The Shippensburg University basketball team piled up the victories and awards last season — a season which ended with a crushing defeat in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) finals.
A team led by senior John Castello and junior Jake Biss, resulted in a 24-7 record (18-4 PSAC) for the Raiders.
However, with Castello and other important members of the squad, like Lamar Talley and Daylon Carter graduating, this upcoming season will be Biss’ team.
Biss is coming off a season filled with accolades. The now senior guard pulled in awards including 2019-20 PSAC Eastern Division Athlete of the Year, 2019-20 NABC All-District First Team honors and 2019-20 D2CCA All-Atlantic Region First Team honors.
Additionally, the Latrobe, Pennsylvania, native rounded out his junior campaign with 15.9 points, 4.4 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game. And while the numbers and recognition are nice, Biss has always been more focused on team play.
“Don’t get me wrong, the accolades are definitely nice, but I’d put all of those away if I could win that PSAC championship,” he said.
Biss knows this season will present challenges the Raiders have never faced before. Because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Biss and his teammates have had limited access to Heiges Field House and have shifted their practices to an outdoor setting at Seth Grove Stadium.
Like any great leader, Biss continues to overcome adversity and make the best out of the current opportunities presented to him. But, he does have his concerns.
In a normal season, fall is the perfect time for the Raiders to develop team chemistry and shake off the rust from the summer. This year, they do not get that full experience.
“Team wise I think it may be a little difficult once we get back on the court,” Biss said. “However, I think that’s the case for the PSAC as a whole. Even just allowing us back on the court will present challenges, but from what I hear, they’re exploring different options and doing whatever they can to get us back out there.”
With the extra time on his hands, Biss has used this unusual situation to continue to grow his game. He noted that when he came to SU, Coach Chris Fite wanted to see him improve on his three-point shooting. That paid off as he shot .403 % from behind the arc last season.
But this season, Biss is more focused on his leadership capabilities. In a time when coming together is most important, Biss wants to provide that for his team. He has done it in the past and he knows he can continue.
“I feel I’m in a similar leadership position as last year,” Biss said. “But like any year, this is a new team and my job is to bring us together and play as much as a team as possible.”
The Raiders will not see the court until the New Year at the earliest and the coming months will be crucial to the team’s success moving forward.
After suffering the heartbreaking loss in the PSAC finals, Biss is hungry to capture that conference title. And with him at the helm, the Raiders’ chances are as good as any.
“That loss was tough to swallow, but we’re using it as motivation going forward,” Biss added. “Like I said earlier, this is a new team and I’m excited to get to know them better, build that team chemistry, and go to work and see what we can accomplish together as a group.”