The 2021-22 boys basketball season for area teams kicks off tonight and Saturday when Columbus Christian plays in the Indiana Christian Academy Shootout in Anderson.
Most of the rest of the local squads, including Columbus North and Hauser, will begin their seasons on Tuesday. Columbus East opens on Wednesday.
North’s preview ran in Wednesday’s Republic, and East’s was in on Thursday. Here is a look at the other seven area boys basketball teams, beginning with Hauser.
For the first time in five years, the Jets don’t have a new head coach. Brent Keck is back for his second year after leading Hauser to an 8-15 record, including 2-4 in the Mid-Hoosier Conference.
“I’m really excited,” Keck said. “The kids have worked really hard. We have some experience. We’re really young in some spots, but they’re really coachable, and I’m excited about the year ahead.”
Bryce Bates, a 6-foot-3 senior, returns for his fourth year of varsity and his third year as a starter. Bates led the Jets with 13.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals and added 2.5 assists a game last season.
“I think he’s improved as a player, and he leads by example. We’re expecting a big year out of him. Bryce is going to be a big focal point for us, but we’re going to have some other guys that can put the ball in the basket. Our kids have put in a ton of hours and time, and we hope that pays dividends for us.”
Koby Johnson (8.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg), a 6-4 senior, and 5-11 senior Eli Miller (6.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.2 apg), return to the starting lineup. Cole Renner, a 6-0 senior, saw some varsity action.
“All four of those guys have been great leaders for us,” Keck said.
Beyond that, Keck will look to 5-8 junior Alex Bower and four freshmen — 5-9 Alex Cord, 6-1 Taeshaun Tungate, 6-1 Colin Buck and 5-11 Ledger Gelfius.
“We have a couple of them that are going to play right away,” Keck said. “They’re talented kids, they’re working hard and we think they have some bright futures ahead of them. We have some sophomores that are coming along, too. I think we have some cornerstones to build around, and we’re trying to build some depth. But we’re really pleased with what we’ve seen. We think we have the pieces to the puzzle. It’s just going to take some time.”
The Crusaders lost a pair of starters who transferred to other area schools, but added three move-ins from out of state.
Back to lead the team is 6-3 senior Gabe Ridder. Ridder led Columbus Christian with 16.2 points and 8.6 rebounds a year ago, when it went 21-16.
Cody Kiefer (6.8 ppg, 2.6 apg, 2.4 spg), a 5-7 senior, moves from point to shooting guard, and 5-7 sophomore Cam Pritchard steps in at the point. Nathan DeFriece (3.3 ppg), a 5-6 senior, tore ACL in the Crusaders’ final soccer game of the season, but has put off surgery so he can play basketball. Noah Edwards, a 6-4 junior, also saw varsity action last season.
“I think we’re in pretty good shape with the first five or six guys,” Columbus Christian coach Kevin Roth said. “Then we have some new guys that we’re trying to get caught up that haven’t been in our system.”
Two of those new guys are move-ins from Arizona in 6-0 senior Payton Rehnalder and 6-1 freshman Brandon Rehlander. Sam Hilgeman, a 6-2 senior, moved in from Ohio.
Isaac Ridder, a 5-6 freshman, will back up Pritchard at the point. Others who could see action are 6-1 senior Evan Polley, 6-0 junior Jordan Burton, 6-4 sophomore Payton Walden
OVERSET FOLLOWS:and 6-2 sophomore Levi Johnson, a move-in from Suburban Christian.
“Our kids have been coming in and working hard,” Roth said. “Our quickness with Cody and Payton and Cam and Isaac Ridder and Nathan and Gabe, even with his size, we’re going to be able to get up and down the floor pretty good. We have to keep up our defensive intensity to pressure the other team and get some easy buckets with takeaways.”
The Panthers are looking for a big season with four starters and eight players who saw regular varsity minutes back from a team that went 12-11, including 4-3 in the Hoosier Hills Conference.
“I thought all of our offseason went really well,” Jennings coach Josh Land said. “We played in a lot of games and did really well. I think our last week of practice has been super competititve.”
The top three scorers return in 6-0 senior Carson McNulty (11.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.2 apg), 6-8 senior Jacob Vogel (10.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg) and 5-8 junior point guard Keegan Manowitz (10.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 6.0 apg, 1.1 spg). Justin Ramey, a 6-7 junior, also was a starter.
Four others saw considerable action — 6-3 junior Owen Law, 5-8 sophomore Cole Sigler, 6-2 junior Lane Zohrlaut and 6-0 junior Darius Thomas. Joining them will be 5-9 freshman Carter Kent, the son of former Panther Indiana All-Star Robbie Kent.
