Columbus North boys basketball coach Paul Ferguson is entering a completely different situation in his second year than he did in his first.
The Bull Dogs’ leader used two words to describe this year’s team that he couldn’t last season — depth and experience. They lacked a little of both last year when they went 10-14.
“We’re a lot further along than we were last year at this time,” Ferguson said. “We’re a more experienced team. We’re getting through our practice plans a lot quicker. We’re not having to spend as much time on teaching, and that’s been exciting.”
North expects to get off to a little better start this season. The Bull Dogs began 1-7 last year before finishing 9-7 over the final 16 games.
The team’s biggest win came in the first round of the sectional when it avenged a regular-season loss to Columbus East. But then North fell to Shelbyville in the sectional semifinals.
“We’d like to pick up where we left off last year,” Ferguson said. “We saw some flashes this summer where we played real well. We have a lot of multi-sport athletes on our team, so really through the summer and fall, we haven’t had a chance to have this group together, but now, we’re seeing what they can do.”
Although the Bull Dogs return all five starters, two will miss tonight’s season opener at Heritage Christian with injuries.
Alex King, a 6-foot-8 senior who led North with 14.3 points and 8.3 rebounds a game last season, has a hip flexor issue and practiced for the first time Saturday. Jaylen Flemmons, a 6-2 senior who averaged 9.8 points, will miss the first four to six weeks with an injured groin sustained during football season.
Nathan VanDeventer, a 6-1 senior point guard, averaged 11.5 points last season. Also back are 6-1 senior Trey Vincent (5.1 ppg) and 6-7 senior center Ethan Mitchell (4.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg).
Zach Green, a 6-2 senior, is back after tearing an ACL in last year’s scrimmage and missing the entire season. Trenton Kelley, a 6-5 sophomore, saw some varsity action the second half of last year and is ready for a bigger role.
“(Green is) a very strong physical player who is a great defender and shoots it well,” Ferguson said. “He’s shown us the first two weeks of the season that he’s ready to have a good year. Trenton’s gotten a little bigger, a little stronger, and I think he’s poised to have a really good year for us, too.”
Stephon Peters-Smith, a 6-7 senior, saw significant varsity action last season. Bailey Hester, a 6-0 junior, also could contribute.
“We’ve been a little out of sync these first two weeks, but some of these early-season injuries are going to give some of these other guys a chance to play and show us what they can do,” Ferguson said. “We’re really trying to be intentional about focusing on the day-to-day process and not the end result.”
The 2016-17 Columbus North boys basketball schedule:
Today;at Heritage Christian;7:30 p.m.
Saturday;at Hauser;7:30 p.m.
Dec. 2;Shelbyville;7:30 p.m.
Dec. 3;Martinsville;7:30 p.m.
Dec. 9;Franklin Central;7:30 p.m.
Dec. 16;Columbus East;7:30 p.m.
Dec. 17;Terre Haute South;7:30 p.m.
Dec. 27;at Noblesville Tournament;10 a.m.
Dec. 28; at Noblesville Tournament;TBA
Jan. 6;at Terre Haute North;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 7;at Jennings County;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 13;at Mooresville;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 21;at Perry Meridian;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 27;Southport;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 28;at Whiteland;7:30 p.m.
Feb. 2;Hamilton Southeastern;7:30 p.m.
Feb. 4;at East Central;2:30 p.m.
Feb. 7;at Franklin;7:30 p.m.
Feb. 10;at Bloomington South;7:30 p.m.
Feb. 17;Bloomington North;7:30 p.m.
Feb. 21;at Seymour;7:30 p.m.
Feb. 23;at Center Grove;7:30 p.m.