Would-be male basketball players from elementary school age through high school seniors showcased their developing pre-season talents for parents, relatives, and basketball fans Friday evening, Nov. 22, in the Hillsboro High School gym. The tournament season began the next day for the Hillsboro Sports Association players; the high school junior varsity and varsity players play tomorrow, Tuesday, Nov. 26, in Shelbyville's gym. The junior varsity game begins at 6 p.m.
Varsity coach Joe Vanzo said the Rams return four starters from last year's 24 win squad, but their graduated leader, 6'4" Malcom Miller, is now playing collegiately. Also gone from the mix is veteran coach Bob Herdes, which means the Rams' offensive and defensive systems are unknown entering Tuesday's game.
Not unknown are Hillsboro's basic game plans. As they have since Vanzo's tenure began, the Toppers will prefer up tempo play both offensively and defensively, The primary defense will be man-to-man while offensively Vanzo prefers his players push the ball quickly down court once a rebound is secured. Because one of the squad's losses to graduation was big man Jordan Gregg, Hillsboro most likely will be more perimeter oriented than last year.
Only five seniors are on the team; Nic Ondrey is the most experienced of the five. Two juniors remain on the roster after Jude Bertolino transferred to Nokomis. Last year's point guard, Jace Tuetken, will play more of a wing position this season, which will give him a better chance to slash to the basket.
Taking over at point will be sophomore Drake Vogel, who saw considerable action on the varsity level as a freshman. Another sophomore, Gavin Matoush, was the first inside player off the bench last season; he'll move into a starting role this year, relying on tenacity, toughness, and quickness against taller, older opponents.
Vanzo said the projected starting lineup for 2019/2020 includes Ondrey, Tuetken, Vogel, and Matoush. The fifth spot is yet to be determined; candidates are seniors Brock Bellaver, Dylan McCammack (a returnee to the sport after sitting out his junior season) and perhaps sophomore Dillon Smail, who is still not a giant, but bigger than he was last season. Others could enter the picture as the season develops.
Coach Vanzo plans to begin the season with a nine man junior varsity squad including junior Brady Meier and sophomores Ethan Lentz, Bryce Connor, Tim Downen, Ian Malloy, and Smail. The others will be a rotation of members of a promising freshman class.
Win-loss success for the varsity depends upon the starters staying healthy and the development of depth (especially in the post position) as the season goes along. The starters have decent size and above-average quickness, but teams with quick big men will present problems. It will be an interesting season.
The Shelbyville game story will be in the Monday, Dec. 2, issue of The Journal-News (it won't be over by press time of Wednesday's paper) as will the article covering the Saturday, Nov. 30, game against Okawville in Carlyle that one starts at 6 p.m.