By Adam Baum, email@example.com / Photo by Kareem Elgazzar for the Enquirer
GREEN TWP. - A great team takes on the traits and characteristics of its leaders.
That's a big reason why Oak Hills High School has had success this season on the basketball court.
Longtime Oak Hills coach Mike Price said when he watched seniors Ryan Batte, Luke Rudy and Cam Naber play together in middle school he could see a passion and desire that resonated with him.
"I thought when I watched them play in middle school ... you can see a kid's passion for a sport and passion for competing," said Price. "It's those three seniors that have sort of taken the leadership role in that and the other three seniors have really bought in. Those three (Batte, Rudy, Naber), I saw them play as eighth-graders and then as ninth-graders, knowing that the play in the offseason and their work ethic, I knew it was gonna be a pretty good opportunity to be good this year, but you never know exactly what's gonna happen. There's a lot of variables involved in being successful, but certainly, they had the ingredients."
Going into a big Greater Miami Conference game against Mason on Jan. 27, Oak Hills is 13-2 and 9-0 in the GMC. It's the best start in more than a decade for the Highlanders, and they've done it with their defense.
"I would say our defense," said Batte, who's signed with Ashland University. "I think right now, I haven't checked, but we have the No. 1 defense in our league and I wouldn't doubt if we have one of the best defenses in the city."
Oak Hills is allowing just 42.5 points per game, and only two opponents have scored more than 50 points in a game.
Price agreed, saying, "Defensive effort. The energy on defense; our feet being active. Energy level, defensively, is what I look for first and it feeds into transition, offensive cuts, post ups, rebounding and all parts of our game."
Transitioning from juniors to seniors, Batte, Rudy and Naber knew what would be expected of them this year. Their chemistry and leadership have permeated through the roster, but Price said there's also been a major shift in mentality.
"Last year, I think we were in a position where we were the hunters," said Price. "People didn't think we'd be all that good. Then Cam Naber gets hurt and people think, 'Wow, they're losing one of their better players,' and we end up being really good.
"This year, it's a different position; we're the hunted. The kids haven't been in that position where people are coming after them, doing different things. It's a different experience. You'd like to say they should be ready for all that, but it's a different mindset. Because last year you're going after people without fear; this year, there's always that fear ... and they're starting to let that slip by and lose that fear completely. It's taken a little while and to me that's fine."
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