The Marion High School boys basketball team enters the 2011-12 season on the heels of an exodus of senior leadership from last year’s 9-13 squad, but fourth-year head coach Jeff McMillin believes the team has the elements to fill that gap and improve on last year’s record.
“We had a big senior class last year and good leadership,” McMillin said. “Jordan Versch, Dylan Richmond, and the other guys who were real good team guys who were all about making the team better – you don’t see that in the stat sheet.”
McMillin said 5-foot-7-inch senior Mikael Antozyck and 6-foot-2-inch junior Jacob Harper have already stepped to the fore as outspoken team leaders.
“Those are the vocal guys,” McMillin said. “Mikael has stepped up being more vocal and wants to have a good senior year. Jacob will be splitting time between inside and outside, he’s a pretty versatile kid,” McMillin said.
Jordan Hett, a 6-foot junior, has established himself as a team leader by his performance on the court and his work ethic in practice, and McMillin sees Hett playing a key role in the team’s success.
“He’ll be our on-court leader at point guard,” McMillin said. “He averaged 13 points and over 30 minutes per game last year, and only two turnovers a game.
“On the summer circuit, I think he scored under 20 only twice. He’s a good shooter and playmaker,” McMillin said.
McMillin emphasized the importance of turnovers and ball possession for his team, indicating he expects even more from a group that made good strides last season.
“I was really pleased how we turned the corner not turning the ball over last year. It’s a lot to ask for high school, but I’m going to ask them for single-digit turnovers,” McMillin said.
McMillin said 6-foot-3-inch senior Scott Jones will figure significantly in the Warriors’ plans under the basket.
“We have Scott Jones back, who started a bit last year. He just keeps getting a little better each year, and gives us an inside presence we need,” McMillin said.
The presence of only two seniors on this year’s team presents challenges for McMillin and opportunities for players as they prepare for the season.
“We’re very young ,” McMillin said. “We’re going to be in the process of establishing the rotation. It helps making the best players and team because of the competition at those spots.”
McMillin singled out the front court positions as ones where players have the chance to earn spots in the rotation.
“Wiley Lundy, Grif Case, and James Jones are all capable of stepping in and providing depth in the front court,” McMillin said. “When you have four guys playing for that one post spot, that’s going to bring some good competition.”
When it comes to offense, McMillin has one overriding principle.
“Get them into a spot to be successful and let them make plays,” McMillin said. “They’re good offensive players. They’re going to get a lot more offensive freedom.”
This year’s defense will benefit from the team’s depth and athleticism, McMillin said.
“We mix it up this year, push the tempo, trap a lot more, pressure the ball,” McMillin said. “We’ve been working on being sound in the half court, not allowing dribble penetration, and making it tough for teams to do what they want.
“Each year I’ve had these guys we’ve stepped up our wins. Our goals are day-to-day getting better. A lot of guys want the winning season at the end of the year, and that’s attainable,” McMillin said.