Deerfield star guard Ramello Carter has a supporting cast, many of which were on the Knights' state title football team, that could make some noise in the GISA state basketball tournament this season.
ALBANY — This is life at Deerfield-Windsor, where football players shed their pads and then hit the basketball court 48 hours later.
It may sound crazy, but that’s a way of life for the Knights, who have played for the GISA Class AAA state football title four of the past five years (they’ve won three state crowns) and then slip on basketball shoes and jerseys and hit the hardwood.
It’s also a way of life for boys basketball coach and DWS athletic director Gordy Gruhl, who watched his team make its debut Tuesday night with a 78-47 rout against rival Sherwood Christian Academy on the court that’s named for him.
“I’ve got lots of practice doing it,” said Gruhl, who had the court at DWS named “Gruhl Court” last year after he won his 1,000th game. He’s a legend and knows how to make the best out of an almost impossible situation.
The football team won the state title Friday night, beating Heritage, 27-19, celebrated and then they joined the other basketball players on Sunday afternoon.
“I gave them Saturday off,” joked Gruhl.
Gruhl runs a fast-paced, pressure-all-over-the-court defense that loves to run, but the biggest and quickest transition is the one the gridiron kids make every year.
“I don’t worry about it any more,” Gruhl said. “I used to get uptight about it. But it’s not that important how you play at the beginning of the year. It’s what you do at the end of the year.’’
And he loves his football players.
“Those football players bring a lot to the team,” he said. “They bring a certain toughness. And they’re winners. They are used to winning the state title.”
Players such as seniors Westin King and Sam Shellhaas, who both had big games on Friday in the state title game, were all-region basketball players a year ago.
Neither started Tuesday against SCA, but both saw playing time as well as John Germany, who made some hits on Friday and then hit some tough 3-point shots, and KE’Marvin Pitts, a quick running back and cornerback who made several big plays in the state title game on Friday.
But as fast as Pitts is on the gridiron, he was feeling it Tuesday night.
“It’s a tough transition going from football to basketball,’’ Pitts said. “You think you’re in shape, but you’re not in basketball shape. It’s weird.’’
The goal is the same — a state championship.
The kids at DWS believe they can pull off the double and win both the football and boys basketball state titles, and when the spring gets here Rod Murray will return almost everyone on his baseball team that lost in the state semifinals last spring.
Can you say Tri-Knights-fecta?
Gruhl knows he has a lot of talent on the court, but moreover, this year’s team is deep and talented — and brings a lot of pieces to the court.
“We’ll keep getting better,’’ Gruhl said after the opening-night rout. “The biggest thing is finding the right combination. Justin Eady (a junior and newcomer to DWS) played great, and he’s going to be a nice piece to the puzzle. We’ve got a lot of kids who can play. It’s not going to be one who does it. It’s going to be the combination of everyone.
“This is probably the most versatile team I’ve had in a while. There will be guys who played last year who don’t play as many minutes this year.’’
Eady is a 6-5 power forward who brings a presence inside, and the Knights return their top scorer and playmaker, guard Ramello Carter, who was a first-team all-state player as a junior. Carter led the way Tuesday with 15 points and could have scored 25. He ran the break, and it seemed like DWS was breaking away all night.
The Knights forced nine first-quarter turnovers and jumped out to an 18-2 lead, thanks to one transition basket after another.
There were no PATs after the baskets. Just more defense and more running the floor.
Jay Barber (12 points) and Jason Battle (11 points) are cat-quick and helped set the tone of the game along with Carter, who feels Tuesday was the beginning.
“I was pretty anxious to play,’’ he said. “We (basketball players) have been practicing since the middle of October, and we were ready to play somebody. I know it’s tough on the football players to come in and do what they do — real tough. They’ve got great character. They win the state title and then hop right onto the basketball court, and two days later they begin the season. You have to be strong-minded to do that.’’
But Carter thinks the prize later will be worth it.
“We have big expectations,’’ he said. “We want to be at the top, to finish No. 1. That’s the goal. If we do what we have to do we will definitely have a shot at winning it.’’