“We only lose maybe three points a game from last year,” Land said. “We have a lot of guys that have played in the sectional finals, have played in some big HHC games. We only have two seniors, but we have a good junior class, and we have guys that know what it takes to win now.”
The Eagles have a new coach in former Henryville player and assistant coach Jacob Guernsey. Guernsey also coaches for former Indiana Mr. Basketball Luke Zeller’s DistinXion travel team.
Guernsey has only 13 players between the varsity and JV, and seven are freshmen or sophomores.
“We don’t have a whole lot of returning faces,” Guernsey said. “We have a lot of new guys. We’re going to be super young.”
Only two players who saw major minutes return in 6-1 senior Josh Miller (1.8 ppg, 1.5 rpg) and 5-9 senior point guard Carter Kelly (9.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.6 spg). Kayden Bellmore, a 5-10 senior, saw some varsity action.
Looking to fill the other starting spots are 5-11 senior Waylon Patrick and 5-10 juniors Blake Wagler and Mekhi Asikoye. Brady Bond, a 6-0 sophomore, also could see varsity action.
“I told these guys they’re kind of setting the foundation for the program and what direction they want to take it,” Guernsey said. “We’re trying to play hard and play the right way.”
Not only do the Lancers return four of their top six players from an 18-6 team, they have added a few from a JV squad that went 15-4.
Caleb Dewey, a 6-3 junior has led Edinburgh in scoring the past two years, averaging 14.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.8 steals last season. Back in the middle is 6-4 senior Travis Jones (11.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg).
“Having both of those guys back is a pretty big piece to the puzzle,” Edinburgh coach Keith Witty said. “We’re kind of deep this year. We have an interesting dynamic of a lot of upperclassmen kind of fighting for time.”
Riley Palmeter (5.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.0 apg), a 6-3 senior, also returns to the starting lineup. Landen Burton (4.7 ppg, 3.2 apg), a 6-5 senior was the sixth man.
Jarrett Turner, a 5-10 junior who saw some varsity action, will take over at the point. Looking to provide depth are 6-0 seniors Travis Vidal and Nick Detling, 5-10 senior Trevor Moon and 6-3 junior Braylon Bryant. Keegan Smith, a 6-2 junior, and 5-11 sophomore Austin Brockman likely will split time between varsity and JV.
“We had a good summer, and we’re looking to have a good start and good season this year,” Witty said.
The Cougars have won the MHC title the past two years and went 15-8 last season, but graduated the school’s all-time leading scorer, Lane Lauderbaugh. But Hunter Johnson, another 1,000-point scorer, is back after averaging 21.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.8 steals.
“I think we’ll still be very competitive, and we’re going to be able to score,” South Decatur coach Kendall Wildey said. “We’re small, so our tempo, we’re going to pick it up as much as we can and fast-break as much as we can and try to do what we do. Over the summer and this fall, I would say that their play has exceeded my expectations. We played 29 games in June, and they played well together. We have a lot of holes to fill, and we’re going to be pretty small.”
Jacob Scruggs (9.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.5 apg, 2.4 spg), a 6-0 sophomore, returns at the point. The other returning starter is 6-1 senior Evan Wullenweber (6.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg).
Four other players — 6-3 junior Dale Peters, 6-0 junior Avery Seegers, 6-4 senior Drew Diekhoff and 5-8 junior Luke Burton — played a little varsity, but mostly JV last season. Kelby Shook, a 6-0 senior Kelby Shook who started for the Cougars in the sectional as a freshman, is back after not playing the past two years.
“He brings some athleticism, some quickness and some good defense, so he’ll help us out,” Wildey said.
The Cougars have a new coach in former Edgewood, Tipton and Franklin mentor Brad Dickey. He takes over a program that is coming off a 12-14 season and a sectional title.
“We’re strong and athletic and we’re trying to catch up right now,” Dickey said. “We have guys that can definitely do some things, and they’re trying real hard to acquire knowledge as fast as possible.”
Mitchell Hackman (8.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.6 apg), a 6-1 senior, and 6-4 senior Jacob Sabotin (5.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg) are returning starters. New to the mix is 6-2 senior Jacob Conrad, who averaged 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.5 steals at Columbus Christian last season.
Sage Broughton, a 6-4 junior, and 5-9 seniors Kade Hill, Caleb Williams and Evan Hunt split time between varsity and JV last season. Others who could see action are 6-0 junior Eli Ballard, 5-9 junior Andrew Bell, 6-1 sophomore Kowan Gross, 6-0 sophomore Josh Conrad and 5-10 sophomore Charlie Hackman.
“We have plenty of moving pieces and a lot of kids that we really like,” Dickey said. “Some of them will have to assert themselves and take the leadership role.”