By: Daniel Stickradt
BOYS BASKETBALL NOTEBOOK: Oxford off to 5-0 start for first time in decades
BY DAN STICKRADT
OXFORD – Every time someone mentions Oxford’s record to start the campaign to coach Steve Laidlaw, he has but to wonder.
“It’s been a long, long time,” said Laidlaw, who returned this season to Oxford’s sideline after a seven-year hiatus. “We think it’s been since the 1940s since the last time since we started 5-0, maybe the 50s but likely the 40s.
“I played at Oxford in the early 80s and have been watching since the early 80s when I was a kid and I know we never started 5-0 in my lifetime,” continued Laidlaw. “I spoke to my cousin who played in the 60s and he spoke to his old coach. No one remembers us starting 5-0 back them either. I guess we had some really good teams back in the 40s.”
Per school records, Oxford floored some quality teams in the early decades of boys basketball in Michigan. The 1926 team reached the MHSAA Class C state quarterfinals — believed to be the only regional championship team in school history.
From the 1920s through the 1950s, Oxford won a handful of league and district titles. Since the 1960s, championships have not gone hand-in-hand with Oxford basketball.
In fact, when Laidlaw was the senior point guard on 1980-81 squad, Oxford captured the North Oakland Athletic Conference. The Wildcats did not win a conference again until the 2014-15 campaign when they captured the OAA Gold Division title.
Oxford’s last district championship came in Class B back in 1992-93.
Still none of those squads since the 1960s began the season 5-0.
“I guess what surprises me as how we have done it,” said Laidlaw, who noted that last year’s Wildcats finished just 6-15 under an interim coach. “We have shot the ball really well in all of our games. We had 10 three pointers in one half against Waterford Kettering. In another game against Royal Oak, and they were playing good defense, we made 12 threes. It seemed like we couldn't miss through at us no matter what type of defense they threw at us. We have 7-8 guys that can shoot it. Ten, 15 years ago we were lucky to have one, maybe two who could shoot it. Not anymore.
Oxford is averaging 64.8 points a game while yielding just 45.8 points an outing. Senior guard Jordan Jadan is averaging 20.2 points a game, while senior forward Ray Luvine has followed with 16.4 points an outing.
Sophomore forward Mike Raisch, a 6-foot-5 jumping jack, is averaging nearly a double-double in the post, while junior guard Nolan Harding, sophomore forward Connor Nicholson, senior guard Sean Nicholson and 6-6 senior center Jeam Linares have all been consistent contributors.
“We have some depth on this team,” boasted Laidlaw. “When I used to catch here several years ago, when I first started we really struggled after our starting five. But things have changed over the past 10-15 years. We are a much bigger school now, we are a (open enrollment) school of choice district, and we have some quality kids coming up from our youth programs. We have two sophomores on our varsity because they are solid basketball players. They are not here out of necessity. They are key players for us.”
Oxford’s schedule will become much more challenging with an upcoming non-league game against Pontiac Notre Dame Prep. Then the OAA Blue Division league season will kickstart later this month with preseason favorites Rochester and Birmingham Groves on the early league-season docket.
“The true test will be our league There’s some quality programs in our division,” noted Laidlaw, who was a varsity assistant and junior varsity head coach at Auburn Hills Avondale the past six years before returning to Oxford. “We’re looking forward to see how we match up in our league. I know we’ll be competitive. They lost a lot of close games last year. We have most of that team back. I saw Oxford play a couple of times last season and I feel they have all improved since last season. They put in the time over the summer. Now we hope to contend for a league.”