THE REBUILD?: Punch, Bell Ready To Step Up Inside The Nest
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."