By TIMOTHY MEDINA
EHT Student Correspondent
Anyone can become a good basketball player, but it takes a great player to be a leader. For Egg Harbor Township’s Isiah Walsh, leadership is something that he strives to improve upon, even now, in his final season of high school basketball.
Returning for his second year as captain of the varsity basketball team, Walsh has continued to make strides, both on and off the court, to become a better player and leader, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. Eagles coach Cameron Bell has nothing but praise when it comes to his senior captain.
“There’s been a great amount of growth from Isiah. This is my fourth year as the varsity coach, he’s been with me every step of the way,” Bell said. “He came in very immature as a freshman, I think I put a lot on his plate, but I watched him every successive year grow more and more into the type of person we thought he could become. He’s been able to handle adversity a lot more than he could when he first came in. I’m proud of the kid.”
Looking back on freshman year to now, Walsh — a 6-foot-4 forward — said he feels confident in his improvement.
“I feel like I’ve definitely improved in maturity, along with the level of basketball I’ve been playing throughout the years,” he said. “You always have to play above your level so you can get better. When you talk about being a leader, it takes good communication skills on and off the court with your teammates. You need the passion of the game — you need to want that win.”
Although the EHT Eagles are sitting with a tough record of 5-10, both Walsh and Bell have seen a considerable amount of improvement over the past few weeks. With Walsh feeling better and more rested after playing less minutes in the previous few matchups, he is doing everything in his power to rally the team toward a potential postseason berth.
“He’s really taken that leadership role by the horns, as leader sometimes you have your ups and downs but you always need to be on, you always need to have positive traits and be upbeat,” Bell said. “He’s learning every single day how to be a leader, how to rally your teammates behind you, how to get everybody involved, and how to make sure everyone feels good. He’s getting better at it every single day, he really dove headfirst into it.”
Walsh, the only senior in EHT’s starting lineup, has not been shy about his aspirations for the team. His confidence is what motivates players to come together until the final buzzer. He sets high goals, not only for himself, but for his team as well — even looking beyond high school.
“I want to make it to the CAL (Cape-Atlantic League) Championship game this year. I’m hoping to make state playoffs, and reach 1000 points,” Walsh said. “After high school, I plan to get a college degree, play the game I love, and hopefully become an engineer.”
When it comes to looking into the future, coach Bell has high hopes for the senior forward.
“As of now, if he continues improving the way he has in terms of being a leader, being a student first, I really think the sky’s the limit for him,” Bell said. “I know he has an interest in playing basketball at the next level. That comes from a combination of his talent on the court and in the classroom as well. As long he continues to take those two things seriously he can do anything he puts his mind to.”
Walsh feels extremely grateful for not only his coach, but teammates who have stuck with him throughout the years.
“I thank coach Bell through all my four years for staying with me. He’s been grinding with me. He’s been looking everywhere at colleges for me to go to,” Walsh said. “I thank my teammates for looking out for me when I’m not there, or in a bad mood. My teammates are always there for me. That is what being a leader does to you. They will make sure you’re fine.”
With half the season in the books, Walsh and his teammates can still make the state playoffs, but there certainly will be challenges ahead in February. The Eagles will face tough teams such as ACIT, St. Joseph and Millville, a team EHT lost to on Jan. 21, 62-57.
But, Walsh and his teammates have faced adversity before, and won’t be backing down from any of the teams remaining on their schedule.