When you start two freshman and have two sophomores that either start or play starter minutes at the varsity level, things don’t usually go well, especially when you add in the fact that only one of the two seniors on the roster plays a major role.
With that being said, you can understand why Jonathan Alder boys basketball coach Brent Cahill his feeling good about the recently completed 2013-14 season which saw his Pioneers post a more than respectable 13-10 record, which included a Division II Central District tournament victory over neighboring Madison County rival London.
“We were really young and not very deep,” Cahill said. “We knew we’d have some challenges going in, but I was happy with the way the season turned out. For us to finish the year about .500 it’s a little better than where I thought we’d be.”
Cahill said watching his young squad steadily improve from the beginning of the season to the end was gratifying and is encouraged by what the future holds. A lot of the future will hinge however on if the team can take the next step, from being good to being great. With so many talented players expected to return the sky is the limit for the Pioneers.
“We’ve got good kids,” the coach said. “With a school our size we’re always trying to get kids to invest more into the program. Our two freshmen (Trey Pugh and Andrew Koenig) don’t play a spring sport so they’ll be investing their time this spring. Our two sophomores (Tanner Killian and Jon Peters) are big baseball guys so we won’t get them until after that’s done. We share athletes here so we’ll just have to wait until we get those guys.”
One of the areas the team struggled in the most this year was in its lack of physical strength. With 14- and 15-year-old kids playing against 17- and 18-year-olds many times the Pioneers found themselves over matched by stronger opponents.
“The biggest weakness of this team was its strength,” Cahill said. “That’s something we can work on here in the next six or seven months.”
Alder is expected to return Pugh a 6-5 forward with guard skills, who picked up first team All-Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference honors this season and Koenig, a tough, hard-nosed guard who was honorable mention All-MOAC. Pugh was also named D-II all-district honorable mention.
Other players who played major roles this season and are expected to return next year include sophomore swingman Killian and sharp-shooting sophomore guard Peters. Other varsity returnees should include junior Declan Thomas, junior guard Roby Wholaver, junior forward Derek Parker and junior guard Anthony Dresvyannikov, as well as junior guard Tim Leffew.
“If you look at this season and having a very young team, we played a lot better when we were comfortable,” Cahill said. “We were 11-3 at home and 2-7 on the road. Physically it was hard for us to compete on the road.
“I’m looking forward to seeing where we end up next fall, seeing who invests the time and who improves.”
Alder will have to say good-bye to senior guard Hayden Hess, who was a second team All-MOAC pick and also an honorable mention all-district selection. Also lost to graduation will be reserve forward Austin Gaylor.
“I’m really proud of this team,” the coach said. “I thought our kids represented themselves, the school and the community very well.
“I thought we got better as the season went along. Our chemistry was very good we didn’t have too many bad days which is surprising because we were so young.”
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 18 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.