IR boys’ hoops on the upswing after return to playoffs

Coastal Point • Shaun M. Lambert: Senior guard Colby Chandler goes for a lay up against Milford on Feb. 7. Chandler is one of three seniors set to graduate for the Indians.Coastal Point • Shaun M. Lambert: Senior guard Colby Chandler goes for a lay up against Milford on Feb. 7. Chandler is one of three seniors set to graduate for the Indians.Having been sent off with a pep rally in their honor as they headed into their first playoff appearance since 2014, the Indian River High School boys’ basketball team returned home on Thursday, March 2, after suffering a loss to No. 15 St. Marks.

Despite seeing their state tournament run cut short, the Indians still finished the regular season 12-8, after going just 5-15 last season and after a 16-year playoff drought spanning from 1997 to 2014.

With a predominantly young squad of primarily freshmen and sophomores, and set to graduate just three seniors — forward Isaiah “Izzy” Bratton, guard Colby Chandler and guard Thomas DiBuo — the boys’ basketball program at Indian River looks to be very much up and coming.

“It was a good season,” said Bratton. “All the hard work, it pays off.”

Bratton headlined the senior class as the team’s primary “big man,” earning himself a trip to the Blue-Gold All-Star game later this month, as the first player from IR to make the cut since Kei Juan “Skeeter” Major back in 2015.

Chandler and DiBuo each found themselves in key roles at guard for the Indians this season, helping lead the way for a talented crop of young talent.

“They see us out there and other guys doing it, and they wanna be aggressive like that, too. That’s what I did when I was coming up,” said Chandler of his leadership role this season. “I always watched how they played out there or how they attacked the basketball, and I was like, ‘I can do that, too.’”

Aside from earning the Indians their best regular-season record in two decades, this year’s senior class can also hang their hat on being a part of the team that earned second-year head coach B.J. Joseph his 200th career win when the Indians took down Sussex Academy on Feb. 3.

While they’ll graduate their seniors, current sophomore forwards Jamier Felton and Antonio Jones will return next season with two full years of varsity experience under their belts to step up and fill the leadership roles left vacant by Bratton, Chandler and Jones.

Freshman point guard K.J. Custis will also return to help lead the squad in scoring again next season, with freshman guard OrRyin Morris and sophomore center Kashid Waples expected to see larger impact roles, and current junior guards Patrick Mumford and Calvin James also returning to help lead the Indians back to the playoffs.

As for the team’s soon-to-be-former stars, they’re expecting to see big things from the Indians in the future.

“I want them to keep going. They could be something, too,” said Bratton of the future. “As long as they work hard and pay attention.”

Bratton will take the court to represent the Indians for the last time at the Blue-Gold All-Star game, which will be held at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center on Saturday, March 18.