
The benefits from running cross country were seen immediately.
Players like Hall said she was in much better shape entering this season compared to last, in big part because of running cross country. Sophomore Kristin Pipkins – a second-team, all- district selection last year – echoed the same message.
"It was worth all the early mornings, running two to three miles a day," Pipkins said with a laugh.
The hope for Lee, who enters her second year leading Eisenhower, is that this rise in conditioning will transfer into wins down the road as they try and build off a year where they finished last in District 16-6A.
"It starts with our seniors," Lee said. "This summer they took it upon themselves to work hard and to be in the gym as well as run cross country to build endurance. Which is one of the things we struggled with from a conditioning stand-point last year."
Despite the losses last year, Lee admits she saw growth.
Even though they weren't winning, Lee said she saw her team play very hard through all the games and were able to finish on a positive note.
Now, with another offseason of work, Lee said they should be able to build off last year and continue the growth.
"We can see where we were and how much we've grown over the summer," Lee said. "I think we will be able to build on that because we've been there before. We know we don't want to feel like we did last year."
Sometimes for a team, losses piling up can just become too much to handle.
"We don't take the losses as losses; we take them as lessons," Hall said. "Lessons as in what we need to do better the next game.
"We want to set the standard for not only the current underclassmen, but for the next ones coming up in years to come. We want to leave our mark. IKE is not the same anymore, and after us it will be better."
Eisenhower's Dashanique Hall