There are plenty of reasons for optimism for the Marion High School boys’ basketball team. Perhaps the greatest such reason is the most obvious one: Last year is over.
Having lost just two seniors to graduation, the Warriors look to build themselves back into a winning team.
“Everybody we had last year was in a position that we were asking them to do more than they probably should have had to,” head coach Jeff McMillin said. “They all come in with a lot more confidence this year.”
Marion will have just three seniors this year, but the team’s juniors carried a heavy load as underclassmen, and McMillin is hoping that pays dividends.
“We had a little bit of a baptism by fire last year,” he said. “We’re much more mentally prepared to take on a season.”
This team’s juniors and seniors remember playing for a winning program, McMillin said. A large reason last season was tough was because of large, successful classes that came before last year’s seniors.
The playing time last year was valuable experience, McMillin said.
“Last year our juniors were kind of timid sophomores with no experience,” he said. “They gained a little bit of moxie, and they’re ready to go.”
The team’s returning seniors are Dylan Pippin and Nicholas Stuchlik, both major contributors in the paint in both rebounding and scoring.
Juniors Mason Pedersen and Peyton Heidebrecht will provide ball movement and scoring. Sophomore Jack Schneider returns as well.
Marion’s roster of returners will be buoyed by some new additions. Senior Tyler Zinn was an honorable mention all-league player at 6A Olathe South, and he’ll bring a new dimension to the Warriors.
“It kind of puts the kids back a little bit, but he’s got some city in his game, he’s a very confident player,” McMillin said of Zinn. “He’s gonna give us a boost. He’s fitting in well with the guys, and he likes it here, and he wants to contribute and help make us better.”
He’ll have to wait until after the holiday break to do so, however; McMillin said Zinn decided to transfer after the semester began, and is therefore ineligible until second semester.
Zinn figures to be in the starting lineup when he becomes eligible, McMillin said, along with Pippin, Stuchlik, and Pedersen. The other starting spots could vary from game to game, he said.
Zinn has a younger brother, Sam, who is one of two freshman on the varsity roster, along with Evann Heidebrecht. Sophomores Zachary Stuchlik and Colin Williams, and juniors Josh Knolla and Nathan Baldwin round out the roster.
“We’re pretty deep,” McMillin said. “That’s saying something, because last year we weren’t deep at all.”
McMillin says he wants to see his team regain what’s long been its identity.
“We’re not good defensively right now,” he said. “But that’s been our identity, and last year we lost that identity. We want to try and get that back — try and be a defensive-minded team.”