Fairmont Boys’ Basketball team looks to maintain success under Albright

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Photo: Dalton Smith

Senior Darius Dunson drives towards hoop for a layup.

Coming off a 19-5 record last season, Fairmont’s Varsity Boys’ Basketball team is looking to make an impact on the hardwood again this year. However, players will need to step up in the absence of last year’s four starting seniors. Head Coach Blair Albright believes this year’s senior class will be able to fill their roles and lead them back to the post-season.

Last summer, Albright was unsure of what his expectations would be. But his team’s performance over the summer gave him high hopes.

“When we came together in the summer, I thought the team had out performed my expectations to a certain degree. One of the things I remember was, we won a good amount of games in the summer time based largely on our culture and system of play,” Albright said.

Something that Albright made sure of accomplishing over the summer was giving everyone a fair amount of playing time.

“Over the course of the summer, we probably got about 15 guys pretty legitimate varsity minutes to try and develop players,” he said. “Of those 15 guys, three of those guys were freshman, three were sophomores, five were juniors, and four seniors. One of the most interesting things was how well our team got along.”

Building chemistry can become a major issue, especially with such a diverse team. But according to Albright, everyone is very supportive.

“We didn’t have any chemistry issues. Sometimes you’re a little worried when you get all these guys from varying classes, but everybody found ways to contribute and everybody really supported one another well,” Albright said.

One of Albright’s most important goals entering this season is finding the team identity, which he believes is in the hands of his seniors.

“The incoming seniors may have had roles to play before, but now they become more of the focal point of what we do,” he said. “How well our seniors can rise to the occasion and embrace the new responsibilities that come to them should have a trickle down effect to our other guys.”

Though his seniors have big shoes to fill, Albright has the utmost amount of trust in them. One player he has watched expand his game over the years is senior Darius Dunson.

“He’s a guy that has really come of age on the court and off. From about the last 10 games of last year up through the summer, his game has really gotten to a different level,” he said. “We’re going to need that from him.”

In addition, Albright gives acclamation to seniors Jimmy Bergman, Brayden Mattimore, and Connor Van Oss.

“Jimmy Bergman has been a guy that has been a constant for us. A guy that we can really rely upon, both on the court and off to do the right things. He’s always been a good shooter, but over the summer time, he was able to perform that skill at an even higher level,” he said.

“Brayden Mattimore and Connor Van Oss will both be really important guys in terms of how they carve out the roles for themselves and to what level they end up being important. I think that’s where the crux of the team is going to certainly begin.”

Since becoming the head coach at Fairmont, something that Albright is most proud of is the student section. He says their energy and support at every game is unsurpassed.

“Of all the things we’ve accomplished in the two years that I’ve been here is the way in which our student section has grown. We certainly have a tremendous facility, but the structure doesn’t win you games, it’s the people inside that do.”

But Fairmont’s success last season isn’t a certain as to how this season will turn out. Every season is a new beginning, and Albright said Fairmont needs the support of the community behind them.

“We really need our students to rally around our basketball program because even with the success we were able to have last year, we, by no means, have turned this around yet,” he said. “This is a very pivotal season for us to sort of begin to sustain that level of success and to be able to perform year in and year out.”

Come January, Albright wants his team to be ready for the annual “Flyin’ to the Hoop.” He’s felt in the past that Fairmont has only been included in the event because they are the host school.

“We’ve always been involved because we’re the host school and because in some ways, it’s felt that it’s owed to us. That was something coming in that I didn’t really like. It was something I wanted to be a part of because we deserved to be a part of it, because our program was at the level to be a part of it,” Albright said.

In his first year as head coach, Fairmont had an early Sunday morning time slot for their game, which Albright said wasn’t the most ideal. However, last year Fairmont kicked off the event on a Friday night and he says this changed the perception of his team.

“We’ve been moved to sort of kicking off the tournament, and I think we kind of changed the perception of how we’re thought of,” Albright said. “So it’s an opportunity for not only our players to get some exposure and to be around high-level players, but it’s also an opportunity for our program to get a lot of exposure and for our team to be surrounded with other teams that are really successful.”

This season, The Firebirds kick-off “Flyin’ to the Hoop” on Friday, January 15 against Trotwood-Madison at 6:30 pm.

With season starting this week, Albright and his team are actively preparing for road that lies ahead. But after a long summer and off-season, his expectations have risen along with the level of trust he has in his players.

“What we have right now is a lot of guys that are willing to play really hard and play for one another and are really bought into our system and how we do things both on the court and off. When you have that, you can sometimes achieve more than what maybe the paper tells you that you should.”