Boys’ basketball: A hardwoods preview
by Dennis Sharkey
Only two teams last year had a record over .500 and no team made it to the state tournament.
Former KU gaurd Jeff Hawkins will try to revive a Perry-Lecompton team that won only two games last year while other teams like the Jefferson West Tigers expect to make huge leaps forward.
Coach: Jeff Hawkins, first year
Last season: 2-19
Three years ago the Kaws finished 19-3 and had their second consecutive winning season under former coach Jeff Dickson. Since then the last two seasons have been a heavy crash back to earth. The Kaws fell back to a 12-10 record the next year and last year the Kaws lost their final 11 games.
Hawkins in his first year as a head coach is starting from scratch. Two days before the start of the Kaws season, Hawkins still wasn’t sure what his starting lineup would be when the Kaws hit the court Friday night.
“I’m still getting a feel for who’s in the mix right now,” Hawkins said. “You never know what could happen in these last two days.”
What Hawkins does know is that he will depend on a group of players who have some varsity experience and that have committed themselves to his program. Upon getting the job last May, Hawkins made an effort over the summer to bond with players who were willing to buy into the program.
“I’ve got an idea in my mind of who’s going to go where,” Hawkins said.
Some of the guys Hawkins mentioned were senior Joe Morris and underclassmen Jeremy Immenschuh, Jon Denton, Riley Davis and Seth Steward.
“Those are the guys I’ve built a bond with,” Hawkins said. “I kind of look for them to be the leadership for this team when I’m not out there talking.”
Coach: Rod Stottlemire, seventh year
Last season: 8-14
Head Coach Rod Stottlemire knows what his Bears team will look like in his starting five. Who’s coming off the bench, however, presents questions.
“We have a good core of experienced players back,” Stottlemire said in a statement. “We will need to develop depth during the season.”
The Bears return four seniors who all started last season including Delaware Valley first team All League Team and 2A honorable mention selection at forward Adam Bowser who averaged 15 points a game last season. The Bears also bring back point guard and Delaware Valley honorable mention team selection Levi Wade who scored 13 points per game. Seniors forward Braden McGinnis and center Sheldon Malicke both return, averaging five points a game each. Junior forward Adam Brien is listed as the probable fifth starter going into the season.
Stottlemire will be looking to fill his bench though. Some names listed as potential candidates include a trio of juniors Dalton Ricketts, Tanner Ball, Patrick Griffitts and sophomore Garrett Noble at the guard position. Junior Austin Trowbridge and sophomore Matthew Henry could see significant minutes at the forward position. In total, 21 students are participating in basketball including other seniors Tyler Gooch, Jesse Courter and Dakota Wright.
Coach: Caleb Gatzemeyer, sixth year
Last season: 12-10
The Dragons return only two starters from a team that has finished high in the Delaware Valley League the last couple of years, but Gatzemeyer is excited about this year’s team for several reasons.
“Energy and effort are there throughout in all the kids, and everybody is enthusiastic,” Gatzmeyer said. “We were pretty deep last year so a lot of guys got some time.”
In all, the Dragons said good-bye to five seniors from last year’s team but return seniors Brooks Glassel and Alex Nottingham who were both starters last year.
Moving into the starting lineup will be junior point guard Brock Watson, who Gatzemeyer has high expectations for.
“When it’s all said and done he has the potential to be the best point guard I’ve ever coached,” Gatzemeyer said. “His vision and court savvy are pretty incredible.”
Gatzmeyer will also look to junior Will Jones for scoring. Jones led the team in three-point percentage last year on limited shooting, but will be expected to take more shots. Gatzemeyer will also look to six foot six inch junior Jordan Morrow to get increased playing time.
“He’s a guy who just because of his size can go out and get you a double-double every night,” Gatzemeyer said.
Gatzmeyer says his bench will be about 10 deep and that he has size and ability at every position and that his team will put defensive pressure on all their opponents.
“That’s pretty huge because at no time do I think there’s going to be a mismatch on the floor for anybody,” Gatzemeyer said. “We’re going to be capable of doing some different things.”
