Ashburnham (Mass.) Cushing Academy point guard Kaleb Joseph was part of a championship team as a junior. This season, he led Cushing to their second consecutive title. The second one, however, was a little different to the four-star Syracuse commit.
"For me, the difference was that last year I didn't have as big of a leadership role," Joseph said. "Last year we had a senior that went to Butler, Andrew Chrabascz. We were both team captains, but he took more of a leadership role because it was his last year. A lot more was asked of me this year with him leaving There were only three returning kids this year.
"It was just a completely different team. Last year we had a little more talent in the paint because Andrew was good, obviously because he went to Butler. I think a lot more was just asked of me this year in terms of leadership."
Championships are always special. But as the leader this season, it meant a little bit more to the 6-foot-2 point guard.
"Honestly, it feels amazing," Joseph said. "Just because there were so many ups and downs throughout the season. At one point we had lost to the team we beat in the semi-finals, previously by 35 points. To grow so much as a team and everybody coming together at the right time, it just felt amazing."
There is no better evidence of the team's improvement than defeating two teams in the playoffs that dominated them in the regular season. Joseph believes his personal improvement as a leader spurred the turnaround.
"Earlier in the season, I was learning how to be a leader," Joseph said. "I had never been asked to lead a team. Obviously you can do certain things like working hard and thinks like that. But when you're team leader, your coach asks a lot more of you. Early in the season, I wasn't as prepared for that. I wasn't doing as good of a job as I probably could have.
"I think as the season went on, I started to embrace that role as a leader. I started to take pride in it. I think that was the biggest turning point in the team. Every single day in practice, I was trying to get the best out of everybody including myself. That changed the culture of the team."
His experience this season, both being a leader and overcoming adversity, will only help Joseph when he arrives at Syracuse next season.
"I think it works wonders," Joseph said. "Next year, depending on what Tyler decides on doing, I could be asked to lead the team from day one in my freshman year. This year, it helped me learn a lot about myself and what it takes to lead a team.
"Obviously, the level is going to be a lot different. But just getting some type of experience with it will only work out in my benefit."