It’s been nearly 13 months since ’s basketball program last tasted victory. After a disappointing 2010-11 season in which his team went 0-18, former head coach Michael Harris decided it was time to step down and pass the coaching baton to someone else.
Enter first-year head coach Kosa So.
Lee hired So in mid-July from his post as Fairfax High School’s head junior varsity coach, where he held the position for nine seasons.
“My goal for the next couple of years at least is to really rebuild the program and try to reach out to the community,” said So, who is also a Northern Virginia criminal defense attorney.
“I want to build up an interest and a buzz in Lee basketball,” he said.
Due to the late timing of his hire, So didn’t have as much time as his counterparts to work with his team over the summer. His first order of business was to thoroughly assess his players and evaluate the level of talent on the team.
“There was a lack of fundamentals which makes winning, doing things and executing extremely tough,” he said.
He didn’t waste time instilling his brand of basketball and energy in his team. So rounded up 10 of his players and headed down I-95 South for the three-and-a-half hour drive to Norfolk, Va. The group participated in Virginia Wesleyan College’s annual team camp, where high schools from the region practice and compete against one another.
For two exhausting days, the Lee Lancer players practiced and played seven games against teams from North Carolina to Florida. The camp gave So time to get to know his players as they stayed in the school’s dorm rooms and allowed him to see how they performed in game situations.
“It was my first opportunity to really meet them…it was just good bonding and getting to know the players,” said So. “I thought it was good in terms of bonding and also in team building and camaraderie among the players.”
During the camp, So and his players shared a defining moment that symbolized the passing of the baton to So. The coach gathered his team after their first game of the camp and took them to one of the vacant dorm rooms where they watched film of that game.
“The kids were really excited to see themselves," So said. "I think they realized at that point that we were really serious about trying to turn things around. I thought that it was a good moment and that they really appreciated it. It just felt good.”
Fast forward to December. Although the Lancers are currently 0-3, they appear to have bought into So’s philosophy and are inching toward that first win of the season. The signs of progression are there. In the team’s season opener against Oakton, senior Maseer Ghorab scored a team-high 34 points, in a tight 62-61 loss. Ghorab has scored no less than 20 points in each of the team’s three games this season.
“He’s one of our big guys," So said. "In fact, I had no doubt that he’d be our leading scorer. So we have to make sure that he’s effective and executes our game plan. Our goal with him is to have him still lead the team in scoring, but really to execute and do the other things necessary to win ball games.”
Sophomore Christopher Hann, who towers at 6-foot-6, is emerging as one of the Lancers’ premier threats. Hann scored 18 points, grabbed six rebounds and went 2-2 from the free-throw line in the team’s Dec. 13 loss to Chantilly.
“I don’t think he scored in double figures ever in a varsity basketball game,” said So of his young player. “Now hopefully he can see that he has the ability to score on this level… He’s someone I’m hoping to lean on as we move throughout the season.”
The team’s emotional sparkplug on the court is sophomore Gideon Boakye. Despite being just a sophomore, So credits Boakye’s strong basketball acumen for giving him an awareness of what’s going on around him on the floor.
“Gideon doesn’t do a whole lot of scoring, but he does a lot of the intangibles. He gets a lot of steals, knows what we’re doing and can facilitate the ball,” said So.
When asked how his background as an attorney affects his style of coaching, So says with a laugh, “I’m most likely not going to get many technical fouls.”
“You have a tendency to see both sides and you have a tendency to realize that there’s always discretion. It just allows me to have a calmer demeanor.”
So’s Lancers will attempt to grab their first win of the season Friday at South County at 7:30 p.m.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity. I’m prepared, ready and have a plan and program objective in place,” says So.
“Lee has a winning tradition. It’s one of two schools in the last 30 years in the Northern Region to win a state championship. I’m looking forward to putting Lee back on the map.”