Daiyan Reese would like it to all slow down.
The Ewing High School senior is seeing his final year fly by, and he’s trying to make the most of the basketball season.
“I wish it’d go by slower,” Reese said. “I like it, but it’s going fast.”
Reese is one of eight seniors that started the year on the Blue Devils roster, but only he, Jaylen Britton and Brandon Dekleine have significant varsity playing experience. He has moved up to a bigger leadership role for a team that has transitioned in player make-up and coaching.
“It’s a lot different,” Reese said. “Last year, I played varsity and I had a lot of people to look up to—I had (Caleb Stokes), Delvon (Doggett), Craig (Wrenn), Gerald (Boone), I had all of them to look up to. If anything was wrong, they’d handle it and I could sit back and watch how they handle it. Now I’m in the front seat telling everybody what to do. It’s different. It’s a lot different.”
New head coach Amir Siddiqu, a former assistant coach to the retired Shelly Dearden, has had to play a mix of experience and youth, with mixed results. As of Feb 20, the team had a 4-15 record.
We’re very young,” Siddiqu said. “They’re still learning how to play. We have freshmen and sophomores out there. I just want the guys to compete for 32 minutes. I feel like we competed most of the game, but not a complete 32. Sometimes we kind of lose our mind on offense.”
Reese said he was determined to keep the Blue Devils focused on improving as they go forward. “We still have a lot to put together.” Reese said.
“Down the road, we want guys to get more experience playing,” Siddiqu said. “It’s bringing an attitude from our starters. We don’t really have starters besides Brandon and Daiyan. It’s who’s bringing it on a daily basis.”
As the Blue Devils find players to fill those roles, Reese remains optimistic as a senior who brings a passion for the program and wants to see it sustain its high standards.
“He shows up and works hard every day. He doesn’t complain,” Siddiqu said. “He’s still talking to the guys in the fourth quarter the way he’s talking to them in the first quarter. It’s to see him being selfless and knowing that he has to teach as well as play at the same time.”
Even though the team’s early struggles are a new thing, Reese has kept the right attitude in trying to lead his less experienced teammates. He has tried to stay positive through the season.
“It’s really not tough because that’s what I’m supposed to do,” Reese said. “I’m supposed to talk to my people, keep my teammates’ heads up. I’ll tell them if they’re doing bad, but I would never put them down or hold them down. I always raise them up. It’s not hard at all.”
Reese still sees plenty to work on to get the Blue Devils on track by the time of the sectional state tournaments in March. Ewing could be doing better in a number of areas that he listed.
“Be together,” Reese started. “Control the game. Play better defense.We’re playing as individuals right now, not together.”
The team is finding its way. Experience is important to developing their team, particularly the younger and new varsity players. “We just have to put them in game situations,” Reese said. “There’s no better way to do it than in games. These are just their first couple games. I feel like they’re going to be fine later.”
Reese and the senior leaders are important to progress. Their example sets the tone for team, and gives promise for a strong finish.
“They come and work hard every day,” Siddiqu said. “I saw progress the last two days. We had a good summer. We have some changing parts. Progress is being consistent and they’re becoming a little more consistent in practice. It’s going to pay off.”
Reese is looking for a payoff quickly as his final scholastic season speeds along. The Blue Devils did not start ideally, but they see the potential to turn it around by season’s end and send their seniors out satisfied.
“I’m still pretty positive about it,” Reese said. “In practice and games, we’re not doing anything wrong, but we’re just not doing the things we talk about. If we just follow what Coach is saying, we’ll be fine.”