Jefferson County North
Coach: Jim Brickell, 25th year
Last season: 12-10
A winning record and a finish in the top half of the Delaware Valley League is a good season, but Chargers’ Head Coach Jim Brickell expects more from his team this year.
“I would be disappointed if we weren’t a better team this year,” Brickell said. “I can see signs already that we are.”
The Chargers bring back four starters from last year’s team led by the team’s only seniors Jeff Hale and Spencer Wentz. Brickell said he is seeing the leadership from those two that will be needed to win.
“What you hope from your seniors is to lead by example if anything,” Brickell said. “So far they’ve done a good job of that.”
Five different juniors will be in the mix for the starting lineup including Dalton Minor who was the team’s leading rebounder and second leading scorer before breaking his leg.
“We were 5-2 at that point,” Brickell said. “It was a huge loss for us.”
Jimmy Priest will most likely see the most time at point guard and Dominic Kingman, who saw significant minutes last year, will be expected to step up.
Bench players on last year’s team Billy Noll and Brett Manville will both be expected to step into starting roles at some point. Sophomores Corey Noll and Jacob GrandPre, who both lettered as freshman, will also see their roles increase.
Coach: Matt Tinsley, third year
Last season: 7-14
Tinsley is expecting big things from the Tigers in his third year as head coach.
The Tigers finished with a disappointing record last season but the record doesn’t tell the whole story about the Tigers. Four games were lost on last second shots and the average margin of defeat was 1.5 points per game. In Tinsley’s first season the Tigers were losing by nine points a game when they went down in defeat.
“We’ve really closed the gap,” Tinsley said. “This is our year. I feel like we’ve come over the top and are ready to break through.”
Tinsley is basing his predictions on what he has seen in practice leading up to Friday night’s opener against Silver Lake.
“They really get after it and are really unselfish,” Tinsley said. “They’re really clicking together.”
The Tigers graduated six seniors from last year’s team and bring back only two, but six players return that have some starting experience from last year. However, Tinsley said many of the kids he will depend on this year played together in junior varsity and together last year on the varsity level. Four of this year’s starters averaged double figures in junior varsity play.
“Last year we just had a couple of kids that could score,” Tinsley said. “Now I can put four or five kids on the floor that can all score and that’s going to help offensively.”
Tinsley will look to the two seniors Dillon Roy and Chance Higgins for leadership on the floor. Higgins has started at guard since he was a sophomore and Roy will be the Tigers’ main inside threat.
“This is probably the best leadership we’ve had since I’ve been here at Jeff West,” Tinsley said.
Although the rest of the Tigers’ lineup is young, Tinsley said past experience with each other and overall natural talent will show up in wins as the season goes along. Point guard Corey Brown is only a sophomore but started as a freshman on the varsity level. Juniors Zach Baker and Dalton Dean will be expected to step up along with Kegan Kennedy who will be the first option off the bench. Freshman Alex Miller will also see significant playing time and is expected to be a defensive force under the basket and a rebounder.
Tinsley said his team has the talent and it will be up to them to execute. In order for his team to make the jump they will have to limit unforced turnovers and find more high percentage shots.
“It all comes down to the little things,” Tinsley said.
Coach: Jason Schroeder, fifth year
Last season: 4-18
The Bulldogs will look to some new faces for scoring this season as the top three scorers from last year are no longer here.
The team’s top two scorers graduated and the Bulldogs’ highest scorer from last year, Trevor Roberts, has been lost to injury.
The Bulldogs will look to senior Derek Wright and juniors Gavin Swearngin, Allen Kramer and Shawn Dailey to pick up the slack. Swearngin will enter his third year of starting and the other three all started at some point last season. Schroeder said he is cautiously optimistic about his team.
“I feel like I’ve got quite a lot of experience coming back,” Schroeder said. “I think this team is capable of winning more games and I think we will.
“Offensively we’re still trying to feel each other out,” he added. “We’re a lot older, bigger, tougher, stronger and faster.”
Schroeder will also look to two sophomores to see increased playing time. Marc Walbridge will see time at guard and Dakota Cop will see time at forward.
Schroeder said his team’s strength will be on the defensive end of the court.
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