James Nosek | Press Box Perspectives Editor/Columnist
It has been quite a year for senior JD Sprague. He has battled through off-season injuries, he has dazzled everyone with his play on the gridiron and he showed why the boys’ varsity basketball team might be a serious threat this year in the GMC.
Sprague’s 23 points against Lebanon was impressive, especially looking at the circumstances he had in the off-season. He came off a long football season, suffering a few injuries in the process, but still ended up playing in the first game. He had an Achilles injury which caused him to only have a week to prepare for this season and look at how he did, specifically the beginning of the game when he had 18 points in the first half.
“It was different to play the whole game and get back into the flow,” Sprague said after his 24 minutes of play in the 70-49 win over the Warriors. Before the game he only scrimmaged once and only practiced a handful of times, to do what he did doesn’t happen very often as most players in that role would sit out a few games as they try to heal back to 100%.
With one game down, this is going to be a hit or miss year for the Comets which will make guys have to step up if they want to “be the first,” remember there is going to be a lot better competition than Lebanon later in the year.
Sprague was pretty modest after the game saying “It wasn’t just one man, I don’t really look at scoring, we won the game and that’s all that matters.” What he said is important to the team as they got the win but the fact is you need people that can put the ball in the basket to actually win games.
It is a pretty obvious statement but at the end of the day, the point is, Sprague and other Mason players are going to have big offensive years as they are going to be playing the underdog role in this GMC hunt. Against high powered offenses and very fast paced teams like Middletown, Princeton, Winton Woods and LaSalle, the Comets are going to need some boosted offensive numbers if they want to keep the games close.
People say basketball is not an individual sport and it’s a team game, agreed, but to a certain extent. If Mason is going to be successful this year, Sprague is going to have to be not only a scoring leader but a floor general, taking over games when he has to and he knows that.
Just this past fall, Sprague was the quarterback for the Mason varsity football team that broke new ground as it relates to varsity competition. With the help of their quarterback, they became the first football team to make it to the playoffs since joining the GMC and that was a special high for not only the program but for Sprague. He put up some huge numbers at the quarter back position but really it was role as a leader which made the difference.
Countless great performances as well as clutch quarterback moments kept football coach Brian Castner satisfied all year. On more than one occasion, Castner said Sprague was a “great senior leader” and that he “grew up this year.”
Basketball and football are two completely different sports but the idea of leadership is a universal trait that is important for any sport. Head basketball coach Greg Richards said in a pre-season interview that he didn’t want Sprague “to do more than he is capable of,” this year but provide a concrete leadership role.
“I just want to see [JD] lead and lead in the right way,” Richards said. “I think obviously with JD being a quarterback the last couple years that helps any leadership skills.”
Now it’s not that Sprague hasn’t been a good leader the last few years on the basketball team, but this year, that role is increased to a higher level and looking at his game against Lebanon, he filled it pretty well.
Last year in basketball Sprague averaged around 10 points a game as well as 4 assists and those numbers were in his “point-guard” persona. Part of this goal of being a leader, is going to involve Sprague’s offensive game which has shaped into something a little different, not completely, but into more of a “scorers” mentality and really that’s the way it should be.
Just a season ago, Sprague had to worry about bringing up the ball, breaking the press, getting guys involved, getting into the offense and scoring, which dropped his numbers a bit, but now look at from this year’s perspective, all those roles are lessened and his scoring and leadership roles are increasing.
The Lebanon game is a perfect example, Sprague would get the ball on the wing, and like in the first quarter, he attacked the basket at will. He was given a little more freedom and see what happened. Everyone found out that this kid can be a serious offensive threat and can take over the game when needed.
Now Sprague will still have duties to bring up the ball, as he should because he is a strong ball handler, but as we saw with senior Tim Reale, he can fill that role for the time being and with junior Connor McVey coming back from injury, there will be another point guard to save Sprague’s “scoring role.”
Talent is not the only thing that wins games but it helps a lot, look at college and the NBA, guys step up in huge proportions. Sprague showed against Lebanon why he is one of the main leaders of this team, if he can keep it up it will be a successful year for the team and for Mr. Sprague. Look out Geovonie McNight, GMC player of the year isn’t going to come that easily.