Columbus North made a huge breakthrough last season, winning its first boys basketball sectional title in 10 years and falling just short of a regional championship.
Now, it might feel as if the Bull Dogs are starting over. They lost all five starters from that squad and enter the 2023-24 season with a wealth of inexperience.
“It was a summer of growth,” North coach Paul Ferguson said. “We were working with an inexperienced group, but a talented group and a group that’s hungry to get better. It’s going to take time to get the experience that we’re going to need, and we know that. But we’re going to be patient, and we want to be playing our best basketball by February.”
The Bull Dogs have no seniors. The lone returner to see much varsity action last season is 6-foot-4 sophomore Drew Schiefer, who averaged 4.2 points and 3.2 rebounds a game.
“Drew is one of our key guys,” Ferguson said. “He played a lot of minutes for a sectional championship team last year, and he has that experience factor, which is so crucial. It’s going to take him awhile to get into basketball shape, coming off a great football season, but he’ll be there soon. More than anything, just his mentality and his leadership is really valuable for our group.”
Caleb Ferguson, a 6-1 sophomore, saw a little action at the end of last season and will take over at point guard.
“The experience that he got last year coming up to varsity has been really helpful to him,” Paul Ferguson said. “He had an excellent summer, and he’s ready to build off that experience.”
Three juniors — 6-2 Max Coomes, 6-1 Nate Enneking and 6-4 Garrett Long — played mostly JV and dressed varsity last season. Also moving up are 5-10 junior Ben Ferguson, 6-4 junior Nolan Pickup and 5-10 sophomore Mason Acton.
“Guys like Nate Enneking, Nolan Pickup, Garrett Long, Ben Ferguson had really good summers for us,” Paul Ferguson said. “Max Coomes had a good summer. So they kept getting better and better. We’re excited about what they’re going to bring to the team this year.”
Pickup was North’s leading scorer in Friday’s scrimmage at Greensburg.
“We’re not sure how we’re going to start exactly yet,” Paul Ferguson said. “We’ve played a bunch of different lineups here. We like lineups where we’re playing two of our three bigs (Schiefer, Long and Pickup). We’ve experimented with a lot of that.”
The Bull Dogs, who open the season Tuesday against Heritage Christian, hope to be able to contend for another sectional title.
“I think it will be a very competitive sectional,” Paul Ferguson said. “I would say going into the season, Franklin is the favorite. Micah Davis is a tremendous player, and they have some pieces back. They have experience back. We saw Whiteland this summer, and they’ve made a jump. But I think by February, we’re going to be a pretty good team. I think it’s definitely a winnable sectional.”
The 2023-24 Columbus North boys basketball schedule:
Tuesday vs. Heritage Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 25 vs. Seymour, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 1 vs. Silver Creek, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 2 at Martinsville, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 9 at Greenwood, 1:30 p.m.
Dec. 15 at Columbus East, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 20 at Terre Haute South, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 28 at Batesville Tournament, TBA
Jan. 5 vs. Terre Haute North, 8 p.m.
Jan. 10 vs. Covenant Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 12 at Mooresville, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 16 vs. Jennings County, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 20 vs. Perry Meridian, 4:30 p.m.
Jan. 26 at Southport, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 27 vs. Whiteland, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 1 at Connersville, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 3 vs. East Central, 2:30 p.m.
Feb. 9 vs. Bloomington South, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 16 at Bloomington North, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 17 at Franklin, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 22 vs. Center Grove, 7:30 p.m.