SCH head coach Julian McFadden (left) looks over his team during practice last Monday. McFadden, an alum of Chestnut Hill Academy, is entering his second year as head coach. (Photo by Jonathan Vander Lugt)

by Jonathan Vander Lugt

After SCH head coach Julian McFadden lost his first Inter-Ac game to Malvern Prep last season, he emphasized building winning habits for him and his team. They were hard to find in that 77-52 loss to the Friars, but he nonetheless strove to find silver linings throughout a rough inaugural year.

Now, months later, he’s singing the same song.

“We’re really just working on building winning habits,” he said, after SCH’s first varsity practice last Monday. “That means getting on the court when nobody wants to, or staying in the gym and shooting after your first practice. If you want to be a devil, that’s what you’ve got to do … We’re the devils, so that’s something we’ve been preaching until we’ve been blue in the face.”

McFadden and his Blue Devils are coming off a winless league slate in 2016-17, a dour complement to the team’s 8-16 overall record. SCH has lost six seniors and has just one (C.J. Sweitzer) returning, so McFadden is working to build his own team culture, rather than repairing an old, broken one.

“I’m able to keep up with the kids as more than just players,” McFadden said. “Last year it was hard to build relationships with people because I had to learn what I was doing … I had to figure out what to do, personnel-wise, to be competitive in games. Last year was very eye-opening as far as the day-to-day and how to deal with the administration and admissions. Now, it’s a lot easier to have conversations with players and parents – things are definitely looking a lot brighter.”

This year, McFadden has a core of six that he’ll rely on for most of the team’s production: sophomores Ke’Shawn Williams, Delonce Hynes, Jared Sprague-Lott and Aaron Roscoe; junior transfer (from Roman Catholic) Zion Grant; and Sweitzer, a senior. All but Rascoe saw varsity minutes last year, and all but Sweitzer have seen just McFadden as their varsity coach at SCH.

“I think these guys are really buying into what I’m trying to do,” McFadden said. “Last year, the younger guys bought in a little bit quicker than the older players. The JV guys would be doing exactly what I wanted them to do. This is their second year now, and they’re getting more and more comfortable with what I’m trying to do. We’re going to play a lot faster. They’re gelling well.”

It helps that McFadden has been in their place before. He’s an SCH alum (class of 2006, back before the Chestnut Hill Academy-Springside School merger) and is one of just four players since 2000 to reach the 1,000 point mark.

Moreover, he did it for a team in transition, much like this year’s squad.

“I know what it’s like to be around here, with a basketball program struggling and trying to rebuild,” McFadden said. “I’m trying to pour everything I experienced into them. I hope that I’m as big to them as I want to be. In them, I see the day-to-day that I used to feel. I hope they take to me, and they seem to be so far. I hope to have that imprint.”

McFadden and his Blue Devil squad open the season Friday against Germantown Friends School. For him, the first game of the season can’t come soon enough.

“Do I want them to grow up a little faster than they should? Probably, but that’s something that I had to do here too,” he said. “I came in and played every game as a sophomore all the way through. I’ve seen it happen and I know these kids can do it too.”